Colorado Fuel and Iron: Culture and Industry in Southern Colorado

Osgood, John Cleveland

John Cleveland Osgood (March 6, 1851 – January 3, 1926) was a self-made man and founder of the Colorado Fuel Company, which merged with William Jackson Palmer's Colorado Coal and Iron Company to form the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) in 1892. He became the first president of CF&I upon this merger. 

Osgood came to Colorado in 1882 in search of coal reserves for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad. Instead of providing new coal sources for the railroad company Osgood decided to create a new fuel company in Colorado. Osgood and a group of investors known as the Iowa Group (John Jerome, J.A. Kebler, A.C. Cass, and D.C. Beaman) created the Colorado Fuel Company in 1883 to compete with William Jackson Palmer’s Colorado Coal and Iron Company. Osgood succeeded in dominating the fuel market in Colorado and he merged his company with Colorado Coal and Iron to form CF&I in 1892. Osgood and his Iowa group took control of the new company and produced both coal and steel, the largest company in the West to do so at the time.

Osgood made several enhancements to the company. He started with expanding and upgrading the steel works in Pueblo, Colorado, which was originally built by William Palmer to supply his Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Osgood believed the mill needed to be upgraded in order to make it profitable. Osgood contracted with engineers to expand the steel works, creating new blast furnaces. At the same time Osgood created Sociological Department at CF&I under the direction of Dr. Corwin. The Sociological department created housing, schools, and programs for the company's miners and steel workers. Osgood also expanded the company's land holdings, acquiring new land for coal mining. Osgood acquired part of the Maxwell land grant through a CF&I subsidiary, which became a source of large amounts of coal for fuel. At the same time that Osgood expanded CF&I operations he acquired the Victor American Fuel Company, which became one of the largest fuel companies in Colorado. 

Osgood tried to make the steel works profitable through expansion by building new coke ovens and blast furnaces. At the same time his acquisition of new fuel lands kept the fuel department of the company profitable. Osgood’s plans for CF&I ultimately did not help the company and his management of the company created a financial crisis for CF&I.

In 1903 C. F. & I. did not have the ability make payments on its debts. Though the company made money the debt incurred through Osgood’s plant expansion and other improvements outweighed the profits. Osgood did not make smart choices dealing with the extensive plant improvements he invested in. He hired the Garrett and Cromwell Engineering Company to plan the improvements, whose estimates amounted to $2.8 million. By 1903 those estimates expanded to $5.5 million.Delays in construction of the blast furnaces, coke ovens, and employee housing increased the cost of the project dramatically. Osgood also created the Colorado Finance and Construction Company to sell C.F. & I. shares to raise money for the construction. 

In order to keep the company afloat and avoid receivership Osgood went to George Gould and John D. Rockefeller, who agreed to help the company. Rockefeller, through his son John D. Rockefeller Jr., presented the funds to save the company in exchange for control over it, so that they could ensure that their new acquisition would be profitable. Osgood left the company so he would not be controlled by the Rockefellers. Osgood still held control of the Victor American Fuel Company, and through that company Osgood became of the fuel kings in Colorado. 

-From the Southern Colorado History Wiki

Also See: John Cleveland Osgood: American Entrepreneur


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