In the early part of the last century, one very farsighted, industrious young man by the name of William P. Woodside, Sr. was employed as a tool room hardener at the Studebaker Corp. He subsequently left his job to become a tool steel salesman, which required his traveling from one steel using company to another where he would recommend the proper selection and heat treatment of the steel used in the various tools. Bill Woodside soon learned that all tool steel materials were secretly formulated by their manufacturers and either deviously or haphazardly hardened by the users. He readily came to the conclusion that unless some changes were made soon, he would be facing a hopeless task in trying to establish standards and develop reproducibility of products and procedures. It was obvious to him that someone should organize the steel treaters into a group of individuals who could get together from time to time to discuss their mutual problems and try to achieve some uniform and standard procedures in the heat treatment of metals.
As an aside, by this time in 1911, Woodside had established his Park Chemical Co. to furnish heat treaters with cyanides, etc and he decided to take the necessary steps to get the heat treaters together in the first formal organized group ever. On October 4, 1913, he invited some fellow heat treaters and some automobile people to join him at a meeting in the Detroit Room at the Fellowcraft Club in Detroit. Twenty persons answered his invitation, attended and formed a group known as the Steel Treaters Club. They met from time to time over the next couple of years adding to its membership metallurgists and chemists, all the while broadening their meetings to include not only heat treatment but metallography and the chemistry of steel. As a result, the name was changed in 1915, to the Steel Treaters Research Club of Detroit. So its membership was broadening and increasing just as the United States was beginning to get more involved in World War I in Europe (1916?17) the demands of the metalworking industry for more personnel and greater technological advancements put greater demands upon the Club and inquiries came from all over the world. And the name was changed again – this time to The Steel Treating Research Society and it was incorporated in 1917.
The entry of the U S officially into WW I in the same year created the need for a great increase in the production of planes, tanks and other armament that sorely taxed the rapidly growing metalworking industries. So the Society was again broadened and chapters in other cities were established. First Chicago, then Cleveland… and soon the membership reached 1200 people. Now the first obstacle of many surfaced… it was one concerning money. It seems that members in Chicago and Cleveland were paying the $5.00 in dues to the Detroit Society and they didn’t like this. But while the war effort had kept the Society members busy, with less activity, tempers began to flare and geographical challenges emerged. About this time the Chicago chapter was in dire financial straights and a young, well-educated young man and self?motivated teacher in the public school system, William Hunt Eisenman was hired as a business manager to straighten out the poor financial situation and at the same time bring order out of chaos with the growing friction between the Detroit headquarters of the Society and the Chicago chapter. Soon after Eisenman was hired, the Chicago chapter changed its name to the American Steel Treaters Society and was obviously on a collision course with the Steel Treaters Research Society, the parent society in Detroit. Bill Eisenman was soon presenting a paper in various cities entitled “Heat Treatment: Its Past, Present and Future” and was organizing chapters around the country at a rapid pace.
By 1919 the membership of both groups had grown to 2750 with 27 chapters and the fight between the two rival groups had spread to establishing competing chapters in various cities. Since this rivalry was obviously damaging to future growth of both groups, a mediator by the name of Col. Albert White urged them to negotiate their differences and unite, which they did and the representatives agreed to use part of the name of each society in the new name, which became The American Society for Steel Treating, which was incorporated in 1921. Both Chicago and Detroit vied for the national headquarters and Cleveland was selected as a compromise.
While the decade of the 1920′s observed a considerable growth in the size and scope of activities of the American Society for Steel Treaters, nonetheless in the eyes of the heat treater, the society was no longer fulfilling the promises they had made to themselves regarding the scope and direction of its activities. As so often happens with mergers of organizations, the tail was wagging the dog. No longer was the ASST a society for steel treating; it was in reality rapidly becoming a professional society for all metalworking. In the 1920′s. the owner of a heat treat plant was many things to many people. He was an owner, a business executive, a salesman, an employer, but above all a heat treater. As the decade was ending in 1929, this composite entrepreneur was looking to his society not only for more technological knowledge, but also for more knowledge pertaining to the survival of his business. The specter of economic depression was hanging over the country.
