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Dunbar & Sullivan Dredging Company (1844-1987) | Historical Construction Equipment Association

Name: Dunbar & Sullivan Dredging Company (1844-1987)

Historical Note:

The Dunbar & Sullivan Dredging Company was founded in 1844 in Buffalo, New York. Corporate headquarters were moved to Detroit, Michigan, and then to Cleveland, Ohio. The Detroit facility remained as a branch office and equipment yard.

Dunbar & Sullivan was actively involved in the development of the marine navigation support infrastructure in the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley. Their operations included submarine rock excavation, hydraulic and dipper dredging, land reclamation by hydraulic fill, ship channel dredging, river and harbor improvements, dock construction, pile driving, and pipeline and cable laying. They also constructed bridges and municipal sewage treatment plants.

Dunbar & Sullivan acquired a portion of the construction operations of Merritt-Chapman & Scott Corporation of New York City circa the 1960’s. Merritt-Chapman & Scott’s roots date from 1860, and their lineage includes Whitney Bros. Company of Duluth, Minnesota (not represented in this collection) and Merritt-Chapman & Whitney. American Construction Company of Cleveland, Ohio was acquired by Merritt-Chapman & Scott circa 1929-1930, which apparently operated it as a subsidiary at least until 1937, the date of the most recent American Construction photographs in the collection.

By the 1960s, Merritt-Chapman & Scott had become a large conglomerate with heavy and marine construction and marine salvage operations worldwide, most heavily concentrated in the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast of the U.S. Other Merritt-Chapman & Scott operations included chemicals and shipbuilding in the U.S. As such major projects as the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, Priest Rapids Dam in Washington and the Robert Moses Power Plant and Intake at Niagara Falls, New York were completed, it was divesting itself of certain construction operations; this was due to the reduced profit margins offered by such projects under highly competitive bidding. As part of the divestiture, the Great Lakes Division, based in Cleveland, was sold to Dunbar and Sullivan in the mid-1960s.

The Duluth-Superior Dredging Company of Duluth, Minnesota, was acquired sometime after 1947, the date of the most recent record in the collection originating with Duluth-Superior.

Dunbar & Sullivan publicity materials also list acquisitions of Fitz-Simmons & Cornell Dredge & Dock Company of Chicago, Illinois, and of Whitney Bros. and American Construction, which were actually acquired by Merritt-Chapman & Scott.

Dunbar & Sullivan ceased operations in 1987, and a series of auctions were held at their facilities to dispose of their vessels and equipment.

Sources: HCEA Finding Aid
Note Author: Thomas Berry

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