Geneva Steel
Columbia-Geneva Division of U.S. Steel
Columbia Steel

Summary History, 1916-1950

Mark W. Hemphill

(Not for reproduction or commercial use without consent of author.)

October 1916:
Columbia Steel adds another open hearth furnace to its Pittsburg, California, steel casting plant. (BF&SP 4(10):498 (Oct 16)

July 1920:
Columbia Steel builds a new rolling mill at Pittsburg, California, to its existing steel foundry, then the largest west of the Rocky Mountains. Principal products were railroad and sugar mill castings, also ship components during the war. Produces about 7,000 tons of open-hearth steel monthly. Construction began August 1919, completed March 29, 1920. The rolling mill consists of six large steel buildings. "Columbia Steel Company's New Plant." BF&SP 8(7):401-3 (JuI20)

January 1922:
Columbia Steel Company announces it will merge with the Southern California Iron & Steel Co. of Los Angeles and the Carbon Fuel Company of Salt Lake City. Capitalization will be increased, plans will be developed for general expansion of both plants with increased output, and it is proposed, ultimately, that a 500-ton blast furnace be build in the vicinity of Salt Lake City with coke ovens. L. R. Rains is president of Carbon Fuel Co. BF&SP 10(1):105 (Jan 22)

September 1922:
Columbia Steel Corporation, a recent merger of Columbia Steel Co. of San Francisco and Utah Coal & Coke with operations in Carbon and Iron Counties, Utah, announces plans for additions to its plant at Pittsburg, including a new rod mill, wire mill, nail works, and other structures, at an estimated cost of $1,500,000. Capitalization is $15,000,000. Address is 503 Market Street, San Francisco. BF&SP 10(9):489 (Sep 22)

February 1923:
Columbia Steel Corporation, recently reorganized with capital of $20,000,000, is perfecting plans for additions to its plant at Pittsburg, including an addition to open hearth department, new sheet and wire mills. Plans have been arranged for the immediate construction of a new blast furnace at Provo, Utah, work on this will be "pushed to completion." Wigginton E. Creed, president of Pacific Gas & Electric, is president of the corporation. The company is a combine of the Columbia Steel Co. with mills at Pittsburg and Portland, Oregon, and the Utah Coal & Coke Co. of Salt Lake City. BF&SP 11(2):181 (Feb 23)

August 1923:
Columbia Steel is pushing construction on its new "steel works" on site recently acquired in Utah. Foundations for the blast furnaces (note plural) are being laid and superstructure work will be commenced at a later date. Work is under way on four hot stoves, warehouses, and general shops. Operations at the iron ore properties are progressing and active mining will be commenced early in September 1923. The company has taken over the Llewellyn Steel Company of Los Angeles, and has acquired its entire capital stock and Los Angeles plant, which consists of open hearth furnaces, rolling mill, and other departments. Pig iron from the new Utah blast furnaces (again plural) will be shipped direct to all three mills. BF&SP 11(8):460 (Aug 23)

September 1923:
Columbia Steel has acquired more land at Pittsburg for $75,000 for expansion of its mill there. Plans will be announced soon. BF&SP 11(9):512 (Sep 23)

April 1924:
Columbia Steel is completing the construction of its blast furnaces at Ironton, Utah, including three stoves and auxiliary departments. It is proposed to remove the company offices at Provo to Ironton, and a new two-story office building will be occupied in the near future. The company has disposed of a bond issue of $1 million. It is proposed to install new by-product equipment in the months to come. BF&SP 12(4):218 (Apr 24)

January 1925:
712 by-product coke ovens were built in 1924, more than any year since 1918, including 33 for Columbia Steel, the only to be installed west of the Mississippi that year. All are Becker type designed and built by Koppers Co. The Provo plant has a daily carbonizing capacity of 1,000 tons, using high volatile Utah coal with "excellent results." Previously it had been thought impossible to produce a satisfactory blast furnace coke with these coals. The plant was then in operation for over six months and results successful, "a very definite step forward in the by-product coke oven practice." Ramsburg, C. 1. "By-Product Summary." BF&SP 13(1):39-41 (Jan 25)

