History of SIA

Roots of the SIA

(Extracted from IA, The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, Vol. 17, No. 1 1991 Copyright 1991-1999, The Society for Industrial Archeology) Compiled and Edited by Charles K. Hyde

The roots of the Society for Industrial Archeology can be traced back to a seminar on industrial archeology held at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C, on April 11, 1967. Kenneth Hudson, the prominent British archeologist, was the featured speaker and main attraction. More than 30 people attended this day-long seminar, including state and federal government officials involved in historic preservation; museum professionals from the Smithsonian, other technology museums, and a handful of historic sites and parks; and representatives of several engineering societies. The sessions concentrated on what was being done in Great Britain and on the Continent to promote the study of industrial archeology, and what needed to be done in the United States. This seminar planted the seeds for the eventual founding of the SIA, seeds which germinated for more than four years before bearing fruit.

The SIA was officially born at the conference held at the Smithsonian Institution on October 16, 1971. Paul E. Rivard, then director of the Old Slater Mill Museum, proposed a meeting to develop means to improve the exchange of ideas and information among people working in the “new” field of industrial archeology. Ted Sande, Philadelphia architect and doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, and Robert M. Vogel, curator of mechanical and civil engineering, Smithsonian Institution, organized the meeting. Nearly 50 people involved in the field attended this all-day conference, including architectural historians, historical archeologists, historians of technology, museologists, and preservationists. They came from museums, state and federal agencies, universities, and historical societies (see the appendix for a list of attendees). The same interesting collection of individuals, institutions, and interests remain well-represented in the SIA to this day.

Principal Goals

After considerable discussion, attendees reached a consensus on the principal goals they would pursue: these were restated in the first issue of the SIA Newsletter (January 1972):

1. Interdisciplinary exchange of information from those working in industrial archeology and their projects; who requires and who can provide information; and the identification of useful outside resources.

2. As an adjunct to the above, the generation of bibliographical information having pertinence to the field.

3. Education: to create a public awareness of the need for preservation, surveys, and the other objectives of industrial archeology, through schools, museums, etc.; and, by public and governmental lobbying, the effecting of such objectives as industrial preservation, appropriation of funds for surveys, etc.

Those in attendance then discussed the possible means by which the group could achieve these goals. John L. Cotter and Edward S. Rutsch proposed membership in or affiliation with the Society for Historical Archaeology, but the overwhelming majority favored an entirely new society as the best solution. The group resolved to establish a separate society, publish a newsletter, and hold an annual conference. They chose the name Society for Industrial Archeology and formed an interim executive committee by calling for volunteers.

Charles W. Tremer of Muhlenberg College agreed to serve as president-editor, and the interim executive committee consisted of: Richard M. Candee, Old Sturbridge Village; Richard L. Deily, Iron Bloom; Chester H. Liebs, State of Vermont Division of Historic Sites; Vance Packard, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Paul E. Rivard, Old Slater Mill Museum; Edward S. Rutsch, Fairleigh Dickinson University; Ted A. Sande, University of Pennsylvania; Robert M. Vogel, Smithsonian Institution; and John G. Waite, New York State Historic Trust. R. John Corby, National Museum of Science and Technology, Ottawa, agreed to serve as the SIA’s Canadian liaison. The interim executive committee decided to hold a full-scale meeting in Philadelphia on November 8 to work out all the organizational details needed to launch the society. Sixteen of the conferees then gave brief extemporaneous reports, mainly on recent field projects, to fill out the rest of the conference.

About the First Conference


Figure 1. First annual conference poster. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

Following the initial meeting, the SIA was fast out of the gate. The interim executive committee selected the following as interim officers: President -Charles W. Tremer, Vice President-Ted Sande, Secretary-Treasurer-Vance Packard, and Editor- Robert M. Vogel. Following an abortive attempt to produce a mimeographed newsletter, the first real SIA Newsletter appeared in January 1972, well before the first annual meeting in April. It featured the familiar Historic American Engineering Record drawing (1969) of the Troy (N.Y.) Gas Light Company’s 1873 gasholder house as the masthead. With Robert Vogel in the editorial chair, this first Newsletter, four pages long, looked much like today’s issues. It included sections devoted to Notes and Inquiries, Projects, Sites & Structures, and Publications of Interest. That first issue also included a list of organizations concerned with IA and a call for papers for the first annual conference, to be held at the Cooper Union in New York City on April 8 and 9,1972. There was also a three-page supplementary issue of the Newsletter in March 1972 containing Ted Sande’s “Some Thoughts on Industrial Archeology, Preservation, and Training.”

The first annual conference was a two-day affair, with Saturday devoted to paper sessions and a business meeting, while the conferees spent Sunday on a walking and subway tour of lower Manhattan and Hoboken. The first slate of officers was presented and ratified at the business meeting which opened the conference: President-Ted Sande, Vice President-R. John Corby, Secretary- Richard M. Candee, and Treasurer-Vance Packard. The first directors were Edward S. Rutsch, Charles W. Tremer, Chester Liebs, John G. Waite, Richard L. Deily, and Paul E. Rivard. Nearly 100 people attended this first conference, including 75 members of the SIA and 16 non-members. (See figure 1.)

