Edmund Littlefield and the Modernization of Utah Construction
a commemorative lecture presented at the
2006 Utah Construction/ Utah International Symposium
The Beginning of an Era
Susan J. Matt
Wednesday, October 4, 2006 2
In 1960, in a speech to the New York Society of Security Analysts, Edmund W. Littlefield, the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Utah Construction and Mining Company, reflected on what he termed “ the transition of the „ 50s.” He noted: Our company today stands in sharp contrast to what it was in 1949 when the headquarters staff of 41 was comfortably housed in the Crocker Bank Building, [ in San Francisco] serving some 150 reasonably satisfied stockholders, making a little better than $ 1,000,000 a year almost entirely out of the heavy construction business which has been the prime source of our livelihood for the preceding 50 years. Every one of our 8 private offices was still equipped with a spittoon which the old- timers could hit with reasonable accuracy. We had no private secretaries, published no annual reports, had no inquiries from brokers or investment bankers, less term debt than working capital, and few problems in employee communications that couldn‟ t be solved by merely raising your voice. Perhaps we should have left well enough alone, but we didn‟ t. In the next decade we complicated our lives by getting into the mining of iron ore, uranium, copper, and coal, as well as ocean shipping, land development and real estate, and hydraulic dredging. Our simple corporate structure became a complex of 26 subsidiaries, some 25 affiliated companies, and numerous joint ventures. We are concerned with operations in 15 countries on 6 continents and now have some 2500 stockholders in 47 states concerned about us. If sometimes we long for the relative simplicity of the good old days, we are consoled by the fact that the changes we made have increased our profits some eight- fold, the price of our stock even more. i
What Edmund Littlefield was describing was the modernization of Utah Construction. Under his leadership, the company changed from a family- owned and largely family- run concern, to a modern business. During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Littlefield decentralized authority, added a professional staff, brought in trained specialists, diversified the activities of the company, rationalized hiring processes, updated communication practices, and standardized many company functions. What happened at Utah Construction was a classic example of the rise of bureaucratic or 3
What makes the Utah story interesting to historians is that it defies many historical expectations. Traditionally, historians have thought of the modernization of the American corporation as a process that happened in the period 1870 to 1920. This idea was most famously put forth by Alfred Chandler in his classic, Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. Chandler argued there that in the late nineteenth and early 20th century, America changed from an entrepreneurial to a corporate economy. During that time, businesses, beginning with railroad companies, reorganized themselves. Formerly small, and run by families or limited partnerships, they began to adopt the hallmarks of modern management – a multi- unit structure with different sectors of the company operating independently, administered by a core group of professional managers who generally had no ownership stake in the company. ii One of the corporations that Chandler saw as epitomizing this process was General Electric, founded in 1892 through the merger of Edison General Electric and the Thomson- Houston Electric Company. iii Companies such as General Electric, built on the foundations of smaller, individually run businesses, became large, multi- unit enterprises, employing thousands and generating millions. GE was typical of modernizing businesses at the turn of the century. During that time, small companies were replaced by large bureaucratic structures, and American capitalism, rather than being dominated by striving entrepreneurs instead grew to depend on managers who could orchestrate and coordinate large numbers of workers.
This model of economic change, while generally endorsed by historians and 4
economists, does not explain what happened at Utah Construction, or for that matter, many of the other western construction companies that developed around the same time, such as Bechtel, Kaiser, Halliburton, and Morrison- Knudsen. These companies all followed the older, entrepreneurial model of the family- run firm until after World War II. Only in the 40s, 50s, and 60s did these companies begin to look like the ones Alfred Chandler described – only then did they become modern.
Why was this case? Historian Gerald B. Nash maintains that the history of capitalism in the western U. S. differs from that of the East. In 1995, he offered some reasons for differences between the 2 regions: following Bernard DeVoto, Nash described the relationship between western states and eastern ones in the nineteenth and early 20th century as a colonial one. The West was the colony of the East. The East extracted raw material from the west, but discouraged manufacturing through discriminatory tariffs and high freight rates on the railroads. Given such structural impediments to economic growth, the western economy followed a different pattern from the east. It lagged behind, providing the fuel for eastern capitalism, but reaping few of the monetary rewards.
