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The Eaton Metal Products Company

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Title:
The Eaton Metal Products Company from lethal gas chambers to autoclaves
Creator:
Rucker, Kevin Eugene
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
xv, 190 leaves : illustrations ; 29 cm

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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 182-190).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Department of History
Statement of Responsibility:
by Kevin Eugene Rucker.

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Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
37816200 ( OCLC )
ocm37816200
Classification:
LD1190.L57 1997m .R83 ( lcc )

Full Text
i
THE EATON METAL PRODUCTS COMPANY:
FROM LETHAL GAS CHAMBERS TO AUTOCLAVES
by
Kevin Eugene Rucker
B.S., Metropolitan State College of Denver, 1993
B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1995
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
History
1997


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Kevin Eugene Rucker
has been approved
by
Mark S. Foster
Date oci & i 7
ii


Rucker, Kevin Eugene (M. A., History)
The Eaton Metal Products Company: From Lethal Gas Chambers to Autoclaves
Thesis directed by Professor Mark S. Foster
ABSTRACT
The history of the Eaton Metal Products Company and the Travis family
have been intertwined since 1916, when John Raymond Travis joined Albert N.
Eaton's metal fabrication company, the Nebraska and Iowa Steel Tank Company,
later renamed the A.N. Eaton Metal Products Company, in Omaha, Nebraska.
J.R. Travis, with Eaton's financial backing, would venture westward to Denver in
1919 to establish a subsidiary firm to manufacture fifty-five gallon metal drums for
the oil industry. At that time neither man could know that, after many trials and
tribulations, this small subsidiary would grow into a multi-million dollar company
that helped to shape the Rocky Mountain West through its contribution to the
infrastructure, mining, agricultural, and transportation industries. If business is the


lifeblood of a society and civilization, Eaton would constitute an artery of the
Rocky Mountain West.
Without the Travis family there would be no Eaton Metal Products in the
Rocky Mountain West. Over three generations, this family persevered through
hard work, opportunistic instinct, and entrepreneurial vision. J.R. Travis was
guided by the stem, but benevolent, hand of A.N. Eaton. J.R. Travis' son, James
"J.A." Travis, learned the business by working in the shop and office in various
capacities. His father's premature death in 1953 thrust him into the chair of
presidency at the age of thirty-four.
After a stint in the navy, Tim Travis joined the company. His work
experience in the plant operations and office, along with his father's coaching,
would enable him to take the company to new heights. With an innate ability to
assess future opportunities coupled with a hands on management style, the
younger Travis has taken calculated risks that have ensured Eaton's stability and
prosperity into the 21st century. The company has from the early 1980s to the mid
1990s significantly increased its sales and expanded while remaining debt free.


The Travis family endured because of perseverance, hard work, and vision.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
Mark S. Foster
v


This thesis is dedicated to the memory
of my beloved grandmother,
Maxim Hazelton Cagley
(1915 -1995)
vi


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to give special thanks to Tim and Charlotte Travis for giving
us the opportunity to chronicle their companys history. I would also like to
express my gratitude to Dr. Thomas Noel and Dr. Mark S. Foster of the University
of Colorado at Denver. Their guidance and editing were invaluable in pulling this
work together. Archival sources used for this book came from the Eaton Metal
Company's archives; the Western History Collection at the Denver Public Library;
the Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colorado; the Mountain State Bank
archives, Denver, Colorado; the Denver Athletic Club archives; the Cherry Hills
Country Club archives, Denver, Colorado; the Cass County Historical Society,
Plattsmouth, Nebraska; the Nebraska Historical Society, Lincoln, Nebraska; the
Omaha Municipal Library, Omaha, Nebraska; the Douglas County Courthouse,
Omaha, Nebraska; and Bill Paulson and Joseph Waters of the Puritan Metal
Fabrication Company, Omaha, Nebraska.
I have also relied on interviews conducted with the members of the Travis
family and current and retired employees of Eaton: Jane Travis, Tim Travis,
Ull


Charlotte Travis, Hap Travis, Trig Travis, Dale Schmitz, Aldor Olson, Helen
Sweeney, Dick Connor, Jim Boosinger, Vince Rosetti, Horace Jackson, Frank
Busnardo, Frank Lines, Dave Bennet, Steve Lee, Phil Clayton, Allen Sizemore,
Morris Jorgensen, Mel Blake, Fred Hoover, Doug Kimball, Kirby Boutelle, Marc
Moran, Larry Francone, and Barney Reid. A special thanks to Tom Lidell, a
University of Northern Colorado graduate student, for sharing his thesis research
on Denver's steel fabricators' World War II contribution to the "Shipyard of the
Rockies" program.
Will


CONTENTS
Tables and Lists xiii
Timeline xiv
CHAPTER
1. ALBERT N. EATON AND THE NEBRASKA & IOWA STEEL COMPANY 1
The Little Family 3
The Travis Family 5
Young Love 7
J.R Travis and the Nebraska & Iowa Steel Company 8
2. PURSUING THE DREAM: 1919 1929 11
Eaton's Arrival to the Mile High City 13
Survival Through Growth 17
3. PERSEVERING THROUGH THE GREAT DEPRESSION 21
Hire a Swede 23
The Lethal Gas Chamber 26
A.N. Eaton Metal Products of Omaha, Nebraska 32
IX


The Travis Family
33
4. WORLD WAR II AND THE SHIPYARD OF THE ROCKIES:
1940 1945 41
Eaton's Denver Plant 49
Other Eaton Plants 53
The Travis Family 55
5. POST WAR EXPANSION: 1946- 1953 63
Eaton and Organized Labor 66
Eatons Denver Plant 71
Other Eaton Operations 73
John Raymond "J.R Travis 76
6. THE TRANSITION: 1953 1959 83
The Transition 84
Other Eaton Operations 91
The Travis Family 95
1. THE TEST OF FIRE: 1960 1965 98
Cold War Windfall: Missile Sites and Fallout Shelters 99
X


The Return to Solvency
110
Truco HI
The Travis Family 114
8. GROWING WITH THE WEST: 1967- 1980 119
Salt Lake City Operation 128
Special Products 130
Wyodak Project 131
Laramie River Station 132
Oil Equipment 134
Utility Equipment 135
Eaton Wayne 135
A.N. Eaton Metal Products Company of Omaha 137
The Travis Family 138
9. RETOOLING FOR THE FUTURE: 1981 - 1997 143
Management 145
Oil Equipment 151
xi


Special Products
156
Autoclaves 161
The Beavers 164
Special Products in the 1990s 165
Hydrotreater Reactors 168
The Travis Family 170
10. THE CONCLUSION 176
BIBLIOGRAPHY 182
xii


TABLES AND LISTS
Eaton's First Ten Employees...............................14
Eaton's 1941 Product Line.................................44
Eaton's World War II U.S. Navy Contracts..................49
Eaton's 1950 Plant Areas..................................74
Eatons Denver and Omaha Operations 1954 Balance
Sheet Comparisons..................................87
Eatons 1956 Product Line.................................89
Eaton 's 1962 Customers and Products.....................108
Eaton's 1966Major Customers............................113
Eaton's 1964 and 1967 Principal Markets..................121
Eaton and Metal Fabrication Industry 1970 Balance
Sheet Percentages Comparison....................126
Eaton's 1993 Oil Equipment Off-the-Shelf Products......155
xiii


Eaton Metal Products Company
Timeline
1880 A.N. Eaton hardware store opens in the Arizona Territory.
1903 Eaton fabrication facility opens in Omaha, Nebraska.
1919 Eaton fabrication facility opens in Denver, Colorado.
1924 Eaton plant moves to 4800 York St., Denver, Colorado.
1933 Eaton fabricates their first lethal gas chamber.
1938 Eaton, Denver plant authorized as ASME "U" stamp holder.
1942 Eaton receives first Army-Navy "E" Award for war production at Omaha
plant.
1943 Eaton receives second Army-Navy "E" Award for war production at
Denver plant.
1945 Eaton receives third Army-Navy "E" Award for war production at
Albuquerque plant.
1945 Eaton sales office opens in Casper, Wyoming.
1952 Eaton manufacturing plant opens in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1952 Eaton's Salt Lake City plant authorized as ASME "U" stamp holder.
XIV


1959 Eaton's Salt Lake City plant moved to present location.
1963 Eaton purchases Ajax Iron Works and its Truco product line.
1976 Eaton's Denver and Salt Lake City plants authorized as ASME "R" stamp
holders.
1985 Eaton enters oil equipment business in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1989 Eaton fabricates its first autoclave for processing gold from sulfide ore.
1990 Eaton sales office opens in Grand Junction, Colorado.
1990 Eaton CADD system integrated into design and engineering.
1990 Eaton large scale bending rolls up to 6.5" thick and 160" wide installed in
the Salt Lake City plant.
1991 Eaton opens stress relieving plant in Pocatello, Idaho.
1993 Eaton fabricates the first two hydrotreater reactors in the United States
using Sandvik's single pass RES (Resistance Electroslag) process.
XV


CHAPTER 1
ALBERT N. EATON AND THE NEBRASKA AND IOWA STEEL
COMPANY
Albert Nathaniel Eaton was born on August 30, 1859, in Quincy,
Massachusetts. His parents were Nathaniel Eaton, born in Thornton, New
Hampshire and Mary Ann Jones of Lincoln, Massachusetts. Little is known of
Eatons early years. In the 1880s Eaton went west and opened a hardware store
on the mining frontier of the Arizona Territory. With the end of a mining boom in
Arizona Eaton returned east and opened a general store in Kansas in 1898.1
1


On slow days, Eaton visited a neighbor who had a tin shop where he
fabricated galvanized stock watering tanks by hand. Eaton was impressed with the
product and the steady demand for it. It struck Eaton that every farm in the
midwest needed to have a galvanized stock watering tank plus other fabricated
metal products such as storage tanks and grain bins. He purchased the
manufacturing rights for the stock tank from his neighbor and moved to Omaha to
start the Nebraska and Iowa Steel Company.
Eaton started his fledgling metal fabrication business in 1903 on Nicholas
Street in Omaha, Nebraska. Determined to make a success of his enterprise, Eaton
went out in the field to ask farmers and ranchers what they needed and then solicit
orders. Then he would hire workers to aid him in assembling tanks. When he had
produced enough to fill the orders, Eaton would lay off his workers and go out
and deliver the tanks and collect the money. While out, he would solicit more
orders and return to Omaha and the cycle would start again.2
With shrewdness and salesmanship, Eaton laid the foundation of his
company. To accomodate growing orders Eaton moved in 1910 to 13th and
Willis in Omaha, a location with rail access on both the west and east side of the
2


property. Capitalizing upon Omaha's role as the hub of the Union Pacific, Eaton
dreamed big.
The Little Family
While Eaton devoted much time and energy to launching a business, his
wife, Luella Little, stood patiently beside her husband. Luella had been bom in
1858 to Dr. William Little and Margaret Kirkpatrick in Lexington, Kentucky. Dr.
Little, a native of Charleston, Indiana, had been raised in an orphanage and went to
school at Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky.3 Dr. Little rose to be a
man of local prominence and was an acquaintance of Henry Clay (1777-1852), a
key figure in early 19th century United States politics. As a congressman, then
later senator, representing Kentucky, Clay played a prominent role in the Missouri
Compromise of 1820.
Dr. Little was also a close friend of John Hunt Morgan (1825-1864), a
Confederate scout in the Civil War who later made brigadier general for capturing
a Union garrison in Tennessee in 1862. Morgan's daring raids behind the Union
lines thrilled the Confederacy and terrorized the North before he was killed in


action in 1864. Dr. Little prized a keepsake, Morgan's fiddle.
In the early 1870s, Dr. Little moved his family to Kansas. His family grew
to include a son and three daughters, including Luella. After a while, in Kansas,
Dr. Little's wife, Margaret, grew ill and yearned for a last visit to her beloved
Kentucky. Dr. Little took her back for a visit, leaving the girls at home in care of a
neighbor. When the visit had stretched into weeks, the girls were oveijoyed to
receive a telegram from Dr. Little telling when he would arrive by train. The
daughters went to lengths preparing decorations for their mother's welcome home
party. As the girls waited on the train station platform for the train to come to a
stop, they hungered to see their mother and father again. The train came to a halt
and only the solitary figure of their father walked off the train. Dr. Little came
over to the girls and told them the sad news. Dr. Little had buried their mother, as
she wished, in her native Kentucky. Forever afterwards, the girls rarely spoke
about their mother as they possessed a collective memory tinted with the gray pall
of grief.
Luella and Albert Eaton settled into the home they purchased in 1903 at
1820 North 25th Street in Omaha. Her sister, Kate and her husband, H. Craig,
4


