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IEEE Schenectady Section History

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History of the Schenectady Section

The text below is adapted from the "A History of the Schenectady Section of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers" pamphlet, printed in 1945 and a 1915 publication of AIEE Section Histories. A link to a pdf of the entire document is in the Further Reading Section below. 

In the beginning – “The General Electric Engineering Society”

The first spark of an organized engineering society in Schenectady, New York, was kindled in the parlor of the old Edison Hotel, Monday evening, May 23, 1898 over which Mr. W. J. Clark, presided. It was here that Mr. N. A. Thompson swung the gavel for the first time, calling to order the group of twenty-seven men assembled. Mr. Thompson proposed the names of Mr. H. W. Buck and Mr. J. H. Jenkins as temporary chairman and secretary respectively. No objections were raised and Mr. Buck took the chair.

The object and purpose of the proposed society were explained by the chairman and it was decided that the society be strictly engineering in nature, as opposed to a social club. Membership was limited to technical men employed by the General Electric Company.

A committee was appointed to draw up a constitution and bylaws and report its findings at the next meeting. In all three were three preliminary meetings during which time a room in the Arcade Building was fitted with furniture and stocked with the latest publications for member’s use. The room was lighted by electricity, heated by a stove, and equipped with janitor service. A running budget of $350 per year was set up which covered the expenses of rent, light, heat, janitor, and stenographic service, which was to be paid by the annual dues of $5 per member. The furniture, including desks, chairs, reading tables, and bookcase, were to be written off by an initiation fee of $2 per member. Thus the General Electric Engineering Society was born. A constitution and set of by-laws were adopted on June 1, 1898.

On June 7, 1898, Mr. Buck was officially elected president of the society, with M. Oudin, Vice President, J.H. Jenkins, Secretary; and R.D. McCarter, Treasurer. President Buck called the first regular meeting to order in Yates Boat House on June 14, 1898. It was here announced that the reading room in the Arcade Building had been given up for a similar room in Room 9 of the Fuller Building, which had been fitted up with magazines and other engineering publications. As there was no business, Mr. Buck introduced the first speaker to appear before the newly organized society. Mr. C. P. Steinmetz lectured on “The Rotary Converter.”

The Club’s activities were not limited to the electrical field but embraced subjects of general interest. Electrical subjects, however, were naturally given most attention, and the following list of speakers and subjects may be taken as representative: Mr. E. W. Rice, Jr., Problems of Modern Central Station Design; Prof. Elihu Thompson, Lightning and Lightning Arresters; Dr. W. R. Whitney, Electrical Chemistry; Mr. W.J. Foster, Design of Alternators; Mr. A. H. Armstrong, Current Railway Problems.

For the remainder of the year 1898, meetings were held in Yates Boat House. An average attendance of 80 persons per meeting was attained and the discussion was centered around the central station, a subject of prime interest in that day.

Mr. Buck was again elected president at the first annual meeting, February 6 1899, and he remained president until the end of the year 1900. During the year 1900 the first “Smoke Talk” was inaugurated. These were informal “smokers” held in the clubroom at the Fuller Building. The first “Smoke Talk” was held March 28, 1900, and the subject discussed was “The Switch-board of the Metropolitan Station recently developed for New York City.” The “Smoke Talks” became very popular and were held once a month.

At the third annual meeting, held January 29, 1901. J.H. Jenkins was elected chairman of the General Electric Engineering Society. In April of this year, it was proposed that the members of the Lynn Engineering Society be extended the privileges of the Schenectady Society without paying dues both societies, if they transferred in the middle of the year. A reciprocity agreement also stood forth, in that Schenectady people be extended the privileges of the Lynn facilities. This was brought about due to the fact that both societies had the same aims and objectives. A change in the by-laws was proposed and passed in June of 1901.

Mr. C.L. prince took the gavel January 21, 1902, at the fourth annual meeting. The General Electric Engineering Society operated successfully this year, holding a total of seven meetings during which papers of technical nature were presented and discussed.

In 1903, Mr. W.I. Slitcher was elected chairman of the local group. The meeting place of the Society was moved from Yates Boat house to the Chapel of the Union College Campus. It was during Mr. Slitcher’s administration, that action was taken to coordinate the general Electric Engineering Society with the American Institute for Electrical Engineers. The Institute had recently installed a Chapter in Schenectady and the G.E.E.S. thought that one society under the name of AIEE would be much more effective that two societies with similar ideas in one community. The Executive Committee of the General Electric Society first began negotiations by meeting with Charles P. Steinmetz, then chairman of the AIEE. After several meetings between committees chosen by both societies, the GEES at the 41st regular meetings held at Union College Chapel, October 27, 1903, resolved to combine with the AIEE.