In addition to this imbalanced trade relationship, one may conjecture that the fact that Utah Construction was founded in Utah, by Mormons, also affected its development. Brigham Young‟ s desire to make Zion economically self- sufficient may have influenced the economic outlook of many a Mormon business leader in the nineteenth and even the early twentieth century. Businesses in Utah kept themselves apart from some of the main currents of national economic life, at least for a time. Then too, a certain resentment of the eastern establishment may have led the leaders of Utah 5
Construction to keep it independent of the national economy. Marriner Eccles once noted that his father “ took special pride in the fact that unlike most other men, he never had to look to the East for capital. He produced his own capital for all his ventures, saying that a business, like an individual could remain free only if it kept out of debt, and that the West itself could remain free only if it kept out of debt to the East." iv Finally, not just western prejudice against the east, but eastern condescension toward the west, may have influenced the growth and development of Western corporations. For instance, during the 1930s, when Morrison- Knudsen, in alliance with Utah Construction, approached Eastern bankers for help in financing the construction of Hoover Dam, company leaders were greeted with what scholars Peter Wiley and Robert Gottlieb term “ skepticism.” They write: “ Utah and Morrison- Knudsen might be major construction companies by western standards, but eastern financiers viewed them as too small to undertake such a major project.” v Imbalanced trade relations, regional stereotypes, and for a time religious imperatives, may have thus led Western corporations to look and behave differently from eastern ones and, consequently, to modernize later.
This began to change as a result of WWII. The large infusions of federal spending into the West during the war led to the growth of western business. Certainly by the late 1940s, western corporations were well positioned for expansion and change. If we look closely at Utah International we can watch this transformation, and we can understand why and how the company became so attractive to suitors such as General Electric.
By 1950, Utah Construction was 50 years old by some counts, older by others. The Corey and Wattis brothers of Uintah, Utah had begun to do railroad construction 6
work in the late nineteenth century, formally incorporating their business as Corey Brothers, Inc, in 1886. As Lester Corey, who became President of the Company in 1940, noted, “ The Company was composed of hard working men who had high principles of character. Their word was good and they assumed the same to be true with others with whom they dealt. They were men of little education, for few schools were available, and had practically no background in corporate finance.” vi Financial misadventures necessitated the reorganization of the company; in 1895 it reformed, this time as Corey Brothers Company. This reorganization brought into the company bankers from the First National Bank of Ogden, among them Thomas D. Dee and David Eccles. In 1900, the firm once again reorganized, taking the name Utah Construction. The company‟ s early history conformed with the general pattern of entrepreneurial capitalism. Family- run, without the aid of professional managers, it remained an often profitable but highly volatile enterprise.
[ FIGURE 1] see small scale
Despite small scale of the enterprise, during the first half of the twentieth century, Utah Construction did impressive work, with its most famous project, the Hoover Dam, completed 2 years ahead of schedule. By 1949, it was bringing in $ 1,000,000 per year in profit. During the 1940s, the company gradually shifted its headquarters to San Francisco, closing the Ogden office in 1952. Although the company was making money during the first half of the century, organizational strife plagued it, and by 1950, many on the Board of Directors wanted to make changes. The first step was finding good leadership. Marriner Eccles had already provided some of that. Eccles became President of the company in 1931 and Chief Executive Officer in 1940. Although Eccles 7
was a business and banking leader as well as a public servant with a keen understanding of financial markets, he was not specially trained in management. He had not attended college or business school, had not learned the academic discipline of management, yet he had a practical appreciation for it, and a willingness and indeed eagerness to appoint people with such specialized training. For that reason, in 1951, Marriner Eccles recruited Edmund Littlefield to become Financial Vice President and Treasurer.