lived a few blocks away at 1818 N. 27th Street with their daughter, Josephine.4
The Eaton's were childless, not by choice, and doted on their niece, Josephine.
Josephine Craig had been bom on December 10, 1893, in Wellsville, Franklin
County, Kansas.5 As a young adult, Josephine reminisced about her childhood in a
letter to J.R. Travis:
Since I was nine years old Uncle Albert used to have me come
down to the office to fold circulars and when mother wanted to
entertain me, she sent me to the office. On Saturday I always went
after the paycheck and then would return to walk home with Uncle
Albert. When they moved to Nicholas Street, I'd go down on
Saturday and because I was so short they got a special stool for me
to climb on to reach the phone. Then as the years went on I
became part of the business ... I was always there and knew what
was going on. And as I got older [Uncle Albert hoped that] I might
marry someone worthy of business.6
The Travis Family
The man Josephine would decide to be the one "worthy of business" would
be John Raymond "J.R." Travis. His father, Judge Harvey D. Travis came to
Nebraska from Ohio as a lawyer in the 1880s. He settled in Weeping Water, Cass
County, Nebraska. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had three children there: Earl in
1883, Helen in 1885, and John Raymond in 1889.7 In 1890 Travis was elected to
5


the office of county attorney and upon re-election in 1892 he moved his family to
Plattsmouth, the county seat of Cass county.8 After three terms as county attorney
Travis retired practice law. In 1903 he was elected as the county judge. In 1907
Travis was elected to the office of district judge with jurisdiction over Otoe and
Cass counties, a position he held until his death in 1913.9
As a teenager J.R. Travis "rode the rods" west to see Colorado via the
undercarriage of a boxcar of a train. Hurtling down a railroad track at 50 miles
per hour strapped under a train was not recommended for the faint of heart. After
finishing high school he worked in the railroad shop of the Burlington & Missouri
Railroad in Plattsmouth, then left for the city lights of Omaha in 1908. Travis
became a teller at the United States National Bank in Omaha. A career confined
within the bureaucracy of a major financial institution would be secure, but
certainly not on the fast track to financial success. It did give Travis a golden
opportunity to evaluate a wide variety of local businessmen and their companies.
He kept his eyes open for other opportunities. Despite his lifetime handicap of
poor hearing, he was a handsome man with intellect, integrity, charm, and
ambition.
6


Young Love
As a teller at the bank he had become acquainted with Albert N. Eaton, the
serious, solemn, entrepreneur who had a vision of expanding his fledgling metal
fabrication business. Travis went to work for Albert Eaton in 1916. Josephine may
have been one of the incentives. She had been working in the office for several
years and the two young people had just started dating. Josephine later recalled
her first impressions of the young J.R. Travis:
The first evening you (Travis) called on me I could see you were
dissatisfied at the bank and from then on you did not appear to me
as a lover but as a man worthy of the business. Mother raved about
your good looks but all I could see was that quality which made
you a business man.10
On April 23,1916, a wedding engagement announcement for Josephine
Craig and J.R. Travis appeared in Omaha's World Herald. The wedding was set
for May 10, 1916, and the announcement went on to say that "Miss Craig is well
known in musical circles. She has a delightful soprano voice and has sung on
numerous recitals."
On a Wednesday night, May 10, 1916, Josephine Craig and J.R Travis


were married at her parents' home at 1818 N. 27th Street in Omaha. Officiating
was Pastor Melvin Vernon Higbee of the North Presbyterian Church. The bride
wore a gown of white taffeta and princess lace in an informal ceremony witnessed
by only the immediate family. Russel roses were used on the tables with the bridal
table accentuated with roses intertwined with lilacs. Afterwards the newlyweds
went on a honeymoon to Chicago, St. Paul, and Minneapolis.11
After the newlyweds returned from their honeymoon, they eased into
domestic life. Later Josephine would write to her husband, "When we were first
married I was so in love ... that I settled into a content state of lethargy."12
JR. Travis and the Nebraska and Iowa Steel Company
J.R. Travis settled into learning the challenges and the opportunities of the
metal fabrication business from A.N. Eaton. Travis would later recall, "I spent
three years under his direction, while I learned some fundamental rules of business,
one of them being a note or an obligation should be taken care of either the day
before or early in the morning of the day it is due."13
At this time World War I was raging in Europe. It was only a matter of
9


time before the United States would become embroiled in this conflagration. After
the United States entered the war in 1917, J.R. Travis received a notice from the
draft board ordering him to report for a physical exam at 11:00 a.m., August 7,
1917. Because of Travis' hearing impairment, the Omaha draft board issued him a
"Certificate of Discharge Because Physically Deficient."14
In 1918, Travis and Eaton began discussing the possibility of opening
another plant in Denver to manufacture 55 gallon steel drums for the oil industry.
Despite a regional demand for this product, nobody manufactured oil drums
between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Coast. Denver would be the logical
location because of its role as the central rail hub of the Rocky Mountain West.
Even though Josephine was enjoying her domestic life with J.R., she did
not give up her interest in the family business. Josephine later reminisced:
Uncle Albert would call me up once a week and tell me the office
incidents and when the change to Denver was broached my mental
faculties were again alert and I felt that this thing upon which Uncle
Albert had put his strength and time was now growing to manhood
and we the second generation were to "carry on."15


Endnotes
1 "A History of the Eaton Metal Products Company," typescript. Eight pages.
Item 47, E.M.P. Archives.
2 Bill Paulson Interview, Puritan Manufacturing Company, Omaha, Nebraska.
August 12,
1996.
3 "History of the Little Family." Travis Family History, EM.P. Archives.
4 McAvoys 1904 Directory. Chicago, Illinois, 1903. P. 227 and 244.
5 Long School Annual Register for School Year September 5, 1905 to June 15,
1906. Omaha
Public Schools. Nebraska State Historical Society.
6 Josephine Travis to J.R. Travis letter, March 5, 1926. EM.P. Archives.
7 United States Census of1890. Weeping Water District, Cass County, State of
Nebraska.
8 County Commissioners Mimtes. Clerk and Recorder's Office. Cass County
Courthouse, Plattsmouih, Nebraska. December 2, 1890.
9 "Judge Travis Dies." Plattsmouth Journal. Vol. XXXII, October 5, 1913. P. 1.
10 Josephine Travis to J.R. Travis letter, March 5, 1926. EM.P. Archives.
11 Unidentified newspaper article, May 12, 1916. Travis Family Photograph
Album. EM.P. Archives.
12 Josephine Travis to J.R. Travis letter, March 5, 1926. EM.P. Archives.
13 Eaton Metal Products Stockholders Memorial Resolution of J.R. Travis, 1953.
EM.P. Archives.
14 "Certificate of Discharge Because Physically Deficient." Signed by Dr. H.B.
Hamilton and Dr. C.C. Morrison, August 1, 1917. EM.P. Archives.
15 Josephine Travis to J.R Travis letter, March 5, 1926. EM.P. Archives.


Dll TANIfCnd cni IIDMCMT
CHAPTER 2
PURSUING THE DREAM: 1919-1929
Welcoming celebrations for heroes returning from World War One, such as
Eddie Rickenbacker and Sergeant York, marked the year 1919. It was also the
year of "Teddy" Roosevelt's death, the Dempsey-Willard fight, and Mary Pickford,
Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith form United Artists. The
nation would panic with the Red Scare and the resultant deportations of radicals
and communists during the Red Summer that also saw an outbreak of lynching and
11


race riots. Although 1919 brought high prices and spreading strikes throughout
country, the war was over and a general wave of optimism prevailed of better days
ahead for America. President Warren G. Harding replaced the ailing president
Woodrow Wilson and a promised "return to normalcy" and a business friendly
Republican administration.
On June 10,1919, Albert N. Eaton, Riley E. George, Horatio N.
Brockway, Jr., and J.R. Travis incorporated the Eaton Metal Products Company
under the laws of the State of Nebraska with an authorized capital stock of
$100,000 and $12,000 paid in capital. This created a subsidiary of the Omaha
operation to be located in Denver with J.R. Travis at the helm.1
Denver, then a vibrant city of just over 250,000 residents,2 was shedding its
boisterous boom town image of Colorado's mining heydays to become known as
the "Queen City of the Plains." Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer, recently
deceased, had captured the imaginations of the residents with his vision of a "City
Beautiful." Speer transformed an ordinary dusty, drab Midwestern City into what
he called "Paris on the Platte." He gave Denver a Civic Center park, tree lined
boulevards such as Speer Boulevard which transformed Cherry Creek from an
12


eyesore to a picturesque boulevard. Speer doubled the city's park space and began
developing the Denver mountain park system. The visionary mayor would not see
the completion of his projects, dying of influenza in 1918. Newcomers like J.R.
and Josephine Travis, however, came to appreciate the clean, green city he
championed.
Eaton's Arrival in the Mile High City
J.R. Travis would see Eaton Metal Products become a success. In 1952 he
recalled his 1919 arrival at Denver's Union Station:
That morning of June 15, when I arrived in Denver, I had three
assets: a good wife, $12,000, and a prodigious ignorance of the
difficulties of starting a manufacturing business. We walked up
17th Street, had our breakfast, and located a place to stay. On
Monday morning around 7:30 I went to our new location, which
was at 1841 Wazee Street, a narrow dark building, very inadequate
for our needs, but it seemed to be the only space available.
Awaiting me at the front door was Mr. Linder, who had come out
from Omaha several days before. We first fixed up an office of
sorts, and after waiting some 60 days our machinery finally arrived.
We were only equipped to make iron barrels at that time, but the
demand was especially good in that year of 1919 and a portion off"
1920.3
Travis first made 55-gallon barrels for the oil industry:


"...at first we had no trouble in disposing of all of them we could
make. But we had plenty of other difficulties, just like any
company getting a start. In the beginning I had but one employee
and the two of us worked long hours doing eveiything from
actually making the barrels to selling them.4
Travis approached company after company taking orders, then returned to
the plant to help produce and deliver the barrels. He also kept the books for the
company and made up the payroll. That first summer, Travis sold enough barrels
to hire more help. On September 26, 1919, Travis entered into his Payroll Journal
the names of his first ten employees: 5
Allen Linder
Max Marker
Howard Baity
Tony Gelo
Loren Highfill
Jesse Blauvelt
Warren Zavitz
Emil Althoff
Victor Parry
Harry Chapman
These full time (fifty five hours a week) employees received weekly wages
ranging from $21 to $35 per week. By December of 1919, payroll would list
thirty-six employees.
Even though Eaton primarily constructed and sold 55 gallon barrels, Travis
also began to take orders for special products. He made six pump skirts for the
Denver Powerine Company, six 300 gallon tanks for Continental Oil Company,
fixed a 500 gallon tank for Clear Vision, a 300 gallon tank for Merchants Oil
14


Company, a grease trap for MJ. O'Fallon, repaired a 5 gallon bucket for Duggan
Oil Company, an 8,400 gallon and a 12,600 gallon tank for F&F Bannell, and two
1,000 gallon tanks for Aero Oil Production.6
Oil was becoming Denver's new bonanza business in the 1920s and Eaton
jumped into the industry early by making gasoline storage tanks for filling stations.
Eaton's brand new Denver branch boomed. Sales for the first year were
$40,595.19 and Travis had $13,671.96 of inventory on hand. Josephine returned
to Omaha early in the fall to await the arrival of their baby. A baby son was bom
in 1919 and christened James a Travis (a mistake on the birth certificate resulted in
the middle initial being a small "a" with no period following). As soon as
Josephine could gamer her strength, she returned to Denver with the baby.
Business continued to be good in 1920. The company recorded sales of
$240,896.99,7 but the economy faltered in the last months of 1920.
Travis said of this period:
I don't know how many of you will remember the year 1921.
Warren Harding was President, and we were supposed to have a lot
of Republican prosperity, but something misfired and conditions
became very bad and the newly started business almost died on the
vine. Money was almost impossible to get and being very poorly
equipped from an experience standpoint, I hardly know now how
15


we did get through. In any event, it was a very panful experience
at the time, discouraging and humiliating.8
On top of a sour economy, the demand fell for 55 gallon barrels. The oil
industry had purchased these barrels for their increased production during the
1914-1929 oil boom, fueled by the American public's growing appetite for
automobiles. By the end of 1920 the oil industry had begun recycling their barrels,
resulting in a drop of demand of new barrels. The labor strikes in the East were
felt in Denver when Travis experienced a severe steel shortage. In a letter to his
brother-in-law, A.G. Cole, in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, on January 24, 1921, Travis
wrote, "...We had a big drop in steel [deliveries], which cost us about $5,000 [in
lost business], but we made $6,000 clear, after deducting $2,500 depreciation on
our machinery and our federal tax of $700, and everything else that we could
legally deduct. Our inventory was taken at rock bottom prices, and we are now
able to make a clean start. Business conditions, as you know, are rather bad ... It
is of course disappointing not to have made as much as we thought we would..."9
As for developing products other than barrels, Travis remembers:
That happened quite early in the company's history when the
demand for barrels began to drop off. This is explained by the fact
that the major oil companies were re-using their old barrels and the
only new ones needed were for replacements. So it was necessary


