Living History: Rosenblatts build scrap metal business into EIMCO

By eileen hallet stone

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: October 20, 2012 07:25PM
Updated: February 7, 2013 11:31PM
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Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Eileen Hallet Stone poses for a portrait in the Tribune studio Thursday March 8, 2012.

Editor’s note: This column is a continuation of a Sept. 23 piece about the Rosenblatts.

Nathan Rosenblatt was just 14 when he fled Brest-Litovsk, Russia, in 1880 to escape persecution, pogroms and forced conscription into the military, from which few Jewish youth returned. His father booked him passage on a ship sailing to Ellis Island, and from there he headed west.

In 1887, while working in Denver, Nathan met and married his betrothed, Tillie Scheinbaum. Several years later, the couple and their two young children, Simon and Morris, moved to Utah. Nathan collected scrap metal and rags. He peddled dry goods to miners and learned how to recondition old mining machinery for resale.

The Intermountain region was an innovative frontier for the mining industry in the late 1800s. Immigrant workers flooded the mines, and Salt Lake City was a hub of economic development.

Nathan broadened his business plan.

He founded Utah Junk Co. in the family’s backyard and built one of the state’s first brass foundries to recycle scrap brass. With sons still in their teens, he established American Foundry for Simon to manage and added a custom machine shop for Morris.

Incorporated as the American Foundry and Machine Co., they processed and recycled junk metals and created a niche in the industry by repairing equipment, machining tools and making metal parts.

Branching into smelting, Nathan leased land to store agricultural machinery and car bodies to be cut to size and used in the smelters.

In 1925, he bought out the Silver Brothers Metals Co. and moved in. The next year, he gave his youngest son, 23-year-old Joseph, an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“My father said, ‘Look. Here’s this little thing I picked up called Eastern Iron and Metal. It’s yours. Go ahead and see what you can do with it,’ ” Joseph Rosenblatt said in interviews archived at University of Utah’s Marriott Library and University of California’s Bancroft Library.

With family backing, Joe acquired a storage yard filled with abandoned mining equipment.

“There were pneumatic drills, ore cars and metallurgical equipment for recovering metals such as crushers, ball mills, concentrating tables and sand pumps,” he said.

They were reconditioned and made operable, and he sold them to small mining companies and, as the Rosenblatt wont, tackled larger projects. The first involved purchasing the Kennecott-owned Arizona Hercules property adjoining the big Ray Mines in Ray, Ariz.

“It was a substantial investment,” Joe said. Meticulously salvaging the site, Joe not only transported the machinery for repair and resale but cleaned up enough concentrates that when smelted yielded $14,000.

He then sold the Ray Mine buildings with the caveat to dismantle, move and reconstruct the “huge operation” to house a mill in northern Washington state.

“The task of going into a mill and picking up and moving a 15- to 20-ton ball mill, well, you didn’t do it quickly, but you did it safely,” he said.

It was a two-year, profitable project. When it was finished, they decided to design and build new equipment.

After acquiring patents for a new mucking machine invented by John Finlay and Edwin Royle at Eureka’s North Lily gold mine, they got that chance — and changed their name to EIMCO.

The mechanized, underground mucking machine was powered by Ingersoll-Rand motors. It was a rocker-shovel that could lift a load in its bucket and deposit it overhead within limited headroom. EIM­CO produced hundreds of the machines. In 1944, the Rosenblatts built a new plant, developed their own designs, models and air-driven motors that reduced the risk of gaseous air causing explosions in the mines. They changed the course of hardrock mining and sold countless shovels domestically and overseas.

They also made advances in the vacuum-filtration products used for separating liquids and solids in the smelting process, built “custom, exotic” filters and entered the uranium-filtration business.

From a yard filled with old equipment to the 1953 recession that stalled economic development, EIMCO steadied Utah’s economy by selling locally made products to markets all over the world, and kept on going.

Eileen Hallet Stone, author of A Homeland in the West: Utah Jews Remember, may be reached at ehswriter@aol.com. Additional sources: Unpublished papers by Gregory T. Thompson and Allan D. Ains­worth.