Born in 1914 in Ogden, Utah, Littlefield was the grandson of one of the founders of Utah Construction, Edmund O. Wattis. When he was 12, Littlefield started boarding school in California. Eventually he attended Beverly Hills High School before heading to Stanford in 1932. There he earned a B. A. in 1936, and an M. B. A. in 1938. Thereafter, he went to work for Standard Oil, the U. S. Navy, The Office of Petroleum Administration during World War II, and then, after the War ended, for Golden State Dairy. Although he was young, he developed a reputation as a skilled manager. In 1951, Marriner Eccles invited Littlefield to go golfing with him at the Los Angeles Country Club. After the game ended, Eccles asked Littlefield if he would be interested in becoming Financial Vice President and Treasurer of Utah Construction. At first, Littlefield was not interested, but as he recalled, Eccles “ went on to prove over the next several weeks that he was not a man who took „ no‟ for an answer very easily.” vii
Eventually Littlefield gave in; he later recalled the conditions he laid down: " Finally I said to Marriner, " I will agree to come on two conditions. The first is that it is very clear what my job is- who reports to me and to whom I report. The second is that I will be under no pressure to hire anybody's relatives and that includes yours as well as 8
mine." viii These demands presaged a shift in the nature of the company and its workforce– a shift from a family- run company organized on the entrepreneurial model, where blood connections mattered and business leaders, while often talented, were largely untrained, to a company run by a professional, specialized workforce with few blood ties to company founders. To effect this transformation, Littlefield engaged in activities that are the hallmarks of modern managerial behavior and really introduced them to the company for the first time. He reorganized the company and decentralized authority. He hired professional managers, with university educations. He and his staff clarified and rationalized recruitment, hiring, and morale building functions.
A very significant change that Littlefield made was in the way the company promoted itself to its shareholders and to potential investors. He began this transformation in his first year at Utah Construction. He insisted that the company issue annual reports in order to keep investors aware of the progress. [ FIGURE 2] As he later noted, “ The first Annual Report for the shareholders was published by the Utah Construction Company in the year ending October 31, 1951. Prior to that time, nothing had been sent to the shareholders. If they wrote in and asked for specific information, they were sent a balance sheet. Beside the Directors, only the banks and the bonding companies had any actual reports from the company.” ix The first report was symptomatic of things to come. Over the course of several years, Littlefield changed the financial workings of the company and greatly expanded the number of stockholders. In 1956, there were 150 stockholders; by the end of the decade there were 2,550. By 1959, the board of trustees had increased the number of shares in the company from 2 9
million to 10 million.
During his time at the helm of Utah, Littlefield also reorganized the board of directors of the company, and this in many ways proved a key transformation. He recalled, “ One of the critical decisions that had to be made was when we decided that, like it or not, we were no longer a private company, privately held by a handful of individuals, but were, in fact, increasingly a public company and destined to become more so. And that involved a fundamental change in the way we approached the investing public and required a program over time of making our company known to the investing public, ultimately listing the stock on the New York Stock Exchange, and, in fact, doing all those things that were necessary to make that conclusion. It involved finally such things as bringing onto the board of directors people who were not associated with the original families, outside directors such as Mr. Arbuckle and, recently, Alf Brandin, and later people like Arjay Miller and Bill Hewlett.” x The presence of Ernest Arbuckle, the dean of Stanford‟ s business school from 1958- 1968, and later the chairman of Wells Fargo, Arjay Miller, President of Ford Motor Company and dean of the Business School at Stanford from 1969- 1979, Alf Brandin, the Business Manager and Vice President of Stanford, and William Hewlett, of Hewlett Packard fame, helped transform Utah from a regional company to a national and then an international corporation.
Of Ernie Arbuckle and the other new outsiders who joined the Board of Directors, Littlefield said, “ He [ Ernie] also was the first outside director appointed to the Utah Construction Company. Ernie made a great impact on our board. He was followed almost simultaneously by Alf Brandin. Prior to the appointments of Ernie and Alf, the 10
board of The Utah Construction was pretty parochial. Most of them were directors of the First Security Corporation, Amalgamated Sugar and The Utah Construction Company. They all learned their trade from each other. Except for Mariner and George Eccles, most of them didn‟ t have any experience outside the state of Utah. When I would bring up something they would say, „ We do it that way at First Security and Amalgamated Sugar.‟ Ernie would say, „ We do it that way at Aetna Life and Safeway Stores and Hewlett Packard,‟ and so on." xi While Utah Construction had been well run before the advent of Arbuckle, Miller, and the others, their presence brought the latest in management thought and expertise to the company and made it function in a way that was in keeping with national business norms. Littlefield‟ s efforts to increase the financial transparency of the company, to bring more expertise to its board of directors, to heighten its public profile, to increase its pool of shareholders, and its capital, paid off in many ways. One clear sign was that on April 2, 1969, Utah Construction was admitted onto NYSE with over 14,500,000 shares of common stock. xii [ FIGURE 3]
Ed Littlefield, however, did more than merely change the external image and financial structure of the company. He also made fundamental changes in its internal organization. During his time at Utah, the number of employees went from 2,400 in the mid1950sxiii to over 11,000 people in 1961. xiv Many in the newly expanded workforce staffed the San Francisco office, and worked in managerial roles, but an even greater number were employed in the new multinational arms of the company- in Peru, in Australia, and in Canada.
