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Full text of "Saga In Steel And Concrete Norwegian Engineers In America"

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Saga in steel and concrete 

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Saga in steel and concrete 




PUBLICATIONS O F T H E 

N () R W K G I A N- A M E RT C A N HISTORICAL 
ASSOCIATION 

OLAF IIALVOHSON. President 



Saga in Steel and Concrete 



NORWEGIAN ENGINEERS 
IN AMERICA 



BY 



Kenneth Bjork 

PEOFESSOR OF HISTORY AT ST. OLAF COLLEGE 



NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION 

NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA 

1947 



Copyright, 1947, by the 
NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 
AT THE LUND PRESS, MINNEAPOLIS 



PREFACE 



THE officers of the Norwegian-American Historical Associa- 
tion, no less than the editors of the Norwegian-language news- 
papers in the United States, have long known that the engineers 
and architects born in Norway and educated in the schools of 
Europe were playing a significant and at times a spectacular 
role in the development of America. In their discussions of 
editorial (policy, they have always assumed that a compre- 
hensive publication program called for a volume devoted 
exclusively to the activities of the Norwegian-born technicians 
who migrated to these shores. In 1939 they were convinced 
that the time had arrived to begin such a project, and I was 
asked then to prepare the present book. 

A preliminary survey of the sources indicated that this was 
a field previously un worked by the historian, and that the 
association had undertaken a task that was something more 
than a rounding out of its admirable program of publications. 
It became obvious that a study of the Norwegian engineers 
and architects would be primarily a first case study in a larger 
area of research that of the immigrant as a vital leader in 
American technology. The information unearthed in the months 
that followed lent fresh and concrete meaning to an oft-quoted 
phrase, "transit of civilization," and gave rise to the wish that 
one day a broader synthesis, embracing the work of all the 
immigrant technical groups, might be made. It is my hope 
that Saga in Steel and Concrete will be received in the spirit 
of this wish and be regarded as a contribution to an enlarged 
interpretation of our European heritage, 

Any such study necessarily encounters difficulties, some of 
them well-nigh insuperable, and unwittingly works injustice 
to individuals. The difficulties were less numerous and the in- 
justice, I trust, less blatant because of the assistance given me 

KANSAS. CSWfiO.) PUBLIC LIBRAW 

A i> j << > 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

by the men and organizations discussed in this book. The 
archives of the Norwegian- American Technical Society, the 
product of years of active research, are kept at the headquar- 
ters of its Chicago branch; these were put at my disposal, as 
were the materials contained in the Norwegian- American Tech- 
nical Journal. The society has also been most helpful in other 
ways i n formally endorsing the project, in providing lists of 
members, in suggesting points of approach, and in establishing 
the many contacts that were invaluable for obtaining informa- 
tion and appraising technical undertakings. 

It is impossible here publicly to acknowledge and to thank 
all of the engineers of Norwegian origin who in one way or 
another have made my work easier, more pleasant, and more 
effective. I should be guilty of gros^ ingratitude, however, if I 
did not mention the assistance of several. Waldemar Nielsen, 
president of the Chicago Norwegian Technical Society, has 
been kindest counselor of all and a sure guide in my relations 
with the organized engineers. Axel Waerenskjold of Oakland, 
California, introduced me to many of the engineers in the San 
Francisco area. Magnus Bjjzfrndal of Weehawken, New Jersey, 
rendered a similar service in the New York area. In addition, he 
generously supplied considerable information, published and 
unpublished, and he read about half of the chapters in early 
manuscript form; many of his suggestions were followed in 
revising these chapters. Like B]>rndal, C. F. Berg of Gary, 
Illinois, has long been active in collecting records of the Nor- 
wegian engineers; he made many items available. His sage 
advice was most effective in reworking the first four and the 
last two chapters of the book. 

M. S. Grytbak, bridge engineer of St. Paul, gave invaluable 
assistance in the preparation of the chapter on bridges. The 
late Magnus Gundersen of Chicago read the chapter on sky- 
scrapers and was generally an unfailing source of technical 
knowledge and encouragement. Ole Singstad of New York and 
William J. Wilgus of Claremont, New Hampshire, gave .freely 
of their time and energy in explaining the principles of tunnel- 

vi 



PREFACE 

Ing and suggested the inclusion in the tunnel chapter of 
features and personalities that would otherwise have been 
omitted. E. A. Cappelen Smith and Anton Gr0nningsseter, both 
of New York, read and gave detailed assistance in the prepara- 
tion and revision of the chapter titled "Men in Metallurgy/' 
In Philadelphia Thorsten Y. Olsen and J, Christian Earth 
aided in interpreting the careers of their fathers, Tinius Olsen 
and Carl G. Barth, with whom they had worked as engineers. 
Ralph Evinrude of Milwaukee did the same for his father, Ole 
Evinrude. Mrs. Walter Fuchs of Douglas, Minnesota, gave help 
of a similar nature for the story of her father, Carl Illstrup; as 
did Bjarne Loss of Lake City, Minnesota, for the sketch of his 
uncle, Henrik V. von Zernikow Loss. Carl G, 0. Hansen of 
Minneapolis graciously permitted the use of his extensive col- 
lection of Norwegian newspaper clippings. My indebtedness 
to others is revealed in footnotes. To the persons mentioned 
here or in the footnotes, and to the many others who were 
generous in their assistance and hospitality, my deepest thanks. 
I wish, finally, to express my gratitude to the Norwegian- 
American Historical Association, which granted me a research 
fellowship for the year 1940-41 and assumed all expense of 
publication; to Jean Abell, a student at St. Olaf College, and 
to my wife, Ellen Herum Bjork, who spent endless hours in 
typing and collating; to Jane McCarthy of the University of 
Minnesota Press, who designed the title page and jacket and 
planned the pages; and to Helen Thane Katz of St. Paul, who 
made the final editorial changes, compiled the index, saw the 
book through the press, and generally served beyond the line 
of professional duty. 

KENNETH BJORK 



vii 



CONTENTS 

1. A MIGRATION OF SKILLS. 3 

2. PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 40 

3. A PHILADELPHIA STORY 84 

4. SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 120 

5. A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 169 

6. BUILDING TO THE SKIES 216 

7. MEN IN METALLURGY 244 

8. PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 278 

9. OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 313 

10. ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 339 

11. MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 372 

12. ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 403 

13. THE ENGINEERS ORGANIZE 432 

14. TOWARD A SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY 460 

INDEX 480 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

Ruud Automatic Gas Water Heater ................... 60 

Tinius Olsen ....................................... 100 

A Modern Testing Machine Produced by the Olsen Testing 
Machine Company ............................... 101 

Wabash Avenue Bridge, Chicago ...................... 132 

Lafayette Avenue Bridge, Bay City, Michigan, . ...... , , 133 

Cappelen Memorial (Franklin Avenue) Bridge, 

Minneapolis ..................................... 148 

Intercity (Ford) Bridge, Twin Cities ................... 149 

Plan of Holland Tunnel ........................... . . , 188 

Queens Midtown Tunnel ............................. 189 

Sandhogs Tightening Bolts, Queens Midtown Tunnel ____ 204 

Safety Screen and Emergency Runway, Queens 

Midtown Tunnel ................................ 05 

Woolworth Building ............................... t $36 

Field Building 

A Earth Slide Rule ................... , 



Rear Admiral Asserson Applies for Membership in 

American Society of Civil Engineers ................. 298 



An Evinrude Motor in Action 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

A Typical Small Tool Works: NJBJF. Olsen, Dearborn, 

Michigan ........................................ 389 



The Chicago Opera House: Twenty W acker Drive 

The Walker Art Center (ORIGINAL FRONT) ............. 413 

Directors 9 Meeting, 1929, Chicago Norwegian Technical 

Society .......................................... 446 

Convention Issue, Norwegian- American Technical Journal 447 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 



MIGRATION 

THE story of the Norwegian engi- 
neers in America is a short but vital OF SKILLS 
chapter in the larger story of immigra- 
tion. The Atlantic migration 1 involved 
millions of Europeans who were re- 
cruited in the main from the peasantry and the industrial pro- 
letariat of the Old World, emigrants who, having crossed the 
Atlantic, settled on the fertile lands of the New World or sup- 
plied the labor needed in a rapidly expanding industrial life. 
The engineers who migrated from Norway to America were, by 
contrast, few in number and their contribution consisted of 
applying on this continent the technical skills acquired in the 
"schools of Europe. The story of these men therefore involves a 
migration of skills in response to the needs of American society. 
Though it began in the 1860's, the migration of Norwegian 
engineers was of little importance before 1879 and it can be said 
to have ended in 1929, thus covering in all a period of only 
about fifty years. But the period thus covered was a half cen- 
tury of dynamic change, when our resources were developed in 
a manner without precedent and our technology altered by an 
amazing succession of discoveries. It was a period that wit- 
nessed the mechanization of agriculture, a revolution in the 
field of transportation, the growth of giant industrial plants, 
and the application of new sources of power to the wheels of 
production. It was a period, too, when the conquest of a con- 
tinent, begun much earlier, was carried to completion, when 
vast fortunes were amassed by men of vision and determination, 
and when great cities grew in response to the needs of commerce 

1 From the title The Atlantic Migration, 1607-1860, by Marcus Lee Hansen (Cam- 
bridge, Massachusetts, 1940). 

3 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

and industry. It was, viewed from any angle, a period that pro- 
foundly altered our national way of living and thinking and left 
a heritage of unquestioned material benefits. 

& In the feverish activity that accompanied these events, 
Yankee inventive genius, quickened by the demands of Ameri- 
can life, was supported by the disciplined skills of the trained 
engineer, foreign as well as native. America, traditionally on the 
alert for skills, drew to her shores many of Europe's most tal- 
ented engineers. Not least among these were the young men 
from Norway, graduates either of the technical schools of the 
homeland or of others on the continent. Some were destined 
to make bold new contributions in their chosen field of activity; 
others, often no less able, worked brilliantly but with little glory 
at their varied assignments; while still others successfully moved 
over into the related field of business management. Whatever 
they may have accomplished as individuals, as a group the Nor- 
wegian engineers left an unmistakable imprint on their adopted 
country, an imprint which it is the purpose of this study to 
investigate. 

II 

Our story goes back in time to the eighteenth century, when 
a brilliant series of innovations so profoundly altered the eco- 
nomic and social life of England that historians were later to 
apply to them the name "industrial revolution." Though the 
transition is sometimes presented as an abrupt one, what the 
industrial revolution did broadly speaking was to apply 
the slowly accumulated knowledge of science to common eco- 
nomic pursuits and thus to bring about the industrial life and 
peculiar form of civilization that we know. Specifically, it sub- 
stituted the machine for human labor, applied steam and, later, 
oil and electricity to move the machine, and stimulated the 
growth of an already well-advanced factory system of produc- 
tion. It also increased the output of iron and steel and replaced 
charcoal with coke as the fuel used in smelting. It promoted the 
development of canals and improved highways, the railway lo- 

4 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

comotive, and the iron steamship. It also brought about the 
mass production of cheap staple products, established modern 
industrial capitalism, and effected countless social changes. 

It is wise to think of the industrial revolution as having roots 
that reach far into the past. It is also wise to think of it as an 
evolutionary process that has never ceased. From the familiar 
changes in the textile and metallurgical industries, the perfec- 
tion of the steam engine, and the revolution in farming, trans- 
portation, and communication, the story moves on to include 
the production of precision tools, improvements in mining, the 
discovery of the Bessemer and open-hearth methods of steel- 
making, and the coming of a host of new industries. Among the 
new industrial developments several have been outstanding in 
recent years electricity, petroleum, the motor industry, and 
chemistry. 

The men who invented the spinning and weaving machines 
of the eighteenth century and changed the technology of the 
metal industry even Watt of steam-engine fame were not 
engineers in the modern sense, despite their inventive genius 
and general technical skill. The later phases of the industrial 
revolution, however, were made possible by engineers and by 
technically trained men of lower rank. One recognized spokes- 
man states that the industrial revolution was "essentially an 
engineering revolution. During the following century [the nine- 
teenth} engineering and its allied arts became the basis of 
western civilization." 2 In the eighteenth century engineering 
was identified with war operations; only late in that epoch did 
civil engineering become distinct from the military, and the 
nineteenth century saw its development into an honored pro- 
fession. Craftsmen and classroom mathematicians were replaced 
as technical leaders by engineers; the training of engineers 
became a recognized part of the educational function; and so- 
cieties were formed to protect the interests of men engaged in 
engineering work. In 1818 the Institution of Civil Engineers 
was formed in England; its charter, issued ten years later, de- 

8 H, S. Person, in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 5:54$ (New York, 1981), 

5 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

fined the new profession as one preoccupied with the "art of 
directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and 
convenience of man, as the means of production and of traffic 
in states." The engineers were thus concerned with "the con- 
struction of roads, bridges, aqueducts, canals, river navigation 
and docks for internal intercourse and exchange, and in the 
construction of ports, harbours, moles, breakwaters and light- 
houses, and in the art of navigation by artificial power for the 
purpose of commerce, and in the construction and adaptation 
of machinery, and in the drainage of cities and towns." 

The increased specialization of economic life and the com- 
plexities of production in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries 
led to many branchings from the profession of civil engineering. 
Thus mining and mechanical engineering soon became separate 
fields, and before the nineteenth century had passed, sanitary 
engineering had attained both respectability and independence* 
Electrical engineering grew out of the invention of the electric 
generator and similar equipment, and following close behind 
were chemical, automotive, and aeronautical engineering* The 
close relationship of engineering and industry led to the devel- 
opment of a highly specialized branch of industrial engineering. 
Engineering, itself a product, gave direction to the industrial 
revolution and became an applied science with many divisions. 

HI 

That the new techniques, so successful in England, should 
spread to the continent of Europe, particularly in the years after 
the defeat of Napoleon, was, of course, inevitable; but the 
extent to which they altered traditional ways of living varied 
in the different states. In Norway the industrial revolution took 
place about the middle of the nineteenth century, and it can be 
said that its progress, while limited, was fairly rapid and its 
influence great. 8 The work of Frederik Stang, the energetic first 

*The removal of monopolies and special privilege, the abolition of the British and 

ft!i w EVlff l l?n aC S) ?i nd th adopt1011 of a ****! Policy in the period inwcft. 
ately before this, as well as the great expositions of 1851 and 1855 m London and 
ransj gave a great stimulus to economic development. 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

minister of the interior in Norway during the period 1846-56, 
helped usher in a new era for his country. 4 

It is interesting to note that in 1845 Norway had but three 
little textile mills; in addition to these there were a few brick 
kilns and rope factories using no machinery. An additional num- 
ber of iron and copperworks and sawmills operated in the 
old tradition. An eloquent testimony of the spirit of the time 
is revealed in the fact that Norway had 82 tobacco factories, 
53 breweries, and 1,387 distilleries! Her population was in the 
neighborhood of 1,300,000, of which only about 160,000 lived 
in the towns or cities. Of the urban group most of the workers 
were artisans or servants. Norway was a distinctly nonindustrial 
country with a population that was overwhelmingly rural. 5 

This condition, however, could not for long remain unaffected 
by influences from abroad. In 1845 two young men, ^natives of 
Christiania (Oslo) , set out from Manchester for Norway, each 
with a group of spinning masters and foremen. By the next year 
both had established spinning mills in the Christiania district, 
while a third enterpriser had started a mill near Bergen. Several 
years later an interesting venture was begun by Halvor Schou, 
who started a cotton mill near Christiania and shortly there- 
after acquired still another. Schou introduced the steam engine 
in his mills and produced a cotton fabric of a quality equal to 
products imported from abroad. In the sixties, following other 
ventures in the manufacturing field, the Aker River at Christia- 
nia was thoroughly industrialized for a considerable distance, 
one plant along its course employing as many as 400 workers. 
Despite the predominantly limited operations of these plants, 
they had a marked effect on Norwegian economy, promoting, 
among other things, commercial banking and an extensive mar- 
keting network. The new factory owner, who as a rule lived in 
the country where his plant was located, came to consider him- 
self the representative of a new era; he was regarded by others 

4 For an able discussion of his work as minister of the interior, see Bjarne Svare, 
Frederik Stang, jynte bolkm, 1808-1866, 199-S5S (Oslo, 1930). 

