Howard Hale McClintic co-founded the McClintic-Marshall Construction Company with fellow Lehigh engineering classmate Charles D. Marshall in 1900. Thirty years later, thanks in part to Andrew W. Mellon's $150,000 investment, McClintic-Marshall was the world's largest independent steel manufacturing firm.
Lehigh's M&M Dormitory
To members of the Lehigh community, the McClintic-Marshall name is synonymous with the freshman dormitory built in 1957 and located on the university's South Bethlehem campus. The accomplishments of the men in whose name the building was dedicated, however, are memorialized by structures far greater than Lehigh's M&M House: the Golden Gate Bridge, the locks of the Panama Canal, and the Empire State Building.
McClintic was born on April 9, 1867 to Robert H. and Isabella Kirk McClintic, Robert's second wife. Robert was a furniture maker, a funeral director, a businessman, and a politician. His profitable trades in Lewistown, a small, central Pennsylvanian community in Mifflin County, allowed his large family to live comfortably. But the McClintics were plagued by tragedy--Robert's first wife and several children died of illness--and before young Howard was five years of age, his father died only a few months short of his sixty-first birthday.
Lehigh's young civil engineering program was just starting to gain recognition when McClintic arrived in Bethlehem to begin his education. He was tall and lanky, but he excelled in athletics, including baseball where he was a first baseman and eventually captain of the university team. He also participated in the popular Lawn Tennis Club, the track team, and was an undergraduate member of the Athletic Association. McClintic was at one time vice president of his class. He was also one of the nine founding members of the Lehigh chapter of the Sigma Nu fraternity. Not only did McClintic excel in his extra-curricular activities, but he was also a top scholar. His primary interest was bridge construction, which led him to develop a thesis paper in 1888 titled "Masonry Bridges for Railroad Purposes." Later that year he graduated with a B.S. in civil engineering.
His ties with Lehigh would remain strong after graduation as he became the Secretary and Treasurer of the Pittsburgh branch of the Alumni Association.
A Famous Partnership
It didn't take long for McClintic and Marshall to collaborate on a charter for their first steel manufacturing firm in Pittsburgh. In 1890, along with three other associates, the twenty-two year olds started the Shiffler Bridge Company. McClintic was hired as general manager. Six years later, he married Margaret McCulloch of Harrisburg on May 26, 1896.
In 1900, Shiffler was swallowed by a new conglomerate of twenty-three bridge construction firms that was given the name American Bridge Company. Andrew Carnegie and U.S. Steel became the company's new owner. McClintic and Marshall approached Andrew W. Mellon that same year with the idea of starting a separate construction firm founded on their combined twenty years of experience in the industry. Mellon agreed to provide the initial capital, and the McClintic-Marshall Construction Company was chartered and opened for business in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
The company's first work order was to build a new Marshall Field's Store in downtown Chicago. From there they took off, and by 1930 McClintic-Marshall was the largest independent steel manufacturer in the country. The scale and scope of the projects they completed in their four decades of existence is nothing short of astonishing: the George Washington Bridge, the Waldorff Astoria Hotel, half of the floors in the Empire State Building, the Hells Gate Bridge over New York City's East River, the Black Hawk Bridge over the Mississippi River in Lansing, Iowa, and dozens more. It took the company two years beginning in 1927 to build the Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River. Its 1850 foot center span made it the longest bridge in the world until the George Washington Bridge, another M-M project, was given that distinction in 1931. In 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge replaced the GW Bridge for the title with an incredible 4200 foot center span. McClintic-Marshall is known best for its work on the Golden Gate, a project that took four years to complete and required 83,000 tons of steel shipped from the East Coast to San Francisco through the Panama Canal--yet another M-M project. The locks of the canal were eighty-two feet high and each weighed about 745 tons. They were built from 1911-1914.
Acquisition by Bethlehem Steel
By 1929, the McClintic-Marshall Company had $50 million in projects a year and had a steel manufacturing capacity of 600,000 tons. In 1931, when the firm was making $8 million a year in dividends, it was acquired by Bethlehem Steel for $32 million. The company name was dissolved several years later during construction of the Golden Gate.
McClintic died in Pittsburgh on August 5, 1938 at age seventy-two.