Indeed, Utah Construction‟ s growing workforce and increasing profits were due in 11
large part to its growth in foreign markets. In 1957, Littlefield reported in a speech to the Lion‟ s Club of Oakland: “ It is literally true that the sun never sets on our operations which are scattered from France on the east to Pakistan on the west, Alaska on the north and Tasmania on the south. We are currently operating in the United States and eleven foreign countries, and our men have been on the prowl for business opportunities in many, many more places. . . .” xv By 1974, Littlefield was proclaiming: “" Over half of our funds are invested overseas and well over half of our profits are earned overseas.” xvi His claims were not hyperbole: During his years at Utah, the company undertook a wide array of new mining and land development activities both in the U. S. and abroad. For instance, in 1951, Utah began construction projects in Australia and turned to coal mining in that country in the 1960s; in 1952, Utah began its operations in Peru at the Marcona mine, in 1953 at the Navajo mine in Arizona; in 1955, the company began its uranium mining business at the Lucky Mc mine in Wyoming; in 1957, Utah began stripping for the Pima Mining Company, near Tucson, eventually coming to own a share of that company in 1965. That same year, Utah became involved with the Island Copper mining enterprise in Vancouver, Canada. During the 1960s, the company also undertook construction work in Nigeria, Liberia, the Republic of Congo, Pakistan, and Thailand. xvii Not only did the company expand its reach geographically, but it also began to do a wider array of projects, including dredging in Alameda, land development in Moraga and Pauma, California and ocean shipping.
While this expansion in size and function occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, rather than at the turn of the century, Utah‟ s transformation resembled the process that Alfred Chandler described in The Visible Hand. Chandler maintained that the modern 12
corporation “ came into being and continued to grow by setting up or purchasing business units that were theoretically able to operate as independent enterprises.” xviii Ed Littlefield effected this transformation at Utah by using the company‟ s experience in the construction field as a building block for other endeavors. As he explained to the New York Society of Security Analysts, Utah‟ s mining division evolved out of its work as a contract miner for other companies; its real estate division grew out of its earlier role as a building contractor, and so on. He confided to his audience, that before the company expanded and diversified, Frankly, we found ourselves frustrated by the fact that, like contractors everywhere, we were able to use our tools only at the time of someone else‟ s choosing. We were impatient with merely playing a part in executing someone else‟ s plans. We aspired to a more creative role, to being the playwright, the stage designer, the producer, the director, and not merely one of the actors or the stage hands. xix
Under Littlefield‟ s leadership, Utah went from being an actor on the stage, to the director. The company assumed the multi- unit structure of the modern corporation. This change and expansion required the company to refine its organizational layout. To that end, Littlefield divided the company into different divisions: He recalled that in 1958: " When I became general manager, I, in effect, reorganized and that's the first time the company was organized in recognizable and reasonably well- defined divisions of construction, mining and land development.” xx [ FIGURE 4]
This division of functions represented a sharp break with the past, when lines of authority and the delegation of duties was not always clear. Particularly after he took over as General Manager, Littlefield broke with the traditions of his predecessors in that position: Earlier managers had organized the company as a wheel, with the general 13
manager as the hub of the wheel and all of the employees as spokes. xxi This centralized decision making, but as the company grew, it became a cumbersome structure, with too many decisions being taken to the highest level of management. The different style of management that Littlefield brought to Utah Construction was quickly noticed. By 1961, in the year he was promoted to president of the company, 3 years after he had been promoted to general manager, and 10 years after he was first hired, Utah Construction was rated “ excellently managed” by the American Institute of Management, and was listed in that organization‟ s “ Manual of Excellent Managements” xxii
The reorganization of the company was visible in other ways, as well. Utah‟ s move from the Shell building to 550 California Street in late 1960 also signified the company‟ s changing business practices. [ FIGURE 5] The company newsletter celebrated the new building as “ unique for the San Francisco area in that multi- colored partitioning has been effectively employed, permitting individuality in office decor.” Far more important than its decor was the effect the new structure would have on company operations. Most of the departments could now be housed in the same building, rather than scattered in various locations. The hope was that this reorganization would “ improve communications and facilitate administration.” xxiii
Littlefield‟ s management style also affected the type of employees who staffed the company. Littlefield had come to Utah with the condition that he have a clearly defined job; he asked the same for other employees of the company. He insisted that employees devote themselves to one type of endeavor rather than be generalists. For instance, in 1954, he issued “ A Pattern for Progress,” which called for the subdivision of 14