February 1925:
... the Columbia Steel Corporation's plant at Provo, Utah [is an] entirely new plant having the distinction of entering entirely new territory." The site of the new furnace was fixed by the location of the large ore and coking coal deposits nearby, and its comparative closeness to the Pacific Coast markets "where Columbia basic and foundry iron has already become a decided factor." The chief competitor is European, especially Belgian, blast furnaces. The furnace was blown in during April 1924 and is producing about 370 tons daily of basic and foundry grades of pig iron with a coke consumption of about 2,250 pounds per ton of pig iron. Local high-volatile coals are coked in the 33 Koppers Becker type ovens. The iron ore averages 56 percent iron and seven percent silica, about 15 to 20 percent is magnetite. The furnace has a hearth diameter of 15'-0", bosh diameter of 19'-0", height 83 feet, eight tuyeres, four stoves of 4'112" checker opening with 50,000 square foot heating capacity each, operating on gas. The stock house and bin has allowed uninterrupted filling this winter in temperatures ranging from 30 degrees to minus 36 degrees. McDonnell, H. E. "Blast Furnace Progress in 1924." BF&SP 13(2):66-60+ (Feb 25)

March 1925:
Columbia Steel Corporation's pig iron plant is three miles south of the town of Provo, on a site that slopes gently to Utah Lake. The coal mine operated by the company is near Sunnyside and is served by a branch line to the D&RG Railroad. A branchline to the iron mines has been built by the Union Pacific. The mine has been opened by an adit and the ore is mined by a series of surface mill holes. Ore is graded into two classes and is discharged either into charge bins or stockpiled at the plant. Coal is crushed to 1-1/2" at the mine and sent to the coal preparation plant or stockpiled. Limestone is derived from local sources near Provo.

The plant consists ofa single blast furnace (nominal capacity of the furnace is 350 tons daily), coal preparation and conveying machinery, a by-product coking plant, power plant, shops, laboratories, and charging bins. The plant is modern in all respects; steel and concrete are largely used in construction. Conveyors and electric locomotives are used for transportation. The plant was designed by Freyn, Bassert & Co., noted Chicago blast furnace engineers, and erected by Columbia Steel. Iron and slag are handled in ladle cars, the ladle cars hauled by wire rope to the casting plant where two lines of molds. After casting and cooling the pigs are loaded into steel cars for shipment.

The coke plant makes three sizes, furnace coke for the furnace, domestic coke which is loaded into cars for shipment, and breeze, which is used at the power plant along with furnace gas and coke oven gas. The benzol product is sold locally and the tar is sold to the Barrett Company, which has a small plant nearby. The ammonium sulphate is shipped to Hawaii.

The power plant has five 617-hp boilers, two GE generators driven by Curtis turbines, each of 1,500 kW capacity, and two Ingersoll-Rand rotary blowers of 30,000-50,000 cfrn capacity at 18 lb. pressure. Additional power is supplied by Utah Power. The power house is a brick and steel building. Plant manager is L. F. Rains. Young, George 1. "Making Pig Iron from Utah Ore." BF&SP 13(3):123-5 (Mar 25). (Originally published in Engineering & Mining Journal Press)

September 1926:
The coal used at Provo is 100 percent Carbon County coal containing more than 10 percent oxygen and over 40 percent volatile matter when dry. "It is undoubtedly the lowest rank coal being carbonized in America, yet a very satisfactory furnace coke is being obtained." P. W. Jackson, blast-furnace superintendent, stated that "the March production of 11,528 tons of iron with a low fuel consumption per ton of iron, compares favorably with any practice in the country, and the limit of progress has not yet been reached." BF&SP 14(9):391 (Sep 26)

July 1927:
The growth of business of Columbia Steel has required a plant enlargement: Koppers Construction Company has been contracted to add 23 Becker type ovens to the original 33 ovens, along with added by-product and benzol capacity. The total annual carbonizing capacity will be approximately 600,000 tons of coal. BF&SP 15(7):365 (Jul 27)

