The Gypsum Files

Notes on the Rock Nobody Knows

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Gypsum memorabilia

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Jeremy White, fellow gypsum lover, recently wrote to tell me about his terrific collection of gypsum company memorabilia. He gave me permission to share some of his collection with my readers. I think you’ll agree these items are a fascinating look at the history of the gypsum industry.














Written by Elizabeth McCullough

September 24, 2015 at 11:29 am

25 Years of Gold Bond Leadership

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25 Years of Gold Bond Leadership

I found this button on eBay during one of my routine searches for gypsum industry collectibles. If anyone knows more about the occasion for this pin — it commemorates National Gypsum’s twenty-fifth anniversary, but who received the pins? — leave a comment below.

Written by Elizabeth McCullough

June 4, 2014 at 7:00 am

Building the American Dream

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I love these vintage films. This one captures the urgency and opportunity created by the post-World War II housing shortage and boom. It’s true, as the actors say, that house construction before the war was largely done by small contractors. Levittown and similar developments are examples of the dominance of large vertically-integrated construction companies that began in the 1950s and continues today — what the film-within-the-film calls “the dynamic catalyst.” Note how the narrator ties the explosion of suburban developments to the “pioneers” on the “prairie.”

The impact on the American landscape was enormous. From fewer than 200,000 new homes in 1945, housing starts grew to one million a year during the boom that started in 1948.  (By contrast, housing starts in 2009 were fewer than 600,000 and are just now breaking one million a year.)

And, of course — gypsum was there!

HT: USG on Facebook

Building the American Dream ca. 1956 – YouTube.

Written by Elizabeth McCullough

June 2, 2014 at 5:00 am

Shaping The Future with Gypsum Wallboard

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I wish I knew more about this video. I can date it back to 1969, but I think it might be older than that. This is another industrial film from the Gypsum Association, and uses clips that I’ve seen in some of their other videos. There’s a shot of a living room set towards the end of the video that is particularly groovy.


Written by Elizabeth McCullough

May 22, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Starts and Permits over One Million

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Interesting data on housing starts and why a surge in construction does not necessary mean a strong recovery.

Eye on Housing

Housing starts exceeded one million for first time since last year and housing permits were over one million for a third consecutive month. The increases were almost entirely in multifamily rental construction.
Multifamily construction soared 40% to 423,000 starts, the highest since January 2006 and permits also rose 20% to 478,000, the highest in almost six years. Multifamily starts were particularly strong in the Midwest where they more than doubled from an unusually low 42,000 to 100,000.

Single-family starts increased 5,000 (on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis) to 649,000 from an upwardly revised March that was 635,000. Single-family permits rose 2,000 but also from an upwardly revised March that was 592,000. Single-family starts were unchanged in the Northeast and down 2.6% in the South while rising 5.5% in the Midwest and 5.8% in the West.

The rise in multifamily is indicative of the continued demand for rental apartments by young, newly-formed…

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Written by Elizabeth McCullough

May 19, 2014 at 10:07 am

It isn’t called White Magic for nothing, you know

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Here is a charming and informative little video from the Gypsum Association. It dates from the early 1950s and was shown on television and in movie theaters to promote the industry.

For contrast, here’s the Gypsum Association’s current promotional video: The Miracle Mineral. I think it’s interesting to see what has changed and what has stayed the same over the years.

Written by Elizabeth McCullough

April 24, 2014 at 8:00 am

The ups and downs of gypsum

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This is a chart I put together using data on new residential construction from the US Census website and data on gypsum consumption from the US Geological Survey. There’s nothing scientific or statistically sophisticated about this chart, but I think it does give you an idea of how closely the fortunes of the gypsum industry follow the housing market (pdf). You can see the most recent housing boom-and-bust cycle, beginning in 1991 and peaking in 2005, alongside the growth and peak of gypsum consumption. After 14 years of growth, both lines bottom out four years later in 2009.



Written by Elizabeth McCullough

April 17, 2014 at 8:00 am

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