General Steel Industries
|Founded||1928 as General Steel Castings Corporation|
|Headquarters||Eddystone, Pennsylvania (1928 - 1948)
Granite City, Illinois (1948 - 1970?)
St. Louis, Missouri (1970? - 1981)
General Steel Industries, Inc., or GSI, was an American steel company originally founded as General Steel Castings Corporation in 1928. The company was initially headquartered in Eddystone, Pennsylvania and, prior to completing its own modern steel foundry in 1930, acquired the operations of the Commonwealth Steel Company, a critical supplier to the rail industry.
An acquisition program to diversify from its core steel castings business of manufacturing large steel castings was initiated in the late 1950s and resulted in six divisions and one subsidiary by 1971. The broader business portfolio allowed GSI to close the Castings Division, the company's only business prior to diversification, in 1973.
In 1929, General Steel Castings Corp. acquired the Commonwealth Steel Company, a Granite City, Illinois based maker of steel, steel castings, and railroad supplies that had been founded in 1901 and had become a supplier to railroad companies. Commonwealth Steel had manufactured large cast steel bolsters for passenger cars for exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair and designed and produced a one-piece locomotive bed in 1926. By 1928 "practically all locomotives and passenger cars built in the United States" were using Commonwealth products. General Steel's purchase of Commonwealth included Commonwealth's foundry and its new General Office Building, completed in 1926, both located at 1417 State Street, Granite City, Illinois. After the Commonwealth Steel acquisition, General Steel had two divisions, the Eddystone Division in Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth Division in Illinois. Only the Commonwealth Division was operational; the Eddystone Division's plant would not be completed until 1930. The Illinois operation was commonly referred to as the "Commonwealth" and was located at 1417 State Street in Granite City. During World War II, the Commonwealth plant manufactured steel for armor and cast steel tank hulls and turrets and employed approximately 5,200 people. After the war, the company returned to manufacturing locomotive castings in Granite City and earth-moving equipment in Eddystone.
Fortune magazine ranked the company 464, 481, and 441 in the magazine's Fortune 500 listing in 1962, 1963, and 1964, respectively. Employees numbered 3,650 in 1962, 4,200 in 1963, and 4,400 in 1964.
In 1948, the company's headquarters was moved from Eddystone to Granite City. In the mid-1950s, the company expanded its focus from steel castings products to a more diversified company through an acquisition program that included purchasing National Roll & Foundry Company in 1955, St. Louis Car Company in June 1960, Ludlow-Saylor Wire Cloth, Flex-O-Lite, Standard Pipeprotection, and Simplicity Engineering Corporation. Standard Pipeprotection Division was created from a series of acquisitions.
Recognizing the company had grown beyond its original business of manufacturing steel castings, the company officially changed its name to General Steel Industries, Incorporated on May 1, 1961. The company's first two plants, the Eddystone plant and the Granite City plant, the acquired Commonwealth Steel facility, became the Castings Division and both plants continued to produce large steel castings. For example, in 1961 the Eddystone plant provided 85% of the steel castings used in the Union Electric Company's new Taum Sauk hydroelectric power station near St. Louis and produced railroad specialty products such as "the world's highest capacity flat car", weighing almost 75 tons, with a load limit of 300 tons. The Granite City plant produced "engineered cast steel specialty products" for the railroad industry including one-piece locomotive beds, one-piece cast steel flat car underframes and wear-resistant manganese steel casting, used in mining and crushing equipment and heavy-duty power shovels. In the 1950s, the company, then as General Steel Castings, introduced the Commonwealth 53' 6" flatcar that became one of the railroad industry's most commonly used flatcars during the 1950s and 1960s. This flatcar remained in production, with only minor changes, into the early 1970s.
At the Granite City plant, General Steel x-rayed uranium ingots for the Atomic Energy Commission from 1958 through 1966 using two U.S. Government-owned Allis-Chalmers betatrons (Magnetic Induction Electron Accelerators) apparatuses on loan to the company. The betatrons were still at the plant in late 1992 "in a building on the southern section of the plant property" and the contamination from the use of the betatrons was determined to be "highly localized, confined to a few areas, and contained inside an unused building." The building "had residual radioactive contamination until remediation in 1993."
As a defense contractor, the company manufactured cast armor hulls and turrets for the U.S. Army M-60 medium tanks, produced at both Granite City and Eddystone, as part an $8 million contract awarded by Chrysler Corporation in 1961.
By 1971, the Granite City plant had grown to be 127 acres (0.51 km2) with 42 acres (170,000 m2) under roof and was bordered by the Madison city boundaries on the south, 16th Street on the north, State Street on the east, and the railroad tracks that run along Route 3 on the west.
