Quanex Corporation

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: General Entry

Published: June 1, 1995

Updated: February 19, 2017

Quanex Corporation, headquartered in Houston, formerly known as Michigan Seamless Tube Company, produces seamless and welded specialty tubing, steel bars, and other fabricated metal products through divisions and subsidiaries serving the oil and gas, refinery and petrochemical, power-generation, fabricated-metal, machinery, and transportation industries worldwide. The company was founded and incorporated in Michigan in 1927 as the Michigan Seamless Tube Company, upon the purchase of the land and assets of the Forged Seamless Tube Company of South Lyon, Michigan. Key figures in the early management of the company were presidents William N. McMunn, a skilled administrator who had served as executive officer of the Great Lakes Naval Training Station during World War I, and William A. McHattie, a former plant manager. The company began by manufacturing refrigeration tubing from reclaimed boiler tubes, and in 1929 installed a piercing mill to make seamless tubing from solid materials. The firm, awarded government defense contracts and other long-term contracts from the refrigeration industry in the 1930s, managed to operate at a profit during the Great Depression. In 1933 it began to manufacture tubing from alloy steel, and in 1935 company sales reached $1 million. During World War II the enterprise manufactured aircraft tubing at the direction of the War Production Board, and was the only company in the nation to receive five Army-Navy E awards for its production and quality of aircraft tubing.

The company's interest in Texas dates from the 1950s, when it began to ship tubes for Texas Gulf Coast oil refineries. In 1956 the company started Gulf States Tube Corporation at Rosenberg. In 1965 Michigan Seamless Tube went public. Faced with rising prices for raw materials and seeking to integrate its holdings in this period, the company acquired Standard Tube (1965), with plants in Michigan and Ohio. It also acquired the U.S. Broach and Machine Company (1968) and, after adopting a rotary continuous casting method for making high-quality steel, began building its first steel plant, MacSteel-Michigan, in 1972. In 1977, in recognition of its expansion from regional to national markets, the company took the name Quanex Corporation and moved its headquarters to Houston. In the 1970s and 1980s Quanex continued to integrate, with the acquisition of Viking Metallurgical (1976) and LaSalle Steel Company of Indiana (1982), among other companies. In 1978 it acquired Pipe Specialities, Incorporated, of Houston, and by 1980 Quanex had built a plant at Bellville, Texas, to manufacture tubing for the oil industry. A Heat Treating Division was established in Indiana (1981), and a new steel facility in Arkansas, known as MacSteel-Arkansas, began operations in 1984. In 1979 the firm acquired Leland Tube Company of New Jersey and renamed it the Atlantic Tube Division; that same year Quanex sold the U.S. Broach and Machine Company and the Standard Tube Division. Faced with an economic downturn in the 1980s, the company reorganized its divisions, closed some facilities, and announced plans for further acquisitions. In 1989, after members of the United Steelworkers of America went out on strike, union members voted to accept a new contract. In 1990 the Progressive Steelworkers went on strike at LaSalle Steel, but later that year accepted a new contract. That same year one of the Quanex subsidiaries signed a major contract with Rolls Royce in England. Quanex continued to expand after selling its Viking Metallurgical Corporation subsidiary and its Bellville Tube Division in 1993.

Time Periods:
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “Quanex Corporation,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/quanex-corporation.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995
February 19, 2017

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