8 Kmit Greve, "Arbeideme og den nye industri," in Norsk kultwrUstorie, 4: 131, 
151-158 (Oslo, 1940). 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

as a technical leader in production and financial circles, whose 
ways contrasted sharply with those of the rich and respectable 
city merchant. With this growth in importance of the factory 
and the factory owner, there came a corresponding growth in 
the industrial proletariat. The factory system, with all its at- 
tendant advantages and evils, had come to Norway to tay. e 

The industrial revolution came not only in the form of the 
factory, with its power-driven machinery, but also as a series 
of radical changes in transportation and communication. It is 
significant that between 1820 and 1854 the Norwegian govern- 
ment spent no more than a total of 5,000,000 crowns on roads, 7 
Between 1854 and 1886 an average of about 1,000,000 crowns 
was spent annually for the same purpose. The change was due 
in no small measure to the work of a military engineer, Christian 
Vilhelm Bergh, who was brought into the new department of 
the interior in 1849. Later made director of highways, Bergh 
planned a number of new routes and rebuilt others, eliminating 
steep grades. These roads, including some daring and excellent 
bridges, won for Norway a reputation in Europe as the home of 
good mountain highways a reputation that was enhanced by 
the work of Thomas Bennett in introducing regular travel 
service about the country. 8 

Steamboats appeared in the extensive coastal traffic of the 
country as early as 1827, but it was not until the seventies that 
steam seriously challenged the sail and oar. This retarded de- 
velopment was caused by no real opposition to the steamboat; 
all, in fact, recognized it as vital and perhaps inevitable. The 
reason for its slow adoption was thus not lack of public interest, 
but lackof capital. The early significance of the steam engine in 
coastal travel derived from the role that it played, between 1827 
and 1870, in making the Norwegians machine-minded We are 
told that it "made an overwhelming impression, not only on 

a Greve, in Norsk kulturhistorie, 151-174; Wilhelm Keilhau, Det nowfo folk ttv oo 
hutorie, 9:130-135 (Oslo, 1931). ' y 

7 The crown (krone) was worth from to 5 cents before World War II. 

8 Georg Biochmann, "Tid er penger," in Norsk kulturhistorie, 4;1$-31: *Kei)hau t 
Det norske folks liv og historie, 9:89-105. 

8 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

women and children, but also on grown seafolk who had been 
around and seen a bit of the world yes, perhaps especially on 
the latter, for they understood better than others what a revolu- 
tion the steam engine signified/' 9 After 1870 the steamboat 
played a role in transportation the importance of which can 
hardly be overemphasized. 

While the steamboat met with no real opposition in Norway, 
the reception given the locomotive and railroad was at first 
not enthusiastic. The difficult terrain of the country and its 
scattered population caused many to think that railroad con- 
struction would never yield benefits commensurate with costs. 
Nevertheless, Norway was a pioneer in railroad building in north 
Europe. A government commission studied the problem of rail- 
roads and recommended in 1848 that a line be built between 
Christiania and Eidsvold. After some delay, the Norwegian 
parliament (Storting) accepted the offer of a British firm to 
build a railroad with a telegraph line along its entire length 
and to provide all necessary equipment and rolling stock. The 
work of construction was completed in 1854. 10 Norway, ahead of 
her neighbor to the east, thus began in the middle fifties to 
reckon time in minutes. Several other lines connecting major 
cities were soon built, and in 1865 a tieup was effected with the 
Swedish railroads and thence with the continent. While it can- 
not be said that the country was thoroughly knit together by 
rail, the locomotive quickened the tempo of Norwegian life and 
served as another reminder that the machine had come to the 
Far North. 11 

Warmer than the reception given the railroad was the favor 
gained by the electric telegraph. The Norwegian government 
quickly dropped its plans for an "optical telegraph" line, and 
followed the advice of Carsten Tank Nielsen by adopting a 

* North kulturhistorie, 4:46. For an interesting discussion of the steamboat, see 
p. 37-54. 

10 It is interesting to note that the route was studied and the railroad largely 
planned by Robert Stephenson, son of the great Scottish pioneer in the locomotive 
field. 

u Norsk kultwhistorit* 4: 54-60 ; Keilhau, Det nowke folks liv og historic, 9:100 
118. 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

comprehensive system of electromagnetic lines. The first unit 
in this plan/ 2 between Christiania and Drammen, was opened 
for service on January 1, 1855, and the system's growth there- 
after was rapid and well received. By 1870 even the remotest 
part of the country was only seconds from the capital, and the 
Norwegians soon boasted of having the world's longest tele- 
graph lines in ratio to population. The cable, following close 
on the heels of the telegraph, linked the country with Denmark 
in 1867 and with Scotland one year later. 18 

Hardly less important, in considering the adoption of new 
techniques, was the introduction of a uniform, postal rate in 
1854; in 1878 the postal service became a part of the inter- 
national system. The metric system of measurements was 
adopted by law in 1875, about the same time that decimal divi- 
sions for the monetary system were introduced in the national 
mint. 14 

These and other innovations combined with economic activi- 
ties of old standing, some of which dated back hundreds of 
years. 15 In the lowlands of southern and eastern Norway and in 
the area of the Trondhjemf jord, vast stretches of timber led to 
an early development of forestry and the export of lumber, The 
repeal of British and Dutch navigation laws in the middle of 
the nineteenth century proved a great boon to the Norwegian 
timber industry. Closely related to this were paper, pulp* and 
cellulose production. The first mill for the manufacture of paper 
dates from about 1680, but the modern paper-making machine 
was introduced only in 1838, and manufacturing in the modem 
sense began in the early sixties after a beginning had been 
made in the production of pulp. The output of cellulose pro- 
duced from wood began in the following decade. Mining, which 
dates from the early seventeenth century, was the oldest export 



rl T ? y ^ St *f l^i!^ i was> ?. f ccmrae the wktfrdy ^important one be- 
Christiania and Eidsvold, along the railroad route 

^ Norsk Jwlturhtstorie, 4:61-67; Keilhau, Det nonke fdfa liv off historic, 9:118- 

^Norsk kultw historic, 4:73; Keilhau, Det norske jolkx Ivo og ftistori*, 9: WM& 
Among the innovations were agricultural schools, loan offices, modern light- 
houses, nail factories, a match plant, and some new machine shops, 

10 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

industry of the country, the silverworks at Kongsberg and the 
copperworks at K0ros being familiar to the student of seven- 
teenth-century Norway. Iron mining also led to the creation of 
many ironworks in various parts of the land. Other metals, such 
as nickel and chrome, came into prominence at a later date; 
Norwegian nickel, for example, led the world output between 
1870 and 1877, Closely connected with mining was the foundry 
industry, which also got its start in the seventeenth century 
and which, despite lack of native materials, is still a thriving 
activity. Dependent in the nineteenth century on England and 
other countries for coal and even for semi-finished goods, this 
industry produced a wide variety of products, including cast- 
iron stoves, propellers, other ship parts, and engineering articles. 
To these industries may also be added fishing, the preparation 
of fish products, shipping, and shipbuilding all of which were 
affected by the technical changes of the new day. Water power 
as a source of electricity and the present important chemical 
industries belong to a later period. 16 

Besides introducing much that was new, and stimulating 
more that was old, in Norway's economic life, the industrial 
revolution also had a profound effect upon the social structure 
of the country. It has already been noted that a new factory- 
owning type of businessman had come into being and that a 
new industrial proletariat had appeared on the national scene. 
It should be added that Norway after 1846 witnessed the 
growth of a strong new urban middle class. While it is true 
that there was a middle class long before 1846, in some places 
powerful out of all proportion to its numbers, it was then only 
a small part of the total population; it had been, in the words of 
a Norwegian historian, a kind of "putty between the other 
classes of society." This situation was changed by the industrial 
revolution, which, by adding new elements to the middle class, 

19 A reliable guide for a study of Norway's industries is found in the volumes of 
D&t nonke folks Uv og historic A convenient summary of the chief features of Nor- 
wegian economic life, with emphasis on the very recent period, is the Norway Year 
Book, edited by Per Vogt (Oslo, 1938). 

11 



(1 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

made it both extensive and vigorous. In Norway it came to 
consist of the following: 

Poor members of the bureaucracy and other academic groups that, 
socially considered, could not live on a level suited to their pro- 
fession, of normal-school graduates and other teachers, of public and 
private functionaries, of small businessmen, country tradesmen 
and shopkeepers, of small master craftsmen, skippers, shipmate*, 
and boatbuilders, of well-to-do fishermen and men in many other 
economic pursuits. Owners and farmers of the moderate-sized 
farms in the country belong in the same economic classification, 
but they were so closely tied up with the other farmers (binder) 
in class feeling and economic interests that it would be wrong to 
separate them from the farmer class. 17 

It is unnecessary to suggest that this middle-class group came 
to be more important in the coastal towns than in the coun- 
try's interior, particularly if the well-to-do farmer element 
is excluded from consideration. 18 It is from this middle-class 
group that most of the engineers came. 

IV 

Wherever the industrial revolution went, it stimulated a desire 
for increased technical education. The earliest models of the 
now familiar technical institutes were, however, the trade 
schools of France, the Ecole d'Arts et Metiers that Napoleon 
set up in a number of cities and the Ecole Centrale des Arts et 
Manufactures erected in Paris by private initiative in 18i}), 
Polytechnic schools began to appear on the continent as early 
as 1806 (Prague) , and even in the eighteenth century Berlin 
had its Bauakadeniie. In the German states of the nineteenth 
century the development of technical education was rapid. The 
Bau and Gewerbe academies gave way to polytechnic institutes 
that in turn developed into the familiar Technisehe Hoch^chuJen 
of recent times. Closer to Norway the Chalmer's Institute 
(Chalmerska institutet) was founded at Gothenburg, Sweden, 
in 1829; in the same year Denmark's Polytechnic Institute 
(Polytekniske laereanstalt) was established in Copenhagen . 

1T Keilhau, Det norske folks liv og historic, 9:410. 

18 In this study this group is considered a part, and a significant part, of llie middle 
class. 

12 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

Finland's first technical school was begun at Helsingfors in 
1847. 10 

Norway was in some respects ahead of the rest of Europe in 
technical training. Kongsberg had a mining school or academy 
as early as 1750.* In Bergen, where the handicrafts were prized, 
a drawing (tegne) school was set up in 1772, and in 1818 the 
Royal Norwegian Arts and Handicrafts School (Den kgl. norske 
kunjst og handverksskole) began its work in Christiania, the 
capital. Similar public drawing schools soon sprang up in other 
towns. But it was the industrial changes of the mid-nineteenth 
century that led to an agitation for genuine technical training 
such as was already available in the other states of Europe. 21 

The sharp upswing in Norway's trade and industry after 
1840 caused the practical men who served with Stang to think 
in terms of technical training. Army and navy officers were also 
interested because of their concern for national defense. Plans 
were accordingly drawn up for a school under the supervision 
of the navy and closely associated with the machine shops of 
the navy yard at Horten. These were adopted by the Storting 
in 1854 and an appropriation of slightly more than $1,000 a 
year was voted for maintenance. The school opened in Septem- 
ber, 1855, with 20 students. 

It is clear from the records that Horten's Technical School 
(Hortens tekniske skole) was intended to stress theoretical fun- 
damentals. It trained both naval and civilian technicians, but 
many of the Horten graduates have achieved with no further 
training recognition in mechanical engineering lines. The sub- 
jects taught were basic enough mathematics, mechanics, 
drawing, machine study, physics, chemistry (after 1870), and 
English. A week was devoted to surveying. An entrance exami- 

w The various encyclopedias English, French, German, Danish, and Swedish 
#ive adequate accounts of the growth of technical education in the different countries 
of Europe. 

m It was discontinued in 1814. Instruction in mining was then taken over by the 
new university at Christiania. 

M A convenient summary of the growth of technical education in Norway is Direc- 
tor N. de L. Kobberstad's "Historisk oversikt," in @8~ar$ jubileumsberetning 1912- 
1937, Bergen tekniske $kole t Odo tekniske skole, Trondheim tekniske tkole, 7-18 
(Oslo, 1087), 

13 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

nation tested the applicant's knowledge of arithmetic, reading, 
and writing! In practice, however, entrance was far from easy 
for the civilian students; preference was given to a small group 
of men with extensive shop experience, most of them of mature 
age. The period of training consisted of three semesters, thus 
requiring residence of a year and a half. During the last semes* 
ter, if the student were both willing and able to follow, he 
studied differential and integral calculus. One of the great ad- 
vantages at Horten was, of course, free access to the navy\s 
machine shops, where purely theoretical teachings coulcl be 
tested by careful observation. 

Among the graduates of Horten were such distinguished 
American engineers as Edwin Ruud, Tinius Olsen, Carl Barth, 
and Henrik V. von Zernikow Loss all of them alike in their 
amazing grasp of mathematical and mechanical fundamentals, 
They were, to use the words of their beloved teacher, Balthazar 
Schnitler, brilliant demonstrations that it is better for a school 
to be "so adjusted as to turn out a small number of technicians 
with enough knowledge to stand on their own feet, than a great 
number who cannot/' He continues: 

Our school has assumed a peculiar position among the country's 
technical schools; it has a quite heavy program crowded into a 
short period of time. This has had the result that a student, to keep 
up, must be more mature than the one who enrolls at our schools 
giving long courses. . . . The students' average age is between 20 
and %% years. . . . Our school's reputation rests in large part on 
the fact that it offers the possibility of a theoretical foundation to 
older people who earlier have worked in shops and factories, sonic 
at home and some in America, and for whom the four-year course 
as a rule is impossible. 22 

The men of Horten were trained along mechanical lines, par- 
ticularly in problems relating to the sea; and there was still 
need in the land for comprehensive training in engineering and 

M Joh. K. Bergwitz, "Hortens tekniske skole," in Femti-aara jubilaMm#<Jc*tsfaifL 
Hortens Ukmske sMe, 186M905, 7-W (Christiama, [1805]). A short amount of 
Horten is Heitman Altern's "Norway's First Technical School's 75th AmxivetMUcy; A 
Short Historical Review," in Norwegians-American Technical Journal, vol $, no. fc, 
p. I, 18 (August, 1980). The quotation given above is a translation from Bergwitss 
p. 18. The account of the Horten school is brought up to date by a 7^ to bharajbk 
lubdeums-festsknft, Hortens tekniske skole, 1866~>19$0 (Oslo, [1980]). 

14 



A MIGBATION OF SKILLS 

architecture. In recognition of this fact, a proposal was made 
before the Storting in 1857 that two schools a "school of in- 
dustry" and a polytechnic institute should be set up in Chris- 
tiania. Nothing, however, came of this proposal. 

The first technical school of higher rank was founded at 
Trondhjem in 1870, thanks to a legacy left by Thomas Angell 
to that northern city. Plans worked out by a local committee 
and approved by the Storting in 1869 called at first for a three- 
year technical course, with one year of training common to all 
students and two years of specialized study. Trondhjem's Tech- 
nical College (Trondhjems tekniske leereanstalt), which resulted, 
opened its doors in November of the following year. Until the 
school year 1890-91, the Trondhjem college had three lines of 
specialized study and after that date, four. These were archi- 
tecture, civil engineering (bygningsfag), mechanical engineering, 
and chemistry. In addition to the customary three years, stu- 
dents not uncommonly chose to remain a fourth year for study 
in a second major field. Thus a student graduating after three 
years with a degree in mechanical engineering might elect to 
remain a fourth year to acquire competence also in, say, the 
chemical line. Soon changing to a four-year program, Trond- 
hjem's Technical College (familiarly called by its graduates 
T.T.L.) pitched its work on a consistently high level and 
counted some of the world's leading engineers among its former 
students. Such names as Singstad, Giaver, Cappelen Smith, and 
Gr^nningsaeter suggest the quality of its men and the thor- 
oughness of its training. It is interesting to note that Captain 
Christian Torber Hegge Geelmuyden, who had acquired a con- 
siderable reputation as the first head of the Horten school, left 
in 1870 to serve as first director at Trondhjem. 

Just as the city of Trondhjem took the initiative in starting its 
famous college, so the other leading cities of Norway, not 
without considerable rivalry, sought to keep pace with the trend 
toward technical education,. When in 1867 Professor H. Christie 
submitted a plan for a modestly endowed polytechnic institute, 
together with a three-year technical elementary school, the 

15 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Storting, after some delay, rejected the proposal. The idea was 
revived in altered form in 1871, when the Christiania Savings 
Bank, at the suggestion of Professor Aschehoug, decided to give 
80,000 crowns toward buildings and equipment for a technical 
school in the capital. Finally approved, the plans resulted in 
Christiania's Technical College (Kristianias tekniske skole), 
which began class work in August, 1873. Also a municipal proj- 
ect, the new school resembled in many respects the one at 
Trondhjem. It sought "to impart the necessary elementary 
knowledge to young men who have decided upon a technical 
career or who wish to prepare themselves for entrance into an 
educational establishment of a higher technical level/' The 
Christiania college offered at first a three-year course common 
to all students; in 1876 the period of education wds lengthened 
to four years and provision was made for specialised training 
in mechanical and civil engineering in the fourth year; after 
1890 it also had a department to prepare chemical engineers. 
This school enjoyed for a long time a reputation second only 
to that of Trondhjem's Technical College. The names Olaf Hoff, 
Mohn, and Berle are a measure of the men it attracted and the 
training it imparted. 23 The Christiania college, like the one at 
Trondhjem, required of its students the completion of high- 
school (middelskole) studies. 

A third municipal school opened its doors in 1875 . This was 
Bergen's Technical College (Bergens tekniske skole), which 
owed its origin very largely to the initiative of the Bergen Handi- 
crafts Society (Handverksforening) in 1870. What the society 
wanted was a practical trade school that would help preserve 
and foster the handicrafts of the old Hansa city. After consider- 
able discussion in Bergen, the Storting gave its consent to a 
technical Sunday and evening school as well as a technical 
elementary school. As at Christiania, this college, whose de- 
tailed plans were approved in 1873, was to give the necessary 
elementary training to youngsters both for vocational activity 

28 A good brief account of the founding of the Trondhjem and Christiania technical 
schools is included in Kobberstad's summary in 85-fo s juUl&wmsb&retning. The Nor- 
wegian encyclopedias supplement this material. 