for us to develop new products if we were to stay in business.10
Josephine Travis later recalled the difficult early years in a letter to her
husband, "Those first years were so hard on you and how I felt for you. You came
home so tired. But with all my courage never failed and when I used to see you on
Wazee I wanted to scream for I knew you should be in a better place I wanted
you in an office up town in a big building.".
One remedy was new products, so Travis set out asking customers what
they needed and then returning to the shop to figure out how to make it. Travis
cut his workforce down to five employees. The total sales figures of 1921 fell to
$119,356, a drop of 51% from the previous year.11
Survival Through Growth
Travis hit the street and hustled more business. With special orders came
the problem of space to design and make these special products. The location at
Wazee proved to be too confining, especially if an order specified a product of
large dimensions. With that problem at hand, Travis made a decision: "...in 1922
we moved to a new and larger plant at Thirty-third and Walnut. One of our first
lines we went into was the manufacture of steel tanks for hauling petroleum
7


products by truck. From then on we continued to branch into new fields. Much of
our new business came from customers who asked us to make specially-designed,
one-of-a-kind items."12
By 1924, sales climbed past $200,000 and the payroll swelled to 36
employees. Travis decided to construct a new facility for his growing business.
This showplace plant at 48th and York Street in Denver was described by a 1926
trade magazine, Colorado Industrial, as "one of the West's most modern, best
lighted and ventilated and prettiest factories, having beautiful lawns and shrubbery,
and five whole acres for future expansion." In the same article Travis observed,
"Work without optimism is like food without digestion: optimism without work is
like an appetite without any food."13
Meanwhile, in Omaha, the Nebraska and Iowa Steel Company changed its
name to the A.N. Eaton Metal Products Company in 1924. Albert Eaton and J.R.
Travis stayed in close contact with each other even though separated by
geographical distance. In 1928, they decided to expand the company by adding a
metal fabrication plant in Great Falls, Montana. Incorporated on October 24,
1928, the Eaton Metal Products Company of Montana had Albert Eaton as
IB


president, Horatio N. Brockway as Secretary, and J.R. Travis and Luella Eaton on
the Board of Directors. The authorized capital stock was $50,000, divided into
500 shares with the par value of each set at $100.w Within two years, the
company moved from Great Falls to Billings to take advantage of better access to
rail lines and labor.
In 1927 to reward employee loyalty Travis instituted one of the first
pension plans in Colorado, an employee contributory plan arranged through the
John Hancock Insurance Company. Travis believed it was the responsibility of the
employer to look out for the welfare of his employees.15
Employees, Travis and the company ended the 1920s in good shape.
Eaton Metal Products Company in Denver posted $402,720 in sales in 1929, with
profits of $44,088.16 Travis looked to the future with a sense of security. He was
well established, enjoyed a good reputation and was expanding. What could
possibly go wrong in the 1930s?
Endnotes
1 Eaton Metal Products Company Stock Prospectus, 1947. EMP Archives.
7 United States Census of1920.


3 Eaton Metal Products Stockholders' Memorial Resolution ofJ.R Travis, 1953.
EMP Archives.
4 J.R Travis KLZ Radio Interview, December 17, 1950. EMP Archives.
5 J.R Travis Time Book, 1919. EMP Archives.
6 J.R Travis Ledger, 1919-24. EMP Archives.
7 Ibid
8 J.R Travis KLZ Radio Interview, December 17, 1950. EMP Archives.
9 J.R Travis to A.G. Cole letter, January 24, 1921. J.R Travis Correspondence
File, EMP Archives.
10 J.R Travis KLZ Radio Interview, December 17, 1950. EMP Archives.
11 J.R Travis Ledger, 1919-24. EMP Archives.
12 J.R Travis KLZ Radio Interview, December 17, 1950. EMP Archives.
13 Colorado Industrial. 1926. P. 14.
14 Book of Bylaws of Eaton Metal Products Company of Montana, 1928. EMP
Archives.
15 Tim Travis interview, July 29, 1996. EMP Archives.
16 Eaton Metal Products Audit Report, 1930. Box 4, EMP Archives.
20


CHAPTER 3
PERSEVERING THROUGH THE GREAT DEPRESSION
1930 1939
The Great Crash of 1929 that sent Wall Street and the nation reeling did
not initially shake Colorado, except on Seventeenth Street, Denver's financial
district. Denverites cockily thought themselves insulated from the economic
distress of the East. Then metal and agricultural prices began to plummet and the
city found itself floundering in an economic morass without the benefits of the
21


safety nets of later governmental social programs. East of Denver on the plains,
soil turned to dust as farms and dreams blew away into the Dust Bowl. By 1934,
nearly one third of Colorado's 174 state and national banks had closed. One in
every four Coloradans was out of work. The traditional charities of churches and
private agencies stretched beyond the breaking point with the influx of the new
poor.1
At first, the Eaton Metal Products Company seemed Depression proof. At
Eaton Metal in Denver, sales for 1930 had topped the $500,000 mark.2 Sixty
employees filled orders for larger fitted gas tanks for bigger, more powerful
gasoline delivery trucks. Eaton Metal haulage tanks with their compartmentalized
sections and double weld seams gained a reputation for durability in even the
toughest western terrain. Aside from fabricating tanks of all types and sizes, the
company began to install pumps and tanks for gasoline service stations.
The operation in Billings, Montana was showing a profit and doubling its
capacity, under the direction of a bright, young man named Paul Emrick. He had
been personally trained and groomed by J.R. Travis for the position of manager.
On December 2, 1930, at the age of 27, Emrick died following complications from
22


an operation for appendicitis.3 In spite of this, the plant expansion continued.
"Hire a Swede"
Aldor Olson had come to work for EMP in 1928 after his farm near
Kersey, Colorado, was hailed out three years in succession. In a 1996 interview,
Olson recalls the Eaton workforce in Denver:
At the time I started working down there, 90% of all the employees
were all Swedes. Not only were they Swedish, but families: father
and son, uncles and nephews. I know at one time I remember that
the complaint was that there was too many Swedes working down
there and the superintendent, A1 Lindor, he was also a Swede. He
went in to Mr. Travis and told him that he had a complaint that
there was too many Swedes working out there and Mr. Travis says,
"Well, what about those Swedes?" A1 Lindor said, "They're the
best workers I got." Mr. Travis said, "Well, the next time you hire
somebody, hire a Swede."4
Olson remembered further that Travis called him into his office after
promoting him to foreman. Travis told him, "There is only two ways I'm ever
going to fire you. That's if I find out you took any company's tools home or if I
ever catch you telling a lie."5
Swedish immigrants were the fourth most common freign-bom group in
23


Denver according to the 1900 census. Danes and Norwegians also came, but in
far smaller numbers. Denver in 1890 had the eighth largest Swedish population
among U.S. cities. By 1900, the city had eight Swedish societies, led by the
Skandia Benevolent Association founded in 1876.
Most Swedes were bachelors who came to make money and then return to
their homes in the Midwest or the old country. Swedes clustered around then-
churches, such as the lovely sandstone Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church and
graveyard at Ryssby, northwest of Boulder. Denver Swedes congregated at
Augustana Lutheran Church, the Swedish Baptist Church, the Methodist Episcopal
Chapel in the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church, and the Swedish
Evangelical Lutheran Church in northeast Denver, where many worked in the
smelters some of the hardest, hottest, and most dangerous work in town.
Hard-working Swedes welcomed safer work and better conditions as
plants such as Eaton, especially as smelters began closing down and laying off
workers in the early 1900s as Colorado's silver and gold processing industry faded.
By 1931, even diligent employees could not save Eaton from feeling the
nationwide depression. Sales fell noticeably in 1931, down to $372,000 for the
24


year. They continued to fall throughout 1932 and into 1933 when they bottomed
out at $232,000.6 Workers had to be laid off, expenses trimmed, and orders had to
be hustled from existing and prospective customers. By 1933, the workforce was
down to 30 employees.7
In 1933, the workmen, led by Aldor Olson, started a tank builders' union.
Travis felt slighted. After all, he had shown care for the welfare of the workers
with the start of the pension plan, company sponsored picnics and Christmas
parties. But the employees believed they needed a union in these hard times to
safeguard their positions. A few years later it would evolve into the International
Brotherhood of Boilermakers. Travis accepted unionization reluctantly. Showing
passive aggressive tendencies during union negotiations, he would just turn off his
hearing aid. He would look around for awhile, then would fall asleep, signaling to
the others that his hearing aid was off. Despite such slights, Olson and the
unionists persevered, with strong national backing from President Franklin D.
Roosevelt's administration and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.
Even though the nation was in the depths of the Depression in 1933, Travis
saw opportunity. That year he opened a metal fabricating shop in Albuquerque,
25


New Mexico. Sales were modest that year at $18,000 and even less in 1934. But
the investment began to pay dividends in 1935 with sales jumping to $43,000 and
50% higher the next year.8
After sales and the Great Depression bottomed out in 1933, the company,
and Denver, began to rebound slowly. By 1936 sales climbed past the
pre-Depression level of $557,000. The year 1937 would be a banner year for the
company with sales burgeoning up to $857,000, a figure that would not be
matched again until 1940.9
The Lethal Gas Chamber
During the depths of the Depression, Colorado Governor Edwin Johnson,
asked Travis to design a lethal gas chamber. The state penal authorities and the
governor had long been uncomfortable about the method of Colorado's executions,
death by hanging. Botched incidents in the past ranged from the time a
condemned prisoner had hit the floor after dropping through the trap door to times
when times the prisoner's drop through the trap door failed to snap his neck and
the condemned would writhe in agony as he slowly strangled. An alternative such
26


as electrocution was ruled out because it had been some states' experience that this
process left a corpse charred with bum marks. Even thought he condemned had
been sentenced to death for their crimes by the due process of law, their families
were generally law abiding citizens. Neither the state nor prison officials wanted
to turn over to the relatives of the deceased a maimed corpse.
This dilemma had led Nevada to abandon the electric chair in 1921 and to
explore a different alternative. Nevada's lethal gas chamber was installed in 1924
in a converted forty year old stone shed that once was a butcher shop. Authorities
had mixed feelings about the results. But Colorado's top prison official, Roy Best,
was convinced of the new method's merits and convinced the governor that this
would be a more humane method for handling executions.10
Roy Best worked with Earl C. Liston, Eaton's Denver plant superintendent,
and Eatons engineering staff to develop a three seat lethal gas chamber. This
hexagonal shaped metal enclosure had five windows of bullet proof glass. One
window was located at the executioners station and four windows faced the
witness room. A quick acting bulkhead type door had special designed hinges and
locking hardware to insure continuous gas operation without damage to the
27


gaskets. The chairs were provided with arm and leg shackle attachments for
securing the prisoners). All of the operating controls were located at the
executioner's window. The chamber was also equipped with a ventilation inducing
manifold on the top for the rapid ventilation of the toxic gas.
Sodium cyanide pellets dropped into sulphuric acid produced the toxic
gas. As a test subject, a pig was selected since they were supposed to be one of
the hardest mammals to kill. Pigs can eat propane, even the cyanide pellets, and
digest them, but the cyanide vapors would be lethal to the animals. To test this
belief, a pit was dug behind the Denver Eaton plant and a pig placed into it. Then
they lowered a bucket of sulphuric acid and dropped cyanide pellets into it. Sure
enough, the toxic vapors quickly extinguished the life of the pig. From then on the
usage of a live pig confined in a pen strapped to the chamber's chair would be the
way all of the chambers were tested and readied for use.12
The first chamber's acid lay in a crock set directly beneath the condemned
person's chair with the cyanide pellets dropped into it mechanically. Later models
had the acid pumped into a container beneath the floor level of the chamber. The
cyanide pellets were placed on a cone valve directly above the acid. The lethal
28


concoction was made of one and a half ounces of cyanide with two quarts of
sulphuric acid diluted with five quarts of water.13
The workmen on the project jokingly called it "Roy Best's Penthouse."
Most of the workmen felt that "...if anyone should have a twinge of conscience it
would be someone on the jury or someone who had something to do with the
law," Eaton shop superintendent Gene Clark confessed in later years. "We had to
take one man off the job," Clark said. "He could not sleep at night."14
Under Liston's supervision the chamber was completed in two months.
The chamber was enclosed in a separate brick building at the state penitentiary in
Canon City. In 1956 Colorado would replace it with a two seat model. The
closest the state came to using all three chairs at once was in 1933 when Leonard
Lee Bolongia asked the governor to move up his execution by three weeks so that
he may die with his two friends. The request was denied.15
Inquiries began to come in from other states' penal institutions, even
though Eaton never advertised their macabre product. Missouri purchased a single
seat gas chamber in 1937 from Eaton for $3,570. The following year Oregon
purchased a single seat gas chamber for $3,590. In subsequent years purchases
29


were made by Wyoming, Arizona (1950), Mississippi (1955), Maryland (1956),
and New Mexico (1956). The final gas chamber Eaton built was for Colorado in
1956. The first person executed in it was John Gilbert Graham who was convicted
of blowing up a United Airlines passenger jet to collect the life insurance policy he
had taken out on his mother, a passenger. His execution ended one of Colorado's
most sensational murder cases. Colorado's old gas chamber sat in a children's
playground in a park in Canon City for several years afterwards. Today, the
second gas chamber may be seen in the portion of the penitentiary set aside as the
Territorial Prison Museum. Eaton designed and constructed all of the lethal gas
chambers used in the United States except for North Carolina's, which was
constructed from Eaton's blueprints. Eaton was granted a patent for its original
gas chamber design in 1957.16
The federal government purchased Eaton's two seat gas chamber for
California's San Quentin Prison for $5,000 in 1938. The convicts at San Quentin
shuddered at the task of unloading the lethal cargo at the prison dock in. The first
men condemned to die in San Quentin's gas chamber were five prisoners convicted
of killing Folsom Prison Warden Clarence Larkins in a prison riot.17