jobs: He noted there that he was troubled by the fact that Utah expected “ the same people both to obtain new business and to supervise the performance of the contracts that have been obtained. This sounds fine, for it centralizes responsibility and makes for a nice clean- cut organizational pattern. However, I have become slowly convinced that it has a major flaw; it doesn‟ t work. It doesn‟ t work for two very fundamental reasons. First, the same individual is rarely equally effective at sales work and at operations. He is usually good at one or the other, rarely both. He‟ s almost always better at one then the other and by requiring him to do both the result is often that he either does neither well or he neglects one at the expense of the other. ” xxivLittlefield wanted to change this. Rather than being jacks of all trades, the new breed of Utah employees were to be specialists in their fields. The desire to have specialists staff the company and devote themselves to one type of activity rather than many was a signal of Littlefield‟ s modernizing tendencies. He himself was a Stanford MBA, and he worked to recruit other experienced professionals to the firm. A key step in changing the workforce at Utah was the creation of a personnel department, in 1958. With the establishment of this department, staffing decisions were to be made in a coordinated way, with clear criteria established for hiring, retaining, and rewarding employees. Nationally, personnel departments emerged in the wake of the First World War, and were designed to bring principles of scientific management and efficiency to the previously unpredictable activity of managing large numbers of employees.
With the advent of the personnel department at Utah, jobs became more clearly defined and rewards for employees more uniformly distributed. In 1958, the first 15
personnel director, M. C. Strittmatter, for instance asked all salaried employees to answer questionnaires about their positions. The hope was that the employee responses would clearly delineate the duties and requirements of the work, clarify the lines of authority and managerial responsibility, and ensure that employees of Utah were compensated at a rate that was commensurate with their peers at other firms. xxv
To fill the jobs being defined through this process, and to find job candidates with the specialized experience required in a modern corporation, Utah established relationships with universities. This was a new direction for Utah and for many other companies, as well, because for decades many business leaders had dismissed the importance of a university education to business success. Particularly in the years after World War II, however, modern corporations came to rely on universities, and in particular, their professional schools, for new personnel. By the late 1950s, Utah was no exception. In 1957, for instance, a journalist for the Engineering News- Record, reported that Utah “ maintains close contact with faculty members of engineering schools. And more and more, it has been making use of college students, including non- engineering majors, during summer vacation periods. In addition, it has employed graduate students working on fellowships or other advanced college programs for special studies such as geologic surveys ( last year the company set up its own fellowship at Stanford University's School of Engineering for a post- graduate student taking graduate work in construction.” xxvi Stanford University played a key role in supplying Utah with engineers and managers as well as directors, but it was not the only school the company relied upon. * v. Harvard. By the late 1960s, Utah Construction and Mining Co. also was recruiting at institutions such as Berkeley, University of Nevada, University of New 16
Mexico, Colorado School of Mines, Michigan Tech, and UCLA. xxvii
In addition to seeking out people with more specialized training, Utah also was a company that was increasingly concerned with rationalizing its business procedures– that is making them uniform, repeatable, and predictable. Such rationalized business practices were, sociologist Max Weber observed, a key feature of modern, bureaucratic life. xxviii While we take bureaucracy and standardization for granted today, business was in the past run more informally and haphazardly. To make a company modern, however, required that it become more predictable, and this meant changing the way that employees approached their jobs and thought about what they did. Employees needed to be educated in the ways of modern bureaucracy. For instance, during the 1960s, Utah‟ s chief of personnel, A. M. Chambliss, issued explicit and detailed directions for “ screening applicants for employment,” including tips on how to evaluate their education, their grades, and their outside activities, their references and their interviews. xxix Once hired, employees were to go through what the personnel director termed the “ indoctrination of new salaried employees.” This indoctrination included a review of the company's " organization and general management," a " brief summary of [ its] history and activities," and its method of communication with employees and shareholders. Chambliss also tried to standardize what he termed “ Office practice”; to this end he offered new employee guidelines for appropriate " dress" and for " hours of work." xxx Essentially, Chambliss and the management were teaching their workers how to function in a modern corporate setting.
