Borax is a compound made from the naturally occurring mineral Boron which has been used for a variety of purposes by humans across the globe. After being traded along the Silk Road for 500 years, Borax was discovered in Death Valley during the 1880s, and Borax magnate F.M. “Borax” Smith was quick to capitalize on the opportunity. Soon he had the iconic 20 Mule Wagon Teams hauling tons of Borax out of the desert to be used in thousands of products. Before long, Borax began showing up on shelves across the United States and the “Borax Boom” had begun.
Once Borax was able to be pulled out of Death Valley, manufacturers everywhere began to find a myriad of uses for this hardworking mineral. It was soon used in a variety of industries including glazing for construction and fiberglass in boats, planes and cars. Borax is also used in the creation of glass, especially for stained glass windows. Known for its crystal whiteness, it’s even used in porcelain and ceramics to make sure that beautiful china plates and vases don’t lose their color. Over time, clever scientists began to find more and more uses for Borax within the home.
Teams of mules were used to move millions of pounds of Borax from remote mines in inaccessible Death Valley to the railroad at Mojave.
Originally, teams of eight and ten mules were used, but the trek proved too much. A man named Ed Stiles came up with the idea of hitching two 10-mule teams together—twice the normal amount—resulting in a 100-foot-long team that took 10 days to carry 10 tons of borax one way across the desert.
In 1894, a steam engine named “Dinah” was brought in to replace the mules, but Dinah was no match for the epic 20 mule team’s power. She broke down and was towed back to town by the very mules she tried to replace.
The power of Borax works just as hard as the heritage of its mule team, cleaning deep to tackle your toughest mess.