Monday, November 18, 2013

ESCO: The Electric Steel Foundry Company

Below, a cable slip hook made by ESCO:

According to the company website, around the turn of the last century, C.F. Swigert was an industrialist in Portland, Oregon, the "Rose City."  He was involved with the Pacific Bridge Company, and also a director of one of the city's major streetcar lines.  During a trip to France, he was impressed with the French invention of an efficient melting furnace powered by electricity rather than coke or coal.  On his return to the U.S., he founded the Electric Steel Foundry Company in 1913, using the first electric furnace imported to the western U.S.  He set up his company on land that had been used for the 1902 "World's Fair", publicized as the "Lewis & Clark Exposition."  Initially, the company made trolley parts, but soon turned its efforts to locomotives, as well as equipment for sawmills and the timber trade.  The company's first proprietary product was the Bardon's choker hook, used for hauling logs on steep ground.  In the 1920's, the company began pouring Hadfield's manganese steel, an alloy particularly effective in high-impact applications such as crushing, mining, and construction.  In 1926, the "ESCO" trademark was first used.  In 1929, Swigert's son Ernest took the helm of a separate business whose focus was logging and lumber equipment.  First called the Willamette-Ersted Company, it became the Hyster Company, famous for its lift trucks.  During World War II, production was changed to valves and anchor chains for naval ships, and cast components for tanks and aircraft.  Esco dragline buckets were used to build airfields and to dredge channels on Pacific islands.  In 1957, the company opened two Canadian plants near Vancouver, and a highly automated plant was built in Port Hope, Ontario in the 1970's.  In 1973, ESCO became the first steel foundry in the world to use the AOD (Argon Oxygen Decarburization) process to produce extremely pure alloys.  

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