The SIA was a close-knit group in those early days. Of those who attended the initial meeting at the Smithsonian in October 1971, eight served as president (Richard Candee, Emory Kemp, Chester Liebs, Ted Penn, Paul Rivard, Ed Rutsch, Ted Sande, and Robert Vogel). Four more who attended the conference at the Cooper Union also served as president (John Bowditch, Larry Lankton, Pat Malone, and Dianne Newell). The papers presented at the first annual conference also reveal much about the SIA’s members and their interests in those formative days. In contrast to the complex paper programs of recent years, with three or four concurrent sessions being the norm, the entire program of the first conference had only 11 papers. The presenters and their topics were:

Morning Session, Chester H. Liebs, Chairman: “The Adjustable Wrench, 1831-1841: Its Meaning in Industrial Archeology,” Theodore Z. Penn (Old Sturbridge Village); “Original Bridges on the National Road in Eastern Ohio” Harley J. McKee, FAIA (Syracuse University); “Development of Water Supply and Irrigation Technology in the American Southwest,” Cliff H. Keho (Texas Tech University); “A Study of the Barrackville Covered Bridge,” Emory L. Kemp (West Virginia University); “The Convergence of Industrial History and the ‘New’ Archeology: A Theoretical Model,” Charles W. Tremer (Muhlenberg College)

Afternoon Session, Ted Sande, Chairman: “19th-Century Stove Foundries in Troy and Their Preservation,” John G. Waite (New York State Historic Trust); “Virginia’s 19th-Century Inland Navigation,” William E. Trout III (American Canal Society); “The Erie Railroad from Deposit, N.Y., to Susquehanna, Pa.,” Charles A. Parrott III (Historic American Engineering Record); “Industrial Archeology in the Redevelopment of Paterson, NJ.,” John Young (Urban Deadline Architects); “Wood-Burning Lime Kilns in the Clove Valley, Montague, NJ,” Edward S. Rutsch (Fairleigh Dickinson University); “The Fairbanks Scale Works, St. Johnsbury, Vt.: The Loss of Another Significant Industrial Landmark,” Chester H. Liebs (Vermont Division of Historic Sites)

1972 Conference in NYC

The supplementary issue no. two of the SIA Newsletter (May 1972) nicely captured the flavor of the first annual conference and is reproduced here verbatim.


It began in the chill winds and petulant flurries of a late spring snow storm, in lower Manhattan on Saturday morning, April 8, and ended in the warm glow of a Sunday afternoon sun at Hoboken, New Jersey some thirty hours later. In between, SIA was transformed from an abstract legal document, a codification of aspirations, into a living force.

The morning saw nearly one hundred of us bustling about Cooper Union’s Great Hall and the surrounding corridors, performing the ritual acts of registration; meeting old friends, greeting new acquaintances and enjoying coffee and donuts (courtesy of the Edward Rutschs). Charles Tremer, interim President, convened the brief business meeting at 9:30 a.m. The new officers and Directors were elected and the meeting was then turned over to Ted Sande, our first President. After ratification of the Constitution and dues schedule (approved with the addition of a student-member category at $5/year), Sande welcomed those assembled and thanked the Cooper Union for allowing us to hold our first conference in the historic Great Hall. He then outlined the major efforts for the coming year: increasing membership, developing communications, and encouraging the preservation of threatened industrial monuments. By 10 o’clock, on schedule, we were ready for the first paper of the Morning Session, chaired by Chester Liebs.
For most of us, luncheon meant a visit at McSorley’s Ale House where we delighted in shop talk with colleagues and banter with the establishment’s old regulars (a helpful lot who gladly explained the ritual of obtaining beer from the bar as cheaply as possible-order two drafts at a time).

Refreshed, we returned to the Great Hall for the afternoon where, following some useful comments on fund raising by Paul Rivard, Ted Sande chaired a session in which the papers focused on the preservation of industrial monuments. The wide-ranging scope that the term “monument” has for the industrial archeologist was evident in the varied topics discussed. Through Ed Rutsch’s initiative, a block of reservations had been made at the renowned Luchow’s nearby and the day’s formalities closed with a substantial number of the conferees moving there for food, drink, and more good talk.

At 10 sharp, on an astonishingly bright and clear morning, about fifty hardy souls assembled before the main entrance of Cooper Union. The air was still and cold but the sun promised warmth as the day proceeded-a promise it fulfilled- as Margot Gayle, Chairman of the Friends of Cast Iron Architecture, briefed us on what we were about to see. (Our progress was delayed as the peripatetic Board of Directors held its first business meeting for the pleasurable purpose of formally appointing Robert Vogel Editor.) Then we were off, accompanied by Geoffrey Hellman of the New Yorker; a babbling, camera-laden, neck-craning collection that, swelled at times by curious (take it either way) “street people,” weaved and bobbed south from Astor Place through the deserted streets, stopping, now, to examine an obscure detail, or, again, standing back to look at a particularly fine facade, in this largest concentration of cast-iron-front buildings in the world. All the while we were held together by a constant stream of facts and anecdotes from the indefatigable Mrs. Gayle. Under her wing, we moved at a brisk pace, and more than an hour later spilled into City Hall Plaza at the base of Cass Gilbert’s magnificent Woolworth Building (1913). A rousing cheer expressed our appreciation to Mrs. Gayle.
Our next stop was the City Hall “Loop” Station of 1904 that has been closed to the public since 1945. Through the good offices of the NYC Transit Authority’s Public Information Officer, special train arrangements were made to get us there, and back to the nearby Brooklyn Bridge Station. The City Hall Station is noted for its handsome Guastavino tile ceiling vaults. In the quiet of the abandoned platform, the train that brought us having returned to the main line, the low, broad vaulting reminded one of Eisenstein’s ominously beautiful settings for his film classic Ivan the Terrible. Up from the underground, we moved on to the adjacent promenade of Brooklyn Bridge. From mid-span we gazed back over lower Manhattan, squinted through the wood boards of the walkway at the icy waters of the East River far below and tried as best we could to absorb the experience of being for a moment enveloped by the marvelous expression of 19th- century engineering and, inextricably bound up with it, the courage and perseverance of the Roeblings.

The planned elevated trip over the Manhattan Bridge back to Manhattan having been scrubbed, the suggestion by several of the local members that we stop instead at the nascent South Street Seaport was accepted and the group made its way through the decaying fish market area around Fulton Street. The Seaport, in time expecting to re-create certain elements of the bustling 19th century East River port along South Street, at present had a number of interesting vessels tied up at its piers, notably the recently decommissioned Alexander Hamilton (Baltimore 1924), the last of the once-celebrated fleet of the Hudson River Day Line. This superbly handsome side-wheeler had been in excursion service until last fall, making daily trips in season between New York and Poughkeepsie, hauling large crowds through what is widely regarded as the most beautiful stretch of river scenery in America. The Hamilton’s doom, ironically, was not at the customary hand of economic obsolescence, but rather because the vast amounts of wood in her superstructure were viewed by the Coast Guard as too great a fire hazard in an excursion boat. At South Street she will in time be converted into a floating restaurant-an ignominious use but better than the cutter’s torch. Unfortunately access was not permitted, so we could not view her magnificent inclined, triple-expansion engine, visible through a well in the main deck. Those of us who had the good fortune to ride the Alexander Hamilton were saddened to see her thus, at the end of her real career. Another vessel at the Seaport, of particular industrial-archeological interest, was the legendary Ambrose Lightship, which for many years served off Sandy Hook, now replaced by an automatic light.

The group, reduced by fatigue and hunger to about 30 “true believers,” then made its way by foot and PATH (better known formerly as the Hudson & Manhattan) tubes to the Hoboken rail-ferry terminal, built by the DL&W in 1906 to handle the vast New Jersey-Manhattan commuter traffic, where we were met by C. R. Wallace, Erie-Lackawanna Assistant Trainmaster. This remarkably well-informed gentleman assembled us first in a car of the E-L’s latest rolling stock, known as “push-pull” trains. Designed expressly for commuter service, the trains consist of a single conventional diesel locomotive on the head end, a number of regular cars, usually a bar car (popular on the evening outbound trips, we were informed), and on the tail end, a “cab” car, containing at its rear a full set of locomotive controls, electrically connected to the locomotive itself. The train can thus lay over at night on a siding at the end of the run, and without the locomotive having to run around the train, make the morning inbound trip driven from the cab car.

There followed a complete examination of the striking copper-clad structure, the last survivor of the great Hudson River rail and ferry terminals in New Jersey, those of the Central RR of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, NY Central, and Erie railroads having all since departed. The stub-end rail portion of the terminal was the first to be protected by Bush type umbrella sheds, as opposed to the classical Victorian vaulted train shed. Other than the tracks themselves, built right to the bulkhead line, the entire terminal was erected over the river, founded on pilings topped by a concrete mat. With the exception of the 200-foot clock tower, removed some time ago, all is essentially as built. Gone are the milling crowds of commuters, thronging through the huge passages from the trains to the once waiting ferries, and the entire building wears an aura of sadness and neglect. It was a model facility in its time, serving with efficiency for more than half of a century.

Its ultimate disposition is, as is so often the case today with great railroad passenger structures, a problem for the Erie-Lackawanna. The bulk of the space is entirely useless- offices occupy a small portion of the upper floor-for the rail platforms and the PATH entrance are immediately adjacent, so that the great flow of passengers today doesn’t enter the terminal proper at all.

The tour’s last stop was what had been the roof garden of the terminal’s restaurant, for many years one of the finest and most fashionable in the area, from which point we were treated on a day of unbelievable clarity and brilliance, to a view of New York and the Harbor that fittingly climaxed an exhausting but rewarding IA adventure.

Early History of the SIA

The details of the history of the first year of the SIA cannot be found in the sketchy “official” accounts that appear in the early issues of the SIA Newsletter. The only way to re-create much of the unofficial, off-the-record history, as well as the early atmosphere of the organization, is through the recollections of the SIA”s principal founders. Paul E. Rivard, Robert M. Vogel, Edward S. Rutsch, Theodore Z. Penn, Vance Packard, Emory L. Kemp, and Robert A. Howard have kindly agreed to share their recollections of the early days of the SIA.

Charles K. Hyde

It’s true that it can be said that the idea for the SIA was mine. But I hasten to add two things: first, that the promise of such an organization was far larger and vastly different than I imagined; and second, that the real work of getting the idea into real action was undertaken by others.

As I recall, the momentum toward SIA began in the spring of 1971 at the Slater Mill. There Ted Sande and I met along with a graduate student in archeology at Brown, Al Bartovics. I had recently visited with a Ph.D. student doing work on cotton manufacturing at the Baker Library at Harvard. I had been struck by the extent of his understanding of the business record, but lack of understanding of the technology. I felt that my insights were the obverse of his. This suggested to me the need for an organization that might bring together related researchers who now toiled in some isolation.

Frankly, my vision of the new organization was pretty remedial and largely esoteric and academic. Ted Sande took this idea to Bob Vogel. Bob immediately rose to the bait, and he and Ted organized the Washington meeting, as I recall.

There were about 70 of us at the meeting in October of 1971 at the National Museum of History and Technology. Bob Vogel ran the meeting. (I sat in the back row- an uncharacteristically humble act.) After discussing the need for a new organization, there was a move made to have this new agenda absorbed by the Society for Historical Archaeology. A vote was taken, and the formation of a new organization was decided.

I can’t remember the sequence, but there were two important elements to the events of that day. One was the solicitation of an interim “board” to draft bylaws and all that. The group selected turned out to be the core leadership of the SIA for the fast six years or so. Bob asked for volunteers to head up the effort. Dick Candee said he would help whoever took charge, and quite a few hands, including mine, went up as “volunteers” to help.

A long discussion revolved around the name for the new organization. I, for one, didn’t realize at first how important the selection of the name would prove to be. Bob pressed for calling it SIA following on the British model, IA. I was, at that time, not familiar with the IA in Britain, and so I thought the name selected was somewhat odd. I was still thinking in terms of interdisciplinary academic studies. Later, I began to realize that the choice of the name had defined the scope and purpose of the organization.

The “volunteers” met at Philadelphia and put their names to the articles of incorporation. The scope and purpose of the organization began to be fleshed out, and the first annual meeting at Cooper Union planned. Many subsequent meetings during the formative first year were held at the Williams Club in NYC, courtesy of Ted Sande.

The review of papers for the meeting at Cooper Union defined further the scope and purpose of SIA. Along with a discussion of the merits of the papers, per se, was a discussion of whether or not they were “IA ” I found myself arguing for a broadly encompassing scope, but I was arguing with a notion of IA as it had already been defined elsewhere. I remember a spirited discussion over a paper prepared by Ted Penn on the history of the monkey wrench. It wasn’t IA, but I wanted it. Ted did, indeed, present this paper at Cooper Union, but the days were numbered for this sort of curatorial – artifact-specific – paper.

I felt that the SIA was being dominated by historic preservation, engineering documentation, and adaptive reuse issues. I worked, after all, for a museum and I was interested in the machinery, the tools, and the manufacturing processes more than the architecture of the buildings. So, in this regard, SIA took a turn away from my principal interest and my original intent. The vigor and excitement generated by the group were, however, compelling. While the SIA might not have been as I originally wanted, I was glad to be part of something much bigger than I had envisioned. It was an exciting time.

The Cooper Union meeting was both a culmination and a beginning. I remember it as simply the best conference I had ever attended -one of the few in which I had even been excited by the papers. At last there were colleagues in my world (there always had been, but I didn’t know them). I look back now at those early days of SIA and realize that they were about as good as any times I have enjoyed in the museum business. My memories are full of images, and the excitement of discovery. Many are notable for their humor, particularly one scene on the Pittsburgh area bus tour.

There was a very poor tenement house on the outskirts of Pittsburgh -the location was indeed terrible, with a view overlooking one of the area’s worst eyesores, a 19th- century bridge abutment. The story must be legend by now-about the day when the residents, rocking on their front porch, achieved their moment in history. One day, it is no doubt told, five Greyhound buses pulled up out front and hundreds of people with expensive cameras poured out to commune with, to stand in awe of, and to appreciate the eyesore. Then, just as they had come, the buses left, and things were as they had always been on that back road. So it was when the SIA stopped by, appreciating what no one else appreciated, seeing what no one else saw. And that was the excitement of it.

Robert M. Vogel

As has been stated on many occasions but which cannot be repeated too often, to forestall the perpetuation of a myth, it was all Paul Rivard’s brainstorm! It was Paul, then director of the Old Slater Mill, who said to Ted Sande – then at Penn but working on a publishing project for the Park Service in Washington-that wouldn’t it be a good idea if we got together all the people who it appeared were working in and around what had over the past eight or nine years come to be styled “industrial archeology.” It was, of course, the English writer, commentator, regional broadcaster, and general all-around authority Kenneth Hudson who, in his Industrial Archaeology: An Introduction (1963), brought to wide attention the fact that what a lot of people-museum curators, archeologists, historic-site overseers, and individual enthusiasts -had been doing for years was studying the industrial past by examining (and on occasion preserving) its physical remains. A study of the past, any past, by such means being archeology, it seemed perfectly logical to refer to such efforts as “industrial archeology.” It still does. Hudson didn’t coin the term and there has been a simmering debate over the years as to who did, but that’s another issue.

Nonetheless the Rivard notion struck Sande and me as the sort of wonderfully obvious thing that causes everyone to ask why it had not occurred sooner. The word was put out to all who could be thought of who were working or even seriously interested in the many areas that we now recognize collectively as industrial archeology. On October 16, 1971, a surprisingly large group assembled in a small conference room at the (then-styled) Museum of History and Technology in Washington -clearly, to a person, delighted at the prospect of some sort of mutual recognition and perhaps even coordination of efforts. The state of fervor in fact was such that, despite the organizers’ expectations that probably little more would emerge from the gathering than some interesting reports of various projects in work and possibly a promise to meet again, the SIA was formed on the spot, by unanimous vote.

Much to the surprise of everyone and no one, the society was configured then and there pretty much as it remains standing these 20 years later. The name was set forth as obviously the most logical, graphic, and straightforward; it was determined that a newsletter was an essential, fundamental feature, and the organizational structure was propounded. All this was perhaps an inevitable outcome of the collective discovery that there were more people with similar concerns doing similar work and having a similar wish than there were means of knowing what others were up to than anyone had realized. That is, of course, the universal impulse whereby most societies are formed, so small wonder, really. It was the immediacy of it all, though, that so amazed. (By way of contrast, our British cousins, despite being somewhat more intensely active in the field for rather a longer time, and with a number of local IA societies, did not settle down to form a similar national organization for something like another year, and that only after many meetings and very considerable discussion. And … there seems reason to accept the generally held belief that they were mildly unhinged that we had appropriated the more suitable term “society,” leaving them with the slightly less appropriate “association ” Well, it was after all the nail drivers who made those initial departures, leaving natural selection to do the rest …. )

The principal enlargement upon that original scheme was the happy addition of the journal IA, a clear need determined by the board only a few years later. Above all is the gratifying realization that the society continues on its original course, so clearly set forth in 1971, of acting as a link among all those concerned with industrial archeology- both a passive one through its publications, and an active one in the form of its conferences and field trips.

In those formative days enthusiasm occasionally outran organizational awareness. At an early board meeting, perhaps the first, it was unanimously determined that the SIA must have a conference, with not only the customary trappings like learned (well, most of them) papers, but with a locus that should, obviously, be a place rich in industrial archeology. New York City was selected, what with its early subways, the Brooklyn Bridge, ferry terminals across the river, the world’s largest grouping of cast-iron architecture, etc. The learned-papers aspect went off without a hitch; after all, lots of us knew how that was done and the Great Hall of the venerable Cooper Union was as ideal a setting for this as could be imagined. The field tripping, however, was something with little precedent, at least among the board, and its organization was, perhaps, more intuitive than fully structured. The problem was intensified by the fact that none of the organizers were local; all was arranged by letter and phone and in the event not everything was arranged. Transportation was entirely by subway and foot, reckoned on the pace and stamina of the stoutest rather than that of the average member, let alone the less able. Perhaps worse, absolutely no thought was given to sustenance or relief. Departure was set at 10:00 with expected return to Cooper Union about 5:00. (There was no “conference hotel,” for we knew about conference hotels about as much as we knew about tour buses.) In between it was full throttle with no precious time to be wasted on such frills as lunch or toilet stops (after all, you can eat and go at home; how often can you experience the IA of NYC??). And the IA was good, the edge only slightly taken off the tour by the fact that the numbers began to drop rapidly about noon, leaving only a handful of the most hardy to complete the event. How innocent we were; how much we have learned.

Edward S. Rutsch

At the time of the SIA organizational meeting at the Smithsonian, I was a second-year instructor of anthropology at a suburban New Jersey university. My graduate school work had been in North American prehistory. Once on my own I changed my research focus to the historic period and especially the settlements at northern New Jersey iron furnaces. There were no courses in historical archeology in New York at that time so in 1968 1 took John Cotter’s course in Philadelphia. A year later Dr. Cotter remembered my interest and, in the thoughtful way he has treated all of us, he called me about the meeting in D.C. Mary Jane and I came down and attended with Dr. Cotter, uninvited and unannounced.

We were impressed by a number of things that first day. I was refreshed to meet and speak to Al Bartovics and Vance Packard, Jr., young fellows with much the same training as mine, who were struggling to apply their knowledge and technique to studies of our historic industrial society. We started a sharing and support system which goes on unabated today.

My wife’s interest in historic preservation was piqued when she listened to and met Dick Candee, Ted Sande, and Chester Liebs.’We both were impressed by the range of interest and abilities of the historians of technology and museum specialists such as Emory Kemp, Robert Vogel, Robert Howard, John Corbett, and Paul Rivard. We sensed that here might be an eclectic and sharing group quite different from the narrowly defined, sophomorically competitive, and status-ridden professional archeology societies we had investigated before.

The main thrust of my arguments that day seems especially hollow to me after all these years. I urged a union with the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), an idea swiftly and soundly rejected. Later I recalled the SHA reception given to Robert Vogel’s paper on the Erie R. R. main line historic survey, in which the sour polemic about “it’s not archeology if there is no excavation” was put forward in a thoughtless way. (See Vincent P. Foley, “On the Meaning of Industrial Archaeology,” Historical Archaeology 2 [1968]: 66-68.)

I realized then as I do now that there is no use in arguing this case, not when there’s so much productive work needing to be done and so much sweet wine to drink.

There were droll moments that first day too. Robert Vogel, as you may imagine, was as interested in the acronym as in the entire name of the new society. I elicited a Vogelian snort with my suggestion of the Society for the History of Industrial Technology as a name.

What a privilege and what fun it’s all been, so much better than working for a living.

Theodore Z. Penn

I first met Richard Candee while a student in the Hagley program at the University of Delaware. He was a Cooperstown student, and we discovered each other through our mutual interest in paint-we both wrote theses on historical paints and painting. Richard went on from there to a doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania; I went to work for the Hagley Museum.

I arrived at my new job (researcher in technology) in the Research Department at Old Sturbridge Village late in the summer of 1968. There I joined Roger Parks (director), Darwin Kelsey, who was busy rewriting the book on the interpretation of agriculture in museums, and Caroline Sloat, who was completing a study of country stores in early New England villages. Richard Candee also joined the group as researcher in architecture.

These were exciting years, for, in addition to the birth pains of the SIA, historical archeology was emerging from classical archeology as a distinct field of inquiry. Soon, historical agriculture would also take clearer shape and definition as a separate discipline.

In his study of New England industrial architecture, Richard Candee worked closely with Robert Vogel, Paul Rivard (who was struggling to put the Slater Mill of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on the museum map), and others. Richard, through his network in archeology, architectural history, and American studies, was the connection between the Old Sturbridge Village Research Department and the emerging SIA. It was through Richard that Roger Parks and I received our invitations to the meeting at the Smithsonian that actually give birth to the SIA.

I wish I could remember details of that pithy meeting but, alas, I cannot. I do remember that Richard was elected secretary of the society and I do remember a big argument about whether archeology should be spelled “archaeology.” We decided on archeology without the “a.” Even though this was a terrible affront to some classically trained archeologists who attended the meeting, most of us thought archeology was more representative of the working origins of the subjects we studied. Simply, it was just a more American way to spell the word.

Richard’s location across the hall in the Old Sturbridge Village Research Department worked very well for me. A short time after the Washington meeting he walked into my office and said: “The SIA is going to have a meeting in New York City-got any ideas for a paper?” Among other things I had been working on, I had been collecting information on adjustable wrenches. I suggested this as a topic, and it was accepted. Well, that paper achieved 15 minutes of fame for me in Andy Warhol’s city. The week after the meeting at Cooper Union, my paper was mentioned in the Talk of the Town section of the New Yorker magazine. There a short note was written about the first annual meeting of the society. My paper on adjustable wrenches was mentioned specifically as the sort of arcane topic that interested industrial archeologists.

Looking back on those days, I now have the clear sense that I was a passenger on a speeding train in search of a way to make sense of material culture as a valid and valued source of historical information. My more than 20 years of hindsight, however, make me feel that the train has slowed considerably and is no longer quite so sure of its destination. I believe we are still waiting for the grand synthesis that will bring artifacts into every classroom and make people value museums as much for their artifacts as libraries and archives are valued for their books and documents.

Well, there was more lurking in my memories of the early years of the society than I had suspected. I could continue to describe the emergence of the so-called New England Mafia and the creation of the Southern New England Chapter, but those are stories best saved for recollections of the pubescent years of the society.

Vance Packard

I never wanted to be a historical archeologist, much less an industrial one. But alas, that was the role cut out for me when I started work with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission back in 1968. All the Indian cultures had been staked out by others, and in an effort to find some sort of fieldwork to keep me out of my office I agreed to conduct some exploratory excavations at Curtin Village, an iron plantation in the central part of the state. Working on the project with me was John Tyler, our curator of things industrial. One day in the fall of 1971 John showed me a notice he had received of a meeting that was to be held at the Smithsonian the following month on industrial archeology. I wasn’t all that interested in the subject but jumped at a chance to spend a weekend in Washington with a woman friend.

I was surprised by the apparent confusion as to what the purpose of the meeting was. One usually expects anything to do with the Smithsonian to be over-organized and highly structured. John Cotter strongly argued that whatever organization came out of the meeting be a chapter of the Society for Historical Archaeology, and it seemed to me that most of the practicing archeologists present supported that view. Those same archeologists had a problem seeing how all the architects and historic preservationists would fit in.

Despite a general sentiment to the contrary, it was decided that a new organization was to be formed, and in what was almost a fatal move they asked for a volunteer to sort of head up the effort. To the complete shock of the organizers, a total stranger stood up and accepted. I must say that the confusion on the faces of those sitting at the head table was painfully obvious to most of the audience. Fortunately, someone (probably Robert Vogel) had the presence of mind to call for volunteers to assist the intrepid stranger. Alas, 10 more fools, most of them strangers to the conference organizers, stepped forward. Fortunately for Sande and Vogel we were total strangers to each other.

As interesting and important as the first organizational meeting in Washington was, I have always dated the birth of the SIA to the meeting that was held in Philadelphia about a month later. It was at that meeting that most of the critical issues were identified, and a plan to create a new organization was developed -or maybe it was revealed.

It became clear to me at that point that the plan all along was to form a group that would be an advocate for the preservation of industrial history and not be subject to the whims of the federal bureaucracy. The intellectual aspect was at best a necessary evil. However, as fate would have it, the SIA has been more interested in the academic than the advocate role over the years. In fact, many have wondered if we aren’t the kiss of death for structures we visit.

The society’s first crisis was the publication of the first issue of the SIA News, printed or rather duplicated in stunning blue. While most of us were disappointed in this first offering, one of the members was so outraged that he arranged a coup d’etat at the next meeting. Nothing could have been more providential for the society. If the SIA News had been simply mediocre, Robert Vogel would never have felt compelled to take over the editorship, and the Newsletter would not have become the world-class publication that it did.

The first annual meeting of the society in New York City really came off without a hitch. We did have a few more donuts than were called for, but all things considered, we did a credible job. The attendees were all pleased with the program and the other events. Because I was collecting the registration fees, I missed many of the morning papers, but I did catch Ed Rutsch’s paper on the distribution of lime kilns and related structures in New Jersey. To this day, it was one of the best papers I have ever heard. To me, it integrated many of the aspects of what we might call “industrial archeology thinking”

At the dinner and the impromptu party that followed, I began to realize that there was incredible strength in the diversity of our members’ interests and backgrounds. (And I don’t think I talked to anybody other than Dianne Newell.) The tours the next day, perhaps better than the formal sessions, gave everybody an idea of what was to become our subject matter. While the institutional shape of the organization was to be hammered out at board meetings over the next two years, the sort of free-flowing, multiple-language formats of our get-togethers was set from the first annual meeting at the Cooper Union.

Anyone attending those early board meetings at the Williams Club in New York would have concluded that the fuel for our intellectual engine was dark beer. I remember that we argued endlessly over what in retrospect seem insignificant issues, but I also remember a general absence of rancor in our debates. The SIA has managed to accomplish most of what the people who gathered at Washington 20 years ago wanted and a lot more. I have always been thankful to have been a part of it.

Emory L. Kemp

After completing graduate work in theoretical and applied mechanics at the University of Illinois, I joined West Virginia University in 1962 to head the structural engineering program. During the late 1960s, I became acquainted with Robert Vogel, a kindred soul, who generously let me use all of the archival materials in the Division of Mechanical and Civil Engineering at the National Museum of American History and in addition introduced me to historians in the Division of Transportation and allowed me the rare privilege of research on journal collections which were housed in the “pit,” an affectionate term for the basement area of the museum. It was at one of these visits to the Smithsonian that Robert invited me to attend an organizational meeting concerning the establishment of industrial archeology in America.

There were two possibilities -one was to establish an in- dependent organization, and the other was to become part of a larger field of historical archeology. Having read the papers published by Foley and Vogel, which formed the basis for a debate on the meaning of industrial archeology, I was convinced that this new field could not be subsumed under the banner of historical archeology. We gathered at the Smithsonian on a Saturday in October 1971 to discuss the organization of industrial archeology into a national society. As expected, we voted to go it alone and form our own group. Not being a revolutionary but rather one devoted to evolutionary processes, I nevertheless voted for a separate organization. Little did I know, at that time, that I would serve as the first editor of the journal and later as president of the society. Having decided to form a new organization, I remember Robert Vogel taking the floor and writing on the board, “Society for Industrial Archeology.” True to the federal standard which eschews the use of Greek diphthongs, archeology was to be spelled with- out the “a.”

There are few skeletons in the closet of the headquarters of the society at the Smithsonian. In fact, there may be only one, but it is one that few are aware of. The first attempt at a newsletter was written on a standard typewriter and reproduced in very limited quantities, using a ditto machine. This rag was quickly suppressed, and Robert Vogel took over the Newsletter which from the beginning has been the high-quality and yet informal publication we have come to expect. The informality was highlighted by the well-known R.M.V. abbreviation, which became the newsletter’s hallmark. The lesson I learned was that every publication of the newly formed society had to be a first-class production.

