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 many other large projects.

Hoover Dam[edit]

On January 10, 1931, the Bureau of Reclamation made the bid documents available to interested parties, at $5 a copy (equivalent to $84.00 in 2019[2]). 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 (equivalent to $27.6 million in 2019[3]) bid bond was to accompany each bid. The winner would have to post a $5 million (equivalent to $68.9 million in 2019[3]) performance bond. The contractor would have seven years to build the dam, or penalties would ensue.[4]

A consortium was formed by Utah Construction Company of Ogden, Utah, (general contractors), in order to submit a bid for the Hoover Dam construction contract. 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. Utah Construction Company (Wattis brothers; E.O and W.H Wattis) and vice president Andrew H. Christensen asked Harry W. Morrison of Morrison-Knudsen (now Washington Group International, a division of URS Corporation) to join them on this venture. After they realized the bid would be much higher than expected, the Wattis Brothers and Morrison-Knudsen convinced others to join. These six companies (Utah Construction, Morrison-Knudsen, Kaiser, Bechtel, Pacific Bridge and MacDonald&Kahn) with the help of Frank T. Crowe worked out the bid. In February of 1931 the Six Companies was incorporated. Six Companies, Inc.: President W.H. Wattis, First Vice President W.A. Bechtel, 2nd Vice President E.O. Wattis, Secretary Charles A Shea, Treasurer Felix Kahn and Assistant Secretary-Treasurer K.K. Bechtel. Board members included: W.H. Wattis, E.O. Wattis, Charles A. Shea, Felix Kahn, Stephen D. Bechtel, Henry J. Kaiser, Alan MacDonald and Philip Hart. On March 4, 1931 the US Secretary of the Interior awards Six Companies, Incorporated's bid for project Boulder Dam. The Six Companies board selected Frank Crowe, an employee of Morrison-Knudsen as the General Construction Superintendent of the Boulder Dam construction. Crowe also drafted the bid, hired each of the men who were employed during the course of the project, lived in Boulder City with his wife and two daughters and was on the dam site every day of the week until the project was completed. He was rewarded a bonus percentage of the profit for completing virtually every portion of the job well ahead of schedule. Six Companies, Inc. started working in late spring, around June of 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 (equivalent to $674 million in 2019[3]). The project was so complex and large that only three 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 (30.7 km) 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 seven miles (11 km) 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 (7.7 km) 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 (11.7 km) 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 two miles (3.2 km) 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 (16 km) 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 (2012). Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II. New York: Random House. pp. 37, 52–5, 210. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  2. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2020). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved September 22, 2020. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  4. ^ Stevens, Joseph (1988). Hoover Dam: An American Adventure. New York: Free Press. p. 34. ISBN 0-8061-2283-8.
  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" (PDF). Dams Symposium. Las Vegas: Association of Engineering Geologists. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
  8. ^ "Engine #754 at Joshua Hendy Iron Works". Sunnyvale History. Sunnyvale Collection. Sunnyvale, CA: Sunnyvale Public Library. Retrieved August 19, 2017.
  9. ^ "Corporations: Machine Maker for the West". Time. March 25, 1946.
  10. ^ Herman (2012), pp. 169-74, 176-91.

Further reading[edit]