Biography of Thomas S. Neilson
Alameda County, CA Biographies





THOMAS S. NEILSON
One of the important industrial enterprises in Alameda county is that of the Berkeley Steel Construction Company, owned by Thomas S. and Duncan S. Neilson, and which has enjoyed a degree of growth and prosperity which reflects creditably on its business management and its mechanical efficiency. Thomas S. Neilson was born in Greenock, Scotland, on the 24th of May, 1884, and is a son of Andrew and Jessie (Sinclair) Neilson, the former an engineer.

Mr. Neilson was educated in his native country, attending the Hill End school and Greenock Academy. He served a six years' apprenticeship with the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, at Glasgow, Scotland, one of the largest shipbuilding concerns on the Clyde, and from that time to the present has been identified with some phase of the steel industry. In 1904 he emigrated to the United States, landing at New York July 11th, and his first job in this country was with the Erie Basin Dry Dock Company, in Brooklyn. Later he went to Quincy, near Boston, Massachusetts, where he was employed in the Four Rivers Shipyards as an estimator and drafter. He remained there until 1906, when he went to San Francisco, arriving there just before the great earthquake and fire, and for about six months worked for the Union Iron Works. Going to Seattle, Washington, he worked for a time for the Seattle Dry Dock Company, after which he was in Vancouver, British Columbia, for a few years. In 1912 he went to Trail, British Columbia, where he had charge of the steel construction in the building of the great smelter plant for the Canadian Consolidated Mining & Smelting Company for two years. In 1914 Mr. Neilson returned to Seattle, was put in charge of the building of merchant ships, and during the World war supervised the building of warships and other naval craft, including submarines and cruisers, for the government. In 1920 he came to Berkeley and formed a partnership with his brother, Duncan S., under the name of the Berkeley Steel Construction Company. They bought the present site of their plant, comprising three and a quarter acres, and now have fifty thousand square feet under cover, being engaged in the manufacture of tanks, boilers, steel pipe, smokestacks and structural work, and they also do riveting and electric and oxy-acetylene welding. Their plant is valued at about two hundred and seventy five thousand dollars, and they employ seventy five men. Thomas S. Neilson is president of the company, as well as general manager, and Duncan S. is vice president and works manager. The company has prospered, as may be inferred from the statement that during the five years that the plant has been in actual operation it has more than doubled its output four times. This company pioneered in the electric welding of tanks, when other companies were riveting them, and during the last four years has turned out more than five thousand tanks, seventy five per cent of which have been welded. At the present time all of the high pressure tanks passing through its shop are electrically welded, and the process has been approved by the Industrial Accident Commission on the strength of the good record made by every tank so handled. The new shop of this company, fifty by two hundred and fifty feet in dimensions, is the first electrically welded building west of Pittsburgh to carry electric cranes, there being two of these of ten tons capacity. A notable piece of work performed by this company was the reconstruction of the Plaster City plant of the Pacific Portland Cement Company, located in the Imperial valley, seventeen miles from El Centro and eight miles from the Mexican border. Only nineteen days were required for the completion of the reconstruction work, and in that time a complete unit of the Suisun plant was dismantled, transported to Plaster City, set up and riveted throughout. Each of the storage bins is twenty feet in diameter and forty two feet high, and in them and the structure over the kilns are two hundred tons of steel.

On December 8, 1909, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Thomas S. Neilson was united in marriage to Miss Elsie Cathie, who is a native of Glasgow, Scotland, and to them have been born three children, Elsie, Fern and Jessie. Mr. Neilson is a member of the Masonic order, the Berkeley Lions Club, the Berkeley Country Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Manufacturers Association, and of the last two is a director. He is a man of earnest purpose, straightforward manner. sound business judgment and honorable methods, and throughout the community commands the unqualified confidence and respect of his fellowmen.

From:
History of Alameda County, California
BY: Frank Clinton Merritt
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chicago, Ill 1928


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