16 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

and for entrance into an engineering college or similar institu- 
tion. In general it followed Christie's early plan, having a three- 
year course of training common to all students. After 1890, in 
accordance with a new plan, the Bergen school offered special 
departments in mechanics and chemistry, thus going the way 
of the Christiania school. The list of its distinguished graduates, 
while shorter than those of the schools at Trondhjem and Chris- 
tiania, includes AILS and a number of other prominent American 
engineers. 

It is interesting to examine the courses required at Bergen's 
Technical College under its plan of 1890. All students had to 
take algebra and descriptive geometry, physics, inorganic chem- 
istry, simple mechanics and machine study, structural princi- 
ples, designing, mechanical and chemical "technology," elements 
of mineralogy, surveying, heating and ventilation, electrotech- 
nics, Norwegian, bookkeeping, and correspondence. The students 
specializing in mechanics and chemistry naturally took ad- 
vanced courses in these fields as well as differential and integral 
calculus* Students entering the school were required to be at 
least fifteen years old and confirmed in the state church; fur- 
thermore they must have received in the high-school examina- 
tion at least an average grade (middelkarakter) in mathematics 
or have passed an entrance examination of a quality similar 
to the one required for completion of the preparatory school. 
In addition to mathematics the school required a comprehensive 
knowledge of Norwegian and a reading knowledge of German. 24 

Those who worked for the beginnings of technical education 
in Norway had in mind elementary training. It soon became 
clear, however, that the students who enrolled in the schools 
were generally more mature and better grounded in theory than 
it was anticipated they would be. In fact they sought nothing 
less than an engineering education. The schools, it has been 
observed, soon pitched their training on a higher level than 
the original plans called for. In this manner they came to "serve 

24 Festskrijt ved Bergens tekniske skoles &~aar$ jubilo&um, juni t WOO, 28 (Bergen, 
1900). Included in this comprehensive survey is a historical review, "Den tekniske 
skole 1876-1900," by F. Arentz, p. 3-83. 

17 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

as makeshifts for a technical institute without being quite able 
to fill this role, and at the same time to serve as superior tech- 
nical preparatory schools. The schools, in other words, had as 
a task the gratifying requirement of training for all the technical 
positions in industry and technical work generally. A large part 
of the schools' students aimed at an engineering education and 
some supplemented their training at foreign, especially German, 
technical schools." 25 

In addition to the schools already mentioned and those of 
other European countries, one other institution sent a consid- 
erable number of its graduates to America, though usually after 
continuation study in Germany. This was the Mechanical Trade 
School at Porsgrund (Skiensfjordens mekaniske fagskole), an 
experiment in technical education that was begun in 1884, The 
Porsgrund school, since 1901 a state institution, offered a two- 
year course aiming to provide young men with sound theoretical 
study as well as practical training in the machine shop. Its 
graduates have frequently distinguished themselves in mcchani* 
cal and electrical fields in America, though some have gone over 
to other branches of engineering. 26 

It reflects no discredit on the schools at Trondhjem, Chris- 
tiania, and Bergen to say that technical education in Norway 
was in many respects unsatisfactory until the country had a 
state institution on an academic level as high as the German 
technical Hochschule, which had the same rank as a university 
and required the artium examination as a prerequisite for en- 
trance. The need for a state institution was recognized a early 
as 1833, but the creation of the schools discussed above tended 
to lessen the demand for such an undertaking. IB 1880 a plan 
for a polytechnic institute was brought forward; after being 
repeatedly presented to the Storting, it was abandoned in 1890. 
The proposal that was ultimately accepted was submitted to 
the Storting in 1900 and accepted in the same year. 

It was considered wise to locate the new school at Trond- 

26 Kobberstad, in 8-ar* jubileumsberetninff. 

*An able discussion of this ^ school is Ant. Kj01seth, SJdmsfjordm* 
fagskole, Porsgrunn> 1884^-1934 (Porsgraim, 1934), 

18 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

hjem ? which was not only the cultural center of a great period 
in Norway's past but, since it was located near the heart of the 
country's mining district, had aspirations for an industrial 
future. Economic considerations postponed the actual founding 
of the technical institute and caused some changes in the plans 
of 1900, but finally on September 15, 1910, the school was 
opened to 100 students. Complete courses were offered in archi- 
tecture, chemistry, civil, electrical, niechanical, arid mining 
engineering, and naval architecture. Students seeking admis- 
sion had to pass artium. The institute, not needing to concern 
itself with basic courses, could and did concentrate on four years 
of intensive engineering training. Growing rapidly with the 
expanding industrial life of Norway after 1910 and adding 
specialized departments as they were needed, the new school 
improved the quality of technical training in the country and 
raised engineering in public esteem to a level comparable to the 
pure sciences, law, medicine, the humanities, and theology 
fields to which the national university devoted itself. 27 

A total of 3,919 students enrolled at Norway's Institute of 
Technology (Norges tekniske h^iskole) between 1910 and 1935. 
In these twenty-five years 2,096 engineers and 286 architects 
were graduated. 28 Up to 1925 it was estimated that about 400 
of the graduates did engineering work outside Norway, many 
of them in North America, The graduates of the new school 
also assumed the leading engineering role in Norway. 

Because the Institute of Technology replaced the older 
schools at Trondhjem, Bergen, and Christiania in the training 
of engineers, the entire plan and scope of the latter were changed 
by the Storting in 1911. Thereafter they were schools for the 

m Edgar B. SeMeldrop, "Norges tekniske h0iskole, 1910-&0," in Studenterjubilozet, 
Trondhjem 19&Q* m W-aars historik, 9-18 (Trondhjem, 1920); Sem Saeland, "Trond- 
hjem's Institute," in American-Scandinavian Review, 9:1&8-17 (February, 19&1); Alf 
Kolflaath, "Norway's Institute of Technology," in Norwegian-American Technical 
Journal, vol. 8, no. 8, p. 1, 7 15 (July, 1989); and Norges tekniske hfakolc, beretning 
om mrksomheten, 1910-^0 (Trondhjem, 1920). Student life is described by Louis 
Feinsilber in *'Studenter-liv i Trondheim/' in Nordmanm-forbundet, $l:90-92 
(1988). Nordmands-forbundet became Nordmanns-forbundet with the issue of Janu- 
ary, 193. 

88 Nordmanns-f orbundet, 88:888 (October, 1985), 

19 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

preparation of technicians, as distinguished from engineers. 
In their reorganized form they offered two years of training 
and sought to prepare men as master bricklayers and builders, 
technical assistants in the state and municipal administrations, 
draftsmen, contractors, building, shop, and factory foremen, 
directors of the smaller electric works, shipyards, and other 
industrial projects in general those technical positions that, 
lie somewhere between engineering on the one hand and skilled 
labor on the other. The schools (tekniske mellctnskoler) thus 
continued to play an important though quite altered role in 
the twentieth-century life of Norway/ but their graduates, un- 
like those of an earlier day and those of the Institute of Tech- 
nology, were to take a minor part in the life of the New World. 

V 

The students who availed themselves of the opportunities 
embodied in the technical schools came from that body of 
Norwegian society which might be called a blending of the old 
middle class and the new the merchants, well-to-do fanners, 
traders, shipowners, shopkeepers, professional men, and lesser 
bureaucrats who belonged to the Norway of the early nine- 
teenth century, and the factory owners, brokers, and Herks 
created by the industrial revolution. To be sure, there wm* sons 
of a few prominent state officials and of aristocratic merchants, 
and there were some whose parents were middle class only by 
courtesy, but the students came for the moKt part from the 
towns and cities of the coastal area and from farms with a 
surplus sufficient to support a promising boy in college*. 

A glance at the records 31 shows that of the seven engineers- 
known to have left for America in the 1880's one was the son 
of a court chamberlain, another of a country gentleman, and 
a third of a wholesale merchant; two were sons of judges, one 
claimed a skilled workman for father, and the seventh a farmer 

89 In 1936 the word mell&nukole was dropped and the schools are wow culled 
Trondheim tekniske skole, etc. 

30 Kobberstad, in 85~ar$ jubileumsberetnmg. 

5X Built up by the writer over a period of several years. The figures given 
merely illustrative of the story that they reveal. 

20 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

who was also owner of a small machine shop. Of the twenty- 
two known to have left Norway for the New World in 1880 
the parentage of fifteen is traceable. The record reads: five 
farmers, one newspaper publisher, one broker, one engineer, one 
merchant, one teacher, two tailors, one machinist, one lawyer, 
and a ship's captain. Ten years later the situation remained 
relatively unchanged. In 1890 at least twenty-one graduates left 
for America. Of these, fathers of five were farmers, three were 
shipowners and one a shipbuilder; two were schoolmen, one 
a cabinetmaker, one an engineer, one a merchant, one a lawyer, 
one a pastor, one a state forester, One a sheriff, one a railway 
official, one a factory owner, and the last is unknown. The 
records for 1900, 1910, and 1920 reveal a like situation. 

Until the establishment of the institute at Trondhjem, the 
number who enrolled each year in the technical schools of 
Norway was small, and the students enjoyed little of the glamor 
that is usually associated with European university life. They 
may well have been, as Johan Bojer has described them in The 
Great Hunger, "a motley crowd of young men." 

Among them were youths like Peer Holm, who dreamed of 
being chief engineer because the engineers of the new society 
were "priests of a sort, albeit they did not preach nor pray." 
They would take their chances with the others, "some to fall 
by sunstroke in Africa, or be murdered by natives in China." 
Some would "become mining kings in the mountains of Peru, 
or heads of great factories in Siberia, thousands of miles from 
home and friends." Many would go to the New World and be 
lost perhaps for a matter of years, perhaps forever. And a 
few would remain at home, "with a post on the State railways, 
to sit in an office and watch their salaries mount by Increments 
of 1% every fifth year/* 

Not only was the technical course of the nineteenth century 
a shorter and less expensive one than those requiring artium 
and a university training, but it must be added that, prior to 
the establishment of the institute at Trondhjem, engineering 
itself could claim less prestige and respect than attached to 

21 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

theology, law, medicine, or the academic profession. Literature 
is a fair barometer of the public attitude, and it is interesting 
to note that before Bj>rnson completed his play The New ##*- 
tern (Det ny system) in 1879 there was hardly a character in 
all Norwegian literature who was an engineer. 82 Hans Kampe, 
in The New System, is an engineer and the son of an engineer 
and he symbolizes both the frankness of America and Bjjtfrnson's 
determination to "live in truth." Kampe alone carries the ban- 
ner of truth on a stage overcrowded with engineers; he has lived 
in the New World and realizes with Bj^rnson that appearances 
have no final value. It is not strange that Bjjzfrnson, with his 
abounding faith in America, should use an engineer returned 
from the United States as a symbol of progress. What is really 
surprising is that other Norwegian writers were so slow to 
recognize in the engineer, as in the doctor, a figure sufficiently 
identified with modern civilization to play a leading role in 
fiction. In Ibsen's Little Eyolj (1894) Engineer Borgheim is 
interested in "a great piece of roadmaking up in the north/' 
but Borgheim is no great character, John Gabriel Borkman,** 
while not an engineer, is intoxicated with the spirit of the new 
industry. To him metal sings an unmistakable tune and steam- 
ships "weave a network of fellowship all around the world.** 
Looking back on his tragic life, he hears the hum of factories 
that might have been his. "The night shift is on -so they are 
working night and day. . . . The wheels are whirling and the 
bands are flashing round and round and round/* The Master 
Builder, who immediately comes to mind, is rather a reflection 
of Ibsen's own artistic yearnings than the architect that he 
seems at first to be. The engineer, with few exceptions, wan not 

t * Some interesting exceptions are worth noting: Bastian Monsen, a civil engmwn 
m Ibsen s The League of Youth, 1869; and Mordtmann, the engineer friend of Fru 
Wenche, in Kielland's "Poison" (Gift). 

* In Ibsen's play by the same name, published in 1890, Perhaps the first pi?e of 
Norwegian literature to pose the problem of the new materialistic civilisation versus 
the traditional order of things was Bj0rnson's little story "The Railroad and the 
Cemetery (Jernbanen og kirkegaarden), published in 1806, This account of a railroad 
that was to pass over a graveyard found Bj0rnson sympathising with conservative, 
pietism but prophetic enough to see the inevitable victory of the forces symbol'iawd by 
the railroad. J ' J 

22 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

yet considered worthy of playing a great role in the Norwegian 
drama. In this, as in other respects, literature only reflected the 
moods of society. 

Not until the twentieth century was there a tendency to use 
the engineer freely for fictional purposes, and even then he did 
not appear in an entirely favorable light. With Hamsun, for 
example, the engineer represents that materialistic or "Ameri- 
can" tendency which he fears and abhors and does not under- 
stand. With Bojer the situation is different. His novels bristle 
with engineers, inventors, and scientists, who come neatly off 
his pen. 84 Granted that they serve, as do all his novels, as 
instruments of a single idea, they are handled with sympathy 
and understanding. He knows what it is to stand by a machine 
as its master "mind and soul and directing will" and to 
gather the power to work miracles. With Bojer the modern 
technician is "a priest in his way," or, better, "a descendant of 
old Prometheus/* Peer Holm, in The Great Hunger, soon be- 
comes sick of the miracles of science, but he is a giant in the 
earth while his strength lasts. 

The engineer's position was unusual in one other respect. 
The building of highways and railroads and the use of the 
steamboat, for example, not only provided markets for farm 
produce and linked the towns with the farms up the valley, but 
they also brought the binder into a new and strange money 
economy. Factories that came with the industrial revolution 
also offered employment to those who sought it. Farms that for 
centuries had existed under a system of near self-sufficiency and 
barter found themselves suddenly mortgaged and not infre- 
quently in the hands of strangers. The uprooting of the rural 
population that followed the introduction of the new economy 
caused a migration again greatly facilitated by steamboat, 
highway, and railroad down the valley to the city and 
beyond. The movement of the country population to the city 
and the migration to America were two phases of the same 

** For example, Reim in "Our Kingdom' 1 (Vort rige), 1908; Reidar Bang in "Life" 
(Liv) t 1911; Sigurd Braa in the play of that name, 1916; and Leif Sund, the inventor, 
in "Day and Night" (Dagen og natten), 1985. 

23 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

broad tendency in nineteenth-century Norway. This breakup 
of the self-contained economy of the country has been carefully 
studied by Ingrid Gaustad Semmingsen in its relationship to 
emigration; 35 the part played by the engineer, nevertheless, is 
worthy of special mention. 

However important his part in the story of Norwegian mi- 
gration to America, the engineer himself did not respond to 
the same urges to leave his homeland. Many of the generaliza- 
tions that can be made for the causes of emigration as a whole 
do not apply directly to him. Certainly the usual social arid 
religious motives are missing. 30 The engineers were sturdy rep* 
resentatives of the middle classes and, apart from their purely 
professional desire for employment, they had no reason to leave 
a homeland that they loved and which in turn was generally 
kind to their group. The Norwegians responded quickly to the 
call from abroad for technical help, but they were in no sense 
unique; engineers also left the British Isles, Germany, Switzer- 
land, and the other Scandinavian countries, and all of these 
national groups distinguished themselves in the New World. 
It is only when we consider the percentage of graduates who left 
for America that the Norwegian figures are at all significant 
and we suspect motivations somewhat different from those in 
the general migration story. 

VI 

According to one recent publication a total of 1,018 students 
were graduated from Horten's Technical School.* 7 Of this 
number 211, or about 21 per cent, migrated to America,"* When 

* See her "Norwegian Emigration to America during the Nineteenth Century," in 
Norwegwn-Avierican Studies and Records, 11:66-81 (Northfield, 1940), and "Grunn- 
laget for utvandringen/' in Nordmanns-forbmdet, 0: 07-200 (July, 1036). For ft 
broad analysis of the various factors contributing to emigration and the theoriw 
thereof see Theodore C. Blegen's "Emigration Causes and Controversy " in Normemn 
Migration to America, 1825-1860, 154-176 (Norlhfieid, 1931), and "People in Din- 
?xT S10 ?i i m Norwe 9 im Migration to America: The Ammcan Trontitian, 454-479 
(Northfield, 1940). 

M Exeeptrons were a very few engineers of bonde origin who insisted that the nepo- 
tism of the bureaucracy forced them to leave Norway, and several converts of the 
Mormon Jaith who were victims of religious persecution, 

75 ars biografisk jubtieums-festskrift, Hortem tekniske skoh, 
Some later returned to Norway. 

24 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

the record of Trondhjem's Technical College is considered, the 
results are slightly more impressive. A total of 1,290 regular 
students between 1870 and 1915 is recorded in the school's 
publication of 1916. Of these no less than 350, or about 27 
per cent, were drawn to America. A supplement to this volume 
lists an additional 867 regular Trondhjem students, 138 of 
whom left for the United States or Canada. 39 After 1910 the 
reorganized technical schools at Trondhjem, Bergen, and Chris- 
tiania sent a much smaller percentage of their graduates to 
America, partly because of the rapid industrial developments 
in Norway after that date. 40 Of the other schools either no 
records have been published or, as in the case of Bergen's Tech- 
nical College, they are unreliable. 41 From the figures, however 
inadequate, it is nevertheless clear that something like one 
fourth of the students of Norway's technical schools, from the 
time of the founding of the Horten school to the erection of 
the institute dt Trondhjem, made their way to the New World. 
During the years of heaviest migration the percentage some- 
times ran as high as 40, 50, and even 60 per cent. 