At a combined meeting of the GEES and the AIEE, December 15, 1903, the merger was concluded. Hence the GEES went out of existence.

The Founding to the Schenectady Section

Charter members of the AIEE Schenectady Section: A.E. Averrett, E.W. Rice, Jr., Isaac F. Badeau, A.H. Rice, John T.H. Dempster, Hewlett Scudder, Jr., Edgar D. Dickinson, Charles P. Steinmetz, Willian G. Ely, Jr., H. Sudlow, H.P. Freund, A.P. Tanks, A.S. Kappella, R. Neil Williams, N/L. Rea, R. Neil Williams, N.L. Rea, H.G. Reist.

Early meetings of the chapter were devoted primarily to the presentation of technical papers on subjects concerning current developments in the electrical industry. From the records of these meetings we learn that as many of six papers were given in one evening, each followed by a lively discussion period. In subsequent years, however, as the membership rapidly increased the difficulties of carrying on interesting technical discussion meetings with a large group lead to a policy of scheduling several talks each year on topics of more general interest. Although recognizing the purpose of the Electrical Engineering, it was the general opinion that the engineers’ interest in social, economic, and cultural subjects should also be encouraged. Particularly in the last twenty-five years, meetings OF the Schenectady Section have been approximately equally divided between subjects of technical and of non-technical nature.

Mr. Charles P. Steinmetz held the chairmanship of the Local Chapter of the AIEE for a period of three years. He retired for the chair in December of 1905, at which time he was followed by D.B. Rushmore who held office for another two years.

Early Activities (1913-1920)

In the season of 1913-14 the Section was fortunate to be able to establish permanent and commodious headquarters in the building just then completed for the Edison Club. The auditorium of this building has a seating capacity of 500. The Edison Club has also placed at the disposal of the Section an office in the building for the purpose of committee meetings. This also serves as the Secretary’s office.

An attractive feature to membership in the Section arose from arrangements made through the General Electric Company by which the Section provided every local member with a year’s subscription to the “General Electric Review.” Since the annual dues were only $2, this in itself was worth membership. As an innovation special committees on Factory Co-operation, on Apparatus, and on Classes were appointed during 1914-15. The Factory Co-operations Committee issued complimentary tickets for one or more meetings to the Factory Superintendents, Foremen, and other of the General Electric’s Factory Organization with the hope that these men would be interested in securing the advantages of the Section by becoming members.

The Apparatus Committee was assigned the duty of obtaining and installing apparatus needed by lecturers for experimental demonstrations. The Classes Committee was formed to determine whether the Section members desired to organize classes and study subjects of general interest to members. Two classes, one in geology and one in photography, began holding regular meetings during the 1914-15 season. The ninth season under the chairmanship of H.M. Hobart enjoyed considerable success and at this time the section was in flourishing condition in every way.

The Schenectady Section was the ninth to be recognized by the Institute. In 1915, the Schenectady Section had 791 members and held 18 meetings. At the time, it was the largest and most active of the AIEE’s section groups.

The Schenectady Section has been exceptionally fortunate in being able to secure for its meetings speakers of authority in their respective spheres. That this has been the rule from the inception of the organization is in some measure an indication of the influential position which the Section occupies. The frequency of the meetings has varied somewhat in different years but even during the 1915 season, when an unprecedentedly large number of meeting were held, no difficulty was experienced in securing the desired speaker for each of the eighteen meetings. The season’s activities are varied by occasional meetings of a purely social nature, two of these in the form of smokers have been held last year. The season is usually ended by a dinner.

Following Mr. H. M. Hobart’s successful administration L. T. Robinson held the chairmanship of the Schenectady Section for the season 1915-16 and was followed by C. E. Eveleth in 1916-17. Under these two leaders the Section still flourished with ever increasing popularity.

In 1917-18 war was in the minds and hearts of everyone. It was during this year that W.L. Upson was chairman and war was much in evidence in the programs. The largest meeting this year was held in the Union College Gym with a record attendance of approximately 1100. Simon Lake was the speaker. This meeting occurred just after the German Submarine “Deutschland” had made a spectacular visit to Baltimore and the country was very conscious of the submarine menace. After Chairman Upson introduced Mr. Lake as the inventor of the submarine, he said he thought the audience would rather lynch him than listen to him. Lake showed slides that made a successful meeting.