As for how the condemned prisoners accepted their fate, one San Quentin
prisoner said good-by with a smile and shook hands with the guards before calmly
walking into the chamber. Another San Quentin prisoner was very stoical and
resigned. One of his last statements was that his biggest regret was that Judge
Scott would not be sitting on his lap in the chamber. He then shook everyone's
hand who was present and thanked them for his care and treatment and walked
calmly into the chamber.18
Other San Quentin executions of note include the murderess Barbara
Graham, who was executed in 1955. She was later portrayed by the actress Susan
Hayward in the movie, "I Want to Live." Tragedy marred the execution of Burton
Abbot in 1957 when a reprieve from the governor was received two minutes after
Burton had entered the chamber. The execution couldn't be stopped since the
process was irreversible once was set into motion.19
A description of how death comes to the prisoner in a lethal gas chamber
was contained in a San Quentin interdepartmental memorandum:
Invariably the prisoner resents the first few inhalations he
grimaces and breathes violently. He lapses into unconsciousness a
few seconds later and the operation proceeds as if he were
receiving a general anesthetic.20
31


A.N. Eaton Metal Products in Omaha. Nebraska
In Omaha, A.N. Eaton and his plant focused on products for agriculture.
Their mainstay was stock watering tanks, hog troughs, culverts, bulk storage bins,
fuel oil tanks, and some gasoline tanks for stations. Nebraska, Iowa, and parts of
South Dakota comprised their main sales territory. Business was good enough
during the Depression to open a metal fabricating plant producing culverts in
Grand Island, Nebraska.
At this time, A.N. Eaton owned all of the stock of the Omaha plant, 760 of
873 shares outstanding of the Montana operation, and 1045 of 2200 shares
outstanding of Eaton Metal Products of Denver. As the decade closed, Eaton was
nearing 80 years of age and the business had begun to stagnate. Stagnation came
because in the past business had been secured with a minimum of sales effort and it
was difficult to convince A.N. Eaton that added efforts were necessary because of
increased competition. Not until 1939, when H.D. Marshall became sales manager
and took a more aggressive attitude in securing new business, did sales climb back
to normal.21
32


The Travis Family
When A.N. Eaton came from Omaha to visit the Denver plant, Travis made
sure there was no tobacco or alcohol on the premises since the founder didn't
smoke or drink. Travis used to drive his old car when Eaton came out and hide his
Cadillac so Eaton wouldn't think he was living lavishly. Travis always worried that
Eaton thought that his house at 5725 East Sixth Avenue Parkway at Ivy Street in
Denver was too ostentatious.
Every year for Christmas, Travis, his wife, Josephine, and his son, Jim,
took a train to Omaha to visit Eaton. To the young Tim Travis the week would
drag on forever since he invariably was the only child there. Later in his life Jim
would attribute his sourness towards the Christmas season to the long, boring
Christmas visits to Omaha of his youth.
As a youth, Jim Travis had attained the nick name of "Tuffy," because of
his rebellious attitude. At school Jim ran into problems settling into the structure
and demands of a rigid Denver Public School system. In exasperation, J.R. Travis
sent Jim to the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico in 1935.
Travis took his son down to the Institute and left him there. When Travis got
33


home from New Mexico, Jim was sitting on the front steps of their home. So
Travis again took him down. Tim stayed this time.
The experience must have weighed heavily on the shoulders of both the
parents and son. But his parents wanted their son to learn the discipline and self
confidence needed to take his father's place someday at the helm of the company.
And Tufify was being disciplined, according to his first letters home:
Last night I got beat 45 times with a cartridge belt. Last night I felt
like I wanted to leave here, but I have forgotten about it now... But
dad you do not know anything about this school except what you
read in catalogs and it is hard for you to understand how I feel...
At night I was so nervous that I can hardly sleep ... if they [older
cadets] get a new pair of shoes I usually have to brake [sic] them in
for them, what a life ... Don't get too happy about the job [duty
assignment] because I am just a rat and do not rate a thing if an old
man [senior cadet] wants my job I have to give it to him ... I can
not write very often because I do not have the time or the stamps,
the rats have to give the old men stamps and this costs about a
dollar a week ... In regard to the old cadets I should not have
written you and worried you so but I was so mad that night that I
could hardly stand it. I made a mistake in hitting him but it couldn't
be helped. I will just have to stand it. I think they will forget it in a
month or so. Don't worry other kids have stood it and I guess I am
no better than they are so I will just have to take it and like it...22
By the end of Jim's second year, Jim Travis had gotten used to regimen of
cadet life and actually professed to enjoy it: "What a life but I love it. I can see


you and dad now, dad is sitting on the big chair and the dog is under his feet and
you are sitting on the floor reading ... Boy do I wish that you and I could go out in
the kitchen and make fudge again.23
Jim Travis returned to Denver later that year to attend East High School
from which he graduated in 1939. The survival skills young Jim Travis had
acquired in that distant military school would give him the tools to deal with the
dark clouds that loomed ahead for Eaton Metal. It may help to explain the
strength and perseverance that kept the company going where other men might
have failed.
In 1936, Lome A. Milne, graphologist and handwriting expert, did an
analysis of J.R. Travis' handwriting. Some of the highlights of this were: "...rather
high strung disposition... disclaims idleness inclined to enter tasks with much vigor
... sympathy with suffering and will lend aid when possible ... logical and practical
mind ... should excel in business because of problem solving capacity ... attractive
personality an aid in contacting people.24
J.R. Travis was popular and respected in the community. A member of the
Denver Athletic Club since 1930, he became one of the first members of the
35


Cherry Hills Country Club. Travis also took a patriarchal interest in the
community life of his employees. He went to church services a the different
churches of his employees. When he felt that his workmen were drinking too
much, and not taking care of their families, he would go check on their home life.
If employees weren't caring for their family properly, Travis would take the mens
paychecks directly to their wives so the men wouldn't spend them in the taverns.25
One day Aldor Olson went into J.R. Travis' office and told him, "You're
going to have to fire R.B. Harvey."
Travis said, "I can't fire R.B. Harvey. He's the third man I hired."
Olson replied, "Sorry, we refuse to work with him."
Travis said, "Let's have the story."
Olson recounted, "Well, R.B. Harvey gots a wife and three kids and they're
living in a chicken coop out in Lakewood. The kids and his wife haven't got a bath
in six months. RB. Harvey is living downtown in a hotel with a whore!"
Travis said, "I'll check up on that. I'll let you know Monday."
On Sunday Olson went out to see R.B. Harvey's wife. She and the children
were still in the chicken coop. She told Olson, "Mr. Travis was out here just a
36


little while ago."
At 9:00 on Monday morning Olson was called into the office. Travis told
him, "Well, you didn't lie. Everything you said was true. Just a minute," and he
picked up a telephone, "Bob Preston, R.B. Harvey is over at the post office. I
want his check made in full by the time he gets back with the mail."
Olson was just standing there and Travis asked, "What are you standing
there for? Your job is out in the shop."
Olson replied, "I'm waiting for that check to give to R.B. Harvey."
Travis snapped, "Oh no you're not! That's my job."26
With the ominous rumblings of social discontent and war raging in Europe
as the decade closed, J.R. Travis grew concerned about the world around him and
put his thoughts on paper in a memorandum to Aldor Olson:
As I see the whole situation today, I believe much of the
strife and industrial warfare which is going on today could be
avoided providing the employers of labor would get over the old
idea of the "Master" and "Servant" and accept the more correct and
modem theory of "Fellow-Worker" whether or not he wears a
white collar or overalls. The Professional Labor Organizer, or in
many cases, Agitator, or Racketeer, could be dispensed with if an
honest effort were made to work out the problems as I believe has
been made in this particular small organization.
I do not know what is in store for any of us. Certainly,
37


some very troublesome times. It appears at the present time that
this country is surely headed for a Dictator and we know what
happens under a Dictator. If you don't know, as a student of the
Labor Union Movement, I suggest that you immediately get the
recent history of Germany and Italy and see what has happened to
the Labor Unions in those countries. There is absolutely no reason
why the same thing would not happen here.
I wish that I might take a more cheerful view of the present
situation but I know only too well what happens to business under a
Fascist Government. While it may seem that you and I can do
nothing in the fact of all of the turmoil yet we can do a great deal
by talking sense and trying to keep on an even keel and putting in
our protest whenever possible against ever increasing taxes, both
on corporations and individuals, which if it continues at the present
rate, cannot help but destroy us even though all other problems
could be solved.
As an illustration, I cite our own small business again.
When the day comes that the taxes more than equal our income, we
are through and you would be surprised if you knew how close that
margin is today. Taxes are taking income which rightfully belongs
to you. It is making it increasingly difficult to raise wages. It is
making it increasingly difficult for you to buy your daily supply of
food and when the "Powers That Be" tell you about how much they
are doing for you, just remember that you are paying for it."27
Endnotes
1 Noel, Thomas J. and Leonard, Stephen J., Denver: Minins Camp to
Metropolis. University Press of Colorado: Niwot, 1990. P. 158-159.
2 Eaton Metal Products Audit Report, 1930. Box 4, EMP Archives.
3 "Death Takes Paul Emrick of Eaton Co." The Billinas Gazette. December 2,
1930. P1-2.
4 Aldor Olson interview, July 1, 1996. EMP Archives.
38


5 Ibid
6 Eaton Metal Products Summary of Sales and Earnings, 1930-1946.
Miscellaneous Stock Information File, Box 3. EMP Archives.
7 Eaton Metal Products Payroll Record November 16, 1933. EMP Archives.
8 Eaton Metal Products Summary of Sales and Earnings, 1930-1946.
Miscellaneous Stock Information File, Box 3. EMP Archives.
9Eaton Metal Products Summary of Sales and earnings, 1930-46. Miscellaneous
Stock Information File, Box 3. EMP Archives.
10 "Denver Firm Receives Inquiries on Gas Chambers." Rockv Mountain News.
December 6, 1976. P. 43.
11 "Lethal Gas Chamber Specifications." Gas Chamber Ccrton. EMP Archives.
12 Horace Jackson interview, July 16, 1996. EMP Archives.
13 "New Gas Chamber Takes First Life in Test Run A Pig." Denver Post. April
5, 1955.
14 "Mississippi State Pen to Get New Pattern Lethal Gas Chamber." Denver Post.
December 10, 1954. P. 24.
15 "Denver Firm Receives Inquiries on Gas Chambers." Rockv Mountain News.
December 16, 1976. P. 43.
16 "Lethal Gas Chamber Work Orders Files." Gas Chamber Carton, EMP
Archives.
17 "New Gas Death 'Cell' Arrives at San Quentin." San Francisco Chronicle.
March 8, 1938. P. 8.
18 "San Quentin Execution Record California file, Gas Chamber Carton. EMP
Archives.
19 Ibid
20 Inter-departmental memorandum, San Quentin Hospital Administration Office
to Warden HO. Tests. February 21, 1955. EMP Archives.
21 Miscellaneous Stock Information file, Box 3. EMP Archives.
22 Jim Travis toJ.R and Josephine Travis letters from the New Mexico Military
Institute, 1935-37. EMP Archives.
23 Ibid
24 Milne, Lome A. "J.R Travis Handwriting Analysis." March 3,1936. EMP
Archives.
25 Tim Travis interview, July 29, 1996. EMP Archives.
26 Aldor Olson interview, July 1, 1996. EMP Archives.
39


27 Inter-office correspondence J.R. Travis to Aldor Olson, February 10, 1937.
EMP Archives.
40


CHAPTER 4
WORLD WAR II AND THE SHIPYARD OF THE ROCKIES
1940 1945
In the Rocky Mountain West, the federal government had a more pervasive
presence than in other regions of the nation. The federal government's
involvement and prodding promoted Western settlement beginning with the first
U.S. explorations of Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike and Stephen Long. The U.S.
41