Just as the records of the schools are unsatisfactory, so too 
are the figures dealing with the year-by-year migration to 
America. The official United States records list collectively the 
Scandinavian, but not the Norwegian architects and engineers 
who entered the country after 1897. Inadequate though they 
are, the government statistics present a picture of the general 
rise and fall in the migration story and link the exodus of the 
Norwegian engineers with the similar trek of their Swedish and 
Danish cousins. The following table gives this information: 42 

88 0, Alstad, Trondhjemjteknikernes matnkel, biografiske meddelelser om sam&ige 
faste off kospiterende elev&r av Trondhjems tekniske laweanstalt, 1870-1915 (Trond- 
hjem, 1016); 0. Alstad, Tillegg til Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel (Trondhjem, 1982), 

40 Of the graduates 1,340 are listed, of whom only 81 set out for the New World; 
$&~ars jubileumsberetning. 

^ The figures given would seem to indicate a total of 181 between 1878-1900; 28 
of these went to America. The record is obviously incomplete. See Festskrift ved 
Bergens tekniske $koles $$<~aars jubttcewm. 

43 Compiled from Annual Reports of the Commissioner-general of Immigration and 
statistical information received from the department of justice. The years given repre- 
sent fiscal years ending June 30. 

25 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

YEAR PERSONS YEAR PERSONS 

1897 49 1910 1*4 

1898 64 1920 261 

1899 56 1921 252 

1900 53 1922 136 

1901 76 1923 417 

1902 145 1924 725 

1903 392 1925 315 

1904 300 1926 401 

1905 209 1927 368 

1906 332 1928 209 

1907 280 1929 190 

1908 137 1930 79 

1909 144 1931 33 

1910 193 1932 12 

1911 225 1933 11 

1912 176 1934 8 

1913 167 1935 10 

1914 177 1936 9 

1915 203 1937 29 

1916 261 1938 26 

1917 259 1939 23 

1918 100 1940 35 

These figures, in addition to including architects and engi- 
neers from the entire Scandinavian North, naturally omit those 
technicians who went to Canada. The figures also begin too late 
(in 1897), and the years indicated are fiscal years that end June 
30. Recognizing these shortcomings in the official records, the 
present writer h,as compiled a year-by-year record of the Nor- 
wegian engineers and architects who left for either the United 
States or Canada between the years 1860 and 1930 a period 
that encompasses virtually the entire immigration of technical 
skills. This record was taken from various sources the publi- 
cations of the technical schools of Norway, newspaper items, 
obituaries in American engineering journals, questionnaires, 
letters, and similar material. Every effort has been made to in- 
clude only those who were bona fide products of regular technical 
institutes, whether Scandinavian, British, or continental. No 
attempt has been made to determine whether the residence of the 
engineers in the New World was temporary or permanent. The 
results of this study are presented in the following table: 

26 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

YEAR PERSONS YEAR PERSONS 

I860 1 1902 67 

1865 3 1903 49 

1868 1 1904 34 

1869 2 1905 46 
1871 1 1906 43 
1873 1 1907 31 

1875 1 1908 12 

1876 2 1909 30 

1877 1 1910 22 

1878 5 1911 20 

1879 17 1912 11 

1880 22 1913 14 

1881 22 1914 7 

1882 17 1915 4 

1883 19 1916 4 

1884 5 1917 4 

1885 8 1918 3 

1886 7 1919 8 

1887 27 1920 8 

1888 15 1921 11 

1889 11 1922 11 

1890 21 1923 32 

1891 6 1924 33 

1892 17 1925 15 

1893 18 1926 32 

1894 4 1927 25 

1895 8 1928 8 

1896 4 1929 2 

1897 7 1930 2 

1898 8 1931 1 

1899 5 1932 

1900 17 1933 1 

1901 35 

This last tabulation, because of the nature of the records 
available, is admittedly incomplete. Nevertheless, it gives a 
clearer and more accurate picture of the migration of Norwe- 
gian skills than does the information in the government reports, 
for the official statistics, as is indicated in the analysis pre- 
sented above, leave much to be desired* 

Not a few of the Norwegian engineers and architects returned 
to the mother country during the twentieth century. Again 
we must fall back on government records for the Scandinavians 

27 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

as a whole; these tell the statistical story of those who departed 
from our shores between 1908 and 1940: 4S 

YEAR PERSONS YEAR PERSONS 

1908 61 1925 43 

1909 23 1926 31 

1910 34 1927 48 

1911 40 1928 107 

1912 72 1929 81 

1913 59 1930 63 

1914 70 1931 71 

1915 53 1932 43 

1916 69 1933 18 

1917 ' 52 1934 20 

1918 33 1935 32 

1919 67 1936 32 

1920 65 1937 36 

1921 54 1938 32 

1922 48 1939 40 

1923 30 1940 22 

For the period 1925-39 records are available for the emigrant 
aliens of all races who, in departing, listed Norway as the 
country of intended permanent residence. Fortunately the de- 
parting aliens are listed by professions, and it is reasonable to 
suppose that most of those who went to Norway were Nor- 
wegian-born. The record reads: 44 

YEAR* PERSONS YEAR PERSONS 

1925 15 1933 7 

1926 8 ' 1934 9 

1927 22 1935 9 

1928 47 1936 8 

1929 3 1937 14 

1930 16 1938 10 

1931 27 1939 9 

1932 17 

48 Compiled from Annual Reports of the Commissioner-general of Immigration and 
from information received from the department of justice. 

u Compiled from Annual Reports of the Commissioner-general of Immigration, 
Bjarne Bassjzte, secretary of the Norwegian Engineers' Society (Den Norske Ingentyr- 
forening), estimates that about a thousand engineers from all parts of the world re- 
turned to Norway during the depression. By 1985 they were once more leaving the 
homeland in large numbers; Scandia (Chicago), January 24, 1985. 

28 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 
VII 

The figures given above, especially those compiled by the 
writer, will be seen to have a close relationship to the business 
cycle. Men looking for technical employment naturally respond 
to the rhythm of industrial life. 45 Graduates of Norway's tech- 
nical schools appear as a mere trickle until the late 1870's, when 
Europe and America were both recovering from the depression 
that followed the panic of 1873, Another long depression fol- 
lowed the crisis of 1893 in America, and during this period the 
migration of Norwegian engineers naturally declined. The 
longest depression of all that which followed 1929 also 
caused a sharp dropping off in numbers. Short depressions fol- 
lowed the more or less acute setbacks of 1884, 1907, and 1914, 
and our figures are not unresponsive to these minor disturb- 
ances. The periods of prosperity attracted many engineers. 
Thus the years 1879-93, years of great industrial activity and 
rising prices, are seen to have been a time of fairly heavy migra- 
tion except for the falling off after 1883. The period from 1900 
to 1907, after the depression following 1893, was the time of 
heaviest migration, and the recovery after 1908 was rapid. The 
years 1914-18 were good years economically in Norway, and the 
uncertainties created by war were a factor in keeping young 
men at home. By 1923 American prosperity had come out of 
the reaction of 1921-22, and the industrial activity of the twen- 
ties naturally promised much to the young engineer. 

Though not without profit, an attempt to synchronize the 
migration of engineers closely with the short-term ups and 
downs of American and Norwegian economic life would be 
misleading. In addition to the relatively brief periods of alter- 
nating prosperity and depression on both sides of the Atlantic, 
one finds that in Norway the last quarter of the nineteenth 
century and, in some respects, the first quarter of the twentieth 
were generally unfavorable to the engineering profession because 
of the failure of the industrial revolution to go substantially 



See any comprehensive survey of American economic life. Chester W. "Wright's 

*, has 

29 



mpr 

excellent volume, Economic History of the United States (New York, 1941), has a 
useful summary of the American business cycles, p. 868-888, 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

beyond the preliminary stages of industrialization and trans- 
portation development. A fully developed factory system, for 
example, had to await the utilization of water power, since 
Norway had no coal. The result was that as late as 1925 a keen 
British observer and student was able to state: 

The latest mechanical inventions, the most recent scientific discov- 
eries, are within her knowledge, ready for immediate application. 
The remarkable delay in her industrial development is due, not to 
backwardness or ignorance, but to natural causes. Having no coal, 
she has had to wait till the advance of electrical science rendered 
possible the utilization of her practically inexhaustible water re- 
sources, not as a direct motive force, but to create electrical power. 
... In spite of remarkable engineering skill, the development of 
railways in Norway has been and must be slow and local in its 
effects. The country as a whole is too difficult and the obstacles too 
formidable for a rapid growth of railway communication. . . , 
Now, even on roads whose steepness, narrowness, and unsatisfactory 
surface seem eminently unsuited to such modern modes of progres- 
sion, motor-cars running to a fixed time-table are everywhere to 
be found. 48 

The American economic situation after 1878 was, by con- 
trast, one of general expansion and growth until 1929, despite 
the temporary setbacks that came as a result of crises or panics. 
The development of the natural resources of a great conti- 
nent was "to call forth the best efforts of a youthful nation. 
Land, made readily available by the Homestead Act of 1862, 
appealed no less to our old American stock than to the land- 
hungry peasants of Europe. Giant forests fell before the axes 
and saws of an army of lumberjacks who tripled and nearly 
quadrupled our lumber output between 1869 and 1909. More 
impressive still was the record of our mines, which in 1882 made 
the United States the leading copper-producing country. The 
coal output jumped from 13,000,000 tons in 1860 to 670,000,000 
tons in 1918; and that of iron ore from over 3,000,000 long tons 
in 1870 to 75,000,000 tons in 1917. Other minerals and great 
wells of petroleum and natural gas opened up in the New World 
opportunities undreamed of in the Old. 

46 G. Gathorne Hardy, Norway, 265 (New York, 1925). 

30 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

Essential for marketing the products of the land, transpor- 
tation facilities kept pace with the exploitation of our resources. 
Railroad building, interrupted by the panic of 1873, was re- 
sumed after 1878, and the period of the 1880 ? s was one of 
rapid growth, especially in the West and Middle West. Though 
the following decade witnessed a decline in construction, the 
Great Northern Railway was completed to Seattle in 1893, and 
after 1898 growth was again rapid. On the eve of the First 
World War the United States had more railroad mileage than 
all of Europe. The improvement of technology was hardly less 
remarkable. Cheap steel made possible the improvement not 
only of rails but also of bridges, general equipment, cars, and 
wheels. Long-distance travel was revolutionized. 

In and about the cities the electric railway proved successful. 
After 1884, when it was introduced in Kansas City, the over- 
head trolley gradually came into universal use. By the turn of 
the century, too, such cities as Chicago, New York, and Boston 
had elevated railways, and interurban transportation was using 
electricity. Boston took the lead in subway construction in 1898, 
and New York began its now elaborate underground network 
of tracks in 1900. 

In the twentieth century the automobile, airplane, and super- 
highway revolutionized even further the whole mode of trans- 
portation in America. From 1877, when George B. Seldon took 
out a patent on an automobile of a sort, tinkering mechanics 
about the country worked on horseless carriages, and by 1920 
there were nearly a million cars in use. Not only passengers but 
enormous quantities of freight as well were to be carried over- 
land by motor in the twenties, thirties, and forties of the present 
century. The airplane, like the automobile, got its start in 
Europe, but it was Samuel Langley and the Wright brothers 
who in 1902 proved the possibilities of motor travel in the air. 
Glenn Curtiss flew across the Hudson in 1911, and in 1918 the 
airplane was used for carrying mail. What happened in the 
automobile and airplane fields in the years that followed is 

31 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

common knowledge, as is the remarkable story of highway 
construction. 

The Civil War gave a strong impetus to the building of tele- 
graph lines; in 1862 a line was completed across the continent 
and development thereafter was rapid. As early as 1866 Cyrus 
W. Field laid the first successful cable across the Atlantic; 
cables in all directions were soon to follow. In the middle sev- 
enties Alexander Graham Bell and Asa Gray applied for patents 
on the telephone. By 1912 there were nearly 9,000,000 tele- 
phones in America. The wireless, invented in 1895, was intro- 
duced about 1900 and in 1913 it was in transoceanic service. 
Since the First World War the radio has largely replaced the 
code wireless and has found its way into nearly every home. 
The typewriter, too, figures in the story of communications 
since 1876, when the first one was placed on the market. Print- 
ing, publishing, advertising, and on the technical side the 
linotype and monotype were also vital in this development. 

One of the truly remarkable features of nineteenth-century 
America was the growth in population. The prevalence of large 
families, progress in medicine, and a heavy immigration of 
Europeans caused the numbers within our boundaries to quad- 
ruple between 1850 and 1910. Together with this increase in 
population went a movement from the country to the city and a 
subsequent growth of cities. Whereas in 1860 only 16.1 per 
cent of the people lived in cities of over 8,000 population, in 
1930 about 49 per cent of the people lived in such centers. This 
increase in population created a large domestic market for 
American products at the same time that it provided a large 
labor force to run the machines of a rapidly developing manu- 
facturing activity. 

While it is true that America had a well-established factory 
system even before 1850, its period of most rapid expansion 
came after 1865, when manufacturing developed into the 
largest single contributor to the national income. In the decades 
that followed the Civil War, America rich in resources, with 
good transportation and communication facilities, a great do- 

32 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

mestic market and an ample labor supply ceased to be a 
nation relying chiefly on commerce and agriculture and became 
instead a manufacturing country. By the turn of the century we 
were an industrial state, and even earlier, in 1894, we held 
first place among the nations in the value of manufactured 
goods. One significant trend was toward the large corporation 
with enormous individual plants practicing the economies of 
large-scale production. The best technological improvements 
and the greatest possible use of mechanical power were intro- 
duced in many lines of production, and by 1929 there were over 
a thousand industrial research laboratories in the United States. 
It is significant that during the first quarter of the present 
century the output of the individual worker increased 50 per 
cent, and that while before 1860 there were less than five 
thousand patents issued annually, in recent times something 
like fifty thousand are granted. 

Agriculture, too, underwent a great change in the period after 
1878. A general scarcity of labor, together with an abundance 
of lafid, led to the wide-scale use of farm machinery. In the 
early seventies the invention of the roller process for reducing 
flour had profound effects on both the milling industry and 
agriculture, and John F. Appleby's invention of the twine 
binder in 1878 was hardly less significant. The combined har- 
vester and thresher, the use of steam and gasoline for power, 
the improved plow, and many another technological change 
caused agricultural production to treble between 1850 and 1910. 
The spread of scientific methods led to higher standards of 
living on the farm, made larger farms practical, and greatly 
reduced the amount of human labor required to produce a 
bushel of wheat or a bale of cotton. 

The development of American technical education, while 
fairly rapid, was for a time much slower than the economic 
growth of the country. During the first two decades of the 
past century, West Point Military Academy was the only insti- 
tution giving systematic training in the engineering arts. A 
technical school was begun in 1822 at Bowdoin College, but this 

33 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

venture lasted only ten years. The Rensselaer Polytechnic In- 
stitute at Troy, New York, gave a course in civil engineering 
as early as 1829; and the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard 
and the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, both established in 
1847, also offered the opportunity of a technical education. Of 
the state universities the one at Michigan was first, in 1858, 
to introduce civil engineering as a regular course of instruction. 
These, however, were widely scattered and varied experiments 
in technical training, and it is interesting to note that at the end 
of the Civil War the graduates of engineering schools, not in- 
cluding West Point, numbered less than 300. 

This situation was partly remedied by the passage of the 
Morrill Act of 1862, which gave to the states public lands as 
a means of promoting instruction in the "sciences relating to 
agriculture and the mechanic arts." As a result of this congres- 
sional measure no less than 64 technical colleges were founded 
in the years that followed the Civil War; of these, 50 gave in- 
struction in at least one branch of engineering. The Massachu- 
setts Institute of Technology, which was destined for a great 
role in American life, was started in 1865, and the Worcester 
Polytechnic Institute, also of Massachusetts, followed three 
years later. After 1870 the increase of technical institutes was 
rapid, the number jumping to 85 in 1880 and to 126 in 1917. 
The number of students taking engineering courses rose from 
3,043 in 1889 to 11,874 in 1900 and to 66,637 in 1928. To pro- 
tect the interests of engineers the American Society of Civil 
Engineers was organized in 1852, the Institute of Mining Engi- 
neers in 1871, and the American Society of Mechanical 
Engineers in 1880. In 1884 the Institute of Electrical Engineers 
came into being, followed in 1896 by the American Railway 
Engineering Association; in 1908 the American Institute of 
Chemical Engineers was chartered. But while education re- 
flected unmistakably the changed economic life of the country, 
and the growth of societies reveals the increasing importance 
of the engineering profession, America could and did still use 
the services of men trained abroad. The speed with which most 

34 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

of the immigrant engineers found employment and the impor- 
tant role they played thereafter are proof that the supply of 
technical leaders fell short of our national demand. 