Despite many protests by those who thought it necessary to conserve food, the annual dinner was held. It was decided that everyone would have to eat somewhere and there might be other gains that should not be missed. H.M. Hobart spoke on the “Urgency of Thinking Internationally.”

In the 1918-19, K.A. Pauly was chairman and during this season the section held one special and 14 regular meetings. Six of these were on electrical subjects, seven on general topics, and one was a smoker. The special meeting held April 23, 1919, was for the purpose of discussing with the Section representative questions taken up by the Committee on Development. Very little interest was taken in the meeting by the membership at large, only about 10% being present. Those who did attend, however, freely discussed the questions brought up. A committee was appointed to confer with the Section representatives from among the local membership of other Engineering Societies to consider and recommend some form of local federation. This committee consisted of C.S. Van Dyke, Chairman; L.T. Robinson; and W.L. Upson. The average attendance at the meetings was 279 and the greatest was 635.

The Section attended, by invitation, a meeting to the Society of Engineers of Eastern New York, held March 22, 1919. The Subject: “War Aviation in Retrospect: Commercial Aviation in Prospect.” The membership increased by 43 national members and 9 local members. The treasurer, by authority of the Executive Committee purchased a $500 Victory Loan Bond, making a total of $2,000 in Bonds held by the Section. The subjects of the speakers again fell among the war topics. Topics of outstanding interest included: “A Democracy at War,” “Immigration After the War,” “Electric Welding with Reference to it Application to Shipbuilding,” “The Sugar Industry,” “Overseas with the 105th,” and “Radio Apparatus for Aircraft and Ground Stations.”

During 1920, H.R. Summerhayes was chairman and this year the Section was fortunate in having a number of interesting meetings with rather prominent speakers. Calvert Townley, at that time President of the National AIEE, was among the more prominent and interesting speakers. It is interesting to note that his talk contained a prediction of the severe industrial depression which occurred in 1929, although Mr. Townley did not prophesy the exact date. During this year an understanding with the Pittsfield Section was inaugurated. It was decided to have meetings in Pittsfield and Schenectady on consecutive days at certain times during the year, so that when a prominent speaker came from some distance to address one of the sections he could also address the other section on the next day. Another mater of interest was a proposal by C.M. Ripley to start a movement to build a Schenectady Civic Center with a large hall in which conventions and meetings could be held. This received approval of our Executive Committee at the time but the Civic Center never became a reality. The average attendance at the 16 meetings during the season was 217, the lowest begin 120 and the highest being 435.

The Steinmetz Memorial Lecture and the Steinmetz Memorial Fellowship

During the year 1922, when C.M. Davis was chairman of the Section, the outstanding meeting was one addressed by Dr. Millikan. At that time most of the physicists felt that they knew enough about electrons so that they could begin telling the engineering world something about their dimensions, weights, and so on, and Drs. Millikan and Compton were quite in demand as speakers before various engineering groups. Mr. Davis felt quite honored at the opportunity of introducing Dr. Millikan to the Schenectady Section and prepared what he thought were suitable introductory remarks. Everything went well and Dr. Millikan gave a very able and complete dissertation on electrons, explained in terms which most everyone thought he understood, concerning the structure of atoms, the weight, electric charge, size, and speed. In short he painted a very definite picture of the whole electron theory. During his presentation, and wishing to get the discussion that was to follow off to a good start, Mr. Davis was constantly on the lookout for an appropriate way to open the discussion. Just as Dr. Millikan closed his address Mr. Davis thought he had a brilliant idea and said somewhat as follows: “Dr. Millikan has given us a very clear and comprehensive picture of electrons. He has told us their speed, their weight, and their number, but he has neglected to tell us of their color.” Mr. Davis thought he had the doctor there and, in fact, was favored by a few smiles from the audience. Dr. Millikan, however, was more that equal to the situation and as he arose to reply he turned to Davis and said: “Young man, I have just spent the last three-quarters of an hour describing the characteristics of electrons which would define their color if they were visible.” This comeback broke the ice for an otherwise formal discussion and got a laugh from the audience and the questions came thick and fast.