April 1928:
Operation has started of the new battery of 23 Koppers by-product coke ovens. The company now has a total capacity of 400,000 tons of coke. BF&SP 16(4):521 (Apr 28)

September 1928:
Columbia Steel with plants at Provo, Portland, Pittsburg, and Torrance, will make additions including a new tin-plate mill of 50,000 tons annual capacity, with operation planned for early next year. BF&SP 16(9):1225 (Sep 28)

April 1929:
New tin-plate mill starts operation on March 12, 1929, the first plant devoted to this product west of Chicago. Plant was built in six months. Plate is delivered to either Southern Pacific or Santa Fe cars. Hulse, A. 1. & C. E. Dougan. "New Tin Mills at Pittsburg, California." BF&SP 17(4):557-9 (Apr 29)

December 1937:
Columbia Steel announces an extensive modernization and rehabilitation program, including a new office building in Los Angeles for the company's southern California sales force, and enlarge warehouses. New machinery is being installed at Torrance. BF&SP 25(12):1309 (Dec 37)

January 1938:
The Provo blast furnace was blown in on December 3. It was blown out on September 39 for relining and other repairs after operation since 1931. The furnace will supply iron for the company's mills at San Francisco, Pittsburg, and Torrance, California, and for the Pacific Coast trade in general. BF&SP 26(1):103 (Jan 38)

March 1941:
Columbia Steel Company has announced a $5 million-plus enlargement of its Pacific Coast facilities to include additional steel making and finishing mills. The decision recognizes the growing steel demands of the region as well as National Defense needs. The company operates steel works at Pittsburg and Torrance, ore and coal mines and a blast furnace in Utah, open hearth furnaces, rolling, wire, nail, sheet, and tin mills, foundries, and a wire rope and fence plant. BF&SP 29(3):341 (Mar 41)

December 1941:
Columbia Steel, U.S. Steel Corporation's West Coast subsidiary, has been authorized to construct additional facilities near Provo at a coast of $91,000,000 to be used in the production of pig iron, steel, and steel plate. This is in addition to the $35,000,000 contract with Defense Plant Corporation for two blast furnaces at Provo authorized last October, for a total cost of $126,000,000. The estimated annual capacity will be 1,450,000 tons pig iron, 840,000 tons open hearth ingots, and 500,000 tons plates. Defense Plant Corp. will own the plant. Other Defense Plant Corp. steel plant expenditures, all expansions of existing plants, are Carnegie-Illinois at Braddock, Pennsylvania, $22,000,000; Carnegie-Illinois at Homestead, Pennsylvania and Duquesne, Pennsylvania, $85,000,000; Republic Steel at Cleveland, Youngstown, and Warren, Ohio, and Birmingham, Alabama, $58,312,000; Bethlehem Steel at Bethlehem and Steelton, Pennsylvania, Sparrows Point, Maryland, and Lackawanna, New York, $55,777,000; Inland Steel at Chicago, $34,000,000; Sheffield Steel (subsidiary American Rolling Mill Company), Houston Ship Canal, Texas, $22,670,855; total to date approximately $413,000,000. All are expansions excepts the Sheffield and Provo plants, which are new. BF&SP 29(12):1235 (Dec 41)

November 1942:
More than 8,000 are employed in construction of the $150,000,000 Geneva Works, near Provo, which will be one of the nation's largest steel plants. Columbia Steel Company is constructing the plant. Ten barracks, each housing 100 men each, have been built, and 20 more are under construction. Restaurants and canteen facilities have a seating capacity of 1,600 at one time. Geneva Works is scheduled to begin producing pig iron by April 1943, open hearth steel in May, and structural steel and plate by June. 60 miles of track are complete at the plant site, as are foundations and many permanent installations. Water wells have been drilled and a 3 10-acre reservoir constructed to store water for the plant.

