Six Companies, Inc.

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Six Companies, Inc. was a joint venture of construction companies that was formed to build the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in Nevada and Arizona.[1]

They later built Parker Dam, a portion of the Grand Coulee Dam, the Colorado River Aqueduct across the Mojave and Colorado Deserts to urban Southern California, and other large projects.

Hoover Dam[edit]

On January 10th, 1931, the Bureau of Reclamation made the bid documents available to interested parties, at five dollars a copy. The government would provide the materials, and the contractor was to prepare the site and build the dam. The dam was described in minute detail, covering 100 pages of text and 76 drawings. A $2 million bid bond was to accompany each bid. The winner would have to post a $5 million performance bond. The contractor would have seven years to build the dam, or penalties would ensue.[2]

A consortium was formed by eight smaller general contractors in order to submit a bid for the Hoover Dam construction contract.[3] (They chose to call themselves Six Companies, Inc. as an allusion to Chinese Six Companies, where Chinese tongs in California took their grievances.)[4] Because of the immense size of the first dam on the Colorado River, no single contractor had the resources to make a qualified bid alone. Harry W. Morrison of Morrison-Knudsen (Washington Group International, a division of URS Corporation) formed the joint venture and was elected president of it. He selected Frank Crowe, an employee of Morrison-Knudsen as the General Superintendent. Crowe was the true project manager of the undertaking. He drafted the bid, costed the project, won the project selection process, and hired each of the men who were employed during the course of the project. The Six Companies started working in about June 1931.[5]

Six Companies Inc. was composed of:

  1. Henry J. Kaiser Co. of Oakland, California and Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco (Bechtel-Kaiser) - 30%
  2. MacDonald and Kahn of Los Angeles, California - 20%
  3. Utah Construction Company of Ogden, Utah - 20%
  4. Morrison-Knudsen of Boise, Idaho - 10%,
  5. Pacific Bridge Company of Portland, Oregon - 10%
  6. J.F. Shea Co of Portland, Oregon - 10%

The Six Companies Inc. won the contract in 1931, after a bid of US$48,890,955 (US$711,604,200.81 inflation adjusted). The project was so complex and large that only 3 bids were received. The Six Companies Inc. bid was $5,000,000 lower than the next bidder, meaning a bid-spread of almost 10%.[6] The Six Companies completed construction of "Boulder Dam—Hoover Dam" two years ahead of schedule in 1935, although it took nine years (1938–47) under relative secrecy, to fix serious leaks with a supplemental grout curtain.[7]

Six Companies Railroad[edit]

The Six Companies also built the 19.1 mile Six Companies Railroad. It connected along the Hemenway Wash, present day Las Vegas Bay, to the US Government Hoover Dam Railroad at Lawler, Nevada, a location also known as "US Government Junction". From Lawler the railroad went north for 7 miles to Saddle Island and then east to the Three-Way Junction gravel plant, now submerged under Lake Mead. From the gravel plant the line split into two branches. One branch ran south for 4.8 miles to Hoover Dam via Cape Horn, Lomix (the Low Level Concrete Mixing Plant) and Himix (the High Level Concrete Mixing Plant) and the dam face. The other branch is now also submerged under Lake Mead and ran north for 7.3 miles across the Las Vegas Wash, crossed the Colorado River on a bridge into Arizona and the Arizona gravel pit (Arizona Gravel Deposits) at a location 2 miles from Callville.

The line was constructed by railroad contractor John Phillips of San Francisco, California. The dam was dedicated in September 1935 and the Six Companies, Inc. railroad line is now submerged.

The Western Pacific Railroad purchased several of the Six Companies dump cars for company service after the dam was completed and the equipment declared surplus. One of these cars is now preserved at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum at Portola, California.

The US Government Railroad had a 10-mile branch that brought supplies by rail from a connection with the Boulder City Branch of the Union Pacific Railroad at Boulder City, Nevada.


During World War II, the Six Companies built airstrips and related facilities on Pacific Islands. Also, the Six Companies held a majority ownership interest in Joshua Hendy Iron Works in Sunnyvale, California. Hendy was most known for its record-breaking assembly line production of 754 Liberty Ship EC-2 Reciprocating Steam Engines, producing one engine every 40.8 hours. They were used at the Richmond Shipyards, building the Liberty Ships.[8][9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 37, 52-5, 210, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  2. ^ Stevens 1988, pp. 34
  3. ^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 37, 52-3, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  4. ^ Reisner, Marc (1993). Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water. Penguin Books. p. 610. ISBN 0140178244. 
  5. ^ Stevens 1988, pp. 35–42
  6. ^ Stevens 1988, pp. 45–46
  7. ^ Rogers, J David (September 22, 2005). "Hoover Dam: Grout Curtain Failure and Lessons Learned in Site Characterization". Retrieved June 14, 2010.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "CORPORATIONS: Machine Maker for the West". Time. March 25, 1946. 
  10. ^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 169-74, 176-91, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.


  • Stevens, Joseph (1988). Hoover Dam: An American Adventure. New York City: Free Press. ISBN 0-8061-2283-8. 

Further reading[edit]