Probably the most important single project that got underway during the year 1923, when R.C. Muir was chairman, was the Steinmetz Memorial. The first thought was to establish a Steinmetz Memorial Fellowship, for which funds would be raised from external sources by the local Section, but which would be administered by the National AIEE. The National Group appointed a committee of which Mr. Faccioli and Mr. Muir were members, but at the first and only meeting it developed that, in order for the National AIEE to sponsor such a scheme, local chapters would have to support Bell, Lamme, etc., memorials. This appeared too far-reaching and the Schenectady Section decided to establish a memorial under its own administration. This was carried out in the following year, when Mr. Craighead was chairman of the Local Section, in the form of the Steinmetz Memorial Lecture. However, the Section was able to interest Mr. E. W. Rice, Jr., in the fellowship idea and he in turn for the General Electric Company’s support to establish the Steinmetz Scholarships and the other sponsored entirely by the Schenectady Section, in the form of the Steinmetz Memorial Lectures. They have been a tradition since their founding. Each lecture is delivered in Schenectady and is open to the public. Each is printed in bracket form for free distribution.

Another important contribution of the Schenectady Section in the year 1923 was the questioning of the then current method of nominating national officers for AIEE. It was the custom for a few in New York, whom we chose to call the “Kitchen Cabinet,” to act together and make these nominations for the President of the Institute. The Schenectady Section had a candidate whom we felt merited the position, but it was given little or no consideration. As a result, the officers of the Schenectady Section appointed John B. Taylor and R.C. Muir, a committee of two, to go to New York and argue the case. The result was that for that year neither the candidate that Schenectady wished to place for nomination, received the nomination. As a matter of fact, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Muir sat in with the “Kitchen Cabinet” and agreed to nominate Michael Pupin, by Taylor and Muir protested very violently against the method of nomination. Mr. Muir felt that this episode had a bearing on working out the present nominating system which followed shortly thereafter. As a matter of record therefore, the Schenectady Section was influential in changing the old system of nominating officers of the AIEE and in assisting to establish the present method.

During the year 1923, Schenectady had a very active branch, largely due to the fine work of the earlier administrations which had brought into the Institute a great many young members and had obtained their interest through offering a series a very fine meetings. Throughout the year the meetings were well attended due to their fine character, and these proved of interest and assistance to its members.

In 1926, under the leadership of R.E. Doherty, the Schenectady Section sought to further interest the young members in the field of engineering work and activities of the Institute. During the season twelve meetings were held. Three of the these were joint meetings with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The average attendance attained was 250 per meeting. It is interesting to note that the largest attendance was 500 and the subject was “Talking Motion Pictures” by C.W. Stone. A total of 400 attended C.F. Kettering’s address on “Research Work in Automobile Building.”

Under the leadership of E.S. Lee in 1928, in addition to holding regular meetings, it was found that the officers represented in section in many affairs that ultimately were for the advancement of the section. Among the extra curricular activities of the Section were the following: A committee was appointed from the Section on Symbols and Abbreviations and it was felt that the results would be of value to the electrical industry and a welcome contribution from the Schenectady Section. The Schenectady Section acted as host to 225 students in attendance at the Student convention, District No. 1, held in Troy, NY, in May of 1929. The Local Section arranged for the entertainment of the students on the Saturday of the convention period.

The Local Section did what it could to help Radio Station WGY in its fight for recognition by sending a letter to Dr. J.H. Dellinger, Chief Engineer Federal Radio Commission, explaining the technical phases of the matter and bringing out the contribution of WGY to the art of radio broadcasting. The Schenectady Section was asked and did suggest the names of several engineers to act on the State Licensing Board to the place of H.G. Reist who resigned.

The Local Section was also active in helping prevent the passage of Senate Bill No, 1140 relative to the licensing of engineers. This would mean that every engineer and machinist in the State of New York would be required to be licensed before he could practice his profession. The Institute felt the provisions of the bill was much too far reaching. Incidentally the bill failed to pass.

Following the excellent administration of E.S. Lee, Robert Treat became Chairmen in 1929 and it was during his term of office that het Executive Committee decided upon a change in what might be termed the “policy and philosophy of section management.” This change came as a suggestion from E.S. Lee the previous year. At the time the Section Constitution provided for one chairman and six vice-chairmen. Apparently it had been the practice of the Nominating Committee to select for chairman a prominent member of the Section which usually, although not inevitably, meant a prominent member of the General Electric Company, and not much attention was paid to whether or not the nominee had taken particular interest or activity in Section affairs theretofore. Vice-chairmen were also apparently selected on somewhat the same basis. Since the Constitution provided that the Chairman could not succeed himself, this meant that each year the Section had a new Chairman who probably had not had much to do with running the Section and knew very little about it. Many prior chairmen had taken the job as somewhat of an honor not requiring much effort on their part. Those who had conceived of the job as a responsibility as well as an honor became sufficiently familiar with their duties and with the Section affairs to be reasonable proficient about the time of their term of office expired.

