Consolidated Steel Corporation

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Consolidated Steel Corporation was an American steel and shipbuilding business. Consolidated built ships during World War II in two locations: Wilmington, California and Orange, Texas. It was created in 1929 by the merger of Llewellyn Iron Works, Baker Iron Works and Union Iron Works,[1] all of Los Angeles.

Baker Iron Works[edit]

Baker Iron Works of Los Angeles[2] also manufactured mining equipment. The Baker Iron Works had its start at Los Angeles, California, about 1877, when Milo S. Baker acquired a small machine shop there. The business, begun on a small scale as M.S. Baker & Company, grew quite rapidly.

A much larger facility was erected in 1886 and in June of that year the business was incorporated as the Baker Iron Works with capital stock of $75,000. Five Directors were named: Milo S. Baker, E.H. Booth, Charles F. Kimball, Fred L. Baker (Milo’s son), and H.T. Neuree. {108}

Less than a year later, Baker erected a $15,000 building [equivalent to $300,000 in today’s buying power] on Buena Vista Street near College.

Baker Iron Works had a great many different products, manufacturing mining, milling, pumping, hoisting, oil and well drilling machinery, streetcars, boilers, oven and heating furnaces, as well as a line of architectural iron. It seems to have been especially noteworthy for steam boiler fabrication, installation and maintenance.

According to one authority, in 1889 Baker produced the first locomotive built in Los Angeles, designed by Milo’s son Fred, vice president of the firm.

Another authority {106} says Baker built horse cars and perhaps street cars for Los Angeles, Pasadena and other communities in the Los Angeles area and that they built some larger cars for the Santa Ana & Orange Motor Road in 1898. According to this authority, after Pacific Electric bought this line, the cars were revamped and continued in service until 1920. It is claimed that In the early 1890s, Street Railway Journal reportedly ranked Baker “among the principal car builders on the Pacific Coast.” There is also some possibility Baker built some of the L.A. cable cars too. (Yes, San Francisco was not the only city to have cable cars. Within four years of San Francisco’s first, eight other cities had them: Brooklyn; Chicago; Hoboken, NY; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Oakland, CA; Omaha; and St. Louis.)

The only records we have been able to find is for the construction, in 1887, of six street cars for the City & Central Street Railway. {107}

According to an article in the 1 January 1890 issue of the Los Angeles Times, the Baker works then occupied some 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2) and provided employment to 75 men. A large variety of manufacturing was being done. The foundry was making iron and brass castings to fit nearly all kinds of machinery for mining and milling purposes, besides pumping plants for large and small water-works, and steam plants for all the variety of uses to which steam was put. They manufactured their own boilers. They were also manufacturing oil-boring tools and rigs, and constructing elevators—both passenger and freight—in all varieties: hydraulic steam or hand. It was claimed by the newspaper that Baker had installed nearly all the first class passenger elevators in Southern California. The article said they manufacture street-cars and did other railroad work to order and claimed to make the best gang plows and road and field rollers that could be obtained anywhere. They also installed heating and ventilating plants for public buildings, both steam, hot water and hot air. And they did architectural iron-work. Milo S. Baker was then President, J.E. Sills was Vice-President and Treasurer, and Fred L. Baker (Milo’s son) was Secretary and Plant Superintendent.

In 1891, Baker was awarded the contract to build the Santa Ana Water Works. In six months, for a total price of $58,000, Baker put in nine miles (14 km) of street mains, sixty fire hydrants and gates valves, one reservoir 10×78×78 feet (3.0×23.8×23.8 m), build one fire-proof power house, two sixty-horsepower boilers and brick stock, two 10 x 16 x 10½ x 10 compound condensing engines of 2,060,000 US gallons (7,800 m3) capacity every 24 hours, All this complete and functioning: truly a “turn-key” operation. {109}

After the turn of the 20th century, Baker seems to have specialized in steel fabrication and elevator building. Over the next 30 years they did the steel work and/or elevators for—among many others— L.A.’s first skyscraper, the twelve-story Union Trust Building, the Public Service Building, the Queen of Angels Hospital, the YWCA Hotel, the United Artists-California Petroleum Building, the University of California at Westwood, The Masonic Temple at Glendale, the Los Angeles-First National Bank at Glendale, the Los Angeles-First National Bank at Hollywood and the University of Redlands at Redlands.

Orange shipyard[edit]

The Orange, Texas shipyard was expanded in 1940 when Consolidated Steel was awarded a Maritime Commission contract from the U.S. Navy. At its peak it employed 20,000 people. The first ship launched was the USS Aulick (DD-569) on March 2, 1942. The last ship launched was the USS Carpenter (DD-825) on December 28, 1945.

Wilmington shipyard[edit]

The Wilmington, California shipyard was an emergency yard built in 1941 after Consolidated Steel was awarded a Maritime Commission contract from the U.S. Navy. At its peak, it employed 12,000 people, working on eight shipways on the 95-acre facility. Production peaked on May 29, 1944, when it launched three large ships in only a 2-1/2 hour period. Later that year, the yard delivered its 500th vessel of the war. The yard was built as a temporary facility and, like most such war plants, it was closed after the war ended.[3]

Together, the shipyards ranked Consolidated 29th among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts.[4] After the war, the facility was shut down. The former shipyard location is now the Distribution and Auto Service (DAS) facility at berths 196 and 197 of the Port of Los Angeles, or another source indicates that it was at the site of the present-day TraPac facility (Berths 136-41).[5] The Wilmington yard launched one of the first Liberty Ships SS Alcoa Polaris on 27, September 1941 Liberty Fleet Day.

After the war[edit]

Shortly after the end of the war, in 1945, Consolidated Steel bought the assets of the Western Pipe and Steel Company of California, another wartime shipbuilding firm, for a sum in excess of $6.2 million. The WPS assets along with some other assets of Consolidated were sold in 1948 for over $17 million to the Columbia Steel Company, a division of US Steel, which formed a new division known as the Consolidated Western Steel Corporation to manage them. The former President and Chairman of Consolidated Steel's board, Alden G. Roach, became President of Consolidated Western. Consolidated Western was later merged directly into the parent company, US Steel.

After the sale to Columbia, the remaining assets of Consolidated Steel were folded into a new company known as Consolidated Liquidating Corporation, which was dissolved on February 29, 1952.[6]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Consolidated Steel Corporation, Long Beach and Wilmington CA". 
  2. ^ http://www.midcontinent.org/rollingstock/builders/baker_iron.htm
  3. ^ Queenan, Charles F. The Port of Los Angeles: From Wilderness to World Port, p. 91, Los Angeles Harbor Department, Los Angeles, CA, 1983,
  4. ^ Peck, Merton J. & Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (1962) Harvard Business School p.619
  5. ^ "Consolidated Steel," Shipbuilding History Web site (http://shipbuildinghistory.com/history/shipyards/4emergencylarge/wwtwo/consolidatedwilmington.htm), retrieved 9-9-11.
  6. ^ The information for this section comes from Findlaw.com (registration required). An HTML version of the relevant document can be read here.

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