CF&I history

General Palmer edited 300 width

General William Jackson Palmer

The history of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company follows the vision of a retired Civil War General: William Jackson Palmer. A medal of honor recipient in the Union Cavalry army, Palmer was a railroad engineer who worked at the developing rail infrastructure in Pennsylvania just before the war; returned to civil life he moved west and founded in 1870 his own Railroad Company: the Denver and Rio Grande Railway (D&RG).

He understood that the fast development of the railways would dramatically increase the need for steel, his idea was to create a self sufficient industrial complex able to sustain his fast growing empire.

For this purpose a number subsidiaries were created to secure the exploitation of the natural resources (coal and water) necessary for the production of steel; these companies (The Central Colorado Improvement Company, The Southern Colorado Coal and Town Company and The Colorado Coal and Steel Works Company) were finally merged into the Colorado Coal and Iron Company in 1880.


John Osgood 300pixels

John Osgood

In the same years another industrial pioneer, John Osgood, was tasked by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company to assess the coal resources in Colorado. He visited each mine in Colorado and immediately understanding the huge potential, he started purchasing large lots of land and concessions from the newly formed State of Colorado.

In 1887 he founded the Colorado Fuel Company and just 5 years after the two arch rivals merged under Osgood management into the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I), by far the largest private employer in Colorado.

In the last years of the nineteenth century the Company underwent a deep modernization and investment in capital equipment which completely drained the cash flow; the much needed injection of capital arrived from John D. Rockefeller Sr. who took over the company in 1903 and maintained control until the 40′s.


During this period thousands of immigrants from all over the world converged to Colorado. The hope of a better life at 2 $ per day brought together Italians, Mexicans, Japanese, Croatians, Hungarians, Germans, Greeks, Bulgarians and more creating melting pots and the basis for a future society.


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