A second blast furnace is scheduled to go into operation at the Ironton Works as early as December. This previously inoperative furnace was shipped to Ironton from Joliet, Illinois, and is being enlarged and modernized. It is owned by Defense Plant Corporation. New development at the Geneva coal mine is ahead of schedule. Production is expected to begin in November 1942. Six and one-half miles of railroad have been built to the mine, completed in 60 days. BF&SP 30(11):1287+ (Nov 42)

August 1943:
The Ironton #2 furnace was blown in on July 1, 1943, and is now producing pig. This is the second furnace to be blown in the far West in the previous six months (the other was Kaiser), for a total of three furnaces in the West. Ironton #2 is rated at 900 tons daily. The Ironton # 1, rated at 600 tons, was until 1942 the only blast furnace in the far West. Approximately 75 percent of the pig is shipped to coast plants of Columbia steel in Pittsburg and Los Angeles, with some foundry grade being marketed (locally). BF&SP 31(8):919 (Aug 43)

October 1943:
Price of the Geneva Works is now quoted at $180,000,000. Apparently the cost increase was to add a third blast furnace. BF&SP 3(10):1172 (Oct 43)

October 1943:
USS Corporation will operate the Geneva Works for the Defense Plant Corporation (an RFC subsidiary); the plant is scheduled for completion at year's end. A newly organized subsidiary ofUSS, Geneva Steel Company, will operate the plant, without fee or other compensation. All costs incidental to the management and operation of the plant will be paid by DPC and all proceeds for sales of its products will be for the account of the DPC. The Works was designed by USS engineers and erected by Columbia Steel Company. Low-ranking priority for essential items have retarded completion of the works. BF&SP 31(10):1182 (Oct 43)

October 1943:
Columbia Steel has built a new 43-acre foundry at Pittsburg, at an expense of $6,000,000. The plant was paid for and owned by Defense Plant Corporation., and will provide approximately 30,000 tons of steel castings annually. Products of the plant will be used primarily by the U.S. Navy and Maritime Commission. BF&SP 31(10):1171 (Oct 43)

January 1944:
Geneva's first coke was produced on December 14, 1943. "It was in April 1942 that the 1, 600-acre plant site was cleared of small farm buildings which dotted the area." Price of the plant is $180,000,000. The Geneva Mine was developed and is now shipping coke to Geneva's four battery (63 ovens in each battery) coke oven. One of the batteries is now in production. The capacity is now quoted at 1,200,000 tons steel ingots annually. Production of pig iron is scheduled for February 1944 and finally, the "rolling mills will begin to turn out war critical ship plates." BF&SP 32(1):65 (Jan 44)

February 1944:
"Production of steel started February 3 [1944] at the Defense Plant Corporation's $180,000,000 steel plant near Provo, Utah, with the charging of the first open hearth furnace. Steel-the first open hearth steel produced in Utah-will be tapped some fifteen hours later." Yearly capacity estimated at 1,280,000 tons. Each of the nine basic open hearth furnaces has a capacity of 225 tons of steel per heat. Two more furnaces will be brought into production at approximately weekly intervals.

Geneva Steel Company has taken over the operation of the Geneva Coal Mine, which supplies 8,500 tons of coal per day, and the limestone and dolomite quarry some 25 miles from the plant. Employment at the plant is now 1,500 with 750 more at the coal mine and quarry. BF&SP 32(2):274 (Feb 44)

March 1945:
US S Corporation has advised the government it is interested in discussing the purchase or lease of the Geneva Works for post-war operation, according to William A. Ross, president of Columbia steel Company. Ross stressed that Columbia Steel, contrary to some press discussion, is very interested in operating the Works after the war, and given expected post war demand on the Pacific Coast does not see the operation of Geneva as harmful to its California plants. (See article for full quotation.) BF&SP 33(3):391 (Mar 45)