The Executive Committee decided that this was not a very good policy and that the Section should strive for more continuity in Section management in the future. It was felt that it would be desirable that Secretaries should be chosen with the understanding that they would be willing to succeed themselves; in other words serve two years, although elected for one year at a time. The same for Treasurer, and in addition a new Treasurer and a new Secretary should be chosen on alternate years so that a Treasurer would work with a Secretary who had the prior year’s experience and vice versa. It was felt that there was no need for six Vice-Chairmen, that there should really be one and that preferably the out-going Secretary or Treasurer, as the case may be, should be made Vice-Chairman to serve for one year, the following year becoming Chairman. Thus, when a man became Chairman, he would have had three years’ prior experience on the Executive Committee and thus be quite familiar with Section affairs. This also implied that each man nominated for Secretary of Treasurer should be selected on the basis that ultimately he expected to become Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the Schenectady Section.

It was also felt that it was desirable that the management of the Section should be place on the shoulders of the younger members rather than the older members of the Institute, particularly in the case of the Chairman, since the older members of the Section, as mentioned above, had attained prominence usually in fields other than Section activities.

Obviously, the Executive Committee was not in a position to tie the hands of future Section managements and Nominating Committees by legislation, by the above philosophy was evolved and was passed from one Section management to the next. The on thing which could be changed by legislation was the number of Vice-Chairmen. At the time the Constitution provided for six Vice-Chairmen and therefore had to be amended in order to change to one Vice-Chairman. This amendment, which incidentally was passed, brought out a funny story which follows:

The Constitutions provided that it could be amended by letter ballot. For an amendment to carry it was necessary that half of the members of the Section vote and that, of the votes cast, two thirds must be favorable to the amendment. Thus, one third of the membership could amend the Constitution. When the letter ballot was sent out for the change in the number of Vice-Chairmen only one third of the membership bothered to send in their ballots and all of those sent in were favorable. Thus, enough favorable ballots were received to pass the amendment, but because one sixth of the membership refrained from voting at all the amendment failed to pass. (Note: If one sixth of the membership had bothered to vote against the amendment it would have carried!) Since they didn’t another ballot was sent out with urgent pleas to return the same and then it was found that just enough votes came in to carry the amendment.

The Schenectady Section finances had always been in very good shape. Between receipts from local membership dues and what could be called from the National Institute there was always plenty of money for the Section’s needs. In fact, it seemed to have been the custom during prior years to spend about $200 less than income so that the Section had a very nice nest egg. To the Executive Committee this attitude toward finances did not seem right. While the Committee highly favored the principle of “saving up for a rainy day” on the part of an individual or commercial concern, it could not see any particular reason why the Schenectady Section should be interested in saving money for its old age of for posterity. It was decided that the Section would demand from National Headquarters, not the maximum, nut only enough to keep the Section on even keel and out of the “red.”

The Founding of the Schnectady-Pittsfield Competition

It was during the year 1929 that the youngest members’ competition with the Pittsfield Section was started. The reason for starting these competitions was the feeling that engineers, in general, did not do a very good job when it came to standing up in public and delivering a paper. These competitions proved very successful from the start and a great many young men in both the Pittsfield and the Schenectady Sections have profited from the experience that they received. The members of the Pittsfield Team wont he first contest and cash prizes were awarded to the high-ranking speakers.

In 1930, E.S. Henningsen was elevated to the chairmanship and, despite the economic depression with the resulting reduction in engineering personnel; the Schenectady Section had a very successful year. A total of eleven meetings was scheduled and became a reality. The best and most interesting meetings were the Pittsfield-Schenectady papers Competitions for the younger members of the Institute. It was during this second year of competition between the two sections that the F.W. Peek Cup was placed in competition to be permanently retained by the team which first received two victories. Pittsfield’s triumph of the previous year was counted as one contest for the cup. Schenectady won the next two successive years and won permanent passion of the trophy.

In the fourth year the Robert Treat Cup was offered. Pittsfield immediately won permanent possession of this cup with two successive victories. The sixth year the F.F. Brand Cup was donated with Pittsfield gaining the initial victory. Schenectady won the next year, giving each section one win for the third trophy with one trophy in possession by each section. The following year Schenectady won permanent possession of the Brand cup.