How could the heat treater survive unless his steel treating society supplied him with the strength and help that comes from unity, organization and common bonds of communication from people with similar problems? And, the ASST of the late 20′s was not supplying the heat treater with this anchor. In this time of turmoil, trial and tribulation they could make no other decision but to seek the common denominator of other businessmen like themselves who were also in the heat treating industry, not the broader metalworking industry. Heaven forbid he had to seek out and unite with his competitors. It was therefore inevitable that the nature of the times dictated that the heat treating members of the ASST should stop trying to influence the ever-changing face of society and instead should devote their time and energies to their dominating business and economic problems. The forces of the conflicting interests were drawing to a head in 1933. The Great Depression was at its worst. Business and money were virtually non-existent. Many cities were issuing script in place of U.S. dollars as legal tender. The Federal Government seemed paralyzed; workers, especially those few that remained, were sullen, frightened and on the verge of revolt. It certainly was an appropriate time for heat treaters to try to get together and see what they could do about their business and economic future.
But 1933 was also the year that the American Society for Steel Treating decided to grow still further away from the basic economic needs of the steel treaters and change its policies and name to meet the demands of becoming a professional technical society for all metalworking. From this time on, the ASST changed its name and became the American Society for Metals, and in 1933, with their lack of emphasis on the business of heat treating, the Metal Treating Institute was formed.
It couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, because President Roosevelt, who had been first elected a year earlier in 1932, engineered Congress’s passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act, an emergency measure designed to encourage national industrial recovery and to help combat widespread unemployment. The act declared that codes of fair competition – for the protection of consumers, competitors, and employers – were to be drafted for the various industries of the country and were to be subject to public hearings. The administration was empowered to make voluntary agreements dealing with hours of work, rates of pay, the fixing of prices, and to license business enterprises, which were operating contrary to the purposes of the act. NOTE: Today, all of these agreements would be in violation of the Anti-Trust laws.
By a separate executive order, the National Recovery Administration was charged with developing these codes of competition. NRA Administrator, Hugh Johnson, invited the metal treating industry to organize itself and submit an industry Code of Fair Competition to Washington for its approval. However, metal treaters were informed that in order to present a code for our industry it must originate from a permanently organized group, preferably an incorporated body representing at least 50% of the industry. Now came the moment of truth for that small group of heat treaters that left to become the Metal Treating Institute. The regional groups were of no value to accomplish the NRA objective. So shop owners from Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Detroit met in Detroit, drew up a set of bylaws, elected officers and directors, voted to incorporate and set its first annual meeting of MTI in the Ivory Room of the Hotel Statler in Detroit, 70 years ago. Thirty members attended this meeting.
A Code of Fair Competition was drafted, submitted to Washington and approved in March of 1934. But it was short-lived, because in 1935 the U.S. Supreme Court declared the NRA codes unconstitutional on the grounds that the NRA had improperly delegated legislative powers to the executive.
As you can imagine the effects of the NRA’s unconstitutionality on the Institute were catastrophic. The NRA and its Code of Fair Competition had been a means of accomplishing a variety of aims and goals for the diverse members of MTI. To some, it had been strictly a vehicle for eliminating price competition within their own operating areas. So from a high of 41 member companies at the time the Code of Fair Competition was approved, the membership dropped to 14. But, thanks to the perseverance of those few members and some gutsy leadership, the Institute was able to hold on during these trying times.
Space won’t allow for stories of how the MTI pulled itself up by its bootstraps to get where it is today, but we would be remiss if we didn’t at least mention the legendary Barnstorming Tour of 1937.
Undoubtedly, the most outstanding step to strengthen the weakening Institute originated with the Midwest Chapter under the leadership of C.I. Scott and Charlie Wesley. Uncle Charley, as he was known, worked out a plan to organize a tour to visit members and prospective members around the country. A Pullman observation car was chartered at $54 a day and all 20 berths were sold. The rail tour started in Chicago on May 9 and returned on May 18th, hitting Detroit, Cleveland, Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in between. The cost per member was $180. A total of 20 plants including Ford Motor Co. were visited. Needless to say, the tour was a resounding success, e’spirit de corps was very high, and the Institute was once again a vibrant and viable organization.
It was leaders like these, who took a leap of faith for a cause in which they very much believed. Oh, there have been times since, when the MTI’s future was threatened, but leadership always seems to surface and the job always gets done.
Since its inception, MTI has only had four Chief Executive Officers. At the October 2008 Fall Meeting, M. Lance Miller, JD, CAE celebrated 31 years as CEO along with his retirement. He handed the reins over to Tom Morrison who was hired by MTI in 2005 to lead the organization into the future. The membership has expanded worldwide and includes commercial heat treaters, manufacturers with in-house heat treat operatons and suppliers that provide products and services to the industry. MTI has seven chapters active in government affairs, standards committees, conduct annual regional, national and international meetings and owns and produces Furnaces North America, an every other year trade show and conference. A list of member benefits and services can be found elsewhere on this site.