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American Iron and Steel Institute (AI&SI) records

Creation: 1855-2013 Creation: Majority of material found within 1908-1975
Accession: 1631


The records of the American Iron and Steel Institute and its predecessors provide an overview of the American iron and steel industries from their roots in the mid-eighteenth century to the early 1980s. The bulk of the archive consists of the Institute's library. Most of the Institute's own publications, plus a large collection of steel industry annual reports, are cataloged individually and stored in the general Imprints Department stacks.


  • Creation: 1855-2013
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1908-1975



235.5 Linear Feet

Historical Note

The American Iron and Steel Institute is a trade association of North American steel producers. The group’s mission includes advocating for public policy, education and innovation for the Iron and Steel Industry. The American Iron and Steel Institute was incorporated in New York on March 31, 1908, under the leadership of Elbert H. Gary (1846-1927), head of the United States Steel Corporation. Gary had called a series of meetings of industry heads beginning on November 20, 1907, about a month after the Panic of 1907 brought an end to the industry-wide consolidations that had begun in 1898 and threatened the stability of the billion-dollar Steel Corporation. The earlier trade organization, the American Iron and Steel Association, had been organized almost exclusively around the issue of the protective tariff and had become moribund and irrelevant in a period when the tariff was falling and had ceased to be a major political issue.

Meetings and conventions of iron manufacturers to protest lower tariffs had been held as early as the 1830s. The first to constitute a truly representative national sample was held in Pittsburgh on November 21, 1849, to protest the lowered Walker Tariff of 1846, which the ironmasters blamed for a depression in their industry. At a second meeting on December 20, 1849, the participants agreed to publish statistics of the industry and protectionist literature. While these activities were carried on by subseqent organizations, the economic stimulus of the California gold rush and a new round of railroad building ended hard times in the iron industry and with them any impetus to organization.

When the next downturn hit in 1854 to 1855, the Pennsylvania iron makers called another national meeting on March 6, 1855, at which a formal body, the American Iron Association, was organized. George N. Eckert (1802-1865) of Reading, Pennsylvania, was named president and the geologist J. Peter Lesley (1819-1903) secretary. However, the group was unable to levy sufficient funds and after the 1859 publication of Lesley's Iron Manufacturer's Guide, a comprehensive directory of all iron-making establishments and iron-mining districts, the group ceased to function.

The Civil War brought a new round of prosperity and growth to the iron industry, but the prospect of a Union victory and the uncertainty over possible postwar developments sparked the formation of a new organization. Iron manufacturers again assembled in Philadelphia on November 16, 1864, at the urging of Eber Brock Ward (1811-1875) of Detroit, who had built the first successful Bessemer steel plant in the United States. The next day they organized the American Iron and Steel Association. Ward was named president. The new organization received broad support and became permanent. It began the publication of its weekly Bulletin on September 12, 1866, and the Directory to the Iron and Steel Works of the United States in 1873. The Association scored an early and important success with the passage of the high tariff of 1870, behind whose high walls the modern American steel industry began to take shape.

At almost the same time, the tariff debates also prompted the formation in New York City of the American Industrial League to coordinate the protectionist campaigns of all of American industry. In 1868, the League appointed Daniel J. Morrell (1821-1885) and Cyrus Elder (1833-1912), both of the Cambria Iron Company of Johnstown, as president and secretary to organize a Pennsylvania chapter. On April 1, 1868, the Industrial League of Pennsylvania was fully organized with a Representative Council covering the transportation, iron, coal, chemical, textile, leather, paper and other industries. Within a month, the parent American Industrial League had ceased to meet. The Pennsylvania organization, based in the stronghold of American protectionism, became the de facto national organization. The League published the Industrial Bulletin, distributed tariff tracts and speeches, and supplied protectionist literature to college libraries. It was reorganized as The Industrial League on May 26, 1885, with Joseph Wharton (1850-1931) as president.

