MURPHY-PHOENIX CO., the family-owned manufacturer of Murphy's Oil Soap, was organized in 1889 as the Phoenix Oil Co. and incorporated in 1890 with $25,000 in capital. The company manufactured oils for valves, cylinders, dynamos, machines, and harnesses under the Green Seal label in a plant located in NEWBURGH. By 1910 the company was directed by Jeremiah T. Murphy, who reportedly bought the idea for Murphy's Oil Soap from a German immigrant. Basically a potassium soap of vegetable oil, it was first demonstrated and sold in hardware and department stores. For years the soap accounted for only part of the company's sales as the firm continued to manufacture metal-working oils and compounds for industrial uses. By 1939 the company had moved from 2554 W. 5th St. to a plant at 9505 Cassius Ave.
In 1966 Phoenix Oil built a plant in Madison, OH, to manufacture concrete-curing compounds used in road construction. The firm changed its name to the Murphy-Phoenix Co. in 1968, reflecting a company whose business was about evenly divided between its household cleaner, distributed regionally, and its industrial compounds. When Murphy-Phoenix began losing household cleaner sales to national-brand products in the early 1970s, it created a marketing strategy built around the oil soap's loyal regional following, its superior cleaning, and its lack of phosphates, which made it environmentally safe. The campaign established Murphy's Oil Soap as a national product, and by 1980 the company, which employed between 60 and 70 people, had moved its offices to 23811 Chagrin Blvd. in BEACHWOOD. It added a manufacturing plant in SOLON in 1984. In 1991, the Murphy-Phoenix Co. was purchased by Colgate/Palmolive of New York for $65 million. At the time of the acquisition, Murphy-Phoenix's annual sales were between $45 and $50 million. Soon after the sale, executives at Colgate/Palmolive closed the Chagrin Blvd. offices, though another plant was added on the Davis Industrial Parkway. In 1995, this plant, along with Murphy-Phoenix's operations in Solon, employed more than 80 people. In 1996, executives at Murphy-Phoenix announced that they would shift production from its Solon plant to Colgate's plant in Cambridge, Ohio. By the end of the year, Murphy-Phoenix ceased operations in Cuyahoga County.