Norman Larsen, president and head chemist at the Rocket Chemical Company, developed a water displacement formula on his fortieth try, naming it WD-40.
The aerospace industry needed a product to eliminate moisture from electrical circuitry and to prevent corrosion on airplanes and Atlas Missile nose-cones. The newly developed WD-40 worked so well, engineers working at the Rocket Chemical Company began sneaking it out of the plant for Wacky Uses use on squeaky doors and stuck locks.
WD-40 became available to the public in 1958, and in 1961, a sweet fragrance was added to overcome the smell of the petroleum distillates. In 1969, the Rocket Chemical Company was renamed the WD-40 Company, after its only product. The WD-40 Company makes the "secret sauce," then sends it to packagers who add the solvent and propellant.
In 1964, John Glenn circled the earth in Friendship VII, which was covered with WD-40 from top to bottom.
The WD-40 Company went public on the NASDAQ exchange in 1973. The initial 300,000 shares, available at $16.50, closed that same day at $26.50.
WD-40 makes over a million gallons of the "secret sauce" every year.