The American Iron & Steel Association appointed James Moore Swank (1832-1914) of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, as its secretary on January 1, 1873, and promoted him to vice president and general manager in 1885. A tireless advocate of protection, Swank became the Association's driving force and was the undisputed statistician and historian of the industry for nearly forty years. The Association also grew in stature and power by absorbing the National Association of Iron Manufacturers and the American Pig Iron Manufacturers Association in 1874. As early as 1878 it had formed an informal amalgamation with the Industrial League and by the mid-1880s had assumed much of the responsibility for distributing the League's literature. The League ceased to meet separately after 1890. The Association enjoyed at least modest success after the depression of 1873 to 1879, culminating in the McKinley Tariff of 1890, the highest yet passed. This proved the Association's high-water mark, and beginning with the second Cleveland Administration tariff rates were reduced and new issues like the Silver Question pushed the tariff to the background.

The American Iron and Steel Institute held its first formal meeting in New York on October 14 to 22, 1910, and it absorbed the old American Iron and Steel Association in 1912. While the old statistical operations of the Association continued with little change, the emphasis shifted from the tariff to issues like pricing, the sharing of technical information and more modern approaches to publicity and government and labor relations. It embraced the entire steel-making process from raw materials to finished products. By 1954, the Institute had 2,500 individual and ninty-eight corporate members, the latter numbering most of the major producers. The Institute is governed by a board of directors consisting of the chief executives of its corporate members. Like most trade associations its activities are carried out by an ever-expanding number of committees of specialists, of which there were fifty-five by the 1950s.

During World War I, the Institute under Judge Gary was the primary coordinator with the government for all industry production, allocation and prices. However, the Institute's staff remained small, and it had no paid president until 1932. The passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act in the early days of the New Deal transformed the Institute as it did most trade associations. The NIRA worked to arrest the collapse of production and prices by imposing a system of industry-specific “Codes of Fair Competition,” in effect forming each industry into a government-sponsored cartel in return for provisions to maximize employment. Working with the Wall Street law firm of Cravath, deGersdorf, Swaine & Wood, the Institute played the leading role in drawing up and administering the NIRA Code for the steel industry. Walter S. Tower (1881-1969) was named executive secretary in September 1933 and assumed active management of the Institute through May 1952. After the NIRA was ruled unconstitutional, the Institute mobilized to press the industry's case during the conflicts with government and labor during the later New Deal, beginning much more aggressive public relations work. The Institute began active technical research in the late 1930s with the appointment of a General Technical Committee. Much of this work focused on standardization. The first of a series of “Steel Product Manuals” appeared in 1937, and a Committee on Building Codes was set up in 1938.

In the 1940s, the Institute began programs of cooperative research through its Committee on General Research. It also provided its members with up-to-date information on industrial relations, antitrust, health and safety. The Committee on Public Relations disseminated information about the industry through pamphlets, press releases and films, as well as its publications, Steel Facts (1934+) and Steelways (1945+). In recent years, the Institute has focused on trade and environmental issues. The restructuring of the industry after 1970 has somewhat diluted the Institute's impact, with separate organizations now representing minimills and other specialties. Still, the American Iron and Steel Institute remains the major industry trade association.

Scope and Content

The records of the American Iron and Steel Institute and its predecessors provide an overview of the American iron and steel industries from their roots in the mid-eighteenth century to the late 1990s. The bulk of the archive consists of the Institute's library.

The Corporate records series include complete minutes of the board of directors (1908-1983) and the executive committee (1933-1982) which give an overview of the Institute's organization and activities. There are also minutes of meetings on the development of the NIRA Steel Code and the Steel Wire Reinforcing Code (1933-1935), as well as bound reports on the Code and its regulations and of the various resolutions issued during the period when it was in force. Records of the Committee on Safety consist of industry-wide fatality reports (1970-1991). Directories (1939-1988) contain lists of officers, directors and members. Records of the annual business meetings include minutes (1908-1982) which document the arrangements, presentations, and speeches; selected banquet programs and menus (including some speeches); copies of the texts of the Schwab Memorial Lectures (1947-1988); and biographical sketches of recipients of the Institute Medal (1929-1936).

