Gabriel María Ybarra Gutiérrez de Cabiedes (1814–90)
Gabriel Maria Ybarra Gutiérrez de Cabiedes was one of the business people responsible for the growth of the iron and steel industries in the Basque Country. He had diverse commercial interests in banking, mining and railways but his principal significance was as a founder of the steel firm Altos Hornos de Bilbao, which was merged after his death to create Altos Hornos de Viczaya.
Gabriel Maria was born in Bilbao. His father was José Antonio Ybarra y de los Santos (1774-1849), a solicitor in Bilbao who became a dealer in iron ore and consolidated his success by establishing a partnership with his local competitors to form Ybarra, Mier y Cía. At the age of 23, Gabriel Maria became a partner in the family business with his father and his older brother Juan Maria. The family invested in iron-ore mines and in 1846 built a blast furnace at a forge they acquired at Guriezo in Cantabria.
After their father died in 1849 Gabriel Maria and Juan Maria led the company, which was now called Ybarra Brothers (Ybarra Hermanos y Compañía). Around 1854 they began building a new ironworks called Fábrica de El Carmen at Barakaldo, on a site well-placed for exports on the estuary near Bilbao. They installed ovens for direct reduction of iron ore to make malleable iron, a method devised by the French inventor Adrien Chenot (1803-1855). They used this process with charcoal fuel until 1871, when they installed conventional blast furnaces to make pig iron. In 1882 they established the company Altos Hornos y Fábrica de Hierro y Acero de Bilbao and installed Bessemer converters to make steel.
Gabriel Maria Ybarra was a noted liberal who was active in politics in the Basque Country, including as president of the provincial council.