In 1938, a new cup was donated by E.S. Lee. Contests were won by Pittsfield in 1938, Schenectady in 1939, and the Cup was retired to Schenectady at the 11th competition in 1940. The two Sections then jointly donated a plaque which was placed in competition to cover 10 or 15 years and to be awarded to the winner each year. No definite plans were made for the retirement of this trophy. Pittsfield won in 1941, making a total of six contests won by each side. Pittsfield won 1942, ’43, and ’44, making a total of 9 contests for Pittsfield and 6 for Schenectady.

In 1942 an additional papers competition was inaugurated to be held annually between Schenectady, Pittsfield, and Lynn sections. A plaque donated by P.L. Alger which is to be acquired after three victories by one team – not necessarily successive. This trophy was won by Schenectady, in 1942, by Pittsfield in 1943, and in 1944 a tie between Schenectady and Pittsfield, putting the trophy in the possession of each for one-half year. In 1943 and ’44 the competition was held as part of the program of the District Technical Meeting and proved so successful that undoubtedly it will be a scheduled event on the program of future District Technical Meetings.

Preliminary paper competitions are held within each Section and are open to all members under 30 who have not presented an Institute paper. Teams of 6 are selected with 2 alternates and the written papers and oral presentations are judged by 6 judges, two from each Section.

In 1944, women engineers competed for the first time and both the Schenectady and Pittsfield teams had one feminine member (to the disappointing of the other as each lady was an asset for her team and credit for introducing women had to be shared with the other team). On merit and skill both women took honors.

Each contestant is awarded a book of his choice and there are prizes of $15 and $10 awarded for the best paper and best presentation. In the bi-sectional competition 3 members of each team compete before each Section. In tri-Sectional competition 2 members of each team compete at the tri-Sectional meeting. A revision of this plan that has been given consideration is to have 2 members of each team compete before each of the three Sections.

Coordination of the Engineering Societies in Schnectady

For several years there was criticism from the older members that there were many engineering meetings in Schenectady, with few of them well attended. To improve this situation in 1929, the Section attempted to plan a joint program with ASME but with very indifferent success. In 1930, as a result of several conference with the Officers of the local ASME, the decision was reached that some form of joint engineering activity should be attempted. The problem was taken up with national secretaries who commended the idea and who gave considerable detailed information regarding the Federated Engineering Societies of various cities. As a result of this discussion a meeting was called on June 9, 1931, of the Executive Committees of the two societies, together with Elected Officers for the coming year, at which the following resolution was adopted:

“Resolved that the Local Section of the ASME and the AIEE form a Coordinating Committee consisting of three members from each section who shall be the chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer of the program Committee. The function of the committee shall be to coordinate the activities of the two societies and bring them into closer relationship on such matters at joint meetings and to serve as a medium of exchange of views on matters of general interest to all engineers or any other matter that may advance the general welfare of the Sections. This committee shall be considered as constituted upon the approval of the Executive Committees of the two Sections.”

This, then, was the first definite move in Schenectady to coordinate all the engineering societies.

Mr. R.A. Beekman took office as chairman in 1931 and the coordination of the ASME and AIEE became a reality. Thus the policy of coordinated meetings was definitely established and meetings were held in accordance with the policy set up in previous years by Mr. Henningsen and Mr. Treat. There were three objects in carrying out this arrangement:

  1. An effort to increase the attendance at the meetings
  2. To reduce the numbers of meetings of this nature in Schenectady, arising from the independent action of the various societies
  3. To broaden the choice of subjects and speakers to make an appeal to a larger group.

The committee consisted of Mr. P.H. Knowlton (ASME), chairman, and Mr. E. P. Nelson (AIEE), secretary. Expenses were divided between the two societies equally. The announcements bore the insignia of both societies and the publicity was handled by Mr. Chart who was a member of both societies. The secretaries of both sections divided the work and all in all the first year of coordination between the two sections proved very successful.

In 1933 Mr. D.W. McLenegan became Chairman of the Section and it was the objective during this year to make the local meetings of interest to the younger engineers whose engineering viewpoint might otherwise be limited rather closely to their jobs, whereas the most of the older members had wide engineering contacts outside of their immediate work. Therefore, most of the program was on matters of general engineering interest rather than on specific electrical engineering subjects. No particular attempt was made to change the constitution or the by-laws, although there was talk of coordinating all the engineering societies into one council.