Executive officer files are fragmentary. A small body of records from the Washington office describes the Institute's activities coordinating the steel industry during World War I, including correspondence of J. L. Replogle, director of steel supply for the War Industries Board and U.S. Steel's directives for the war effort. Records of the Engineering Division include files of Senior Research Engineer A. L. Johnson, Vice President-Building Research W. G. Kirkland, Vice President-Manufacturing & Research William E. Dennis, and Vice President-Manufacturing & Technology Lawrence (Larry) W. Kavanagh. These files describe the developments of new codes and standards; the competition posed by plastics as a substitute for metals and between steel and wood as a building material; the use of robotics in the 1980s; a survey of safety in sheet mills (1989), and materials related to the Waste Oxide Recycling Program.

Files of General Counsel & Secretary Barton C. Greene describe attempts during the Carter, Reagan and Bush Administrations to reduce imports of cheap foreign steel and the rash of American plant closings. There is also a report on unionism in the American steel industry by the European Social Initiatives & Research Institute, as well as materials related to the Direct Steelmaking Program.

Files of Vice President-Environment & Energy Bruce Steiner mainly consist of technical files and reports.

Files of Vice President-Industrial Relations John H. Stenmark deal with matters of industrial health and safety, noise control, and pollution abatement, including symposia, studies and codes by the Environmental Protection Agency, the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organization, and the International Iron & Steel Institute. The last includes in-plant environment studies at Kawasaki Steel Corporation and Nippon Kokan, KK.

Files of Vice President-Market Development David C. Jeanes consist of automotive files.

The executive files also include drafts and notes of the 1993 strategic plan and some documentation of the Steel Fellows Program” (1970-1989), a training program to attract and place college graduates in steel industry management.

The largest subseries of executive files are those of outside counsel Cravath, de Gersdorf, Swaine & Wood (1933-1964) who advised the AI&SI on many important matters during the New Deal era. Most of the papers are those of Hoyt A. Moore, the Cravath partner most closely associated with the AI&SI, although Chester McLain and others are also represented.

Moore's most important contribution was in coordinating the formulation and defense of the steel industry's Code of Fair Competition” under the National Industrial Recovery Act, and this is the major subject of the Cravath/Moore files. In addition to the correspondence that traces the development, implementation, and opposition to the Code from beginning to end, there are copies of AI&SI board and committee minutes and agendas, working and final drafts of the Code, resolutions that became amendments to the Code, and Code-required sample forms and standardized agreements with jobbers and transporters. There are also records of hearings and samples of NIRA codes in other industries, particularly the construction industry; records of complaints against the Steel Code, particularly by automakers and some of the smaller steel producers; records of investigations and hearings on the Steel Code by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department; relevant antitrust case histories, NIRA workplace posters outlining its labor provisions; and memoranda on the Schecter Case under which the NIRA was ruled unconstitutional.

The files also contain extensive papers of the Council for Industrial Progress (1936-1937), including minutes, agendas, membership lists, reports and press releases. The Council was organized by Major George L. Berry, President Roosevelt's Coordinator for Industrial Cooperation, as an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to find an alternative to the NIRA.

One element of steel industry pricing that antedated and survived the NIRA was the basing point” system which set a single, industry-wide shipping charge based on a single shipping point (Pittsburgh) instead of reflecting the actual cost of transportation. Producers closer to the individual consumer than Pittsburgh pocketed the difference, while those further were forced to absorb part of the freight costs. The system had been implemented by U.S. Steel in 1903 and tended to stabilize prices and limit competition. The industry adopted multiple basing points in 1924 after an FTC investigation. Congress outlawed the basing-point system in 1938, and it was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1948. Moore's files contain data on the basing point system and the related issue of rail and water freight tariffs. There are copies of the various tariffs in force under the Code, as well as extensive coverage, including transcripts, of the Federal Trade Commission's investigation of a related basing point system in the cement industry in 1937 to 1948.