Army, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Land Office opened the West and
dispossessed Native Americans. Later agencies such as the U.S. Geologic
Survey, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of
Land Management provided management and jobs for the vast regions of the
West. Denver's aggressive Chamber of Commerce lobbied Washington, donated
land and otherwise worked overtime to make Denver a regional headquarters for
federal agencies.
As the decade of the 1940s dawned and war raged in Europe and the
Pacific, many felt that the United States would get involved, sooner or later. The
federal government began preparations by expanding old facilities and building
new ones. Depression weary Denver welcomed this build-up as full employment
would bring prosperity to nearly all. In 1938 the city induced the army to locate
an air corps training center by donating 1,840 acres and a 100 square mile bombing
range southeast of the city. On February 26, 1938, Lowry Air Base, opened with
a name honoring Denverite Francis B. Lowry, who had been shot down over
France during World War One.1 Another air facility, Buckley Field opened in
1942 just southeast of Denver in what is now Aurora.
42


Federal money also poured into a veterans hospital established in Aurora
after World War I. Fitzsimons Army Hospital underwent a massive refurbishing
with a new, $3.5 million main building boasting 610 beds and softie 7 million cubic
feet of space.2 Dupont built the Remington Plant west of Denver to manufacture
light artillery shells in 1941 at a cost of $20 million. This plant became the hub of
a large federal complex now known as the Denver Federal Center.
The United States entered the war following the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor on December 7, 1941 and war related industries went into high gear.
North of Denver, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal was established in 1942 to make
napalm and lethal gases. Military policemen trained at Camp George West in
Golden and to the south at old Fort Logan, army recruits learned to type. Ten
blocks down York Street from Eaton Metal at East 38th Avenue, the army built a
depot for medical supplies with buildings encompassing 562,000 square feet.3 By
1943, the Denver Chamber of Commerce counted 185 federal administrative
offices within the city, of which 134 were regional or national in scope.4
Eaton Metal began filling military contracts during the pre-Pearl Harbor
preparedness campaign. In 1941, Eaton Metal's sales soared to over $1.3 million.s
43


Special War Production contracts accounted for 20.6% of the sales. Other lines
of production were:6
Filling Station Equipment and Service
Miscellaneous Sheet and Plate Fabrication
Gasoline and Oil U.G. Equipment
L.P. Gas Storage Tanks and Equipment
Truck and Transport Tanks and Body Parts
Water Storage Tanks
Gasoline and Oil U.G. Tanks
Other Products
15.6%
14.2
10.1
7.5
7.4
5.3
4.9
14.4
The West Coast bustled with activity to fill military contracts. Shipyards
at Richmond, California, and Portland, Oregon, overflowed with workers with
families who couldn't find housing and overwhelmed school districts, medical
facilities, fire and police protection, and other city services. Government officials
realized they had reached maximum output in these regions due to the logistics
providing for tens of thousands of workers.7
A government decision was made to "farm out" Navy contracts for
everything from pontoons to destroyer escorts to take advantage of the nation's
interior cities' labor and infrastructure. There the burden could be distributed in
handling the logistics of housing, feeding, and transporting armies of workers.


By 1942, Eaton's production for the war effort would be 90% of their
production, where it stayed for the duration of the war. Eaton's Type "C"
contracts with the Office of the Supervisory Cost Inspector at San Francisco. To
eliminate profiteering, war production contract profits were set at seven percent of
the estimated cost plus fixed fee.8
Eaton received contracts for Navy pontoons, hot water storage tanks and
generators, that kept its Denver, Billings, and Albuquerque plants all humming.
Additionally, Eaton's Denver plant constructed hull sections for destroyer escorts
and LCT-6's of the destroyer escort program, Commander Bryan of the U.S. Navy
later recalled:
That was the first job we farmed out in the Denver area, and the first large
prefabricating job that was farmed out. We started this, I believe the keel on the
first ship was laid in February, 1942. The work was started in Denver three or
four months earlier. We brought those men from the Denver plants to Mare
Island, key men in the shops. They have never done anything like it before.
They had built bridges, mining equipment, and items like that. Their work
was iron work generally done in inland cities, but the facilities were there our
surveys showed they had the manpower and that they could be trained to do this
job of shipbuilding. Otherwise we could not have taken on this program of
building 39 destroyer escorts.9
Mare Island the 6th day of July was ordered by the Navy Department to
build 88 LCT-6's. They are 126-ton craft; length, 115 feet; beam, 34 feet;
powered by 3 Diesel marine engines, 3 propellers and 3 rudders.
Our Denver fabricating contractors [including Eaton Metal] finished
45


fabricating the entire hull sections for 39 destroyer escorts for Mare Island. We
took the plan of the LCT-6 ship and divided it up into sections which you see here
(See exhibit No. 5, p. 4051). We have to cut down to those sections because the
tunnels and the bridges on the railroad will only take a section where it does not
exceed 17 feet from the rails in height, and about 10 feet wide, 9 feet 6 inches to
be exact, and 40 or 50 feet long, so it will go into a car. We divided that ship into
sections and divided the sections among eight different fabricating contractors out
of Denver [including Eaton].10
The U.S.S. Mountain Maid, the first destroyer escort prefabricated in
Denver, was ready for launching on February 22, 1942. To make the Maid and
vessels like her, scores of new employees were hired; the workforce climbed to
over 600 at Eaton's Denver plant. Work stations had to be set up outside the
York Street plant since the interior had been filled beyond capacity. To keep up
with demand the plant had to be expanded. The south half of the steel shop
building had been completed in October of 1940. This was soon followed by a
northeast addition to the building in August of 1941 followed by a north addition
in November, 1941. Another addition on the north opened with a 20 ton crane in
April, 1942. In July of 1942, a main warehouse was added to the north of the
brick shop building. Another northwest addition to the steel shop building was
finished in October of 1942 along with a new drafting department south of the
office.11
46


Young Jim Travis was working in the shop then and took his sleeping bag
to work so he could spend more time at work training newly hired employees.12
The plant ran with three eight hour shifts a day, six days a week. Instead of
working a rotating shift, one month days, one month swing, and another
graveyard, the workers voted to stay on the same shift for the duration of the war.
To keep up with the Navy contract deadlines, the workers had to start working
Saturdays. Forty-eight months went by for the workforce without an extra day
off, except for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July.13
The demand for labor in the area's war plants created a severe manpower
shortage at a time when many young able bodied men were going into the armed
services. As in other industries manpower shortages ushered in the era of women
employees immortalized by the song "Rosie the Riveter". Women welders were
hired for the first time at Eaton with Leona Seeley as the first.14 In spite of initial,
widespread skepticism and catcalls from their male counterparts, the women
earned the respect of their male cohorts. Ray Trout in his cartoons in the
company newsletter, the Eaton Echoes would often tap the topic of women
welders for his cartoons. Even though the cartoons were meant in jest, they did
47


exhibit the undercurrent of male chauvinism that then pervaded American society.
On April 25, 1943, the Army-Navy Production Award for Excellence was
awarded to the three "Shipyards of the Rockies." Eaton Metal Products, Denver
Steel and Iron Works, and Thompson Steel and Pipe Company. Colorado
Governor John C. Vivian and Denver Mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton looked on and
the Sixth Army Air Force Band played the "Star Spangled Banner" and "America,"
as Rear Admiral Wilhelm L. Friedell, commandant of the Mare Island Navy
Award, presented the coveted "E" Award to J.R. Travis and Eaton Metal. Jim
Shaughnessy and Joe Fabry accepted the award on behalf of Eaton's employees.15
During the presentation, Rear Admiral Friedell told J.R. Travis and the
others:
I feel something like the catcher on a major league team who walks up to
the mound to congratulate the pitcher on his smooth and effective delivery, and to
tell him to keep it up. Chit at Mare Island, we have been on the catching end of a
destroyer escort program. Your pitching has enabled our team to register a
notable series of strikeouts against the Axis. By setting up this new production
unit away from our labor markets and housing areas, you have actually added
several thousand men to the productive capacity of Mare Island, and at the same
time relieved us of the difficult task of housing them and their families.16
Major General John F. Curry, commander of the Fourth District, Army air
Forces Technical Training Command, read a citation from Secretary of War,
48


Henry L. Stimson:
By their unflagging spirit of patriotism, by their acceptance of high
responsibility above and beyond the call of duty, by the skill, industry and devotion
they are showing on the production front, the men and women of these companies
are making an enduring contribution not only to the preservation of the United
States but to the immortality of human freedom itself.17
War may be hell on the front, but it sure could be profitable at home. The
U.S. Navy contracts for Eaton during World War n were necessary for the war
effort and a windfall for the company: The dollar amount of Eaton's U.S. Navy
contracts during World War II were:18
1942 $1,943,569
1943 3,189,979
1944 2,958,827
1945 2,526,794
Eaton's Denver Plant
The first issue of the Eaton Newsletter appeared on July 1, 1943 with the
title of "You Name It." A $25 war bond was offered for best name. Two weeks
later Alex Sacks was named the winner for his title of Eaton Echoes. Second
prize of $10 in War Stamps went to Casey Diers for "Ea-Tonic" and third prize of
$5 in War Stamps went to Helen Sweeney for "Eaton Spotlight."
45


The newsletter reported company news, tidbits of gossip, softball and
bowling team scores, and regular features on various employees. Employee news
items might be embellished with wit and mischief. The following excerpts,
gleaned from the newsletters of the period, offer a glimpse into the wartime
corporate culture:19
Claude G. "Shorty" Martin ...little "Shortie," who is the idol of the entire office,
male and female alike .... has been with Eaton for 16 years and is about to consider
himself on the permanent payroll.... about 5' 2" of dynamite, a dapper dresser a
new pair of officer's pants are his pride and delight they fit like the paper on the
wall.... has a beautiful singing voice and makes a wonderful master of ceremonies
.... can talk in any dialect Swedish, Jewish, Irish, Italian and has a great gift for
story-telling .... always has a smile and a wisecrack to make the day brighter .... he
has done practically every job in the office and a few in the shop in his years with
Eaton, and he's thorough and efficient wherever he is placed .... always telling you
how lucky he is to have Mrs. Martin (who he always speaks of as "Mrs. Martin")
.... It is a source of constant surprise to everyone in general and the editor in
particular to see the speed and dash put forth by Vic Lockner and Shorty Martin
when one of our girl welders comes in for first aid. Shorty will start for the first
aid room, and Vic will pass him like a streak of lightening (or vice versa). We are
wondering if a 100-yard dash would clear this question of which has the superior
getaway and more stamina....
Aldor Olson .... quiet and unassuming, he can still draw from a deep well of
knowledge and speak with authority that comes from knowing a job and knowing
it thoroughly .... a darned good man on the bowling team, who won't let an "off'
night whip him he figures out what he is doing wrong and tries to correct it ....
likes to drink beer with the boys and is a man's man still, he's popular with both
sexes .... stubborn in his convictions, he goes all out for what he believes is right
.... Olson is a fine lad and one of the hard-working Swedes who have made Eaton
50


the company it is today....
Bill "Pops" Preston ....We are all going to chip in and buy Mr. Preston a pair of
roller skates so he can get around the office at his usual speed, with less wear and
tear on the blood pressure .... Pop is one of the hustlingest men I know. I guess
that's why he is one of the top credit men he works on the presumption that if
you get there "fustest you get the mostest" .... At the regular monthly dinner and
meeting of the National Association of Retail Credit Men the other night, "Pop"
Preston distinguished himself and the company by winning third prize in a new
membership contest. "Pop" is a past president of the Association.......
John Francone It is rumored that his favorite fishing vehicle is a raft with a
pitchfork for a paddle .... he loves to fish and has a colorful outfit, complete with
hip boots and a big smile .... titled "Electrical Engineer," "Maintenance
Superintendent" and many other things, does a bang-up job of keeping the
equipment around Eaton's in good running order ... a quiet sort of a guy with a
lusty sense of humor .... he's a man who seems to be everywhere at once when
there's trouble .... to look at Johnnie, you'd never realize what a Lothario he
appears to be when he gets all dressed up in his "Sunday Best" .... a peach of a
dancer he claims of winning many cups in prize waltzes, but hasn't yet provided
proof .... he has a grand wife and a handsome son, who looks mostly like Mrs.
Francone (for which he is thankful) .... he has a fine voice and can really "give" on
harmony.... truly a jack-of-all trades and a great guy ....
Earl Liston ....He's quite a golf enthusiast although it is rumored that he has to
have special clubs that bow out a little so they can get by his stomach .... Earl is a
hard working exec and has a remarkable capacity for getting things done around
the joint.... Earl Liston has been limping around the office and plant recently with
some mysterious ache or pain in his foot. Some say it's gout, but we heard that
Dick Bright steeped on him when he matched for cigarette and tried to swipe
Dick's dime! And when Dick steps on a guy's toes, the effect lasts for weeks...
By 1943, fifty-six Eaton employees were in the armed forces and earned
their own column in the Eaton Echoes- Frank Busnardo recalled the pride he felt
51