Making uniform rules for recruiting, hiring, orienting, and retaining employees was but one manifestation of the quest for uniformity and the rationalization of work. 17
Managers at Utah worked to increase efficiency by standardizing all sorts of business processes. These processes ranged from the large to the small and mundane. For instance in 1961, management at Utah issued a directive to secretarial and stenographic staff, which had as it goal “ To establish standardized procedures in the preparation of outside and inter- office communications" The memo‟ s author noted that:" A ' simplified letter' system has become widely used in business circles which reduces clerical efforts substantially and adds greatly to the efficient organization of correspondence. This method requires that two basic principles be used: ( a) Of the sender- the communication be simple, direct, and personalized by informal ' face to face' wordage. ( b) Of the typist- a standardized simple typing format, with all headings, paragraphs, and closings beginning from the left margin. No indentations will be necessary. . . . “ The directions then went on to suggest the “ Elimination of salutations in all letter writing.” The memo directed that “ Your first sentence should be provocative yet firm and convincing. . . . Organize and plan your facts in a logical order, then follow your logic. . . . Make your letters friendly and courteous with the tone you would use in a successful conversation. . . . When you have spoken your piece, break it off quickly and politely. . . . Omit complimentary closes and merely sign off." The memo concluded with directions about the use of letterhead, the proper spacing, and the way to avoid fingerprint smudges. xxxi This is a small example of the quest for efficiency and uniformity– with such directions, there would be no need to waste words, or waste paper, or waste time. While this is a mundane example of the rationalization of office procedures, it indicates the new level of organization that was developing within the company– everything from planning the annual company picnic ( for which an organizing 18
committee was created) to the composition, and layout of letters, to the hiring and retention of employees – was standardized and made uniform.
On a larger scale, the company during this era also worked to rationalize business processes through the use of computers. A 1962 Utah Report noted that: " Application of electronic data processing to the accounting and engineering function in the Company is expanding very rapidly. We are now utilizing mechanical and electronic business machines in three separate phases, with the ultimate aim of performing a high percentage of the detailed accounting and engineering work through a centralized location.” This early venture into computing relied upon the IBM 1401A Computer and replaced the calculator that the company had relied upon in the past. xxxii [ FIGURE]
With the aid of new technologies and a new set of management strategies, Littlefield and his team were able to turn Utah into a highly profitable and very attractive company, so attractive that other companies were eager to acquire it. In December 1976, the Board of Directors of Utah International ratified a merger with General Electric. GE saw Utah as desirable because, as Littlefield pointed out, “ Earnings and dividends have grown at impressive rates. The $ 4.2 million earned in 1956 became $ 179 million in 1976. 1976 was the 12th consecutive year of record earnings reported. It is the 26th consecutive year in which the dividends payment was increased. On a per share basis, earnings have climbed from 16 cents in 1956 to $ 5.67 in 1976 and dividends have grown from 4.9 cents in 1956 to $ 1.15 in 1976.” xxxiii Outsiders confirmed the health of the company. At the time of the merger with GE, Alan Snyder, a security analyst, told a reporter for the New York Times, “ I consider Utah to have one of the best management teams in the country.” xxxiv 19
Utah International offered new opportunities for the East coast giant, GE. [ FIGURE] As the New York Times observed in December 1976, “ close observers point out that the $ 2.17 billion acquisition of Utah International Inc. gives G. E. a long- sought access to Japan as well as the much more publicized advantages of diversification into the field of natural resources.” xxxv Having come of age later than GE, Utah was invested in some of the most desirable industries of the time– coal, uranium, copper, petroleum, and shipping. It also had recognized and capitalized on the lucrative possibilities to be found in trade with Pacific Rim countries. The type of business endeavors that made Utah a success resulted in large part from the company‟ s western orientation. While geography and regional culture had at first caused Utah and other companies in the West to mature more slowly than their Eastern counterparts, by the second half of the twentieth century, that location and pace of development had conferred unexpected benefits on them. Well- situated to trade with Japan, Australia, and other Asian nations, Utah had made important connections with those economies; surrounded by a wealth of natural resources, like coal and uranium, Utah was able to invest in vital industries. While “ westerness” had once held the company back, it now proved central to its success.