In addition to NIRA matters, Moore's files also contain important coverage of legal cases and public hearings regarding a wide range of other New Deal legislation. Among these are: the Social Security Act; the Public Utilities Holding Company Act; the Wagner Act, particularly the struggle to amend it in 1939 to 1940; the O'Mahoney Bill for the federal licensing of corporations; the Robinson-Patman Act; the Fair Labor Standards Act; the Walsh-Healey Act; the Anti-Basing Point Bill; the 1939 monopoly investigation of the steel industry; and other bills relating to workmen's compensation, unemployment insurance, uniform wage scales, and pollution control. Post-New Deal issues include the creation of the National Wage Stabilization Board and War Labor Board during World War II, the stainless steel investigation of 1944 to 1945, and the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946.

Moore's files also contain a great deal of information on general Institute business and copies of numerous Institute documents. Among these are: the certificate of incorporation, constitution, bylaws, board meeting minutes and agendas, a run of AI&SI press releases (1934-1959), speeches and booklets by steel industry executives, and miscellaneous Institute and company publications, manuals, and specifications. Files on the Building Code Committee document its attempts to have local building codes revised to permit the broader use of light steel, while those on the Industrial Relations Committee discuss the Institute's plans to expand its collection of statistics relating to labor relations issues during the 1930s. There is also information on the Institute's pension plan and its attempts to seek exemption from certain federal and New York City taxes.

Files on the critical state of labor disputes and the CIO organizing drives in the mid-1930s include memoranda, pamphlets and a report of a meeting held at Homestead, Pennsylvania, on July 5, 1936. There are also copies of numerous collective bargaining agreements signed with the United Steel Workers between 1942 and 1944 covering blue and white collar employees as well as plant watchmen and police. There is also a file on the Aeronautical Research Council (1941), which had erroneously implied in its literature that it was sponsored by the AI&SI, and another on an exhibit of stainless steel architectural elements installed at 101 Park Avenue by the noted architects Kahn & Jacobs.

The research reports series (1939-1985) are arranged in two subseries. The first consists of reports on a variety of research projects sponsored by the Institute and conducted either at universities or private research laboratories like the Battelle Memorial Institute. The second consists of theses and dissertations in metallurgy and allied engineering disciplines that were sponsored by the Institute through research grants. Most of the reports and theses deal with metallurgy and the chemistry of iron and steel, although several concern water and air pollution effects and abatement.

Records from the AI&SI library are arranged in two subseries: A. Vertical File and B. Historical Collections.

The 156-linear foot vertical file (1936-1974) is the largest single series in the archive. It contains publications of the Institute and its member firms, press releases, and speeches by Institute and industry executives. There are approximately 7,700 pamphlets and company reports, 69,000 mounted clippings, 22,000 press release, and 11,000 items of miscellaneous printed matter and ephemera. The vertical file was apparently begun ca. 1936, but it contains tear sheets, pamphlets, publications and photocopies of originals dating back to the 1870s; statistics dating back to the early 1800s, and some illustrations of iron making techniques dating back to the 1600s. Coverage is most extensive for the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The material covers company histories, descriptions of products and processes, and general topics of interest to the steel industry, such as automation, industrial and labor relations, standardization, and atomic energy. The files describe the entire scope of the industry from basic raw materials and other metals used in combination or alloys with steel, through the various types of steelmaking apparatus and processes, to finished goods. The files also commemorate the use of steel products in trade fairs and exhibitions such as the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.

Among items of note are files relating to public relations efforts by both labor and management regarding the issue of wages. Several pamphlets, press releases, advertisements, etc. relate to the increasing pressure for wage increases following World War II, and a second group relate to the confrontation between the steel companies and President Kennedy in 1962-1963. Journal articles and presentations by steel executives illustrate the dilemma over modernizing aging steel plants in graphic detail. Pamphlets, editorials and speeches present the industry's reaction to foreign competition and increasing imports of European and Japanese steel. Other posters and pamphlets depict labor's campaign to stem job losses.

The files also contain a wide array of materials aimed at influencing public opinion about the American economic system in general, including open letters, editorials, advertisements, petitions and educational materials furnished to schools and community groups by business corporations, labor unions, trade associations like the National Association of Manufacturers, and a variety of think-tanks and public policy organizations. Copies of government documents and reports of congressional and executive agency hearings depict important disputes over the tariff, antitrust, labor relations, safety and the environment.