in working in a war plant that had won the coveted "E" award. But once outside
the company's gates he felt the disapproving gaze of the public upon him for being
an able bodied young man not in uniform. In the streets, on the streetcars, and in
restaurants, Busnardo felt a chilly reception that made him feel that he was
perceived as a traitor or coward. It was enough to make Busnardo enlist in the
army in 1944.21
Wages rose as the war progressed due to the scarcity of labor. By 1944, a
top layout man was making $1.15 an hour, while journeymen welders and
boilermakers earned $1.05 an hour. A machine operator earned $.90 an hour and
crane operators and truck drivers made $.85 for an hour.22
Eaton reduced their payment into the employee pension plan in 1945 due
to the increase in the number and ages of new employees. Pension benefits were
reduced from a maximum of 50% to 25% of the employees' basic annual
compensation. The years of service required prior to participation in the plan
changed from 2 to 5 years. Eaton continued to pay the whole cost of the plan.23
The Eaton Old Timers Club, founded on January 27, 1944 for Eaton
employees with ten or more years of service (in later years the qualification for
52


membership would be changed to twenty years), which at that time numbered
thirty. Aldor Olson, R.H. Preston, and Mark Pulver were named to the Board of
Directors and it was decided to meet on the third Thursday of the month.24 The
Eaton Metal Foremen's Club founded on May 13, 1945, met monthly to promote
more personal contact in a social environment.25
Other Eaton Plants
Back in Omaha, A.N. Eaton incorporated the plant on May 1, 1941.
Despite his advanced age, Eaton continued to be active in the affairs of his
company. With Navy contracts in hand, the Omaha's plant business boomed from
sales totals of $557,000 in 1940 to over $1.3 million in 1942. Steel restrictions in
early 1942 forced the closing of the culvert plant in Grand Island, Nebraska.26
At an award ceremony on December 8, 1942, in Omaha, Nebraska, Rear
Admiral John Downs, Commandant of the 9th Naval District, presented the
Army-Navy "E" Award to A.N. Eaton. The Eaton plant in Omaha had produced
54,000 pontoons in two years, the most in the United States by any plant. Father
Flanagan's Boys Town Band serenaded the audience with renditions of "Star
53


Spangled Banner," "God Bless America," and "America."27
It was a proud moment for Eaton's founder, AN. Eaton. The award
ceremony was a fitting capstone for the life of the entrepreneurial Eaton. Three
months later, the founder died at the age of 83 on March 29, 1943, from
complications of terminal bronchi pneumonia affecting his diagnosed case of
carcinoma (cancer) of the bladder. Eaton would be laid to rest at Forest Lawn
Cemeteiy in Omaha, Nebraska.28
The reins of the presidency of A.N. Eaton Metal Products of Omaha fell to
Herbert D. Marshall, the vice president and A.N. Eaton's nephew. Eaton and his
wife had no children and the will left Marshall controlling interest of the Omaha
plant, while bequeathing a large block of stock to his favorite niece, Josephine
Little Travis.
The Albuquerque plant also prospered during the war years, grossing over
$210,000 in sales in 1941. A Navy contract in 1943 for the construction of steel
pontoon sections pushed gross sales over $480,000 by the end of 1944.29 The
high standards of quality that Eaton stressed at all of its metal fabrication plants
was recognized by the Navy in its awarding of an "E" Award to the Albuquerque
54-


plant on May 6, 1945. Held in the Albuquerque High School Auditorium with the
Naval ROTC from the University of New Mexico providing the band and ushers, it
was the first industrial award to a war plant in New Mexico. Captain A.D. Alexis,
commanding officer of the Navy's Advance Base Depot at Port Hueneme,
California, presented the award to Albuquerque plant manager Lewis O.
Kohlhaas.30
On the eve of the war, business had been good enough at Eaton Metal
Products of Montana to increase that operation's capital stock from $100,000 to
$250,000 in 1940.31 A.N. Eaton retained the office of president, J.R. Travis was
vice-president, with H.D. Marshall as secretary. After Eaton's death in 1943,
H.D. Marshall became the president with the inheritance of a large block of stock
from the Eaton estate.32
The Travis Family
J.R. Travis guided his company through the war years, organizing a large
unskilled workforce into a cohesive unit capable of producing the unfamiliar
products of the naval contracts on time. Despite wartime pressures, Travis
55


remained composed. One of the secretaries in his office, Helen Sweeney, recalls
that he was so dignified. He was charming-and he would sit there and very
thoughtfully would think things out."33
One day Sweeney went into his office and gushed, "You know, I just think
you ought to be the President of the United States!" Travis smiled and replied,
"Well, I haven't quite thought about that. That's an idea."34
Travis continued to demonstrate his concern over the well being of his
employees. Since he practiced high ethical standards personally, Travis expected
no less of his management team. One of Eaton's top officials mistakenly raised
the ire of his employer in 1941. His letter to Travis expresses his heartfelt
apology:35
Now that Ive had the opportunity to think the whole thing over I want you
to know I appreciate your interest in me. You certainly have been tolerant and I
want to assure you now you will never have to take me to task again for a similar
indulgence. I see where I have been wrong and if I had any wild hairs you
certainly have them all plucked out now.
You can take this note as my written guarantee that if there were any affair
it is entirely over and you needn't worry that I will ever get myself involved either
here or away from the office in the future. You showed your confidence in me
Wednesday -1 won't let you down.
The rank and file out in the shop and yard also respected the dignified man
56


who was always immaculately dressed and made daily rounds at the plant. Travis
would discuss the current production run and any associated problems with
foremen and laborers alike. He treated his workers with respect and they
reciprocated with loyalty and hard work. At the end of the workday J.R. Travis
would stand at the gate of the plant and shake each employees hand and thank
them for giving a good day's work.
The October 30, 1943 edition of the Eaton Echoes reported:
It seems Mr. Travis phoned Johnny Miller the other day and, without
saying who he was, asked Johnny to please step into the office. Well, our genial
Shipping Room head dang near blasted the Boss's phone with his snappy
comeback: "Oh, yeah go lay an egg" (or something similar)!
The next voice Johnny heard had icicles on it. This is Mr. Travis!"
When the two principals recovered they both got a bang out of the situation, but
Johnny broke speed records getting into the front office, and his jaw was hanging
to his knees!
Travis accepted the apology and kept this employee. After Eaton received
its second of three "E" Awards, Travis applauded his workers:
Every employee in our hard-hitting organization knows the dramatic part
these barges play in Allied invasion operations. This has generated an enthusiasm
throughout the plant which makes production possible on an unbelievable
schedule. We are proud of the volume of our output, and we are equally proud of
our record for accurate work and our relatively low curve of all kinds of accidents.
Every individual in our entire organization merely looked upon our first
57


Army-Navy "E" Award as a spur to greater production. This is the only reason
we won the honor a second time. This determination continues, and right now we
are hard at work on the "third notch" on our guns.36
Through interviews with Eaton's employees, the Eaton Echoes in March,
1945, served up these comments about the boss:
.... he demands good work and gets it because of the way he makes a
request instead of giving a command .... kindhearted, generous, tolerant and
understanding .... loves dogs all sizes and breeds, from dirty mongrels to
highbred blue ribbon winners .... gets thoroughly disgusted with his golf game and
threatens regularly to give it up in favor of tiddlywinks .... has a rare gift of being a
good fellow and yet retaining his dignity ....forward-looking with keen business
ability and judgment.... his sun rises and sets in his boy Jimmie, who is now in the
Maritime Service .... has a lovely home, graciously presided over by quiet,
charming Mrs. Travis.
Jim Travis had worked at the plant ever since his graduation from East
High School in 1939. When he was 16 and had been on leave at Christmas from
the New Mexico Military Institute, he had met and dated Jane Craven. They had
lost touch but met again in Denver in 1940 and renewed their relationship. This
eventually led to their marriage on May 15, 1942, in Denver.37
Jane Craven was bom in Oakland, California on June 17, 1920, to Alec
Robert Craven and Jennie Tillisch Craven. Her parents were originally from
Wisconsin but her father was confined to a veteran's hospital due to injuries
incurred from a poisonous gas attack in World War I. When Jane was six years
58


old, her father went to Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado. Alec
Craven had come to Colorado to die but after six years in Fitzsimmons, he was
released. Invigorated from his new found health, Craven took up golf and played
year round up to the age of 85.38
After a honeymoon to California, the newlyweds made their home at 1146
Colorado Boulevard in Denver. Even though the younger Travis had been
granted a deferment from the military because of his work at his father's plant war
time production, the call of duty and service to his country beckoned. On
December 11, 1942, Jim Travis enlisted in the U.S. Maritime Service Training
Station in Avalon, California, for training to be a shore patrolman, the Maritime's
version of military police. After training, Travis was stationed at Catalina Island
in California where his wife joined him. The couple would be fortunate to be
together throughout the war. There in California their first son, Tim, was bom.39
Though J.R. Travis was proud of his son's enlistment in the service, he
missed having Tim around the plant. In 1943, J.R. Travis wrote to Jim:
.... wish you did not have to go away as I am growing to depend more on
you all the time, your judgment is very keen for any age and above all you are
reliable, a little forgetful at times but you will grow out of it .... it makes me feel
that Germany is rotten at the core and can't last after a bad defeat or two and in
59


spite, of what they say about Japan I believe with Germany out of the way Japan
will go down rather quickly, anyway the prospects look better than they did_40
In October of 1943, Jim Travis came to visit the plant during his leave.
On October 30, 1943, the Eaton Echoes noticed thatTim is the same ball of
fire he was when he left perhaps a little more serious about life in general but he
brings with him always a gay, sparkling humor that makes even a humdrum day
seem brighter."
After the war was over, Jim and Jane returned with their son to Denver
after nearly three and a half years absence. Everybody celebrated the end of the
war at the plant, while management fretted about what a peace time economy
would bring. Would the legions of returning servicemen glut the labor market and
cause the nation to relapse into the morass of the prewar depression? Would the
United States, the military and industrial juggernaut of the allies, surge ahead in its
peace time adaptation of free market principles and its citizens realize the bounty
of a new found prosperity? Or would the end of wartime contracts force Eaton to
down size?
Endnotes
!Noel, Thomas J. and Leonard, Stephen J. Denver: Minin? Camp to Metropolis.
Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990. P. 220.
SO


zIbicL,p. 221.
3Ibid, p. 222.
4Ibid, p. 232.
5Micellaneous Stock Information File. Box 3. EMP Archives.
6Form A Annual Financial Report. Office of Price Administration. EMP
Archives.
7Foster, Mark. Henrv J. Kaiser: Builder in the American West Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1989. 358p. P.71-73.
s"Part 30: Navy Yard Subcontracting and Type C Contract". Problems of
American Small Business. United States Government Printing Office,
Washington, 1944. P. 4042.
9Ibid, p. 4052.
I0Ibid, p. 4049.
11 Eaton Metal Products Denver Plant Layout Blueprints. EMP Archives.
12Jane Travis Interview, June 25, 1996. EMP Archives.
l3Aldor Olson Interview, July 1, 1996. EMP Archives.
I4Eaton Echoes. Volume 1, No. 4, August 15, 1943. P. 2. EMP Archives.
ls"Coveted 'E' for 'Shipyards of the Rockies." Rockv Mountain News. April 26,
1943. P. 12.
16Ibid
17Ibid
18Eaton Metal Products Financial Audit Reports, 1942 1945. EMP Archives.
19Eaton Echoes. July 1, 1943 to December 2, 1945 issues. EMP Archives.
20Eaton Echoes. Volume 1, No. 2, July 15, 1943. P. 2.
21 Frank Busnardo Interview, July 23, 1996. EMP Archives.
22International Brotherhood of Boilermakers at Eaton Metal Products Denver
Wage Rates. May 15, 1944. Union Contracts File, Box 4. EMP Archives.
23Pension Plan Revision, August 1, 1945. Pension Trust File, Box 3. EMP
Archives.
24Eaton Echoes. Vol. 1. No. 16. February 15, 1944. P.2. EMP Archives.
2SForemens Club Record of Minutes, May 13, 1945. EMP Archives.
26Eaton Metal Products of Omaha History. Closing Statements and Tax Returns
File. EMP Archives.
27Army-Navy "E" Awards File. EMP Archives.
28Albert Nathaniel Eaton Death Certificate. Department of Health, Division of
61


