great depression construction

Post 4 of ’90 Years in the Making’ – A W.W. Clyde & Co. Blog Series

The Great Depression

Economic conditions in the late 20’s and early 30’s left a definite imprint on WW Clyde & Co. The 1929 stock market crash produced the single most devastating economic crisis in American history. Its effects on Utah’s economy were disastrous and most of the state’s economic supports failed. Leonard Arrington described the drastic changes in his book, The Builder.

1930smigrantworker“Copper production dropped from 318 million in 1929 to 65 million in 1932. Wages and salaries in manufacturing went from $23 million in 1929 to less than $10 million in 1933, and Utah’s farm income dropped from $69 million in 1929 to only $30 million in 1932.

As many as 43,000 (over 25 percent) of the state’s workforce was unemployed by 1933.”

With the election of Franklin Roosevelt as President, policymakers positioned the government to stimulate the slumping economy.

The construction field became the most important aspect in Roosevelts plan to hire thousands of unemployed workers. On June 18, 1932, Congress put into effect a federal emergency measure which increased road expenditures over $10.7 million. In addition to this funding, the National Industrial Recovery Act was passed in January of 1933, allotting $400 million for the construction of public highways, bridges, roads, railroads crossings, etc. Utah received more than $4 million in funding for highway construction. Utah was the first state in the nation to award a highway contract under this act, building a ten-mile stretch of concrete pavement between the Salt Lake airport and the Saltair junction.

W.W. Clyde & Company

These favorable conditions led WW Clyde to expand the operations in the company. In November of 1933, WW Clyde & Co. was incorporated under Utah laws and on November 6, at 7:00pm., the board of directors held its first meeting. The original board included: W.W. Clyde (President), Edward Clyde (Vice President), Harry S. Clyde (Treasurer), Guy W. Mendenhall (Secretary) and Jennie A. Clyde (Assistant Secretary).

In W.W. Clyde & Co.’s first year after its incorporation, it completed nearly $400,000 in contracts on roadwork for Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Logan City, and Green River. The company stockholders met at that point to review the state of the business. According to Arrington, the board gathering was a positive one.

1930sRoadways“The minutes of that meeting indicate the level of success that the company enjoyed during those early years. President WW Clyde’s financial report of the condition of the company shows the company to have a working capital of approximately $30,000, with no outstanding obligations except payments on machinery and equipment which are not yet due, amounting to $14,000.”

Financial records of the company show Wilford’s powerful business philosophy of covering all capital expenditures out of project revenue had resulted in financial success for his employees and the company. His conservative attitude resulted in a highly disciplined management style as well as in the development of an extraordinary credit standing that put WW Clyde & Co. in line for increasingly larger and larger projects.

W.W. Clyde & Co. and other contracting companies felt the boom from the unprecedented government appropriations. More than 1,600 miles of roads in Utah were constructed or upgraded, and almost 500 bridges and over 3,500 culverts were built or reconditioned between 1933 and 1939.

Click here to read part 5, 1939.