The America of dynamic growth and change that developed 
between 1879 and 1929 drew young engineers from Europe 
as a magnet attracts steel. The extractive industries, transpor- 
tation, communications, and manufacturing vied for the services 
of able technical leaders; at the same time they paid good 
salaries and offered opportunities to men of ability. Even agri- 
culture, or certain phases of it, attracted some; and the build- 
ing attendant on city, transportation, and industrial growth 
made the United States a mecca for structural engineers. It was 
the whole pattern of economic life on this side of the Atlantic, 
far more than the retarding tendencies at home, that explains 
why the graduates of Norway's technical schools came to 
America in search of employment. 

vni 

The impulse to emigrate was thus unmistakably economic, 
or, more accurately, professional. But it must also be remem- 
bered that the engineer graduates, particularly in the days be- 
fore the institute at Trondhjem, were young men. With them, 
as with most students, the desire to see and live in new lands, 
to find greater opportunities (st0rre jorhold), naturally figured 
as a part of the broader pattern. The successful careers of some 
of the first engineers the pioneers of our story caused 
many to cross the Atlantic who might otherwise have hesitated 
to leave. The presence of friends, classmates, even relatives in 
the New World also frequently served as a special inducement 
to try one's luck in North America. 

Unlike a large portion of those who left the country districts 
of Norway to take up land in the Middle West, the engineers 
burned no bridges behind them; in fact a majority had every 
intention of returning to the homeland after acquiring experi- 
ence, perhaps a fortune, and possibly, too, a great reputation, 
They had no farms to sell and no families to care for. A ticket 

35 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

for the voyage to America, a few dollars to keep them going 
until they found a job, some articles of clothing these with 
exceptions were all that they carried with them. In a short time 
they would return to visit parents and friends in Europe; a few 
years more and they would return to take over engineering 
posts in Norway. This fact the tendency of many to regard 
America as a place of temporary residence only colored their 
life in the New World and gave it an orientation that was dif- 
ferent from that of the main body of Norwegian Americans. 
Thus in a social as well as a purely economic sense the story of 
the engineers is a distinct and in many ways a separate chapter 
in American urban life. 

The thoughts that entered the mind of a young Norwegian 
engineer just out of college are vividly told in the history of a 
1905 graduate of Trondhjem's Technical College. A well-known 
engineer in Chicago made this statement in a letter to the 
writer: 

I remember while attending the Technical College at Trondhjcm 
that the newspapers reported farm laborers in the U. S. as receiving 
up to $5.00 a day during harvest season. Well, eighteen crowns per 
day for ordinary working-men certainly impressed me! I also re- 
member that my classmates had information from the U.S. A. that 
men with an engineering education may earn from 60 to 70 dollars 
a month at the start. 220-260 crowns per month looked very good 
to me! In Norway I could earn 125 crowns per month, and after 
ten years perhaps 50. By that time I could be earning 500 crowns 
per month in the land of boundless opportunities! 

But the lure of high pay, although by far the chief factor, was 
not the only one to influence my emigration to the United States. 
Trondhjem, at the time of my graduation from T.TX. in 1905, had 
a population of about 45,000. Two or three of the graduates would 
probably find employment there or in the vicinity; those with 
influential family connections would have the best chance for a 
position and better pay. The young man had to go somewhere. In 
most cases there were no opportunities in the home district, very 
often a farm community. . . . 

He knew that he would not feel as much at home in a foreign 
country as in Norway, but that did not deter him from emigrating. 
The fact was that he did not care to feel at home anywhere for 
awhile. ... He was young, unmarried, and wanted to see a little 

36 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

of the world, especially the "big proposition" country which he had 
heard so much about. 

I know of no other factors than the above-mentioned which 
caused us to migrate from Norway. ... I know of no case, nor 
have I heard of any before the fateful year of 1940, in which the 
magnetic power of the Statue of Liberty has pulled a Norwegian 
engineer or architect across the Atlantic. 

Most engineers and architects who left Norway as emigrants had 
no very definite plan. They had piled up a debt in going through 
school, and would go almost anywhere to make money. Countries 
undergoing rapid development offered the best opportunities. To 
make money as fast as possible, and, as a side issue, to see some 
other part of the world, was their chief object. Permanent settle- 
ment in any particular place was not part of their plan. To them 
there was only one "home," and for most of them, it would be 
natural to feel that when they had become a little independent 
financially they would drift back to settle down in Oslo. 

The case of another engineer who eventually returned to fill 
a prominent position in Norway supports these generalizations 
somewhat: 

I belong neither to the old nor the young engineers who went to 
America. In 1907, at the age of 22, 1 was one of exactly 40 students 
who graduated from Trondhjem's Technical College; of these forty 
young men, fifteen went to America, and of the fifteen, nine, or 
about 5 per cent, to the United States. A similar situation is cer- 
tainly true for the years immediately before and after, both at the 
Trondhjem school and the other Norwegian technical schools. . . . 

What was it that caused so large a percentage to migrate? It 
isn't easy to answer. Any specific difficulty in finding something to 
do at home on the part of young engineers, so far as I know, did 
not exist. For my own part, I found work the day after I left 
school, and similar experiences were shared by my comrades. The 
pay, it is true, was nothing overwhelming; we earned from 60 to 100 
crowns per month; those who got 100 were considered fortunate. 
But one did not need more than about 60 crowns, or maybe a little 
more, to live in a modest way. Each year one could look forward to 
a small raise in salary. We knew that in America beginning pay 
was about the same in dollars as in crowns at home. In addition 
we had the urge to see a little of the world and to try our strength 
in a bigger field. About the same indxicements as send so large a 
part of American youth to the large city. It was also easy to make 
the trip; the ticket, as I recall, was about 160 crowns, and there 
was no difficulty in entering the United States, And of course we 

37 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

had the addresses of the comrades who had left a year or two 
before. 47 

The young engineer also usually carried with him letters of 
recommendation, some school drawings, and the addresses of 
graduates well established in America. When a Norwegian chief 
engineer could be found, the chances for employment were es- 
pecially bright, but the generally high regard in the United 
States for the work of Norwegian engineers came in time to be 
his surest recommendation. He made his way to the large met- 
ropolitan centers New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, 
Chicago, the Twin Cities, and later to the cities of the west 
coast; but smaller industrial centers such as Butler, Pennsyl- 
vania, and Schenectady, New York, often exerted an equally 
great attraction. In Canada it was chiefly the paper and min- 
eral centers of Quebec and Ontario, but the maritime and, later, 
the western provinces were carefully considered for the oppor- 
tunities that they too offered. 

Generalization is particularly dangerous with so individual- 
ized a group as the engineers. It can be said, however, that most 
of them, thanks to the vigorous economic life of America, had 
little trouble finding jobs; several days or a few weeks usually 
sufficed, and there are interesting cases of some going to work on 
the day of their arrival in the New World. In most cases they 
began as draftsmen or designers at salaries that only experi- 
enced engineers could command in Norway. All were impressed 
by the rapid tempo of American life, the seeming hardness of 
the city, and the dirt and filth that they found everywhere. But 
they were quick, too, to appreciate the native hospitality of the 
average American and the friendly attitude that lay beneath 
the push and shove of the young society. Their schoolboy Eng- 
lish usually proved sufficient for purely professional needs, but 
many were to find that a mastery of the language was a distinct 
advantage in the higher positions, especially when dealings with 

"To the writer, March 11, 1940. The engineer lives, or lived, in Trondhjem, and 
his letter, written in Norwegian, was inspired by a notice in a technical periodical that 
the present study would be published by the Norwegian-American Historical Associ- 
ation. 

38 



A MIGRATION OF SKILLS 

the public were frequent. While advancement proved in most 
cases to be fairly rapid, not a few came to feel that the higher 
engineering posts were reserved for native Americans. 

But the experiences of the engineers, both technical and non- 
technical, cannot be expressed solely in terms of the general or 
typical. The variety of these experiences and the richness of the 
engineer story as a whole can best be told by following the 
careers of a few who pioneered on America's technical fronts 
and left a strong imprint on the material civilization that we 
call American. 



39 



PIONEERING 
THE 

TECHNICAL THE Norwegian engineers who mi- 
grated to America were a pioneering 
FRONTS group. These pioneers, together with 

technical men from other countries, 
worked at drafting tables, in shops, 
and out in the sun. They found new materials with which to 
build, improved upon others, and then learned to test their 
strength. They designed machines that frequently started new 
industries. They laid highways that stretch across our continent, 
and they altered the cars that to use Whitman's phrase 
roll along the "two-threaded tracks of railroads/' They spanned 
the rivers of their adopted country with bridges of steel and 
concrete, and they pioneered in the development of the sky- 
scraper America's unique contribution to the building art. 
For home and industry they invented many things gadgets 
that lighten the housewife's tasks and complicated devices to 
increase the output of farms and industrial plants. They har- 
nessed the latent power of streams and did much to make ours 
an age of electricity. They dug into the earth, leaving mines 
and sewers, tunnels and subways behind them. In metallurgy 
they introduced fundamental and revolutionary changes and 
linked American production with that of the world. When the 
changing needs of industry required, they planned new cities 
and made old ones habitable. They transformed forests into 
pulp, often using the techniques of the homeland, and provided 
the materials for our newspapers and the paper towels in our 
kitchens. Further, they put the accuracy of science into plant 
management, to eliminate rule-of-thumb procedure. In these 
and in m&ny other ways they gave their skills and energy to a 
mighty development that changed the face and life of the New 
40 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

World. In doing this, they also wrote their names large in the 
story of America's growth. 

As with all migrations, there were explorers, the men who 
pointed the way and lessened the ordeal of transition for the 
later immigrants. The trail blazers among the Norwegian en- 
gineers were usually strong personalities who came to America 
in the 1860's, 1870's, and 1880's, sometimes by way of England, 
to lead a distinct migration within the larger Norwegian mi- 
gration. On the technical and industrial fronts their contribu- 
tions were in many cases original, basic, and vital to subsequent 
developments. These men, frequently rising to prominent po- 
sitions, also became magnets directing the course of migration 
to particular centers of industry. The expressions of helpful- 
ness, kindliness, and friendly interest that adorn their obituaries 
have a meaning beyond the familiar tributes paid the dead, for 
they were often the first point of contact in America for younger 
men freshly arrived from the schools of the homeland. Their 
reputations once firmly established, they also lent a certain 
prestige to the schools of Horten, Trondhjem, Christiania, 
Bergen, and Porsgrund. These early engineers, who had found 
their way to the centers of American life, largely without bene- 
fit of friends or of the experience of others, were in a special 
sense the pioneers of our story. In their lives, as in the lives of 
other pioneers, most of the themes of the engineer saga are in- 
troduced; and since considerable interest attaches to the leaders 
of a movement, representatives are here selected from a large 
number, their careers briefly sketched, and their major contri- 
butions noted. 

n 

Very few trained Norwegian engineers arrived in the United 
States before or even during the 1870's. An exception was Sever- 
in Christian Anker Holth, an inventive genius who introduced 
the caterpillar principle? now extensively used on tractors and 
similar machinery. Holth was born at Christiania in southern 
Norway; there his father was a merchant, and there the future 
engineer received his preliminary education and developed an 

41 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

interest in electricity and water power. It is reported that Holth* 
at the age of fourteen, invented a motor with sixteen electro- 
magnets, that it was exhibited in 1872 at the university in 
Christiania, and that a professor of physics informed the boy 
that electricity, while it might be a satisfactory plaything, 
would never have any practical value, 

Shortly after this disappointing experience, Holth entered 
Trondhjem's Technical College, graduating in 1878 with a de- 
gree in mechanical engineering. In the same year he left for 
America. He settled in Chicago and quickly became chief en- 
gineer at the Hercules Iron Works. Holth was next employed in 
a similar capacity by the McCormick Harvester Machinery 
Company. In the 1880's agriculture in the New World was fast 
becoming mechanized, and he turned his mind and hand to 
designing a group of mowing machines, reapers, corn and rice 
harvesters, and self-binders that in time were used the world 
over. During this period he invented a steam-driven plow that 
moved on a continuous track in the manner of the modern tank. 

Holth went to Norway in 1889, rich in experience, to found 
the American Machine Company at Christiania. Besides in- 
troducing on the European market a great amount of American 
farm and other equipment, he invented a tile-laying machine 
which he exhibited at Bergen, Stockholm, and Paris. His par- 
ticular interest in farm machinery continued, for during this 
period he invented a milking machine and several cream sep- 
arators. In 1901 Holth returned to the United States and took 
work with the International Harvester Company of Chicago. 
While in Chicago he designed the self -balancing cream separa- 
tor that bears his name and is the only one of its kind in 
present-day use. 

With the restlessness of a Cleng Peerson, Holth again re- 
turned to Norway in 1916, intending to retire from industrial 
life. But in 1920 he was back in America, settling this time in 
southern California. One of his last inventions was a fish- 
trimming machine that he designed for the American Packing 
Company. He was interested in chemistry, and once went to 

42 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 
Canada on a mining expedition as engineer and chemical ana- 
lyst. After this trip until his death in 1933, he gave most of 
his free time to chemical research, and during his last years he 
worked on atomic theory. He left a completed book, Revolu- 
tion in Physics and Chemistry, and an unfinished manuscript 
dealing with his last theories on the subject of the atom. 1 

Most of Holth's many inventions have found their way into 
everyday American life notably farming but one must 
single out for special comment the plow on endless tracks. Ac- 
cording to Minneapolis tidende, Holth was the first to employ 
the caterpillar principle. 2 The evidence would seem to support 
this statement. In 1885, while Holth was with the McCormick 
Company, he was asked to design a steam-driven tractor that 
could pull ten 16-inch plowshares. Because this machine was 
to weigh about 12 tons, it obviously would be unwise to put it 
on wheels, which would sink into the soft ground. To overcome 
this obstacle, Holth conceived the principle of the continuous 
track, Minneapolis tidende says: "At first he put one rail- 
chain in the middle of the machine and steered the plow with 
two wheels in front. Later he found that by using folding rails 
on both sides he could steer the machine by varying the speeds 
of the two caterpillar treads exactly as is done in the modern 
tank." The letter patent of 1890 reads in part: 

The machine involves one or more steering-wheels at the front, a 
gang of plows at the rear, and a tractor or traction device arranged 
about midway of the length of the machine and comprising a 
wheeled engine-truck, which is jointed to the main frame of the 
machine, and an endless slatted belt or track which passes about 
the truck-wheels, and which is so operated therefrom that during 
operation the truck-wheels loill roll upon the endless slatted track 
and thereby be prevented from sinking into the ground? 

The modern tank was developed for purely military purposes 
by British officers during the First World War. But the cater- 

1 For accounts of Anker Holth's life see Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 
S4; Norwegians-American Technical Journal^ vol. 8, no. 1, p. 21 (November, 1985); 
Scandia f April 7, 1038; Skandinaven (Chicago), April $5, 1938; and Minneapolis tid- 
de, December 15, 1919, and April 20, 1988, 

a December 15, 1910. 

8 XL S, patent number 437,759 (October 7, 1890). Italics are the present writer's. 

43 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

.pillar principle on which the tank operates was adopted from 
civilian use, and Holth was the first to utilize it for farm work. 
His tile-laying machine, designed in Norway, also exploited 
the principle of the endless track. Today the caterpillar trac- 
tor, utilizing the ideas of many men, is a vital part of civilian 
life both rural and urban and it is a fitting memorial to 
the skill of an immigrant engineer. 

Ill 

The arrival of the pioneer engineers coincided with a vigor- 
ous development in the American steel industry, and many 
Norwegians became associated with the production of steel 
and the design of structures using steel. One of the first of the 
group was Julius Aars Dyblie. 4 

Son of the sheriff and postmaster at Alten, Dyblie was 
educated first by a governess and then in the preparatory 
school of Hammerfest. He worked for a time in a blacksmith 
shop before entering and graduating from Trondhjem's Techni- 
cal College. Subsequently, he was foreman of a London machine 
shop until he set out for America in 1879. He settled in Chicago 
and became a draftsman with the Joliet Steel Company, which 
was later purchased by the Illinois Steel Company, in turn a 
subsidiary of the giant United States Steel Corporation, When 
the plant shut down two years later, Dyblie was employed by 
the Calumet Iron and Steel Company at Irondale. He built a 
cut-nail factory at Hammond, Indiana; the Chicago Arc Light 
and Power Company's Plant; and later returned to the Joliet 
works of the Illinois Steel Company as master mechanic. Dur- 
ing an interlude of seven .years Dyblie was master mechanic 
with the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in Montana but 
he returned in 1899 to Joliet, where he served for twenty-nine 
years as chief of the steelworks there. 

Dyblie's career was in many ways typical of those of a large 

4 SeeAlstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 346; Norwegian-American Technical 
Journal, vol. 10, no. 1, p. 7 (February, 1937), and vol. 8, no. 1, p. 16 (February, 1980); 
materials in the archives of the Norwegian-American Technical Society in Chicago; 
and Skandinaven, March 1, 1935. 

44 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 
number of the Norwegian engineers. It was distinguished by 
the efficiency of his plant direction and the remarkable origi- 
nality of his mind. He patented many inventions for the steel 
industry which were widely adopted by the United States Steel 
Corporation and other companies. 6 The most important of his 
inventions was a reversing valve for heating furnaces, used to- 
day in blast furnaces all over America. 