Vital Statistics, City of Omaha, Nebraska.
29Eaton Metal Products Corporate Income Tax Returns, 1941 -1945. Clsoing
Statements and Tax Returns File. EMP Archives.
30Albuquerque Journal. April 29. 1945. P. 11. EMP Archives.
31Certificate of the Department of the Secretary of State of Montana, April 18,
1940. Eaton Metal Products of Montana File. EMP Archives.
32Minutes of Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors of A.N. Eaton Metal
Products Company of Montana. May 11, 1943. EMP Archives.
33Helen Sweeney Interview. June 25, 1996. EMP Archives.
34Ibid
33Earl Liston to J.R Travis letter. J.R. Travis Correspondence File, Box 3.
EMP Archives.
36Eaton Echoes. Vol. l,No. 8. October 15, 1943. P.4. EMP Archives.
37"Jane Craven and James A. Tra\is to be Wed at Friday Evening Rites." Denver
Post, May 15, 1942. P.19.
38Jane Travis Interview, June 25, 1996. EMP Archives.
39Ibid
40J.A. Travis Personal Correspondence File. EMP Archives.
62


Manufacturing Plants
Sales Offices-Warehouses
CHAPTERS
POST WAR EXPANSION: 1946 1953
World War n changed Denver forever. Massive federal spending and the
influx of servicemen to the military bases and workers to the war plants
transformed Denver from a sleepy provincial city into a burgeoning metropolis.
The unavailability of consumer products and the shortage of housing during the
war led up to a pent-up demand that found its release in the post war era.
Housing tracts sprang up overnight. Ranches and prairie dog towns around


Denver evolved into suburban subdivisions and shopping centers. Many of the
servicemen based in the area during the war fell in love with Colorado and came
back to raise families in the Mile High metropolis.
The post war population boom engendered a general feeling of euphoria
about the future and Denver's prosperity. Yet the burgeoning city was not
problem free. Tragedy would mar the lives of some individual families as an
insidious epidemic of polio would strike at a family's most prized possession, their
children. Concern about polio in 1946 led Eaton's picnic committee to cancel
their annual company picnic.1
In an March 16, 1947, interview with the Denver Post, J.R. Travis said his
company planned to broaden its operations after converting to peacetime work.
Travis was optimistic as he "... looks to the great promise of the industry of the
west. One of the great reasons for that promise is the high level of intelligence of
the working people of the region." Denver, as Travis boasted, has one of the
highest educational levels of any metropolitan area in the United States.
Ambitious, skilled workers from other parts of the country gravitated to Colorado
for the climate, scenery, and recreational opportunities.
54


The influx of newcomers helped raise consumer demand. Sales only
dipped slightly for Eaton in 1946, when production switched from war products to
items such as heavy tanks for butane and propane gas, large water storage tanks,
steel service stations and other steel structures, sectional plate pipe and corrugated
metal pipe.
Eaton also experimented with new products. The firm controlled the
patent on the "Gasair" machine, a mechanical unit for mixing and dispensing a
blend of butane or propane gas and air. It gave the desired BTU content and
burned in natural gas equipment. At the time, "Gasair" machines were being used
by Brooklyn Union Gas Company, Central Illinois Public Service Company,
Consolidated Edison of New York, Douglas Aircraft Company, General Electric
Company, Owens Coming Glass Company, and many other large industrial
companies and utilities. A number of companies in South American countries also
purchased the machine.2
Eaton couldn't afford to be complacent. Competitors constantly strove to
make inroads on Eaton's market share of the metal fabrication business. On
November 12, 1946, Jim Travis reported to the Foremen's Club, a company
65


social/support organization for its foremen, that orders for 800 farm tanks had
been canceled in the past ten days because a Kansas City firm had cut the price and
offered immediate delivery. In a similar situation, Eaton did not have enough
butane tank stock on hand and lost some business because of it. The younger
Travis demanded that the foremen get their crews to work more hours for the next
thirty days so they can get all of the back orders finished before any more
cancellations come in.3
Along with quantity, quality was stressed in all of Eaton's products.
Eaton's engineers designed truck tanks to meet the needs of Colorado and the
West. Eaton adopted the slogan "Tanks for Your Business" for their advertising
and letterheads. One trade magazine extolled the virtues of Eaton's truck tanks:
- Eaton engineers builds truck tanks tailored to needs of Colorado and the West.
Safety, durability and economy stressed.
- Strength, safety, endurance and quality must be incorporated at every point in the
tanks which carry gasoline over the streets and highways of the region. They
must be built to laugh at chuck-holes, washboard roads and the vicissitudes of
weather through the mountains and on the open plains.4
Eaton and Organized Labor
Sales remained strong enough throughout the late 1940s to keep about 150


people working at the Denver plant. While the rest of the nation was wracked by
strikes and lockouts by rank and file union members in industries as diverse as
manufacturing and transportation, Eaton didn't experience any labor disputes, such
as the 1949 strike over employer paid pensions that briefly shut down Gates
Rubber Company across town on South Broadway. In many industries, the shift
from war work to peacetime activities caused uncertainty. Eaton's union members
and their committee of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship
Builders and Helpers of America, Subordinate Lodge No. 101, American
Federation Labor (AFL), worked with Eaton management to make the postwar
transition.
When the union contract came up for negotiation in 1947, Eaton
recognized all of the union demands with the exception of a guaranteed annual
wage and sick leave. The collective bargaining agreement did provide for a rate
of pay as high or higher than paid by Eaton's competitors within its trading area.
Benefits that Eaton accepted included a shop committee, vacations with pay,
arbitration, and a trainee program. Eaton also provided a pension trust plan which
provided for retirement with 25% of the employees' base pay to supplement their
67


social security entitlements.
The company also sponsored Blue Cross
hospitalization and surgical plan, group health and accident insurance, and a group
life insurance.5
The majority of Eaton's employees seemed content with their collective
bargaining agreement until the International Union of Mine Mill and Smelter
Workers (IUMMSW), the successor to the radical Western Federation of Miners,
attempted to organize Eaton's rank and file. The IUMMSWs socialist leanings
and ties caused management to be wary of its intentions. In the fall of 1949,
organizers from the IUMMSW, UAW -CIO infiltrated the company in hopes of
replacing the Boilermakers as the workers collective bargaining representative.
The CIO garnered 71 signatures on a petition supporting an election of choice
between the two unions when the collective bargaining agreement with the
Boilermakers expired on December 9, 1949.
As the day of the election grew closer, the CIO sent letters to Vice
President Jim Travis complaining that the company and the Boilermakers were
using unfair tactics to influence the upcoming vote. The CIO claimed that
management was distributing handbills in the plant critical of the CIO. The
53


Boilermakers were accused of pressuring Eaton's employees with the threat that if
the rank and file accepted the IUMMSW, Eaton would not be allowed to do
anymore outside installation work because members of AFL affiliates, other than
the Boilermakers, would refuse to deliver the necessary materials to the sites. To
dramatize their point, the AFL threatened to shut down the Eaton installation of a
water tank in Florence, Colorado.6
Indeed, management did actively support the Boilermakers. They had
made their peace with the current union and didn't want to start from scratch with
the IUMMSW. Furthermore, the Boilermakers affiliation with the AFL could
cause the company some real problems in the loss of contracts if the Boilermakers
were rejected. Being post war 1949, the company realized that the AFL could
shut down Eaton's outside installation jobs. The threat may be unethical and
illegal, but it was a reality of the power of the post war trade unions.
When Eaton's rank and file on December 19, 1949, voted to retain the
Boilermakers, the CIO cried foul and filed a complaint with the U.S. Department
of Labor. They demanded that the election be declared void. The CIO charged
that Eaton and the AFL had "jointly, interfered with, restrained and coerced the
69


employees voting therein to the extent that such employees were not afforded a
free choice in the selection of a collective bargaining agent The CIO also
charged that Eaton and the AFL threatened employees with economic reprisals and
discrimination, in particular "... a refusal to permit them to perform work on behalf
of their employer for other employees in the construction industry ...." Included
with this petition were four exhibits; three handbills distributed by the AFL and an
open letter to the employees from J.R. Travis supporting the threats of reprisals by
the AFL7
The National Labor Relations Board agreed to monitor another election
scheduled for March. In the meantime, the CIO distributed their own handbills at
the plant, including this one by an unknown author:
Christmas at Eaton's
T'was the night before Xmas and the boys in the shop,
Asked Eaton's for a bonus but they didn't piss a drop.
The Company said, just a few months ago,
You get fifteen percent if you kill C.I.O.
If you don't give your vote to the A.F. of L.,
The whole damn bunch of you will go straight to Hell.
So the boys voted right?? and down thro the shops,
Walked Pinky' and Travis licking their chops.
"Well, the poor goofs did it," they chortled with glee,
"Little they know what fools they be."
A Thousand percent the Company will grab,
7D


And pay off the boys with promises and gab.
A thousand percent why Man Alive,
We'll keep the thousand and give them five.
Mary Chismyass8
Employees once again voted in favor of the AFL. The National Labor
Relations Board sent a letter to Eaton stating that the majority of the employees
voted to authorize as their union the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers,
Iron Ship Builders and Helpers of America, Subordinate Lodge No. 101, AFL.
High Spiny, regional director of the NLRB, wrote that no objections had been filed
to the tally of ballots or to the conduct of the election.9 Afterwards, labor
relations became more tranquil. In 1955 the more skilled AFL consolidated with
the CIO, ending the inter-union conflict that had surfaced at the Eaton plant.
Eaton's Denver Plant
As sales continued to grow, J.R. Travis decided to consolidate his control
of Eaton's western operations. In 1948, Travis purchased from Fred S. Knapp,
former Vice President and Director of the Denver operation, his block of shares of
stock of Eaton Metal Products of Denver.10 In March of 1950, J.R and
Josephine Travis obtained the rest of the outstanding stock of the Eaton operations
7


in Denver and Montana with an exchange of block of stock with H.D. Marshall,
President of A.N. Eaton Metal Products of Omaha, who gained control of the
Omaha plant. Travis made the first public offering of Eaton common stock on
November 3, 1950. The 160 shares were valued at $300 a share.11
By 1950, Eaton's sales exceeded $6.3 million with customers in fifteen
states.12 Even so, international events, such as the ongoing Korean War and the
escalating tensions of the Cold War, concerned Travis. Even though his company
was posting record sales year after year, it could all grind to a halt if the deliveries
of steel were interrupted. Many feared an escalation in Korea would bring a
confrontation with Red China and the Soviet Union that could ignite a third world
war. That would cause the diversion of steel to war plants by the U.S.
government. In a letter to customers published in the Eaton Bulletin, Travis
wrote:
During the past ninety days, the initial situation has brought about some
shortages and has occasioned some delays in the delivery of materials. So far, the
only critical shortages have been in steel. We are hoping that no others will
develop.
While our government estimates indicate that only 5 to 10 percent of our
steel capacity will be needed for military purposes, at the present writing, we find
steel in all sizes and grades extremely difficult to obtain. We are sincerely hoping
that this shortage will be eased before long.
72


EATON will maintain as adequate stocks of equipment, supplies and repair
parts as conditions will permit. We will do our best to serve you in every way
possible. Buy what you need but no more than you need. One of our safeguards
to our American way of life is to go ahead with business as normally as possible.
Our American way provides the greatest prosperity and highest standards
the world has ever known. Let's work together to preserve it.13
Even though the United States and its allies became embroiled in a nasty
regional conflict fighting the communist Chinese and North Korean forces, the
conflict remained confined to the local theater of operations. Since the Korean
War did not escalate to the magnitude of a world war, steel remained plentiful for
private industry. The conflict did increase the American militarys expenditures
and purchases that pulsated through the economy in the way of lucrative military
contracts. Later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower would coin the phrase
"military-industrial complex."
Other Eaton Operations
Throughout the post war period, Eaton grew. By 1951, Eaton had
factories in Denver, Albuquerque, and Billings, plus retail outlets is Casper,
Wyoming; Roswell, New Mexico; Phoenix, Arizona; Great Falls, Montana; and
Spokane, Washington.
73


1950 Plant Areas
Denver Albuquerque Billings
Manufacturing Area (under roof) 54,470 sq. ft. 7,010 22,840
Manufacturing Area (open air) 7,200 sq. ft. 2,700 None
Warehouse Area 12,900 sq. ft. 3,100 5,000
Storage Area (Open Air Under Chain Link Fence) 290,000 sq. ft. 29,350 125,000
Office and Administrative Areas 5,775 sq. ft. 1,460 1,200
Railroad Trackage Within Plant 1,055 sq. ft. 120
Railroad Trackage (Capacity, # of Cars) 16 2 11
Travis secured a contract to make spherical floats for the U.S. Navy and
opened a Salt Lake City plant on February 21, 1952, to fill the Navy's order.
Quickly it came apparent that there were opportunities to be had with a
manufacturing plant in Utah. The first year's sales of over $1.3 million surpassed
management's expectations. Olson Supply Company, a service station supply
business at 49 South West First Street on the west side of Salt Lake City, was
purchased as a retail outlet.14 Of the Salt Lake situation, Edward P. Muller,
Eaton's Vice President, stated in an interview:
We are going to build our own plant, instead of renting property. The Salt
Lake Plant has now become a full division of the company and no longer a branch
of Denver operations.
We have found virtually everything we want in Salt Lake City and the
74