Operating Units and Highlights
Granite City, Illinois;
Eddystone, Pennsylvania (until 1964)
|Eddystone, Pennsylvania - the company's original headquarters, the plant produced castings for major industry including electric power, earthmoving equipment, shipbuilding, and some railroad products;
Housed the company's Manufacturing Research Laboratory (completed in 1960);
Operations consolidated at the Granite City plant in 1964
Granite City, Illinois (former Commonwealth plant) - In 1960, produced engineered cast steel specialty products for rail industry including one-piece cast steel flat car underframes, cast armor, and manganese wear-resistant steel castings used in mining and crushing equipment and powers shovels;
In 1970, produced "massive, high-strength pressure castings for steam turbine electric power generating plants, both conventional and nuclear fueled," produced cast steel products for railroads, including trucks for diesel locomotives and rapid transit and commuter cars, and wear-resistant castings for earth-moving equipment;
Plant grew to 127 acres (0.51 km2) with 42 acres (170,000 m2) under roof;
Division discontinuance announced December 14, 1972
|St. Louis Car Division||Plant and Main Office:
St. Louis, Missouri
(acquired June 1960)
|Had been leading manufacturer of rail rapid transit equipment and produced specialized railroad cars such as commuter cars, chair and lounge cars, postal storage mail cars, baggage cars and cabooses and other products like aircraft loading bridges and passenger vehicles for airport transportation systems;
Orders from the New York Transit Authority total over 1,800 subway cars;
Company acquired on June 30, 1960 and merged into the parent company to become a division on January 1, 1962;
|National Roll Steel||Plant and Main Office: Avonmore, Pennsylvania
(acquired in 1955)
|Manufactured cast iron and cast steel rolls, in a range of alloys, weighing from 500 to 100,000 pounds, custom-made for steel mills to reduce and shape;
In 1974 was the company's largest division after the closure of the St. Louis Car division in 1973.
Market Share of roll market: 1955: 2.7%; 1974 14.1%;
The plant had 4 acres (16,000 m2) under roof and could ship 2,000 tons of plain and grooved rolls each month.
|Flex-O-Lite Division||Plant and Main Office:
St. Louis, Missouri
Other plants: Paris, Texas; Keyser, West Virginia; DeSoto, Missouri; Canada; and West Germany
|Manufactured reflective glass products for highway and traffic safety; optical glass spheres for reflective sheeting; reflective line marking tape; Loc-Lens reflective sheeting; reflective paints; glass beads for industrial metal finishing and treatment|
|Ludlow-Saylor Wire Cloth Division||Plant and Main Office:
St. Louis, Missouri
Other plants: City of Industry, California and in Oakland, California operating as Star Wire Screen
|Manufactured woven metallic wire cloths and wire screen products ranging from .003-inch wire to 1-inch (25 mm) rod used in mining, crushing, petrochemical, construction, and food processing industries to grade, filter, sift, or classify product|
|Standard Pipeprotection Division||Plant and Main Office:
St. Louis, Missouri
Other plants: Alton, Illinois; Houston, Texas; Pittsburg, California; Kearny, New Jersey; Lorain, Ohio; and Hammond, Indiana
|Created by a series of acquisitions, the division manufactured protective coatings for gas, oil, and water pipelines and extruded plastic pipe for gas distribution and other pipeline installations|
|Simplicity Engineering Company||Plant and Main Office: Durand, Michigan
|Manufactured screening, crushing, and conveying equipment for processing and grading sand, gravel, crushed stone, and of foundry shakeout equipment|
|GSI Engineering Division||Based in Granite City, Illinois||The only non-manufacturing unit, started in 1973, engineered and designed railcar, locomotive trucks and suspension systems, provided consulting services to the transportation industry, and assumed the responsibility for licensing the company's products.|
In 1964, declining demand for large steel castings and excess capacity from operating two foundries led the company to consolidate the Castings Division's operations at its Granite City plant at 1417 State Street in Granite City, Illinois. The Eddystone plant was sold to the Vertol Co. (now Boeing) and converted to the manufacture of helicopters and aviation components. The plant is still in use as of 2014.
Fortunes for both the St. Louis Car Division and the Castings Division began to fade in the mid-1960s. "The smooth, comfortable ride of the modern railroad passenger car is the direct result of General Steel's historic development of new designs of trucks with cast steel frames and bolsters" but the development of new designs would at least partially result in the end of St. Louis Car. In 1970, St. Louis Car won two large fixed-price contracts for rapid transit and commuter cars but "the complexity of new engineering and manufacturing techniques for cars of such advanced design was underestimated" leading to recording a charge of $6,400,000 in 1971 for the expected loss on fulfilling the orders. As the company's largest division at the time, losses at St. Louis Car sank the entire enterprise's net income into the red. At the Castings Division, the Granite City plant improved production efficiency and lowered its breakeven point but a strike from November 20, 1971 to January 17, 1972 completely halted production.