In 1934, during F.A. Hamilton’s administration, definite steps were taken to coordinate all the engineering societies of Schenectady. Letters of invitation were sent to the following men to attend a dinner meeting at the Mohawk Club on Monday, October 22, 1934:

  • Prof. Warren C. Taylor, Union College – President Civil Engineers
  • W.E. Johnson – Chairmand, Schenectady Section ASME
  • W.K. Kellogg – President, Schenectady Chapter A.S. of M.
  • V.T. Chapman – Executive Committee A.W.S.
  • F.A. Vernon – Executive Committee N.Y.S.S.P.E.
  • E. Gilden – President Society of Engineers of Eastern New York
  • F.A. Hamilton- Chairman Schenectady Section AIEE

Among the several subjects discussed were:

  1. There would be considerable advantage in coordinating the programs of the several societies.
  2. It should be possible to schedule the meetings of the several societies on successive Thursday evening, thus preventing the scheduling of more than one meeting on the same night and thus promoting the general reservation of Thursday evening as Engineering night.
  3. Each society when sending out its own announcements could list subsequent meetings of other societies
  4. More meetings could be held under joint sponsorship, thereby increasing attendance and making it possible to attract better speakers.

The American Welding Society and the NY State Society of professional Engineers joined in the coordination and the Committee was enlarged.

Early in 1943 the coordination committee was transformed into a formal organization known as the Schenectady Engineering Council, operating under a ratified constitution and T.M. Linville, chairman AIEE, was elected first chairman. This transformation was done in order to put the program of coordination on a firmly established basis and to bring the engineering societies of Schenectady together as a recognized group under leadership having constitutional responsibilities. It was also intended to give the Engineering Societies recognized standing in the community as a group and, though a Public Affairs Committee, to keep the engineers informed of community informed of community affairs and to helpful wherever possible. Other purposes were to provide economies through joint publicity, to put the finances on a sounder basis, and to provide means for joint action by the Engineering societies, especially on matters relating to student guidance, engineering education, vocational training and professional recognition. The Section was responsible for the establishment of this Council and in the future will be largely responsible for its success. In its first year membership was enlarged to include, in addition to the original four societies, the Am. Chemical Society, the Soc. Automotive Engrs., and the Am. Society of Too Engrs. Each Society has two representatives serving overlapping terms of 2 years each. Four of the societies participate in coordinated programs, expenses are prorated in proportion to membership, announcements and publicity by each society are forwarded to the others, and recognition of each individual society for the activity which it initiates or sponsors is sought.

1935 -1945

In the year 1935, when Dr. H. H. Race was chairman, Harold E. Whites of Wilkinsburgh, PA, located and turned over to E.S. lee the first books containing the minutes of the old General Electric Engineering Society and the information concerning the merger with the Schenectady Section in 1903. It was from these records that the material for the early part of this thesis was extracted.

Dr. Race was directly responsible this year in promoting and installing the student branch at Union College. The students at the time were very much interested and enthusiastic over the formation of a branch at Union College.

On March 20, 1936, the observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Transformer was observed. The object of the meeting was to honor William Stanley, the inventor of the Transformed, and to show the social significance of the vast electrical system of which the transformer is the “heart.” The program consisted of the following:

  1. Resume of the paper by Scott and Chesney of the “Historical Development of the Transformer to 1895.”
  2. “Development of the Transformer Since 1895” by L.A. Hawkins.
  3. “Transmission and distribution systems made possible by the Transformer” by D.K. Blake and Robert treat.

In 1936 the finances of the Section were at a low ebb due in part to the strain of the depression years. Since then the Executive Committee each year has made a special effort to build up reserve funds so that a similar low ebb will not occur again. It is interesting to note the difference in attitude between interest in “saving money for its old age or for posterity.” These funds have this years and the year 1929 when the Schenectady Section seemingly was not accumulated and at the annual meeting in June 1943 the treasurer was directed to buy a United States War Bond at the purchase price of #750, This was proximately 50% of the accumulated reserve fund.

In 1939 the General Electric Engineers Association was established, not by the Section, but worthy of note because many of the members were also members of the association. Its object is to promote better understanding between engineers and management. It has held meetings and dinners somewhat similar to those held by the Section. The good service that such an association can render has been the subject of much discussion amongst members of the Section and many members have joined to work out the worth of its existence for themselves and to help determine its objectives.