Intermountain West for successful operations as a steel fabricator. Extension of
our facilities during the next year is aimed at sales of $2 million a year. We have
established several new production lines, making products other than floats since
our coming into Salt Lake City. Eaton has maintained a plant in Salt Lake City
because:
1) Availability of steel at a mill only a relatively few miles away (Geneva,
Utah).
2) Freight rates on steel products traveling west and north.
3) An excellent labor market.
4) Expanding demand for the products both on the West Coast and in the
Intermountain Region.15
The post war boom included a few economic bumps. A two month steel
strike in the East in 1952 reduced Eaton's sales volume by an estimated one million
dollars. It forced Eaton to use uneconomical sizes of plate and steel sheets and to
obtain steel from warehouses at very high prices. The combined Eaton operations
were still able to gross a record setting $6.3 million in sales in 1952. Payroll
included 350 people in four plants and six sales offices and warehouses.16
Meanwhile, back in Omaha at the original plant, Herbert D. Marshall was
carrying on business as A.N. Eaton would have prescribed. The emphasis of their
product line remained agriculturally to serve the Midwest for farmers and ranchers.
Another plant was established in 1950 at Hutchinson, Kansas, to manufacture
culverts, grain bins, and light steel fabrication. Gross sales of the combined
operations in Omaha and Kansas exceeded $4.3 million in 1952. Marshall stayed
75


in close contact with Travis, a friendship they had maintained since their first
meeting in 1916 in Omaha.17
John Raymond "J-R." Travis
The Eaton Bulletin in its June, 1952, issue praised the company president:
... Under his management, growth and expansion were inevitable. Economical
operation, shrewd planning and plenty of hard work have brought the company to
its present enviable position as the outstanding leader in its field in the entire
Rocky Mountain area.....Mr. Travis is a director of the Mountain States Bank and
the Empire Savings Building and Loan Association, both of Denver.
Travis remained active in both business and community affairs despite a
growing handicap-- his hearing disability. Travis said half the things he heard
weren't worth listening to anyway. Frank Lines recalled that after Travis went to
Chicago for an operation that cleared up the majority of his hearing disability he
returned to Denver and went out to the plant where he asked the foreman, "Has it
always been this noisy out here?" The foreman smiled and replied, "Yes sir, it
has." Travis had never been able to hear the sounds of his own plant!18
J.R. Travis had only one child, a son, so it was an adjustment for him to
deal with a daughter-in-law. Slowly, J.R. and Jane became friends, even
76


confidants. J.R. once called up his daughter-in-law and warned her, "I just want
to tell you, I tossed Jim (Travis) a hot potato and he's making a mess out of it, so if
he is cross and grumpy, you'll know why."19
Aldor Olson possesses some special memories of the man he proudly called
his boss:
Another time Jim (Travis) took me to Omaha.... because
they were building a special delivery tank that was really #1. There
was three of us foremen and Mr. Marshall called us in one at a time
and asked us what we thought of this new tank.
I said, "Hell, we got tomato cans in Denver better than that.
That tin can you're making taking a trip over our mountain roads
wouldn't last six months.
So, when we got back to Denver, the next day Mr. Travis
wanted to talk to me. Well, I knew Mr. Marshall had already
talked to him on the telephone, I knew there was no use in telling
Mr. Travis a different story. So I told Mr. Travis exactly what I
told Mr. Marshall.
He said, "Again you didn't he. Ive already talked to Mr.
Marshall."
I can't think of any feuds that we ever had that Mr. Travis
would not say, "Aldor, Sunday morning we're going to play golf."
We played golf out on Colorado Boulevard at the Park Hill course.
Mr. Travis says, "We're going to play against the
superintendent, Mr. Liston, and whoever he has as a partner."
Loser had to pay for breakfast. I was never out any money
regardless, win or lose, it never cost me a dime. If we could stick
them for breakfast, Mr. Travis was real pleased.
Other times he would send me to a hotel and have a meeting
with a businessman. They'd start playing poker. Hell, I might
77


have five or six dollars in my pocket. We'd start playing poker. If
I stayed, Mr. Travis, he'd raise the ante, if I stayed the second
round, he'd raise it again. Because he knew if I stayed I had a
pretty good hand and, boy, you'd build that pot up and I came out a
winner every time. [Hap Travis recalled some of the old-timers
telling him that once Olson lost his entire paycheck in a poker game
and dreaded going home to his wife without it. J.R. Travis
reached into his own pocket and reimbursed the luckless Olson.]
Mr. Travis supported his people. He even bought baseball
tickets for Bear Stadium and took the five foremen who had the
best record that week out to the ball game.20
Jim Boosinger was working at a Denver area Miller Supermarket in 1947
when his brother-in-law called him and asked him to play baseball on his company
team. His brother-in-law worked for Eaton and the company's baseball team was
in dire need of a good pitcher. The other team members had seen Boosinger pitch
before in the city league and had been impressed. Boosinger accepted and he and
the Eaton team played under the lights at 23rd and Welton at Sonny Lawson, a
municipal ball park. One day, Boosinger got in an argument with his boss at the
market over taking time off for a big ball game and ended up losing his job. That
night at the ball game, Eaton's plant superintendent told Boosinger he could start
working for Eaton the next day. Boosinger recalls starting to work at Eaton as a
young man in 1947:
78


My dad worked at Eaton Metal and my brother-in-law when
I started there. J.R. Travis was the president of the company. He
was the type of a person who came out to the yard and looked you
up, presented you with your five year pin and shook your hand.
All of them (Eaton employees) thought he was a great fella.
They told me they used to have a crap game in his office once in a
while. They rolled the dice up against the base board of his office
floor. A place was worn where they rolled the dice.
I did gas his Cadillac occasionally. When he came in there
was a company gas pump and somebody had to be sure that his car
got gas and was ready to go when he was.21
Travis traveled extensively to keep up with his far flung operations and to
seek out new business opportunities. Travis summarized his formula of success in
his statement of his four basic working habits:
- Clear your desk of all papers except those relating to the
immediate problem at
hand.
- Do things in the order of their importance.
- Don't keep putting off decisions.
- Leam to organize, deputize and supervise.22
When Travis was at home at 173 South Fairfax, Denver, he immersed
himself in civic activities. Travis was a member of Kiwanis Club, Cherry Hills
Country Club, Denver Press Club, Colorado Manufacturer's Association, and the
Steel Tank Institute of Chicago. He was also a director of the Denver Athletic
Club and the Mountain States Bank.
79


By the fall of 1952, Travis was compelled to slow his hectic life, because of
cancer. Not willing to admit defeat, he remained optimistic about the coming new
year:
As I see it, 1953 should be a very good year for business. While
steel supplies may be a trifle tight in the second quarter, I see no
reason why the first half shouldn't be exceptionally good. It is hard
to predict for the second half of the year, but there is nothing to
indicate a slump of any proportions. All phases of the oil business
should be good and in the main, prices should be firm.23
On February 25, 1953, J.R. Travis passed away at the age of 63 at St.
Luke's Hospital in Denver. He was entombed in the Fairmount Mausoleum in
Denver. Since 1919, J.R. Travis had come to symbolize quality, durability, and
fairness. In the aftermath of Travis' death, employees offered these comments to
their late employer they had come to love and respect, as reported in the Eaton
Bulletin-.
- gracious and understanding
- willing to give young men a chance.
- patient, always time to see you or hear your suggestions.
- not beyond criticizing poor work, but carried no grudge.
- a hard and dedicated worker, he inspired good work in others.
- generous to a fault with those less fortunate than he.
- Ray Travis was well read.
- he kept his promises to the letter.
- he wasn't compelled to do nice things; he just did them, without
80


any publicity.
- he was scrupulously honest.
- like a parent, he was ready with help and advice.
- he was exacting, but only because he demanded much of himself.
- good employees like to work for a good leader.
- he loved his business above eveiything. He liked fishing and
hunting, but a holiday was a beautiful day to work.24
Suddenly, 34 year old Tim Travis found himself thrust onto the center
stage. His father's shoes would be tough to fill, but Jim Travis had no choice. It
had to be done or the company was his to lose.
Endnotes
foremen's Club Record of Minutes, August 14, 1946. EMP Archives.
2Eaton Metal Products Stock Prospectus, 1947. EMP Archives.
3Foremens Club Record of Minutes, November 2, 1946. EMP Archives.
4Thompson, Arthur. "High Country Know-How Helps a Lot When Youre Building
a Truck Tank." Service Station and Garage. May 1949. P. 16.
5Eaton Metal Products Stock Prospectus, 1947. EMP Archives.
6Letter from Luther M. Stinkard, Area Director, Region #5, UAW-CIO.
Unionization File. October 5, 1949. EMP Archives.
Petition of Protest to Conduct of Ballot. December 23, 1949. Unionization
File. EMP Archives.
Unionization File. EMP Archives.
9Natiional Labor Relations Board letter to Eaton of Results of Union
Authorization Election. Unionization File. EMP Archives.
10J.R. Travis Purchase of F.S. Knapps Eaton Metal Products Stock. J.R. Travis
File, Box 3. EMP Archives.
81


1 'Murray, Robert. "Eaton Metal Stock Brings $300 a Share." Denver Post.
November 3, 1950. P. 39.
12Ibid
I3J.R. Travis Letter to Customers. Eaton Bulletin. April 1951. EMP Archives.
14Eaton Bulletin. June 1952. EMP Archives.
ISBemich, Robert W. "Metal Firm Discovers S.L. Ideal Location." Salt Lake
Tribune. December 6, 1953. P. 59.
16Eaton Metal Products Annual Report, Fiscal Year Ended November 30, 1952.
EMP Archives.
17A.N. Eaton Metal Products of Omaha File. EMP Archives.
18Frank Lines Interview, July 8, 1996. EMP Archives.
19Jane Travis Interview, July 1, 1996. EMP Archives.
20Aldor Olson Interview, July 1, 1996. EMP Archives.
21 Jim Boosinger interview, July 8, 1996. EMP Archives.
22J.K Travis Statement of Working Habits. Box 3, EMP Archives.
23Eaton Bulletin. January, 1953. EMP Archives.
24 "J.R. Travis Memorial Resolution," passed by Eaton Metal Products
Stockholders, 1953. EMP Archives.
82


THE TRANSITION: 1953 1959
For America, 1953 was a year of mixed blessings. The Korean War had
ended in a bloody draw, but active hostilities had ceased. Julius and Ethel
Rosenberg had been electrocuted for treason after selling atomic secrets to the
Soviet Union, casting a shadow in the form of a mushroom cloud over the
American psyche. The New York Yankees won the World Series for an
unprecedented fifth straight year and Marilyn Monroe posed as the nude centerfold
in the first issue of Playboy. Senator Joseph McCarthy searched in closets and
83


under beds for communists while Ernest Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize in
fiction for The Old Man and the Sea.
The Transition
For Eaton Metal Products, 1953 signified the abrupt end of one era and the
start of a new one. The legacy of J.R. Travis was the business he had nurtured
through its infancy to maturity. Now young Jim Travis would have to take control
of its far flung operations without his mentor, his late father, but with veteran
employees such as Aldor Olson, Raymond "Pop" Preston, and T.C. Williams.
T.C. Williams, General Superintendent of Eaton's Denver plant, had been
an Eaton employee since 1931 when he started in the layout department. Williams
had been bom in Pennsylvania and spent most of his early life in Kansas. The
Eaton Bulletin said of Williams qualities:
His knowledge of steel work and shop procedure has been a large
factor in the quality and efiBciency of EATON'S manufacturing
operations. His tact, understanding and good, common sense in
dealing with employees is one of the big reasons why the Denver
Plant has never lost an hour's production on account of labor
difficulties.1
Out of loyalty to the company and the Travis family, Williams took it upon
84


himself to offer Jim Travis some advice. In a letter to Travis, Willaims counseled:
...You know and I know that the next year or two will be
the hardest you will ever have. The employees will watch you.
The bankers, stockholders, customers and all of the competitors
will watch your every move. But I know you can make it. The
men in the shop hope and pray the same thing ... You will be
surrounded also by those who have no interest except their own
aims. That will be your job to sort the wheat from the chaff, and
take advice from men who have made a success in the past.
You made the remark a while back you would have to have
more help as you had more than you could handle ... You won't
have your father to give you advice so be dam (sic) careful who you
take it from. Step carefully and watch for thin ice. Everybody
should carry their own lead and responsibilities and yours will be
lighter for it.
Now Tim I am pulling no punches, have been here too long
for that, but you have some things here now that are just plain
incompetent and if not corrected will cost you money to get outside
help.2
To aid him in guiding the company into a new era, Travis promoted long
time credit manager, Raymond H. Preston, to Vice President and Treasurer of
Eaton. A Denver University graduate, Preston had been with Eaton since 1924.
Preston gave Travis the experience and stability the company needed in this
transitional period. But Preston was nearing retirement age making this solution
only temporary.
Travis needed a man to coordinate company operations, someone with
85