On December 14, 1972, management announced the company's Castings Division and its St. Louis Car Division were to be closed and, after the delivery of pending orders, the divisions' assets were to be liquidated (expected to occur in 1973). The reasons stated to discontinue operations at the two divisions included significant losses and competitive pressure. St. Louis Car incurred losses for seven of the previous eight years and "GSI lacks the financial resources needed to compete with several much larger companies which recently entered the transit car building industry." The Castings Division had not produced satisfactory earnings for five years, lost approximately $3 million in 1972, and "was not competitive in most of its major markets and there were no prospects for future improvement of its position." The company recorded a charge of $31,173,000 for the anticipated cost of discontinuing the unprofitable divisions. The closing of the Castings Division ended the company's manufacture of steel castings, products the company had been producing since its founding. The five remaining operating units were: National Roll, Flex-O-Lite, Ludlow-Saylor Wire Cloth Division, Standard Pipeprotection, and Simplicity Engineering Company (a subsidiary).
General Steel continued operations at the Granite City plant until orders, pending at the time of the December 1972 announcement of the Castings Division's closing, were completed. The property at 1417 State Street, Granite City, Illinois was purchased by Granite City Steel, a subsidiary of National Steel Corporation, in 1974 and the property became known as the South Plant. Granite City Steel likely occupied the facility until the parent company's bankruptcy liquidation in 2003.
In 1971, General Steel's corporate offices were at One Memorial Drive, St. Louis, Missouri. In 1973 the company's offices had moved to 8474 Delport Drive (8400 Midland Blvd.), also in St. Louis, and the concern launched a new consulting services division, GSI Engineering, to design railcar and locomotive trucks and suspension systems and to manage the licensing of company products that were in service in 50 countries.
Less than a decade later, when General Steel was acquired by Lukens Steel in 1981 for $66 million, it was a producer of steel, crushing and conveying equipment, reflective highway signs, and protective coatings for oil and gas pipelines.
Castings Division Plant remains
As of October 2009, most of the buildings at the former General Steel plant, including the old Commonwealth foundry at 1417 State Street, Granite City, Illinois have been demolished. About half of the General Office Building, originally built by Commonwealth Steel in 1926, remains standing. On the north end of the property, there are still several buildings in use.
- no author listed (committee) (1971). 75th Year Celebration of the City of Granite City, Illinois. Granite City, Illinois: Tri-City Printing Company for the Granite City Jubilee 1896 - 1971. p. 85.
- The Commonwealther, August 1929 (Commonwealth Steel Company, 1929), p. 3
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1971 Annual Report, p. 4
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1974 Annual Report, p. 2
- "General Steel Pact Approved". The New York Times. December 17, 1981.
- Granite City – A Pictorial History (G. Bradley Publishing, Inc., 1995), p. 49
- no author listed (committee) (1971). 75th Year Celebration of the City of Granite City, Illinois. Granite City, Illinois: Tri-City Printing Company for the Granite City Jubilee 1896 - 1971. p. 84.
- Flagg, James S.; Madison County Sesquicentennial Committee (1962). Our 150 Years, 1812 - 1962: In Commemoration of the Madison County Sesquicentennial. Edwardsville, Illinois: East 10 Publishing Company, Inc. p. 53.
- The Commonwealther, February 1926 (Commonwealth Steel Company, 1926), p. 11
- "Fortune 500: 1962". Fortune. 1962. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- "Fortune 500: 1963". Fortune. 1963. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- "Fortune 500: 1964". Fortune. 1964. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1961 Annual Report, p. 3
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1972 Annual Report, p. 3
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1961 Annual Report, p. 11
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1961 Annual Report, p. 10
- Wilson, Jeff (2005). The Model Railroader's Guide to Freight Cars. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing Company. p. 65. ISBN 0-89024-585-1. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
- The date is 1953 according to the November 7, 2007 U.S. Department of Labor - Employment Standards Administration (ESA) - Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) - Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) circular EEOICPA Circular No. 08-02 but the date is 1958 according to the Sept. 1991 Dept. of Energy Memorandum "Results of the Radiological Survey at the Granite City Steel Facility, Granite City, Illinois", p. 1
- "Results of the Radiological Survey at the Granite City Steel Facility, Granite City, Illinois", Department of Energy Memorandum (September 1991), , p. 1
- "Results of the Radiological Survey at the Granite City Steel Facility, Granite City, Illinois", Department of Energy Memorandum (September 1991), , p. 3
- "EEOICPA CIRCULAR NO. 08-02". U.S. Department of Labor - Employment Standards Administration (ESA) - Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) - Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC). November 1, 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1961 Annual Report, p. 4
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1972 Annual Report, p. 8
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1961 Annual Report, p. 9
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1961 Annual Report, p. 8
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1973 Annual Report, p. 10
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1971 Annual Report, p. 5
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1972 Annual Report, p. 2
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1974 Annual Report, p. 1
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1973 Annual Report, p. 13
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1974 Annual Report, p. 17
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1971 Annual Report, p. 9
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1971 Annual Report, p. 3
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1972 Annual Report, p. 1
- Madison County Recorders Office  http://reweb1.co.madison.il.us/Forms/search.aspx parcel number 21-1-19-24-18-301-002
- "National Steel Corporation Snapshot, NSTLQ Details". Business Week. n.d. Retrieved November 6, 2009.
- General Steel Industries, Inc., 1973 Annual Report, p. 4
- "Lukens, Inc.". Funding Universe. n.d. Retrieved November 6, 2009.