History of the American Iron and Steel Institute

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A History Spanning More Than 160 Years

The need for an organization "to take all proper measures for advancing the interests of the trade in all its branches" led ironmasters, clustered mainly in the East, to establish the American Iron Association in 1855. That year, world pig iron production amounted to 7 million tons.

In 1864, the Bessemer steel was made in the United States, and the Association, headquartered in Philadelphia, changed its name to the American Iron and Steel Association.

Early in this century, as the industry experienced explosive growth, its leaders saw the need for an organization to supplement the largely statistical activities carried on by AISA. That led to the founding of the American Iron and Steel Institute in 1908, with Elbert H. Gary as its first chief executive.

From 1908 to 1912, the Institute and the Association functioned side by side. But on January 1, 1913, the Association was merged into the New York - based Institute.

The "Roaring '20s" was a period of prosperity and expansiveness. Institute statistics showed that the United States produced 40 percent of the world's supply of iron and steel. The opulent flavor of the times is perhaps best illustrated by who was invited to address an AISI General Meeting banquet – the Queen of Romania. But then came the Great Depression. In 1933, at its depths, Congress adopted the National Industrial Recovery Act, and AISI was called upon by the Federal Government to act for the steel industry in the establishment and administration of a Code of Fair Competition. That responsibility was so vast that almost overnight the Institute's staff had to be expanded from about a dozen people to almost 100. The NRA, however, was declared unconstitutional in May of 1935 and replaced in part by the National Labor Act. Subsequently, the AISI staff was reduced to about 30 and the AISI Committee on Industrial Relations was established to address labor issues.

Also in the '30s, it became apparent that the industry's technical terminology had become chaotic. The Institute came to grips with the problem, and out of its efforts came the AISI steel products manuals. They provided makers and users of steel with generally recognized definitions, descriptions and practices pertaining to the manufacture, chemistry, metallurgy and adaptability of steel products.

During World War II, AISI technical committees helped conceive the national emergency steels that conserved critical alloying elements. In recognition of that contribution to the winning of the war, the Institute was presented the Distinguished Service Award of the U.S. Department of the Army. AISI also created a special committee on industrial health to help place returning injured war veterans in steel jobs.

In the 1950s, in response to the growing involvement of the Federal government in the operation of our market economy, AISI opened its first Washington office. The government relations department was joined in the U.S. capital by several other departments in 1969; and by the end of 1974, the Institute had moved all of its operations to Washington, except for regional building codes offices. Shortly before the New office closed, 115 people were employed by the Institute.

In the '70s changes were made in the Institute's structure so that it could effectively address such emerging public policy issues as the environment and energy, as well as become more active on behalf of the industry in debates over tax policies and policies concerned with international trade.

Over the past 10 years, restructuring of the steel industry has resulted in far-reaching changes in AISI. Like its member companies, AISI has downsized its staff. As its member companies have become more customer-driven, AISI has also increased its market development activity. Public policy activity has grown in importance, as has collaborative research and the role of associate members, almost all of whom are suppliers of the steel industry.

The Council of Electric Furnace Producers and the North American Steel Council were established as integral parts of AISI, and the Steel Can Recycling Institute as a satellite. SCRI recently became SRI, as it dropped "Can" from its name and expanded its interests to other end products made of steel.

A constant in every era has been the importance of committees to the structuring of Institute activities. Even the original association's By-laws provided for committees – one on statistics and another on finance. The Institute's By-laws at the time of its incorporation provided for four standing committees. Today, the Institute has committees covering key public policy issues, manufacturing technologies, commercial research, market development, statistics and communications.