Utah International offers a case study of the modernization of business in the American West. More remains to be done on this topic. Other companies, engaged in similar enterprises such as Morrison Knudsen, Bechtel, Kellogg, Brown and Root and most famously, Halliburton, seem to have followed much the same pattern. All were founded in the west, all remained in family hands for longer than many eastern companies, all professionalized later, and ultimately grew tremendously in the late 20
twentieth century. While historians have traditionally assumed that the experience of Eastern corporations and business leaders represented the national experience, the story of these Western companies offers an alternate view. These businesses modernized later than eastern companies, and while this may have suppressed their profits in the short run, long term, it positioned them to be at the cutting edge of contemporary capitalism. Littlefield‟ s vision and efforts transformed the company. Summarizing the effects of his time at Utah, he noted: “ This is one of the truly great success stories in recent American corporate business history. It is a story where we took a mature fifty- one year old company, and converted it from its original business of heavy construction into a mining company with capabilities of ocean shipping and land development. When I came aboard, mining was a newly started side- line. By the time we merged with General Electric, we were the most prosperous in terms of annual earnings, and the most valuable in terms of stock market values of any American- headquartered mining company. We had passed companies we had thought of as giants . . . . Kennecott, Arsarco, and Anaconda. Eventually, we exceeded all these companies in earnings. We left companies like Morrison Knudsen in our wake. We made more money in a month than they would make in a year.” xxxvi
Halliburton founded in Oklahoma 1919, modernize, go public? Brown and Root founded in Texas 1919, modernize, go public? Bechtel founded in? 1898, modernize when Stephen Bechtel Jr. became President in?, was incorporated in 1932 and went public in? Morrison and Knudsen founded in Boise, Idaho, 1912, start modernizing in the1950s, and go public in 1946. ( Company History p. 12) 21
i. Address by Edmund W. Littlefield, Executive Vice President and General Manager Utah Construction & Mining Co. before the New York Society of Security Analysts, New York City, August 25, 1960, Utah Construction Co/ Utah international Papers, MS 100 Box 2, Folder 6. ii. Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business ( Cambridge, MA, 1977), 2- 10. iii. Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., The Visible Hand, 426- 432. iv. Quoted in Peter Wiley and Robert Gottlieb, Empires in the Sun: The Rise of the New American West ( G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1982) 10. v. Wiley and Gottlieb, Empires in the Sun, 16. vi. Company History by Lester Corey, 1954, p 2, Utah Construction Co./ Utah International MS 100, Locked Box, Company Histories, Box 49, Folder 10. vii. Edmund Wattis Littlefield, As I Remember ( Indian Wells, California, 1997), 23- 24, 31- 50, 54, 65- 72, 80, 101- 102. viii. Littlefield, As I Remember, 102 ix. Littlefield, As I Remember, 105. x. Interview: E. W. Littlefield, for Utah Report, p 34, June 29, 1979 xi. Littlefield, As I Remember, 53. xii. Sterling D. Sessions and Gene A. Sessions, A History of Utah International: From Construction to Mining ( Salt Lake City, UT, 2005), 80- 89, 195 xiii. E. W. Littlefield, " A New Company in a New Environment" 1977 General Management Conference, MS 100 Box 237 FD 16, Series 200/ 1.2- 1.8, 200/ 2.1- 2.8 xiv. Utah Report, July August 1961 vol 3 no 4, p 6 in Utah Construction Co./ Utah International MS 100, Box 56, folder 7 xv. MS 155 Edmund Wattis Littlefield, Lions Club Speech, Oakland, CA, April 10, 1957, Speech & Correspondence Collection MS155 Box 1, Speeches, 1952- 1961, Box 1, folder 42.