Dyblie's career was paralleled somewhat by that of Leonard 
Holmboe, who spent fifty-one years with the Illinois Steel Com- 
pany. 6 Holmboe was reared in Christiania, where he also at- 
tended the local technical college. After graduation in 1879, he 
set out at once, despite strong family opposition, for America, 
and went immediately to Chicago. It is interesting that Olaf 
Hoff, later famed as a tunnel builder, sailed on the same ship. 

Holmboe at first had difficulty finding work commensurate 
with his training and ability. In the fall of 1880, however, he 
took employment with the Illinois Steel Company, then called 
the North Chicago Rolling Mill Company. He remained with 
this firm until his retirement in 1931, becoming assistant chief 
engineer in 1889 and chief engineer in 1898. After retiring, 
Holmboe continued his technical work as a consulting engineer. 
He died in 1989, honored for his pioneer work in the develop- 
ment of steel. 

Holmboe's hardships during his first year in Chicago evidently 
broadened his outlook and made him more than commonly 
sympathetic toward young arrivals. Rightly recognized for his 
limitless capacity for work and his engineering skill, he was also 
known for his patience and kindliness. "The Illinois Steel" be- 
came under his technical direction a distinct point of gravitation 
for migrating Norwegian engineers. 

8 Dyblie's patents cover a coke and ore barrows, a shutter worker, a clutch mecha- 
nism, a valve mechanism to provide "an improved three-way rotary valve the construc- 
tion of which shall especially adapt it for use with the blowing-engines of metallurgical 
plants," a cock for controlling fluid under pressure, a cleaning door for hot blast stoves, 
and a windshield protector. 

e For accounts of Holmboe's life see Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 3, 
no. 1, p. 9, 15 (February, 1930); Scandia, March 16, 1939; Skandinaven, March 1, 
1985, and March 17, 1939; Minneapolis tidende, March 17, 1989; and Decorah-posten, 
March @4 1089. 

45 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

The steel industry of the New World had another pioneer 
in Edward Holth, a farmer's son and a native of Kraakstad. A 
seaman for a time, Holth attended Horten and graduated in 
1877. Two years later Holth set his course for Philadelphia, 
where he was employed by such firms as the Biehle Brothers, 
William Sellers and Company, the G. V. Cresson Machine 
Shop, and the Pennsylvania Steel Company. He remained with 
the last firm for fifteen years as head of its designing depart- 
ment and as a mechanical engineer at the Steelton pl^nt. He 
acquired considerable experience in the making of bridges and 
of steel rails, and in August, 1901, he became chief engineer of 
the Dominion Iron and Steel Company at Sydney, on Cape 
Breton Island. There he supervised the design and construction 
of an immense steel rail plant. 

This steel mill was completed fourteen months after the 
order for the designing and drafting was given to the engi- 
neering department; this despite a strike at the general works 
and a severe winter which delayed freight service. The mill was 
called a "three high, three stands, 28" mill/' and the details of 
its construction were considered of sufficient interest to merit 
serious discussion in the Canadian Engineer. 7 The same journal 
quotes experts as saying that this was, in its day, "the best 
and handiest three-high-one-engine-mill, built anywhere." Op- 
erations began without the usual troubles that accompany the 
opening of new rolling mills. A "perfect rail was made from the 
first bloom rolled/' Originally designed to roll about 1,000 
tons per day, the mill soon "proved its capacity of turning out 
1,200 tons every 24 hours; and this output could be maintained 
continuously if steel ingots could be supplied with the same 
regularity from their 10 open hearth furnaces; as for instance, 
from a Bessemer plant. As it is, the results are remarkable." 

Holth left Cape Breton to return to Norway by way of 
Mexico, California, and the Orient. He was named by the Nor- 
wegian department of commerce a member of a committee 

T Vol. 13, p. 38-43 (February, 1906). 

46 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

working on the problem of electrometallurgy in Norway. He 
died in 1907. 8 

Of those early engineers who, like Holth, Dyblie, and Holm- 
boe, centered in the Chicago area, Richard Mohn was the most 
significant in terms of structural engineering. 9 Though very 
little information about Mohn has reached print, it is known 
that he was born at Melsom, near T^nsberg, in 1856. In his 
early youth he attended private school and at nineteen he 
entered Christiania's Technical College. Mohn left after three 
years, went to Germany, and graduated from the Royal Poly- 
technicum at Dresden. He then sailed almost immediately to 
the New World, but later returned to Dresden for a special course 
in bridge engineering. More completely prepared for the Ameri- 
can adventure, he went to Chicago in 1888, taking employment 
with A. Gottlieb and Company, a contracting firm. 

In Chicago, Mohn not only designed and detailed bridges, 
but also worked on structural steel for the Masonic Temple on 
State Street (termed by some the world's first skyscraper), 
the Administration Building for the Columbian Exposition of 
1898, and many other structures erected by his firm. The im- 
portance of his experience in this line can hardly be over- 
emphasized. In 1894 he formed with J. Haakon Hoff, another 
Norwegian engineer, the firm of Mohn and Hoff. Though short- 
lived, this partnership did furnish and design the steelwork for 
Wicker Park Hall on North Avenue in Chicago and the Parrot 
Silver and Copper Company's smelter at Butte, Montana. They 
also furnished and erected the structural steel for the Cook 
County Jail on Dearborn Street, and acted as general con- 
tractors for the University of Illinois library building. 

But Mohn was infected by the gold fever. In 1897 he became 
interested in the Klondike rush and, together with three younger 
argonauts, set out over the Edmonton Trail in search of riches. 

8 Femti-aars jubilozwms-jestskrift, Hortens tekniske skole, 140; 75 ars biografisk 
jubU&wms-'festsknjt, Mortens tekniske skole, 124; Nordmands-forbundet, 3:43-49 
(August, 1809); Morgenbladet (Christiania), September 11, 1891; Verdens gang (Chris- 
tiania), October 30, 1906; Sydney (Cape Breton) Post, January 27, 1906. 

* Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, p. 16 (March, 1029). 

47 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

He left Chicago in September; by the following February he 
was back, weakened by physical suffering and troubled with 
snow blindness. A trip to Norway seems to have restored his 
health. Upon his return he accepted a job with A. Bolter's 
Sons in Chicagb, manufacturers of structural steel, and he rep- 
resented this firm for a time in Kansas City. In Chicago again 
in 1906, he worked with the Illinois Steel Company. He died 
on January 29, 1907. 

According to the Journal of the Norwegian-American Tech- 
nical Society, Mohn introduced the H-shaped steel column 
used in modern buildings. This column was quickly adopted by 
Joachim Giaver and other structural engineers; it was cheaper 
to manufacture than were the box columns and Z-shaped bar 
columns that had been in common use. Mohn thought seriously 
of taking out a patent on the H-columns, but he failed to do 
so. 10 Had he succeeded in patenting his invention, it would 
have brought him the fortune he had sought in the Klondike, 
for his column, now universally adopted, has been used in a 
vast number of America's buildings. 

J. Haakon Hoff, though less famous than his brother Olaf, 
is mentioned with respect by engineers who knew him and 
his work. 11 He was builder of no less than 18 bridges for the 
Chicago, Great Western Railway in the nineties and of most 
of the rolling mills for the famous steelworks at Gary, Indiana* 
Hoff was born in Christiania and graduated from the local 
technical college in 1888 with the degree of civil engineer, 
Haakon set his course for Minneapolis, where Olaf Hoff was 
then a consulting and contracting engineer. After some months 
in the employ of his brother, Haakon became a draftsman for 
the Milwaukee Bridge Company and later assistant chief engi- 
neer. 

Seeking further experience, Hoff next joined A, Gottlieb and 

10 Vol. 2, no. 1, p. 16. There is reason to doubt that he could have patented the 
column even had he attempted to do so. 

u Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 1, no. 8, p. $ (September, 10&8), 
and vol. 2, no. 3, p. 5 (November, 1929); Scandia, April 7, 1938; SJwndfaavm, 
April 22, 1927; and Johs. Wong, Norske utvandr&re og iorretninasdrivende i Ammka 
194 (Oslo, [1925]) . 

48 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

Company in Chicago, who were then erecting the steel skele- 
ton for the Masonic Temple. He worked on steel details from 
the beginning to the completion of this enormous structure, 
which covered half a block and, with its 21 stories, was for a 
time the world's tallest building. Hoff also participated in the 
construction of the Administration Building and of Machinery 
Hall at the Columbian Exposition. Before the fair opened, he 
returned to the Milwaukee Bridge Company as assistant chief 
engineer. He helped put up the structural steel for the court- 
house, the first tall building in Milwaukee. 

Hoff and Mohn no doubt became acquainted while working 
for Gottlieb, and their partnership was effected in 1894. As 
consulting engineers and contractors, they seem to have had 
sufficient work, but in 1897, when Mohn was struck by gold 
fever, Hoff entered into partnership with his brother Olaf. 
Hoff Brothers, located in Chicago, designed and rebuilt bridges 
for the Great Western Railway on the Chicago division and 
served as general contractors for this railroad's shops at Oel- 
wein, Iowa. 

In 1901 Haakon Hoff joined the American Bridge Company's 
western division in Chicago. First a contracting engineer, in 
1906 he became engineer in charge of the designing and esti- 
mating department. The western division estimated nearly 
50,000 tons of steel per month for office buildings and hotels, 
theaters, factories, mines, ore docks, and bridges. When Hoff 
died in 1929, the younger Norwegians lost one of their kindest 
supporters, the engineering profession a staunch champion who 
did much to further its interests, and his friends a charming 
and generous personality with artistic as well as technical tal- 
ents. 

Among the Norwegian engineers not many could lay claim 
to greater brilliance of intellect than Karl L. Lehmann; and 
few of this generally modest group were more self-effacing and 
reserved. 12 Born at Skjolden, in Sogn, Lehmann graduated from 

12 See Norwegian* American Technical Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, p. 15 (March, 1929); 
and Skmdinav&n, March 1, 1985. 

49 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Tank's School in Bergen at sixteen. The gifted student, already 
the pride of his teachers in preparatory school, then entered 
the Polytechnicum at Zurich, Switzerland. Before graduating 
as a civil engineer four years later, Lehmann served as as- 
sistant professor of higher mathematics and astronomy. He 
was also employed by the Swiss government in its geodetic 
survey. In 1882 he came to this country and worked for several 
years in the St. Paul bridge department. 

Late in the 1880's Lehmann moved to Chicago and was 
employed in the bridge division of the city's engineering office. 
According to the Norwegian-American Technical Journal, Leh- 
mann designed, at Cortland Street, the first trunnion bascule 
bridge built by the city that later became famous for its bridges, 

The Columbian Exposition of 1893 drew heavily on the 
talents of many immigrant Norwegian engineers. Lehmann 
served as structural designer and attracted considerable atten- 
tion by computing wind stresses in many of the fair's unusual 
structures. He also designed and patented a spiral tower some 
200 feet in diameter and 600 feet in height. According to the 
plans, passengers were to be lifted on a specially constructed 
electric railroad to a spacious recreation pavilion at the top of 
the tower. This ingenious project, termed by newspapers "the 
eighth wonder of the world/' was caught up by promoters; but. 
despite their enthusiasm, they were unable to raise money in 
time to build the tower beyond the foundation stage. 

For a while Lehmann was chief structural designer of the 
Chicago waterworks, but in 1914 he opened an office and es- 
tablished himself as a consulting engineer. He continued this 
independent course one consistent with his nature until 
his death in 1927. His clients were many, both in and out of 
Chicago, one of the largest being the Great Lakes Dredge and 
Dock Company. But Lehmann, for all his engineering genius, 
was no businessman. In this he was representative of the ma- 
jority of Norwegian engineers who ventured to open offices, 
His reticence also prevented him from attaining the general 
recognition merited by his unusual skill, which won him the 

50 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

reputation of a genius in steel construction circles. His close 
friends were amazed by his profound knowledge. They spoke, 
too, of his thoughtfulness and unselfishness in enabling others 
to benefit from his technical skill. But Lehmann was also in- 
dependent to a fault and was characterized as much by his 
dislikes as by his likes. He left a number of talented and pro- 
ductive disciples who learned much about steel and bridge con- 
struction from their gifted teacher. Among these disciples was 
Thomas Pihlfeldt, who was later bridge engineer for the city of 
Chicago. 

IV 

Farther west, in Minneapolis, Carl Illstrup identified him- 
self with the development of a great city's sewer system. 13 He 
was born in Drammen, where his father had a small shoe fac- 
tory, and Illstrup attended the local Latin school before go- 
ing to Christiania. In 1881 he completed the four-year course 
in civil engineering at the capital's technical college. Illstrup 
went directly to Minneapolis and after a brief experience with 
railroad building in northern Wisconsin, he entered the city's 
engineering office as a draftsman and instrument man in Janu- 
ary, 1882. (Three other Norwegian engineers entered this 
department during the eighties, Nicolay Lund, Kris Oustad, 
and F. W. Cappelen.) Illstrup remained in the city's employ 
until his retirement on January 1, 1933 a period of fifty-one 
years. 

Minneapolis was little more than a good-sized town in the 
early 1880's, and Illstrup served in many capacities during his 
first years with the city. In 1885, however, he was appointed 
assistant sewer engineer, and in 1893 he became sewer engineer. 
Illstrup records that in 1882 Minneapolis had about one and 

19 Information for the following account was obtained from Norwegian- Am-erican 
Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. 8, p. 10 (November, 1929); an interview with Illstrup's 
daughter, Mrs. Walter Fuchs, of Douglas, Minnesota, in April, 1940; Minneapolis 
tidende, December 80, 1980, January 1, 1931, and December 22', 1932; Skandinaven, 
September 11, 1986, and July 7, 1939; Minneapolis Journal, October 8, 1909, June 25, 
1919, January 3, and November 20, 1932; Minneapolis Tribune, February 24, 1929, 
May 27, and August 28, 1931; Minneapolis Dotty Star, April 8, 1924, and January 1,5, 
1927; and a part of the Illstrup papers graciously put at the writer's disposal by 
Mrs. Fuchs, 

51 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

a half miles of sewer piping. When he retired in 1933 there were 
about 800 miles. His career therefore marked the virtual con- 
struction of the city's elaborate system of sanitary sewers, storm 
sewers, tunnels, and pumping stations, built at a cost of about 
$24,100 ? 000. 14 

Describing the conditions he found when he began his 
services in Minneapolis, Illstrup later wrote: 

In 188 we still were down in the old courthouse on Bridge 
Square. We didn't have money in those days to lay out a great 
system, but the engineers of the time saw to it that every necessity 
of the city was taken care of on the funds we did have. They built 
so that we could add additional sewers in an intelligent way, so that 
now 87 per cent of the city area has adequate sewer accommoda- 
tions. 

In those early days sewer construction was a new work. There 
were few authorities on the subject, and most everything we did, we 
had to do by experiment, finding out by ourselves. The sewers were 
not large, compared to what we have today, but they were good 
ones. The biggest in the early days was a 44-inch sewer running 
along Washington Avenue S. and Hennepin. 

Much of the construction was carried on by hand; we had few 
machines. Dirt was thrown up from one scaffold to another, until it 
finally reached the top. There were no drilling machines, and we 
lacked the powers of electricity or compressed air to bore our tun- 
nels. . . . 

We were thinking about a disposal system even 50 years ago. 
Every part of the system was laid out with that in mind. 15 

In 1919 the Minneapolis papers announced that Illstrup had 
drawn up plans for the largest, deepest, and most expensive 
sewer construction project ever outlined for the city. At a cost of 
$4,000,000, the new facilities would afford drainage for the rap- 
idly growing southern portions of the seventh, twelfth, and thir- 
teenth wards. 16 

In 1924 the same papers announced that the city's great 
sewer tunnel was almost completed. The first unit, begun three 
years earlier, was the Minnehaha tunnel, large enough to con- 
tain an electric railroad system and capable of carrying more 

14 Minneapolis Journal, January 3, 1982. 

15 Minneapolis Journal, January 3, 1932. See also the Minneapolis Daily Star, 
January 15, 1927, for an account of the discovery of a miniature underground lake, 

16 Minneapolis Journal, June 25, 1919. 

52 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

water than the Mississippi. Three years of work 80 to 90 feet 
underground was required to finish this largest link in the sewer 
system for the southern part of the city. It extended northwest 
from a point on the Mississippi below Minnehaha Falls and 
Soldiers' Home to Forty-eighth Street, just east of the falls 
park. It was 5,510 feet long and at its largest part nearly 14 feet 
high and 10 feet wide. In addition to the electric railroad sys- 
tem, it also contained telephone and electric light systems, 
a nd a complete ventilation outfit that was installed as construc- 
tion proceeded. 17 

Thus, under Illstrup's guidance, the modern sewer system 
of Minneapolis was developed and a disposal plant constructed. 
In 1931 Illstrup was talking of plans for a joint disposal proj- 
ect for both Minneapolis and St. Paul. "So well has the work 
in the past been done that the projected system ties into the 
old. The tunnels will connect up with a giant interceptor sewer 
which, in turn, will carry it to a huge plant for treatment." 18 
The Minneapolis sewage disposal system, completed before Ill- 
strup's retirement on January 1, 1933, was the object of con- 
siderable admiration. 19 Illstrup died six years after he retired. 

Meanwhile, in St. Paul, 0. 1. Tolaas was pioneering in a dif- 
ferent way with the Northern Pacific Railway. 20 Partly be- 
cause of his work, the engineering offices of this railroad 
became a center for Norwegian draftsmen and engineers, where 
as was also the case in the Minneapolis city engineering of- 
fice Norwegian could not fairly have been considered a for- 
eign language. 

Tolaas, whose father was a teacher, was born at Aarhagen, 
near Molde, in 1857. He attended grade school in the same 
town and he followed a precedent set by several of his family 
by entering Trondhjem's Technical College, from which he 
graduated in 1881 as a civil engineer. Soon afterward Tolaas 
left for America and for several years held various architectural 



1T Minneapolis Daily Star, April 8, 
18 Robert J. Fitzsimmcms, in Minneapolis Tribune, August 23, 1931. 
1B Orlin Folwick, "Sewage Disposal," in Minneapolis Tribune, May 27, 1931. 
20 See Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 49; Norwegian-American Technical 
Journal, vol Sf, no. 3, p. 18 (November, 1929); and Skandinaven, December 8, 1939. 

53 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

positions in Chicago and Minneapolis. In 1885 he began a long 
association with the Northern Pacific Railway Company at 
St. Paul. Except for a brief interval with the firm of Reed and 
Stem, of the same city, and a few years on his Wisconsin farm, 
he remained with the railroad until his retirement in 1928, 
What his work consisted of and how he met the challenge 
facing America's railroads have been tersely described by one 
who knew him well for many years: 

When I first met him, in 1901, he was Chief Designer of the 
Northern Pacific . . , and the variety of structures intrusted to 
him was appalling. Depots, bridges, coaling stations, roundhouses, 
shops, culverts, lunchrooms no kind of equipment seemed to 
bother this man. He once confessed that many a time he has 
blessed Professor Carstens of the T.T.L. for the thorough training 
he gavg him in mechanics, and Mr. Tolaas proved in his work that 
he was an honor to the Professor. 

A railroad engineering office of thirty years ago was quite dif- 
ferent from those of the present day. A competent designer had to 
be at home in nearly every subject that enters into the physical 
parts of the road, locomotives and cars not excepted. He was crowded 
with work, and had no time to specialize, or as of late to devote his 
talents to special lines in which he might become a specialist. In 
such heterogeneous work Mr, Tolaas excelled. His keen and wiry 
mind and his knowledge of fundamental principles enabled him to 
turn from one problem to another with ready ease. The rapid de- 
velopment of the railroads caused the "permanent structure' 1 idea 
to become a joke, and Mr. Tolaas iseveral times tore down and 
rebuilt structures that when first designed were considered perma- 
nent. Under these conditions, no outstanding structure will remain 
as a memorial to the man's ability, but there are other monuments 
of greater value than skyscrapers. 

The influence of Mr. Tolaas' work will be felt in the engineering 
office of his employers for a long time to come; his helpfulness to 
"greenhorns," whether by nationality or from lack of theoretical 
and practical training, won him ma,ny a friend and helped in their 
future work. Those who had the opportunity to work with him 
for years will feel the effect of this association for the rest of their 
lives and will hold him in highest esteem. 21 

In 1909 Tolaas became chief architect for the entire Northern 
Pacific. In 1917 he retired to a farm at Long Lake in Wisconsin 
and the outdoor life that he loved. But three years later he re- 

21 R. A. Tanner, in Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. 8, no. S, p. 10. 

54 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

turned to his old office, where he remained until he again retired 
at seventy-one. Tolaas died in 1939. 

St. Paul and the Northern Pacific claim yet another engi- 
neering pioneer in St^rk Johan Bratager, who at the time of 
his retirement was assistant chief engineer of the railroad. 22 
Bratager was born in Bergen, where his father was employed 
in the office of a malting firm. In Bergen he attended prelimi- 
nary schools and the local technical college, from which he 
graduated in 1880. He then attended the Polytechnicum at 
Hanover, Germany. Returning in 1882 to Norway, he searched 
unsuccessfully for a position, and left for the New World in 
the spring of 1883. In New York he failed to find employment, 
and the Swedish-Norwegian consul advised him to go to Min- 
neapolis. 

Bratager was aware of the possibilities in railroad building, 
and shortly after his arrival in the Twin Cities he took a "tem- 
porary job" with the St. Paul and Pacific Railway Company, 
now a part of the Great Northern Railroad. This position lasted 
until his retirement in 1925. At first Bratager stayed in Minne- 
apolis at a boarding club with other Norwegians a common 
procedure among the engineers. He knew no English but, for- 
tunately, had a chief with whom he could converse in German. 
From draftsman he was promoted to chief draftsman with the 
railway company. In 1893 he was transferred to the employ of 
the Northern Pacific Railway Company as chief draftsman, 
rising in the years that followed to assistant engineer, division 
engineer, office engineer, principal assistant engineer, and in 
1923 to assistant chief engineer. 

But his slow climb to the top of the engineering bureaucra- 
cy of a large railroad company tells little of Bratager's pioneer 
efforts. His technical achievements are also best described by 
another engineer: 

82 Information derived from American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 
95:1457 (1981); Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. 8, p, 9; interview 
with Mrs. S. J. Bratager of St. Paul in February, 1940; Festskrijt ved Bergem tekniske 
skoles &5~aars jubilazum, 52; Minneapolis tidende, September 4, 1980; and Skandi- 
naven, September 9, 1980. 

55 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

During his forty-two years of service Mr. Bratager was engaged 
in bringing the records and the physical condition of the railroad 
up to the high state of development which was required for taking 
care of the heavy traffic of 1925 as compared with the light traffic 
requirements of 1883. With a few assistants, he established the early 
distance schedules and records of the line, which due to the rapid 
growth of the system, had become an important and difficult prob- 
lem. Later, when valuation work started, he made the first com- 
plete valuation of the railroad. 

- While Mr. Bratager's service was generally devoted to the design 
of engineering undertakings and office administration, he was 
greatly interested in the application of these designs. He was in 
charge of the construction of fifteen miles of the Sykeston Branch 
during 1899. His design of the steel rollers and screws used in the 
moving of the east pier of Bismarck Bridge proved very successful. 
This pier, with load, weighed 4700 tons, and was moved under 
traffic. On the completion of the work, it was found that 90% of the 
rollers had practically complete bearing after moving the pier, 

During his long service with the Railway Company, Mr, Brat- 
ager gained the sympathy and confidence of his superiors, as well 
as the love and respect of his employees. All the engineers who re- 
ceived their early training under his direction will long remember 
him for his fair and correct dealings and his thorough investigation 
of the subjects at hand. His sympathy and help were of the greatest 
importance to all young engineers who, during his time with the 
Engineering Department . . . were looking for advice or a "start" 
with the Company. 23 

V 

In the meantime engineers had begun careers in the indus- 
trial centers of the East as well as in the West. One of the 
earliest was Edwin Ruud. 24 As the inventor of household equip- 
ment that is now in universal use, he is well known to the many 
who are familiar with the products of the Ruud Manufacturing 
Company. 

Ruud, the son of a farmer, was born in Askim County, 

28 Martin S. Grytbak, in American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 95: 
1457 (1931). 

24 Information on R-uud was derived from American Society of Mechanical Engi- 
neers, Transactions, vol. 55, record and index, p. 7$ (1933); Femti-aan juhilmwmts** 
festskrift, Hortens tekniske skole, 132; 75 an biografisk jubilewms-festskrift, Mortens 
tekniske skole, 117; Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 4, no, 1, p, #, 10 
(April, 1931), and vol. 6, no. 1, p. 10 (April, 1933); Minneapolis tidende, December 15, 
1932; Nordmands-forbundet, 17:426-428 (1924); and a portion of Huud's correspond- 
ence in the possession of John H. Sorg of Pittsburgh, who also furnished valuable in- 
formation in a personal interview. 

56 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

where he received the usual elementary education. As the oldest 
son he should have taken over the family farm, but a pro- 
nounced mechanical bent led him to decide, with his parents 5 
blessing, upon an engineering course. Graduated from Horten 
in 1876, Ruud was employed as a draftsman in Norway; he 
later went to Sweden, where he worked in Bergsund's Machine 
Shop in Stockholm. As a machinist he made the most of this 
opportunity to study machinery. He was particularly interested 
in American-made machines and machine tools and American 
manufacturing methods, already in use and in demand in 
Europe. 

In the spring of 1880 Ruud left for the land of the machine. 
Like many another Norwegian engineer, his first job was in 
Philadelphia with William Sellers, a firm soon to make history 
in the machine tool industry. Like many another immigrant 
engineer, Ruud had no aversion to a lowly and dirty job. Eager 
to learn, he was put on the pay roll as a machinist and he 
worked in overalls. 

Two years later he was employed by the Pennsylvania Rail- 
road Company as draftsman in the engineering office of the 
engine and car building works at Altoona, one of the largest 
concerns of its kind in this country. There he was in an excel- 
lent position to learn railroading methods on one of the finest 
lines in North America. His work, however, was of a routine 
nature and made few allowances for his originality or creative 
spirit. Having mastered the railroad routine, and finding his 
health none too good, he returned to Norway in the summer of 
1884, accompanied by Edward Holth. 

But the tempo of American industrial life had entered Ruud's 
nervous system. In 1885 he was back in Pennsylvania, this time 
with the Reading Iron Works. This position, like the others, 
broadened his general knowledge of engineering and produc- 
tion and prepared him for his work with George Westinghouse 
in Pittsburgh, which began in 1887. Westinghouse, himself an 
inventive genius, saw in Ruud a kindred spirit sensitive to 
the crying needs of a new era. For Ruud, Westinghouse opened 

57 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the gate to a new existence for which, unconsciously, he had 
been preparing himself since his arrival in the United States, 
In this existence ideas counted for everything and dull routine 
played no part. 

The story of Ruud's career in America is the story of the 
machine in its relation to gas. In the latter part of the 1880's 
engineers were developing producer gas machines. Experiments 
had advanced to the point where it seemed feasible to make 
a machine capable of producing inexpensive gas fuel for com- 
munities and industries. The great abundance of cheap coal 
in America seemed a guarantee of adequate raw material, and 
in the New World no machine, however fantastic, was impos- 
sible. George Westinghouse's fertile mind began to visualize a 
great new industry, and his first step toward its realisation was 
the creation of the Fuel Gas and Electric Engineering Com- 
pany. Ruud was assigned to this firm and he collaborated with 
Westinghouse in developing the producer gas machine. But the 
Norwegian's inventive genius, now given free play, simultane- 
ously helped bring into being a series of gas-consuming ap- 
pliances for home and factory. These included ranges, automatic 
water distillers, room heaters, and industrial apparatus of vari- 
ous kinds. Among Ruud's inventions was the automatic water 
heater, first manufactured in 1888-89 and patented in 1890-91. 

The producer gas machine, in which Westinghouse had 
placed much faith, failed to measure up to its early promises, 
The Fuel Gas and Electric Engineering Company, however 
thanks to Ruud had perfected enough appliances to keep 
the firm alive for a number of years, and after that it was re- 
organized as the Pittsburgh Meter Company, The basic reason 
for the failure of the gas machine was the utilization in the late 
eighties of the large supply of natural gas in the oil region of 
western Pennsylvania. Engineers in Pittsburgh became inter- 
ested in the possibilities of this cheap, pure fuel and its employ- 
ment in distant cities. George Westinghouse characteristically 
threw himself into this enterprise. 

Two phases of the natural gas problem interested Westing- 

58 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

house most. The first had to do with measuring the flow of gas 
from a well. Since the volume of gas ran into millions of cubic 
feet daily and its pressure was several hundred pounds per 
square inch, it would obviously be difficult and costly to build 
a meter through which all the gas was to flow. What was 
needed and what engineers were trying to develop was a pro- 
portional meter; that is, one through which only a small part 
of the gas would pass but which nevertheless measured accu- 
rately the total flow. Ruud developed one of the first accurate 
proportional meters. 

The second project in Westinghouse's mind was the gas en- 
gine, which he conceived of as a prime mover of the future. 
He set Ruud to the task of developing this engine. The finished 
product was considered the foremost in its field. For a time it 
was widely used, but it had to give way to the steam turbines 
and turbo-generators that later came into general use. Working 
with the gas engine was of inestimable value to Ruud in that it 
brought him into close contact with Westinghouse. The two 
men traveled together in Europe in search of new ideas and 
better engineering methods. Ruud not only had a stimulating 
relationship with his friend and employer but also met and 
worked with many great Europeans: Rudolph Diesel, inventor 
of the famous Diesel engine; Dr. Walter Nernst, who developed 
the Nernst lamp; Lord Kelvin, the great English physicist; 
and Emil and Walter Rathenau, of the German dye industry 
the latter famous in the First World War and postwar years 
as German economic director and social philosopher. European 
business contacts, made through the British and French West- 
inghouse companies, were also to be of value in Ruud's later 
years. 

Ruud's reputation, however, was destined to be based and 
not with absolute justice on the automatic gas water heater. 25 
He had invented the heater and also an automatic water dis- 

35 Patent numbers 448,797, water heater (December 30, 1890); 460,518, water 
heater (September 29, 1891) ; 610,281, automatic water heater (September 6, 1898) , 
"an automatic water-tube or coil-heater in which the supply of heat is regulated by 
variations in the temperature of the water in the heating-coil." 

59 




SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

tiller while employed by the Fuel Gas and Electric Engineering 
Company. Because of the failure of the producer gas machine, 
neither device was at first a great success, hut 
Ruud was confident of a large potential market 
for his inventions. Westinghouse had never 
pushed the gas heater, believing that the ordin- 
ary householder would be unwilling to tear out 
his old tubs to make room for the new appli- 
ance. Ruud therefore was able to buy for $380 
the patents that had been taken out in his name 
T, j A * * but assigned to the Westinghouse companies. In 

Ruud Automatic & i i T^T 

Gas Water this he was more fortunate than other JN orwogian 
Heater engineer -in ventors . 

In collaboration with James Hay, a plumber, Ruud began a 
business venture in a shack on Pittsburgh's north side. He im- 
proved his appliances and began to sell them on the American 
market. His first heater, built in 1895, was given the trade 
name Pittsburgh Water Heater. Two years later the Ruud 
Manufacturing Company was organized; it offered two kinds of 
heaters the instantaneous automatic water heater and the au- 
tomatic storage type. Both were designed to use natural gas, but 
in 1902 Ruud perfected improvements which made them suitable 
for use with manufactured gas. During the next two years a 
sales force and branch offices in many large cities of the United 
States and Canada were organized. Many new inventions fol- 
lowed to make the Ruud heater suitable for varied needs, and 
the business, modestly begun, grew into a widely respected 
firm. 

Despite Ruud's manufacturing project, he had continued his 
association with Westinghouse. In 1903 he resigned from active 
duty with the various Westinghouse companies, pleading ill 
health as the cause. 26 George Westinghouse's answer to the 
resignation is revealing; he deplored Ruud's decision to retire 
and asked for the privilege of calling on him from time to time 

26 Edwin Ruud to George Westinghouse, September 25, 1903, Ruud correspond- 
ence. 

60 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

for limited services if his health and his other duties permitted. 
He added, characteristically: 

I appreciate what you say in regard to our relations. They have 
always been of a most pleasant character to me and I have appre- 
ciated your work, as you have had occasion to know so many times. 
The gas engines which have been developed since we took up 
the business seem to be superior to any others on the market; but, 
as you also know, I do not think we have gone ahead as fast with 
the large engine work as we should have done. ... I have, how- 
ever, determined upon a course which will lead to a much more 
rapid development of the gas engine work, and it is in connection 
with such development that I may now and then wish to have your 
advice. 27 

As the Euud Manufacturing Company grew in size and its 
output increased, Ruud, a heavy shareholder in the company, 
became a man of considerable means. In addition to the plant 
at Pittsburgh, factories in Michigan, Texas, and California 
turned out his products. For the European market a factory 
was maintained in Hamburg, and offices were opened in Berlin 
and London. Before Ruud's death on December 10, 1932, he 
had the satisfaction of knowing that his products were widely 
adopted by Europeans and Americans alike. 

