History of ICOA


In 1980, before he retired, former Secretary-Treasurer Matt Antonovich started to compile a history of the ICOA. His account went up to 1981, although there is not much written information available about the early years from 1954 -1962. It appears they were spent primarily founding and establishing the organization.

In the 1950s members of the castor industry were part of the Linseed-Castorseed Association. In a ledger marked “October 1954 to May 1957”, there was a notation – Receipts and Entrance fees in the amount of $150 for each of 20 members.

In 1957, these members decided to separate themselves from that combined organization. Credit should be given to Dr. Johan Johansen, then VP of Baker Castor Oil Co and at the same time President of the Linseed-Castorseed Association. He had the vision and foresight to change the name to the ICOA.

The members then adopted the first ICOA Constitution at a meeting on April 18, 1957.

Another entry in this same ledger showed a transfer of accounts from the Linseed-Castorseed Association to the International Castor oil Association on May 1, 1957, making the separation complete.

The first ICOA By-Laws and a uniform contract, specifically for the trading of Castor Oil, followed. The contract was developed by Dr. Johansen, Billy Mills of H. J. Baker & Bro., Fred Hediger of Garnac Grain Co., Walter Willner of Willner Co. and Richard Ewald of Bunge Corp.

It is known that between 1957 and 1961, the work of the Association was conducted by 2 paid employees (names unknown) in rented space in a New York office. On January 5, 1962, the Directors voted to close the NY office, but an actual move did not occur until May 4th of that year, when Dr. E.H. Bluman retired from Harchem (later Union Camp Corp.), became Secretary- Treasurer and operated an office from his home. From then on all Secretary-Treasurers operated from their homes, except for a brief period 52 years later.

When the ICOA was formed, it was an unincorporated association. The initial officers of the unincorporated organization were:

H.A.C. Rauchfuss – Woodward & Dickerson

Vice President
M.F. Antonovich – Wallace & Tiernan, Inc.

D.S. Abbey of J. H. Redding
D.G. Aldridge of American Export Lines, Inc.
R.D. Ewald of Bunge Corp.
M. Squires of Brazil Oiticica, Inc.

The 6th annual meeting of the unincorporated Association was held at the Produce Exchange Luncheon Club on December 14, 1962. At this meeting, the members voted to incorporate. The initial 20 members, along with 15 guests attended. The name of the organization was officially changed to “The International Castor Oil Association, Inc.”

The stated purpose and objective of the ICOA was to promote the production, trade and use of Castor oil. That purpose and objective remain today.

The number of trustees was set at 7 and the trustees elected that year were:

H.A.C. Rauchfuss of Woodward & Dickerson

Vice President
M.F. Antonovich of Wallace & Tiernan, Inc.

T.H. Blackbourn of Bake Castor Co.
J.H. Egidy of Columbus Lines, Inc.
R.D. Ewald of Bunge Corporation
W.W. Mills of J.H. Baker & Bros
R.A. Nagel of Spencer-Kellogg & Sons

The main item of business that day was the vote to incorporate. However, the members also observed a moment of silence in honor of A.P. Mason, formerly of Spencer Kellog, whose connection with Castor oil had spanned 50 years.

The Certificate of Incorporation was endorsed and recorded on January 9, 1963. Three days later, Sec-Treasurer Dr. Bluman announced it to the entire membership along with the news of 2 (two) new members.

At its height in 1980, membership was 57 companies. Upon his death in 1972, Dr. Bluman was replaced by Ed Turncliff, who served for 3 years. He was replaced by Matt Antonovich (Wallace Tiernan, a div of Union Camp), who served until 1980. David Dingley (formerly of Manhattan Oil Transportation) replaced him and served until 2005.

In 1964, the first standardized Castor oil specifications were developed. They were revised 4 times in ensuing years until the current standard was reached in 2003. The initial specifications covered Castor oil # 1, # 2, #3, Commercial Grade and Pale Pressed Castor oil. Today only #1 (known in India as FSG), Commercial and Pale Pressed Castor oil are sold worldwide.


Over the next 10+ years, efforts by the members brought enhancements to the ICOA and benefits to the industry.