xvi. Edmund Wattis Littlefield, “ Intercollegiate Studies speech,” August 14, 1974, p3, in 22
Edmund Wattis Littlefield Speech & Correspondence Collection MS155 Box 3 folder 26, xvii. Sessions and Sessions, A History of Utah International, 103- 200. xviii. Chandler, The Visible Hand, 6- 7. xix. Address before the New York Society of Security Analysts, New York City, August 25, 1960, p 11- 12. xx. Interview with E. W. Littlefield for Utah Report, June 29, 1979. xxi. xxii. Utah Report, July August 1961 vol 3 no 4, p 6, Utah Construction Co./ Utah International MS 100, Box 56, folder 7 xxiii.“ Utah Headquarters Move to New Location” Utah Construction Company Newsletter, vol 1, no 6, November 1, 1960 in Utah Construction Co. / Utah International MS 100 Box 56, folder 6. xxiv. “ A Pattern for Progress” a plan for Utah Construction ( 1954) P2 Box 2a, folder 9 xxv. “ Inter- Office Correspondence” From MC Strittmatter, April 7, 1958, Position Questionnaire, in folder4, Box 235, Annual Reports, Files of J. K. Allen xxvi. Barbara Lamb, " One Firm's Formula for Success: Diversification” Engineering News- Record April 11, 1957, 38, in Utah Construction Co./ Utah International, MS 100 Box 242 folder 5. xxvii. " Inter- Office Correspondence" Feb. 8 1967 list of college recruiting visits; MS 100, Box 235 FD5 “ To J. M Ryan from W. Fontaine” Sub Established College Recruiting Schedule for 1967- 1968, March 20, 1967, all is Utah Construction Co./ Utah International, MS 100, Box 235 FD5 xxviii. Max Weber, “ Bureaucracy,” from Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, in The Essential Weber: A Reader, ed. Sam Whimster, ( Routledge, 2004) 247. xxix. “ Inter- Office Correspondence, To: Division Managers and Department Heads From: A. M. Chambliss Subject: Screening Applicants for Employment," December 8, 1965, in Utah Construction Co./ Utah International, MS 100, Box 235 FD4 xxx. " Inter- Office Correspondence" Feb. 7, 1966 To: Department Heads, From: A. M. Chambliss Subject: Indoctrination of New Salaried Employees ,” Utah Construction Co./ Utah International, MS 100, Box 235 FD5 23
xxxi. " General instructions" " secretarial and stenographic" 7/ 61, Annual Reports, Files of J. K. Allen, in Utah Construction Co./ Utah International, Box 235, folder 4.. xxxii. “ Electronic Data Processing,” Utah Report July/ August 1962 vol 4 no4, p 5 in Utah Construction Co/ Utah International, Box 56, folder 7 xxxiii. E. W. Littlefield, “ Utah International,” " A New Company in a New Environment" 1977 General Electric Conference, January 5,6 and 7, 1977, in Utah Construction Co./ Utah International, MS 100, Box 237, folder 16. MS 100 Box 237 FD 16, Series 200/ 1.2- 1.8, 200/ 2.1- 2.8 xxxiv. Gene Smith, “ G. E. Gaining Japanese Ties with Merger,” New York Times, December 29 1976, d- 1, d- 5. xxxv. Gene Smith, “ G. E. Gaining Japanese Ties with Merger,” New York Times, December 29 1976, d- 1. xxxvi. Littlefield, As I Remember, 104.
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