Other files document the steel industry during World War II and the Cold War. Efforts to boost war production and worker morale and to encourage conservation on the home front may be traced through both company and government materials aimed at both workers and consumers. Other materials discuss post-war strategies for reconversion, potential recession, and the problems of returning workers, and there is some material dealing with the formation and workings of the United Nations. The Cold War materials deal with anticommunism, civil defense, the defense industries, stockpiling essential industrial commodities, and atomic energy.

A large proportion of the files are concerned with technical matters, covering the entire range of iron and steel making techniques from the mining of raw materials through the creation and marketing of finished products. The latter run the gamut from producer goods like pipe and wire, through bridges, machinery and ordnance to consumer goods like automobiles and appliances, indeed anything that could be made from ferrous metals. The files also include extensive information on non-ferrous metals and any material that could be seen as an actual or potential competitor to ferrous metals. There is likewise extensive coverage of transportation infrastructure (railroads, roads, canals) which serve the steel industry as both transporters and consumers of steel products and of the heavy machinery (e.g., ore docks) needed to move the industry's raw materials.

Other technical subjects include geological exploration, library science as it related to assembling and operating the Institute Library, and business machines and automation. One can trace the evolution of office equipment, warehousing methods, and inventory control. There is a small amount of information of developments of the late 1950s and 1960s, such as transistors and lasers.

Other files relate to the steel company's efforts to attract homemakers purchasing kitchen appliances and home furnishings, and to issues of women's participation in the labor force. Employee bulletins, magazines and newsletters (1940-1965) offer insights into the factory and home life of workers.

The historical files have several components. Perhaps the most important is a group of 105 letters to James M. Swank, most of which constitute responses to the first edition of his History of Iron in All Ages. The bulk are either from surviving iron industry pioneers or their children and grandchildren and were part of Swank's effort to develop an accurate chronology and assign credit for particular innovations, particularly hot-blast smelting with anthracite and coke. The letters exist both in the original and in a notebook of typed transcriptions.

Historical miscellany includes scattered notes, draft articles, bulletins, clippings, etc., on Institute history. There are lists of presidents, honorary vice presidents, original membership lists, lists of medals and awards, and menus from early Institute banquets. A file on Activities of the Washington Office (1916-1921) consists of typed transcripts of letters from government officials regarding fixing production and pricing for the World War I effort and a 1921 speech of General Pershing congratulating steel executives for their contributions.

Other historical items include copies of court documents from the patent infringement suit of William Kelly vs. Henry Bessemer concerning priority on the Bessemer process (1857), an 1889 patent to William R. Thomas of Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, for a magnetic ore separator, and a glossary of terms commonly used in the steel industry.

The Library also contained a collection of four volumes from early American iron producers: account books of the Mount Hope (New Jersey) Furnace and of Noble & Townsend, iron manufacturers in colonial New York; a daily log and time book from the Birdsboro (Pennsylvania) Furnace; and an 1837 personal notebook from George Nock of the Ramapo (New York) Iron Works containing notes on production and techniques.

Records of the American Iron & Steel Association consist of minutes of meetings, secretary's reports and letters, membership and subscription records, and treasurer's account books. These records clearly delineate the scope of the Association's membership and the limited nature of its income and activities. The first volume of membership assessments and subscriptions contains tables on iron and steel production since 1743. There are also sets of the Association's printed Annual Report (1878-1899) and Bulletin (1867-1868, 1901-1912).

Minutes and circulars of the Industrial League (1874-1890) give details on its membership and their financial contributions to the protectionist cause and on the League's gradual absorption into the American Iron & Steel Association.

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Gift of American Iron and Steel Institute

Separated Materials

American Iron and Steel Institute photographs and audiovisual materials (Accession 1986.268, Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Many American Iron and Steel Institute's publications were catalogued individually by the Published Collections Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

American Iron and Steel Institute (AI&SI) records
Christopher T. Baer
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA