History of ASM

ASM International is known around the world for the depth and breadth of the materials knowledge it disseminates through books, databases, videos, and a myriad of online products. In an effort to share the origins of the society and rich history, Cleveland State University has created the "Cleveland Memory Project", a web exhibit that commemorates the 100th anniversary of ASM International that was celebrated in 2013. Materials for this web exhibit were selected from the ASM International archives and span much of its illustrious history.

This web exhibit is a collaborative effort between the Cleveland Memory Project Team, Pursue Posterity and ASM. We would like to take this opportunity to bid special thanks to the ASM Cleveland Chapter whose generous contributions made this project possible.

As another recognition of ASM's 100th anniversary in 2013, we invite you to see a video tribute to ASM members and legacy the society has inspired over the years.

The Roots of ASM – Passing the Flame

In the early 1900s, steel treating was the craft of blacksmiths who handed down their trade secrets from father to son. Even trusted employees were sworn to secrecy. But with the rise of steel mills and the automobile industry, craftsmen began to exchange information and knowledge.

Blacksmith William Park Woodside plied his trade in several Canadian provinces and in Pennsylvania, working for the Cadillac Motor Car Company in Detroit in 1905. Woodside observed a growing need for the exchange of technical information among craftmen and employees.  

On October 4, 1913, Woodside invited 18 of his fellow heat treaters and automotive employees to a meeting at the Old Fellowcraft Club in Detroit. This successful meeting resulted in the formation of The Steel Treaters Club, the forerunner of ASM International.

Friction leads to growth

During World War I, the Steel Treaters Club became the Steel Treating Research Society, with groups in Chicago and Cleveland. By 1918, membership grew to 1,250.

After World War I, the 200 members of the Chicago group seceded and formed the American Steel Treaters Society. They hired a young school superintendent named William Hunt Eisenman as its business manager to establish chapters.

Traveling from city to city, Eisenman invited influential steelmakers and steel users to a dinner that introduced the goals of the new society. By the end of the evening, a chapter was formed with officers in place.

By 1919, the combined membership of the two groups grew to 2,750 with 27 chapters, but some chapters began to compete with one another.

Compromise sparks innovation

The rivalry between the Detroit and Chicago chapters began to impair the development of both organizations. A mediator, Col. Albert E. White of U.S. Army Ordnance, stepped in, urging the two factions to negotiate their differences.

He was successful and the resulting reunification was celebrated at the society's first official meeting in Philadelphia in September 1920. Elements of the two societies were combined in a new name: American Society for Steel Treating (ASST).  When both chapters wanted to host the Society's headquarters, another compromise was reached: Cleveland became the national headquarters for ASST.

One year before the reunification, the Chicago group initiated something that no organization in America had attempted before: a concurrent exposition of heat treating equipment and products.

The first Metal Show was a resounding success. The second Metal Show was held in Philadelphia in September 1920 as a feature of the first convention of the now-united ASST. This highly successful event was held annually for the next 53 years.

From data sheets to handbook

Col. White, instrumental in reuniting the Detroit and Chicago factions, became the society's president in 1921. The society grew to more than 3,200 members and 31 chapters. Bill Eisenman became secretary of the society, which was headquartered in downtown Cleveland.

Within a month after the consolidation, the first issue of a new publication, Transactions (now Metallurgical and Materials Transactions) appeared under the ASST name. The society's oldest award, the Henry Marion Howe Medal (pdf), was established and awarded the designation of best paper published in Transactions.

In 1923, the society began to publish data sheets on recommended practices for heat treating. These data sheets were three-hole punched to fit in a pocket-sized loose-leaf binder. By 1924, members had received 116 data sheets, beginning the society's best-known reference, the ASM Handbook.

American Society for Metals is forged

By the 1920s, alloying during the manufacture of steel had become more important. Members needed reliable technical information beyond the field of steel treating. The quality and treatment of nonferrous metals attracted the attention of engineers.

Expanding its scope to include the complete range of manufacturing processes for all metals, ASST became American Society for Metals (ASM) in 1933, with Bill Eisenman serving as its National Secretary.

Metal Progress magazine (now Advanced Materials & Processes) debuted in September 1930 and became the leading technical publication in the metals field. By 1948, the Seventh Edition of the Metals Handbook had grown to 1,444 pages. This was the last single-volume handbook until the publication of the first Metals Handbook Desk Edition in 1984.

Post-war progress draws world-class membership

After World War II, the concept of a World Metallurgical Congress was proposed to reestablish lines of communication among scientists and engineers throughout the free world.

In 1951, 510 delegates from 39 countries attended the congress, which established ASM as a world-class organization. Participants spent five weeks in the U.S., attending tours of plants, institutions, and laboratories and then converging in Detroit for the congress.

In 1952, the society established the ASM Materials Education Foundation to encourage education and scholarship. ASM's Metals Engineering Institute (now ASM Education) was established in 1954 to develop technical training for industry. Seminars were offered for the first time in 1957.  A second Metallurgical Congress convened in Chicago in 1957.

New headquarters and handbook milestones

In 1959, ASM moved into Metals Park (now Materials Park), a dramatic headquarters building in Russell Township, Ohio, 25 miles east of Cleveland. The semicircular building is capped by a geodesic dome, symbolizing humanity's mastery of metals and materials.

Bill Eisenman, ASM's national secretary for 40 years, passed away in 1958. Allan Ray Putnam was named managing director the following year.

The Eighth Edition of the Metals Handbook began publication in 1961. The first multi-volume edition reached completion in 1976 with the publication of Volume 11. Representing the shared expertise of more than 4,600 authors, the 8th Edition was one of the largest and most important projects ever undertaken by ASM.

Technical achievements lead to international growth

ASM technical achievements broadened the society's focus:

  • Metals Information, a computerized information searching service, grew throughout the 1960s.

  • In 1970, the first class of 200 ASM Fellows was installed in ceremonies at Metals Park.

  • ASM established its ASM Heat Treating Conference/Workshop in 1974.

  • A new annual event, Metals Week, was held for the first time in 1981. Funding for the International Data Program for Alloy Phase Diagrams began.

  • The society expanded its geographic scope beyond the U.S. and its technical scope beyond metals, to include other engineered materials – composites, plastics, ceramics, and electronic materials. The society became known as ASM International in 1986.

  • In 1985, Edward L. Langer succeeded Ray Putnam as Managing Director.

  • In 1988, the 75th anniversary of the society was celebrated in Chicago at the World Materials Congress - the largest event in ASM history, with nearly 12,000 registrants from 50 countries and more than 330 technical sessions.

  • By 1989, the Ninth Edition of the Metals Handbook grew to a 17-volume set comprised of 15,000 pages, 25,000 illustrations, and 7,500 tables.

Serving the needs of a growing membership

To meet the needs of key technical affinity groups within the general membership, three Affiliate Societies were founded: ASM Heat Treating Society (HTS), ASM Thermal Spray Society (TSS) and Electronic Devices Failure Analysis Society (EDFAS).

These groups joined the International Metallographic Society (IMS) and the Society of Carbide and Tool Engineers (SCTE) as Affiliate Societies of ASM. Ed Langer retired as Managing Director in 1996, succeeded by Dr. Michael J. DeHaemer.

By 1999, the content of entire 20-volume ASM Handbook series was captured on four CD-ROMs, and new electronic products and services were developed to meet members' evolving needs.

ASM opened its $3 million Training Center at Materials Park, featuring $1.7 million in donated equipment. Dozens of new courses continue to be developed for the industry's most significant training needs.

ASM in the New Millennium

The ASM Materials Education Foundation introduced the first ASM Materials Camp, bringing 30 high-school students to Materials Park for a week of hands-on, lab-based learning. This first camp became the model for a fast-growing, award-winning program that has influenced hundreds of students and teachers.

Stanley C. Theobald became the fifth Managing Director in ASM history in August 2002.  ASM's new initiative in Materials and Processes for Medical Devices provided information and networking opportunities for designers, engineers and clinicians. Successful Materials & Medicine Summits were hosted by ASM with Cleveland Clinic in 2006 and 2008.

ASM became a partner society in the Materials Science & Technology (MS&T) annual event and the Material Advantage student program. The International Organization on Shape Memory and Superelastic Technologies (SMST) became an ASM Affiliate Society. Mtrl, a new initiative providing materials knowledge to the industrial design community, was launched.

Thomas S. Passek became the sixth Managing Director in ASM History in October 2012. The ASM Strategic Plan called for the creation of the Global Community Information Network. By the end of the decade, new online services included databases of materials knowledge, the ASM Community website and a network of Affiliate Society and chapter sites.

With ongoing releases of new innovations driven by the ASM Strategic Plan, and the exciting renovation of Materials Park, the society continues to move into the future from its 100th anniversary milestone in 2013.