August 1945:
Benjamin F. Fairless, president ofUSS Corporation, announced on August 9, 1945 that USS is no longer interested in acquiring the Geneva Works, "after a full consideration of the whole situation and the various problems which seem to be involved in attempting to establish the [plant] as a sound and successful commercial enterprise after the war," and has authorized a modernization of the Columbia Steel Company's Pittsburg plant to give it the capacity to cold roll 325,000 tons of cold reduced sheets and tin plate, and is studying the modernization of the Torrance plant. Fairless said that he would be happy to "negotiate for the purchase" of hot rolled coils from Geneva from the DPC or the plant's future operators, provided that this agreement can be reached in sufficient time. BF&SP 33(8):991 (Aug 45)

August 1946:
"The effective post-war operation of the Geneva Steel Plant, recently purchased from the Government by the United States Steel Corporation, came closer to realization with the blowing in of an additional blast furnace on July II," said Irving S. Olds, Chairman ofUSS. For the time being the plant will be operated by Geneva Steel, and a strenuous effort is being made to reassemble a competent operating organization. Steel making was scheduled to resume on July 22. BF&SP 34(8):1020 (Aug 46)

March 1947:
The coal used at Geneva is classified as a relatively young bituminous coal with marginal coking properties. It is hoped that as the mine progresses deeper under the overburden that the coking properties will improve. Coal, ore and limestone variations are high (different than in eastern operations where blending is successful) and cause problems. However, in 1944 it took 4,651 pounds of coal to produce a ton of iron, and a 35 percent improvement has since been effected. Note that tonnage per day is still low, only 780-765 for #1 and #3 had been blown out. #2 was apparently not running at all during this period, October-December 1946. Production is apparently about 25 percent of capacity; probably there was nothing they could use the pig for until the plant was converted to peacetime use. Waggoner, C. L. "Observations on Coke Oven and Blast Furnace Practice at the Geneva Plant." BF&SP 35(3):325-8 (Mar 47)

April 1947:
USS Corporation has authorized the expenditure of $277,500,000 in improvements, including $40 million to purchase the Geneva Plant, $65 million for DPC properties at Homestead, Duquesne and Edgar Thompson works in Pittsburgh district, and $5 million for a tube mill at Gary Indiana. Columbia Steel has spent $8.3 million to purchase Consolidated Steel Corporation, a fabricator based in San Francisco and Los Angeles, which does not make steel, only fabricates. The Department of Justice is examining the deal as a possible Sherman Act violation. BF&SP 35(4):477 (Apr 47)

October 1948:
Columbia Steel increased output by 400,000 tons when it opened its cold reduction sheet and tin plate mill at Pittsburg. This is part ofa $130 million plan for additions and improvements in the West. When Geneva is converted to peacetime output, it will deliver hot rolled coils of semi-finished steel to Pittsburg for processing into cold rolled sheets and tin plate. BF&SP 36 (10): 206 (Oct 48)

January 1949:
Conversion of the Geneva Works plate mill to hot rolled coil production was virtually complete by year's end 1948. Shipments of hot rolled coil to Pittsburg will begin in first quarter 1949. A rearrangement of the plate finishing end of the mill for greater efficiency will be undertaken soon. A site for another cold reduction sheet mill has been acquired in Los Angeles. BF&SP 37(1):92 (Jan 49)

August 1950:
Columbia Steel has leased the DPC foundry at Pittsburg, which has been idle except for a brief period since the end of the war. BF&SP 38(8):959 (Aug 50)

September 1950:
Columbia Steel has announced the following production increases: additional cold reduced sheet and tin plate at Pittsburg, with an annual capacity of 215,000 tons, which will be in operation by late summer 1951, adding some 800 employees. Geneva Steel has announced new facilities to produce and additional 100,000 tons hot rolled sheets annually. The combined capacity will be approximately 640,000 tons sheet and tin plate. Further expansion is still planned for Los Angeles. BF&SP 38(9):1075 (Sep 50)

October 1950:
Geneva announces a 100,000-ton production expansion of hot rolled sheets, employing an additional 50. The work is scheduled for completion by mid-summer 1951. BF&SP 38(10):1215 (Oct 50)