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Moran Brothers

When Robert Moran arrived in Seattle in the month of November, 1875, he still lacked a few months of being nineteen years of age. Although not yet a voter the boy had already become proficient in the machinist's trade, while the very fact of his being so far from his native City of New York stamped him as being a young man possessed of both initiative and resource ; qualities Seattle has ever been willing to reward once they were demonstrated. Failing to find employment as a machinist, young Moran turned to other work and during the next seven years gained a wide experience as an engineer on the steamboats then operating in the waters of Puget Sound, British Columbia and Alaska. Doubtless Seattle heard little about the young engineer during this time; but in 1882 his mother, sisters and brothers arrived from New York, and Moran gave up steam-boating and laid the foundation of the business which, in later years, brought him prominently before the people of not only the city of his adoption, but the nation as well.

Together with his brothers, Peter and William, Moran opened a small machine shop in the lower part of the Yesler sawmill. The total initial capital of the firm was $1,500, but as the three brothers were good workmen the business expanded so rapidly that new quarters were necessary. These were secured further down Yesler Way, at Western Avenue, and by constantly making additions to the plant Moran Brothers had gathered together a factory worth about forty thousand dollars, when the big fire of 1889 swept it away. Just before this time the firm had secured a tract of tide land at Charles Street and had completed the preliminary arrangements for moving to that location. Hastily constructing temporary buildings on this land, a new shop was opened and ready for business on June 16th, just ten days after the old plant had been destroyed.

The increasing demands made upon the plant through the rebuilding of the city necessitated the employment of more capital in the business, with the result that on December 19, 1889, Moran Brothers Company was organized with a capital stock of $250,000; Robert Moran, president, secretary and treasurer, and Peter Moran, vice president. The other brother, William, had retired from the company several years previous to this time.

In 1895 the firm secured the contract for furnishing the steam plant of the United States dry dock at Charleston navy yard. The specifications covering this steam plant called for boilers, engines and pumps, three of the latter to have a capacity of 1,000,000 gallons of water every five minutes. All of this machinery was made in the Seattle factory, the pumps being of a design worked out by Robert Moran. The equipment was installed and then came a hitch in the matter - the officials at Charleston refused to accept the pumps, which, they claimed, were not according to specifications. Adjustment of the matter seemed out of the question, when Robert Moran, taking one of the pumps with him, went to Washington, DC, and, after demonstrating the working of his machine, obtained a decision which not only upheld his side of the controversy, but pronounced his pump one of the best in existence.

Like every other industry in Seattle at the time of the Alaska rush of 1897-98, the iron working industry received great benefit from the increased business which flowed through the city to the Northland. During the summer and fall of 1897 every boat arriving from the North brought news of new gold discoveries and Seattle knew that the next year would witness a great movement of prospectors and supplies to and through Alaska. Transportation was the one big problem, especially transportation on the Yukon River ; and capitalists, seeing possibilities of profitable business, commenced planning how best to take advantage of the opportunity offered. Robert Moran, hearing of the plan, secured the contracts for the construction of twelve river steamers, each 175 feet long by 35 feet wide.

The successful building of the United States torpedo boat Rowan, which was launched from the Moran yards in April, 1898, gave the company a chance to demonstrate its ability in the line of steel and iron ship building. While the Rowan was but 175 feet long, its building no doubt paved the way for the construction of the battleship Nebraska during 1902-03-04.

When the United States Government, in 1900, called for bids for the building of the first-class battleship Nebraska, Moran Brothers Company decided to try and enter the national ship building field by submitting a bid for the work. Robert Moran, accompanied by Will A. Parry, then secretary of the company, was in Washington at the time the bids were opened and must have felt pleased when it was found that his firm's bid was lower than that of any of its competitors, many of which had for years been in the business of building ships for the Government. Any such feelings of elation over the result were short lived, however, as the secretary of the navy announced that all bids were too high and that he would make another call.

The Seattle men knew that if this was done they would be underbid by one of the older firms, who had no desire to see anther competitor in the field, and they tried to get the secretary to change his decision. After several conferences the secretary told Moran and Parry that he would award the Seattle firm the contract, provided it would do the work for $100,000 less than the price bid. As the lowest possible figure had been quoted in the bid, Moran and Parry felt that to go any lower would mean certain loss, but they knew the Seattle Spirit was still alive, so they asked the secretary for time in which to return to the city and talk the matter over with the home folks. This was granted and the Seattle men returned home. Full particulars surrounding the case were at once placed before the Times and the Post-Intelligencer, a whirlwind campaign to raise the $100,000 was launched the next morning and within a very short time $135,000 had been subscribed. Of this amount $100,000 was collected and placed in the hands of the chamber of commerce and the building of the first battleship ever launched from a Puget Sound ship yard was underway.

When the Morans took the contract for the building of the Nebraska it was expected that the big boat would be ready for launching in two years, but it was not until October 7, 1904, that this was accomplished. The Nebraska was the first battleship built on the Pacific coast of America north of San Francisco. She is a sister ship of the Georgia, the largest vessel ever built in the State of Maine, and also of the ships Virginia, Rhode Island and New Jersey. Her cost was $3,733,- 600. An interesting feature of her launching on October 7, 1904 was the presentation of a check for $100,000 to Moran Brothers by the citizens of Seattle by way of bonus and as a mark of appreciation of their enterprise in establishing works in that city capable of turning out battleships. Eighteen years ago these brothers opened a little machine shop, 10 x 15 feet, on the water front, for the purpose of repairing the machinery of small craft. By 1904 their plant covered five acres.

In March, 1906, the Moran Brothers Company was sold to Eastern capitalists, who reorganized the business under the name of The Moran Company, which, in 1912, became the Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Company. During the year 1911 the company began building the first of six submarine boats for the United States navy.

Todd Shipyards Corporation was started in June 1916 with the backing of the three financiers: Bertron, Grecisms & Company; White, Weld & Company; and William H. Todd. The organization itself was a product of the incorporation of three established companies: Robins Dry Dock & Repair Company, Tietjen & Long Dry Dock Company, and the Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Company. The namesake of the company, William Henry Todd, joined the primary Erie Basin shipbuilding operators, the John N. Robins Company, in 1895 as the boilermaker. Todd's diligence and business prowess landed him in the president's seat of the company on December 31, 1909.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:53:10 ZULU