The first SIA conference was held at the Cooper Union in New York City. I arrived the night before and stayed in a nearby hotel ensconced in a room which was more like a monk’s cell than a standard hotel accommodation. Arriving at the Cooper Union, I was greeted by a towering figure who turned out to be Ed Rutsch, handing out donuts from an immense supply. After the morning session, a number of us had lunch at a nearby bistro.

I also remember presenting a paper on the Barrackville Covered Bridge erected in 1852. The material presented on the analysis of Burr Truss covered bridges was later published and served as the basis for the restoration of the Meems Bottom Bridge in Virginia, which won a national award, and the recently rebuilt Philippi Covered Bridge. After all those years we are now expecting a contract to restore the Barrackville Bridge to its original condition during the Civil War.

I found the Cooper Union building a fascinating piece of architecture, especially its structural system and the great fans used to ventilate the building. I still have the poster from the first meeting and a copy of the program. The posters have, of course, been an established keepsake for all subsequent conferences of the society. I suppose this was my first experience with a conference tour, which has also become an established part of the SIA annual conference and fall tours.

Robert A. Howard


On that fateful day in October 1971 there were four of us from Hagley represented in the group assembled. We walked by the now-shortened timekeeping pendulum, past a dummy head with a narrative and an image projected on it so one would swear the thing was really talking, into a fairly nondescript room and joined dozens of other people who were doing “good stuff.” Actually, we went into industrial archeology under a host of guises. By December we received a blue ditto letter which recapitulated the goings on and listed the officers. A month later the SIA Newsletter with the gasholder logo emerged.

My personal opinion is that the SIA is a fine organization. There are not the doings of the academic viper pit, but in- stead a real desire to learn and share information. Conferences are attended because people want to be there, not because they are job hunting or wish to be seen. The volunteer local arrangements people put in an enormous amount of work annually. Importantly to me, the organization is not constantly trying to solicit contributions out- side of the dues. Frankly, I would not like the society to deviate from the path it has so successfully ventured down.


What, if anything, can be learned from the history of the SIA’s birth and first year of life? I was struck by how little the composition of the SIA”s membership has changed over time. The great strength of the SIA, then and now, is the wide diversity of its members in terms of interests, occupations, and institutional affiliations. The SIA has been successful because a core of committed members has worked tirelessly to further the study and preservation of the physical remains of industry and technology. They have been a rather self-effacing, tolerant, and generous group, with little interest in self-promotion or careerism. The recollections of the SIA’s “founding fathers” also reveal the strong sense of intellectual excitement they felt during the birth and early years of the SIA. The discovery of colleagues with similar interests seemed exhilarating, along with the opportunity to define and shape an entirely new field of study. Ordinarily, institutions and organizations do not generate much intellectual excitement, but the SIA was the exception to the rule. Let us hope that this is still the case today and will remain so for many years to come.

Appendix: Attendees, Smithsonian Institution, Saturday, October 16, 1971

AKERMAN, James B. and Mrs. (Hagley Museum)
BARTOVICS, Albert (Brown University)
BASTIAN, Tyler (Maryland Geological Survey, Johns Hopkins University)
BILLICK, Irwin H. (Department of HUD)
BRAUNBERG, Robert (Montgomery County Historical Society- Maryland)
CANDEE, Richard M. (Old Sturbridge Village)
CORBY, R. John (National Museum of Science and Technology-Ottawa)
COTTER, John L. (University of Pennsylvania/National Park Service)
DEILY, Richard L. and Mrs. (Iron Bloom -New Jersey)
DOUGLAS, Paul (Towson State College)
FISCHER, George R. (National Park Service)
GOELDNER, Paul (Historic American Building Survey)
GRIFFEN, Douglas L. (Historic American Engineering Record)
GRUTZKA, Klaus and Mrs. (Iron Bloom -New Jersey)
HERMAN, Lynne L. (National Trust for Historic Preservation)
HOWARD, Robert A. (Hagley Museum)
HUBERMAN, R. Carole (Historic American Engineering Record)
KARI, William R. (Washington, D.C.)
KEMP, Emory (Department of Civil Engineering, West Virginia University)
LANGENBACH, Randolph (Cambridge, Mass.)
LEE, Toni (Smithsonian Institution)
LIEBS, Chester (Division of Historic Sites, State of Vermont)
MESICK, John I. (New York, N.Y.)
MORRIS, Danny A. (Smithsonian Institution)
PACKARD, Vance (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission)
PARKS, Roger (Old Sturbridge Village)
PARROTT, Charles A. (Historic American Engineering Record)
PENN, Theodore Z. (Old Sturbridge Village)
PRUDON, Theo H. M. (Columbia University)
RIVARD, Paul and Mrs. (Old Slater Mill Museum)
ROBBINS, Michael W. (Washington, D.C.)
RUTSCH, Edward S. and Mrs. (Fairleigh Dickinson University)
SANDE, Theodore A. (University of Pennsylvania)
SMITH, George (Middletown, Va.)
TREMER, Charles W. (Muhlenberg College)
VOGEL, Robert M. (Division of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, Smithsonian Institution)
WAITE, John G. (New York State Historic Trust)
WARREN, Nancy H. (Hockessin, Del.)

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