The Section was host to he North Eastern District Technical Meeting, April 29 to May 1 inclusive, 1942. The meeting was one of the first District meetings to follow the outbreak of the war and turned out to be the best attended and one of the most generally successful conventions ever held in the District. A full program of technical and social events was scheduled at a total expense of $1700. A profit of $72 was turned over to the Section Treasurer, although customarily such excess funds go to the District Treasury. The Convention closed with the Annual Schenectady Engineers Spring Dinner Dance at the Mohawk Golf Club which turned out to be a beautiful and memorable occasion.

On April 15, 1943, the Section was host, with other engineering societies, at the North Eastern New York State War production Conference. This was initiated by the Section and organized with the help of other engineering societies so that the industries in the region could talk over and solve together their war production problems. Ten separate discussion meetings were organized, including a dinner attended by 200 persons and addressed by National president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. About 60 industrial companies, represented by over 336 employees, participated.

The membership of the Section was reviewed in the early part of 1943 for the purpose of determining those members eligible for transfer to higher grades and to list those persons in the community who were outside of the Section but were eligible for Institute membership.

Although advancement or election to the member grade is considered to be the individual responsibility of the candidate, the Section is considered directly responsible for calling to the attention of its members their eligibility for transfer and for placing application blanks at their disposal.

In spite of wartime difficulties attendance jumped up markedly. The program was carefully scheduled so that one AIEE function took place each month with regularity. At two technical meetings and at one general meeting the attendance was close to 200. At the five customary discussion meetings the attendance averaged 141, while an average of 35 attended the dinners that preceded these discussion meetings. During the administration of T.M. Linville, 1942-42, in addition to the foregoing activities, the facts connected with the inception and development of the Section were gathered together along with authentic documents, records, policies, and customs.

During the administration of O.C. Rutledge (1943-44) despite the drain of younger members to the armed forces and the pressure of work in the Schenectady Section had 630 national members and held 9 regular meetings with an average attendance of 159. An outstanding meetings was held with members of the Student Branch at Union College. The students were guests at dinner and at a lecture on electronics. Everyone present heartily recommended that this be repeated each year and also be done for the members of the student branch at R.P.I.

Mr. L.A. Umansky, chairman for 1944-45. With the approval of the Executive Committee, has organized two technical groups, on Aviation and on Industrial Electronics.

These groups are to hold a series of informal meetings or conferences, open to all members of the Section, for a round-table-discussion of their respective fields of applied electricity. In this manner, it is expected that a greater number of members will be drawn into Institute activities. These conferences will not interfere with the regular meetings of the Section. Additional groups will be formed to suit the demand.

It is interesting to note the various changes in attitude from year to year, how history vividly repeats itself during the eras of the two world wars, and how the Section has ever strived for bigger and better things. The Schenectady Section has a truly remarkable record as evidenced by its achievements. Many great men have had a hand in its development and others will follow to keep its standard high.

AIEE Schenectady Section Officers 1903-1945
1903-05 C.P. Steinmentz
1906-08 D.B. Rushmore
1908-09 E.J. Berg
1909-10 M.O. Troy
1910-11 E.A. Baldwin
1911-12 E.B. Merriam
1912-13 J.B. Taylor
1913-14 G.H. HIll
1914-15 H.M. Hobart
1915-16 L.T. Robinson
1916-17 C.E. Eveleth
1917-18 W.L. Upson
1918-19 K.A. Pauly
1919-20 C.S. VanDyke
1920-21 H.R. Summerhayes
1921-22 S.H. Blake
1922-23 C.M. Davis
1923-24 R.C. Muir
1924-25 J.R. Craighead
1925-26 W.J. Davis
1926-27 R.E. Doherty
1927-28 T.A. Worcester
1928-29 E.S. Lee
1929-30 R. Treat
1930-31 E.S. Henningsen
1931 R.A. Beekman
1932-33 E.E. Johnson
1933-34 D.W. McLenegan
1934-35 F.A. Hamilton
1935-36 H.H. Race
1936-37 C.M. Foust
1937-38 S.A. Holme
1938-39 C.E. Kilbourne
1939-40 C.W. LaPierre
1940-41 E.M. Hunter
1941-42 D.E. Chambers
1942-43 T.M. Linville
1943-44 O.C. Rutledge
1944-45 L.A. Umansky

Further Reading 

Link to Section Homepage

IEEE Geographic Unit Organizing Document - Schenectady

AIEE Schenectady Section History 1945

Links to Recent Issues of the Schenectady Section Newsletter 2002 - 2012