Some of the projects the Association worked on were:

  1. Persuading the U.S. government to remove the duty on Castor oil. It took a few years, but Castor oil eventually received permanent duty free status into the United States.
  2. Discovering the reason for and eliminating repeated and severe weight shortages on shipments out of Brazil.
  3. Fighting an unjust surcharge on ocean freight for shipments of Castor oil out of Brazil.
  4. Establishing universally accepted procedures for the preservation of product integrity for sampling and heating at shipment and discharge.

From the mid-60’s on, 2 meetings were held each year in New York – a mid-year meeting in May or June and an annual one in December. Members encouraged the Association to hold some meetings outside of NY. That did not happen until June 1981, when 21 member companies were attending a meeting of the International Association of Seed Crushers in San Francisco, California. The gathering was not an official ICOA meeting as there were no officers or legal counsel present.

Two main topics were discussed that day – improvement in the agro-industrial side of the industry and increased applications. Although there were no votes taken or decisions made, everyone in attendance felt it was worthwhile and it has been touted as the impetus that spurred the ICOA to hold official meetings outside of New York.

That move began the following year in Munich, Germany. At that meeting, the Association picked up where the informal gathering had left off.

In addition, the members discussed the lack of growth in Castor oil consumption, defining the reasons for this and considered a proposal to solve some of these problems. The proposal was presented by Robert Hawkins of Union Camp, but the project was deemed financially beyond the reach of the ICOA at that time, so had to be tabled.

The ICOA returned to New York for the next 4 out of 5 meetings, but in 1988, they met in Vancouver. Up to that year, the ICOA meetings were held at the same time as the IASC. After that year, ICOA meetings were held on their own – rotating between Asia, Europe and the Americas. During these years, membership ebbed and flowed as business fortunes or interests changed.


During the previous decade and into the 1990s, the Association worked to expand the reach of Castor oil by creating an R & D program. The aim of this program was to continue to promote Castor oil and to update information on Castor oil by publishing books or bulletins.

Robert Vignolo, formerly of Baker Castor Oil and Roger Logan, formerly of Union Camp Corp, were hired to work on the bulletins. The bulletins were exhaustive and extensive and each took 2 years to prepare.

While the bulletins were being prepared, the ICOA hosted technical sessions at the American Oil Chemists Society Symposiums to promote Castor oil usage. Between 1988 and 1998, the ICOA hosted 4 sessions – Phoenix (1988), Baltimore (1990), Toronto (1992) and Chicago (1998). Bulletins were published in 1988 and 1992 in time for those two meetings.

The first bulletin dealt with the agricultural side of the industry – the toxicity of Castor meal and was called “Processing Castor Meal for Detoxification and Deallergenation”. The second dealt with the application side and was called “Castor Oil Chemistry Its derivatives and Their Applications”.

In addition, the Association published annual newsletters and in 1996, the ICOA joined the technology age by beginning work on its first website, which went live in early 1997.


In the early 2000’s the ICOA resumed its role of protecting the industry by contacting the Indian government to express concern about the difficulty of loading ships at the port of Kandla and the excessive demurrage that shippers were incurring. While this problem was due to one of the other jettys having been damaged during the earthquake in 2001, the intervention of the ICOA did help spur the Indian government to speed up repairs.

The government also moved loading and unloading of petrochemical ships to another location, which freed up the Castor oil jetty for loadings.

In 2009, discussions on the subject of sustainability and Corporate Social responsibility were begun at the ICOA meeting. A presentation was made in Barcelona, but it was several years before the ICOA was able to finalize any action on the subject. A statement on Corporate Social Responsibility was issued and posted on the website in 2014.

In 2012, in an attempt to increase attendance at meetings and membership, the Board decided to hold meetings in one central location for several years in a row. Europe was voted the most central location. The Board also voted to include the cost of one member’s representative’s paid attendance at a meeting with the payment of annual dues.

The ICOA saw immediate results as 5 companies joined in 2013, the most that had joined in one year since 1974. An additional 6 companies joined in 2014 and 2015.

The work of sustainability continues through the efforts of several ICOA members and the Board is exploring what would be involved in expanding this work.