VI 

Up to about 1500 there were, and had been for two thousand 
years, only two basic forms of construction; the post and lintel as 
used, for instance, in the Parthenon, and the arch with its deriva- 
tives, the vault and dome as used ... in St. Peter's in Rome. 
Along towards the end of the fifteenth century the true truss, com- 
posed of members some of which are in compression and some in 
tension, was invented. That was the third. And now in our era we 
have added a fourth reenforced concrete. 28 

By anyone at all familiar with modern construction materials, 
reinforced concrete is recognized as an absolutely vital ele- 
ment, whether for skyscrapers, paving, viaducts, grain eleva- 
tors, bridges, fortifications, or the dozens of other uses that 

27 George Westinghouse to Edwin Ruud, September 25, 1903, Ruud correspond- 
ence. 

28 Thomas E. Tallmadge, The Story of Architecture in America, 28 (New York, 
1936). 

61 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

have been found for the material. According to a guarded 
report of a committee of the American Society of Civil Engi- 
neers in 1916, the "adaptability of concrete and reinforced con- 
crete for engineering structures or parts thereof, is so well 
established that they are recognized materials of construction." 
It continues: "By the use of metal reinforcement to resist the 
principal tensile stresses, concrete becomes available for general 
use in various structures and structural forms. This combination 
of concrete and metal is particularly advantageous in structural 
members subject to both compression and tension, and in col- 
umns where, although the main stresses are compressive, there is 
also cross-bending/' 29 

It follows that anyone vitally connected with the develop- 
ment of reinforced concrete in the last half century merits 
considerable notice. The man who did as much as anyone to 
introduce it in America and to help it through its early stages 
is Eyvind Lee (Lie) Heidenreich, born on Stord Island, near 
Bergen, in I860. 30 

Heidenreich's father was a district judge and his mother a 
sister of Jonas Lie, the novelist. He had private tutoring on the 
island and public schooling at Flekkefjord, and then enrolled 
at Trondhjem's Technical College. He was graduated with 
degrees in both mechanical and civil engineering in 1880, and 
went directly, not to America, but to Russia. There he was 
employed by the Nobel brothers in their Baku oil department. 
In Russia Heidenreich learned Russian and Polish and per- 
fected his knowledge of French and German languages that 
stood him in good stead later. His Russian period, however, was 
a short one, for in the next year he set out on the now familiar 

28 "Final Report of the Joint Committee on Concrete and Reinforced Concrete/* 
in Proceedings, 4$: 1657-1. 708 (December, 1916). It is interesting to note that Olaf 
Hoff was a member of this committee. The quotation given is to be found on pace 
1665. * ^ 

80 Considerable information obtained directly from Heidenreich has been woven 
into the following account. Important facts were also found in Alstad, Trondhj&fm- 
teknikernes matrikel, 28; Alstad, Tttlegg, 18; Who's Who in Engineering, a Biographi- 
cal Dictionary of the Engineering Profession, 1931, 580 (New York, 1031); 
Nowvegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, p. 9 (February, 1930)" and 
Scandia, April 7, 1938. 

62 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FBONTS 

course to America. He was eager to learn modern engineering 
as it is practiced in the New World and to earn an adequate 
living, but, like others of his countrymen, he planned to return 
one day to Norway. 

On June 26, 1881, Heidenreich, accompanied by a Russian 
friend, landed in New York, and with other immigrants left 
at once for Chicago. His enthusiasm for America, aroused by 
New York's tall buildings, elevated railroads, and the Brooklyn 
Bridge, continued to mount when he found a position on the 
day of his arrival in Chicago. His job, as a machinist's helper in 
a sewing machine shop, paid him only $3.50 a week and held no 
promise for the future. After two weeks In Chicago he became 
a draftsman for the Illinois Steel Company at Joliet, where 
he remained three and a half years and was earning eventually 
the unheard-of salary of $75 a month. Among his earliest engi- 
neering experiences was designing the first 10-ton crane and 
ladle for Bessemer Steel; he also took part in the design of a 
10-ton steel converter. 

Heidenreich resigned to become a structural engineer for the 
Lambert and Bishop Wire Fence Company in Joliet and built 
their first wire mill. In 1884 he returned to Chicago, where he 
took work with an architectural firm, and designed three large 
churches. He next accepted a position with J. A. McLennan, 
grain elevator contractor. Becoming interested in elevators, 
Heidenreich left McLennan in 1889 and started his own busi- 
ness as contracting engineer. In 1890 he reorganized this firm 
as the Heidenreich Company, Engineers and Contractors; his 
brother, S. Lie Heidenreich, and a college mate, Harold Boedt- 
ker, were his partners. Contracts were signed for grain elevators, 
manufacturing plants, eleven of the buildings for the Colum- 
bian Exposition, two sections of the Chicago drainage canal, 
some railroad work, and government docks and piers. 

At the exposition in 1893 Heidenreich, doubtless because 
of his linguistic abilities, was named chairman of the commit- 
tee assigned to receive foreign engineers. In. this capacity he 
met Hermann 0. Schlawe, who had been sent from Rumania 

63 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

to study American grain elevators. 31 Schlawe, who spoke Ger- 
man, was enthusiastic about the Monier constructions then 
becoming popular in Europe and gave Heidenreich some books 
explaining them. The result was that Heidenreich became an 
able disciple of Monier and began a crusade to introduce his 
system into America. 

It should be explained that the Frenchman J. Monier (1823- 
1906) is generally credited with the invention of reinforced 
concrete. Though not the first to use a combination of iron and 
cement, Monier "was the first to combine them scientifically, 
so that they supplemented each other and acted as a single 
unit of material." Since he was interested in gardening, his 
first patent, dated July 16, 1867, covered the building of tubs, 
flowerpots, reservoirs, fountains, and basins in which wire net- 
ting was imbedded in the cement. In this way Monier was able 
to "secure lightness without sacrificing strength." Later he ap- 
plied his invention to railroad sleeping cars, floors, buildings, 
footbridges, gas and water tanks, and arches, and covered these 
with patents. 82 G. A. Wayss of Berlin obtained in 1880 the 
patent rights for Germany, Austria, and Russia and formed a 
central technical bureau in Berlin with branches all over Eu- 
rope. He systematically applied the Monier method to houses, 
bridges, and hydraulic work, as well as to reservoirs, and in 
1887 wrote a book called Das System Monier, This work crea- 
ted no little stir among engineers. One result was that the royal 
architect in Berlin, a Herr Koenen, aided the system by theo- 
retically proving the stability of the new material and develop- 
ing mathematical formulas for making calculations. 88 

S1 This common interest brought the two men together, Tor Heidenreich delivered 
an address before an international gathering of engineers at the exposition on the 
subject "American Grain Elevators." Printed in American Society of Civil Engineers, 
Transactions, 2'9: 644-652 (September, 1893), this speech was a resume* ol f the progress 
made up to that time in constructing American grain elevators. 

32 Eichard Shelton Kirby and Philip Gustave Laurson, The Early Yean of Modwn 
Civil Engineering, 278 (New Haven, 1932); published by the Yale University Press. 
A good early history of reinforced concrete is Paul Christophe, Le bSton armS at sett 
applications (Paris and Liege, 1902). 

38 E. Lee Heidenreich, "Armored Concrete Constructions," in Cement and Engi- 
neering News, 14:36-39 (March, 1903); and E. Lee Heidenreich, "Monier Construc- 
tions," in Western Society of Engineers, Journal, 5:208-224 (June, 1900). 

64 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

In the perfected Monier system round bars were crossed at 
right angles, making a trellis-like effect. The purpose was to 
strengthen the cement by placing the rods in such a position 
that they would assume the main tension or compression 
stresses. 

A great number of variations in reinforced concrete devel- 
oped after Monier, but the Monier patents were so broad, Heid- 
enreich maintained, that they embraced in general any iron 
parts encased in cement. As the sole representative in America 
of Monier construction, Heidenreich naturally was motivated 
in his career by a strong element of self-interest. He organized 
a central technical bureau of Monier constructions at Chicago, 
a northern bureau at Minneapolis (with F. W. Cappelen), 
an eastern bureau at Buffalo, a southern bureau at New Or- 
leans, and a Pacific bureau at Los Angeles, to exploit the Mon- 
ier methods developed by the Germans and to guard against 
infringement on patents. In his business, too, he gave tangible 
evidence of his new interest by building the first reinforced- 
concrete tank in the Illinois Steel Company's Chicago yards 
and a cement storage elevator for the same concern. 34 

Of greater importance were his personal innovations in the 
field of reinforced concrete construction, especially a fireproof 
grain elevator, patented in 1901. He also patented a fire- 
proof roof and the Lee corrugated bar, which replaced the smooth 
rods used by Monier and was extensively adopted for concrete 
work in America. 

As a propagandist for Monier constructions, Heidenreioh 
let pass no opportunity to present his cause before engineer 
groups and in technical periodicals. Some of his articles and 
speeches constitute a species of pioneering and are as interest- 
ing as they are significant. Speaking before the Western So- 
ciety of Engineers in Chicago on June 6, 1900, he explained 
that Monier constructions, almost unknown in this country a 
few years earlier, were finding a steadily increasing appli- 

u "Monier Cement Storage Elevator at South Chicago," in Cement and Engi- 
ne&ring N&wa, 18:88 (June, 1902). 

65 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

cation in all branches of engineering. With an "unexpected in- 
crease in the cost of material and manufacture of steel struc- 
tures, fortified concrete constructions have gradually attracted 
attention as a substitute for steel, and are, at present, ap- 
proaching a universal recognition, also, in the United States." 
Iron imbedded in cement, he explained, is virtually rust-free. 
In outlining some of the uses of reinforced concrete, he men- 
tioned, first of all, reservoirs for water, wine, oil, pulp, grain, 
and cement. 

Reinforced concrete is used also for bridges and viaducts, 
walls, floors, and partitions, culverts and flumes, fortifications, 
as in Germany and Austria, bombproof vaults, and canals. The 
general advantages of Monier constructions were listed as dura- 
bility, proof against fire, maximum carrying capacity with a 
minimum of weight, resistance against shocks and vibrations, 
economy of space, rapidity of construction, cleanliness and ab- 
sence of organic matter, economy, resistance to air and water, 
dryness, adaptability to all possible forms or shapes, safety 
against thieves and enemies, and reduction in insurance rates. 86 

Several years later Heidenreich published in serial form a 
somewhat elaborate study of "Armored Concrete Construc- 
tion." 86 This was a comprehensive account, largely technical. 
The study revealed, however, that while the original Monier 
patents were of small value and had for years been "public 
property abroad," the later patents still had <tf some six yeans 
to run in the United States." Heidenreich's exclusive right to 
use Monier constructions was therefore definitely limited in 
time. New uses of reinforced concrete were also cited: in beams, 
girders, foundations, pipes, sewers, stairs, grandstands, chim- 
neys, fence posts, smokestacks, and adding a note of finality 
coffins. 

A third, briefer presentation of the case for Monier was 
made by Heidenreich in the Railway and Engineering Review. 

Western Society of Engineers, Journal, 5:217-224 (June, 1900). See also the 
supplement to the same discussion, 5:329-889 (October, 1000). 

86 In Cement and Engineering News, 14:36-89, 55-00, 75-84 107-118 (March- 
June, 1903); 15:8-13, 27-85, 51-58, 76-82, 100-100 124-186 (Ju 
16:156-160, 180-184, 204-208, 228-287 (Jaimaxy-April, 1904) 

66 



THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

During 1896-97, he maintained, the "clamor for fire-proof con- 
struction became more and more pronounced every day; in 
grain elevator construction, for instance, steel tanks commenced 
taking the place of the stereotyped wood-bin construction; 
concrete and tile floors were replacing the then modern mill con- 
struction for factories, and without noticing the change the 
engineering and building fraternity slowly saw the age of 'steel 
and iron wane before the age of cement and concrete." S7 

Instances in which Monier constructions were used tell a 
graphic story of the introduction of the new building material 
in America. F. H. Peavey and Company of Minneapolis built 
a grain storage elevator in Duluth of "some three and a half 
million bushels capacity, entirely in this fortified concrete con- 
struction/' as a result of Heidenreich's representations to Pea- 
vey. The Illinois Steel Company in Chicago had the casting 
floors in front of their new blast furnaces built in the Monier 
construction. In Buffalo, New York, the commission of grade 
crossings specified the new product for "both the roadbed and 
sidewalks for the Louisiana Street viaduct and the Elk Street 
viaduct, giving the Monier constructions an important impetus 
in municipal work." 

At the turn of the century the Illinois Central Railroad asked 
Heidenreich to put in a culvert near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 
"The embankment slid out, but to the surprise of everyone con- 
cerned, the Monier culvert withstood all twisting and displace- 
ment, and is still intact." 38 The Canadian Pacific grain elevator 
at Port Arthur, Ontario, built on Heidenreich's cluster-tank 
principle with nine tanks, was, naturally, of reinforced concrete; 
in the early years of the twentieth century, elevators built of 
this material gradually replaced large wooden structures at ter- 
minal points. Literally hundreds of concrete elevators were 
built in Canada and the United States; their capacities ranged 
from 50,000 to 4,000,000 bushels. 89 In 1902 Heidenreich planned 

ST Vol. 4 t p. 165 (March 15, 1903). 

88 These projects are listed in Railway and Engineering Review, 48: 165. 

80 Heidenreich, Pocketbook of Reinforced Concrete, 3S&-389 (1915) . The author 
makes it clear that there was little literature on the designing of grain elevators and 
other storage structures, Such work requires, he says, a practical knowledge not gen- 

67 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

and specified the first Monier viaduct in America at Santa 
Monica, California. This had two 67-foot spans and as late as 
1915 was the lightest Monier viaduct in America. In Germany, 
Switzerland, and France, however, reinforced concrete bridges 
of even lighter construction could be found. 40 

Heidenreich's last and most effective plea for concrete was 
his Engineers* Pocketbook of Reinforced Concrete, published in 
New York in 1908. The result of fifteen years given largely to 
the study and use of the new material, this book soon became a 
standard work and was revised seven years later. He explained 
in the preface that since the publication of an earlier work, 
Monier Constructions, reinforced concrete had "made such gi- 
gantic strides forward, that it has entered every branch of civil 
engineering." He stated that the American Society for Testing 
Materials and the American Society of Civil Engineers, through 
a joint committee of which Heidenreich was a member, were try- 
ing "to standardize specifications and to recommend factors 
and formulas "required in the design of structures in which this 
material is used/ As yet the committee has not attained results 
further than 'a knowledge of the work such a report demands/ " 
In the meantime he had been "writing, changing, substituting, 
and improving the book for upwards of eight years/' and finally 
let go of it "for his own peace of mind." 

From 1901 to 1905 Heidenreich spent much time in traveling 
about the country, designing reinforced concrete structures. In 
1905 he was employed as a special engineer by the New York 
Central Railroad while it changed its Hudson division from 
steam to electric power. In 1911 he resumed work with the 
Heidenreich engineering company, and he moved its head 
office to Kansas City in 1914. There he was given charge of 
the revision of the building code and was also put on a com- 
mittee to appraise the metropolitan railroad. But he continued 
to work with reinforced concrete, to build grain elevators, to 
lecture, and even to give instruction to young men in the proper 

erally possessed by engineers. Heidenreich was the first to design reinforced concrete 
gram elevators in America. 

* Heidenreich, Pocketbook of Reinforced Concrete, 292-295. 

68 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

use of concrete. During the First World War he designed ships 
and fuel oil tanks in concrete, as well as mills, elevators, and 
bridges. Later he planned grain elevators in Sweden, an oil re- 
finery in Italy, and fuel tanks in Norway. 

His inventive ability unimpaired, Heidenreich designed a 
piping system for concrete ships and tankers in 1918. As late as 
1921 he was commenting in a technical journal on the gondola 
railroad cars of reinforced concrete used in central Europe, and 
on concrete farm silos and skyscrapers in Germany. 41 Later in 
the same year he came out characteristically in support of the 
oil storage tanks which he had perfected during the preceding 
decade. Little or no advance, he argued, had been made in the 
ports where the bulk of our oil is put in motor ships. The steel 
fueling structures along the coast had definite shortcomings. 
Heidenreich had experimented with oil storage off and on since 
he was with Nobel forty years earlier, and had "finally suc- 
ceeded in building oil-proof storage." 42 

In later years his mind turned to more theoretical studies. In 
1924 he published an analysis of Reuterdahl's Synthesis; this 
was followed by Reuterdahl's Light Quantum Theory in 1929. 
A number of other monographs have also come from his vigor- 
ous pen. 43 Though making a lively hobby of subatomic re- 
search, he did not entirely forget reinforced concrete after his 
retirement to Santa Monica, California. He experienced the 
satisfaction of one who, having found something good in the 
Old World, lived to see its adoption in the New. 

VII 

Bernt Berger, unlike Heidenreich, was identified with no spe- 
cific development to which his name can be clearly linked in 
history, except general structural work. 44 Nevertheless, he was 

^Concrete, 18:247-249 (May, 1921). 

42 Concrete, 19:222-225 (December, 192'1). 

43 They include Relativity; The Constant Velocity of Light; The Constancy oj 
Concrete; and Pumicite, This information was furnished by Heidenreich. 

44 Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 57; Norwegian- American Technical 
Journal, vol. 2, no. 2, p. 10, 12 (July, 1929); Minneapolis tidende, January 27, 1919; 
memoir by Frank W. Skinner in American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 
88:2355 (1919-20). 

69 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

one of the ablest of Norwegian engineers in America. In this lie 
is representative of a large number of men who, as superb en- 
gineers, were called upon to use their talents in a variety of 
structural tasks. 

Berger, the son of a ship captain, was born at Drammcn. He 
completed the course in mechanical engineering at Trondhjem's 
Technical College in 1885, and spent a year in the Drammcn 
city engineer's office before his departure for America. When he 
arrived in New York in September, 1886, he entered the employ 
of Theodore Cooper, widely known consulting bridge engineer. 
This association continued until Cooper's death in 1008; and 
Berger then succeeded to the consulting practice. 

Beirger became known for his accuracy and for his sound 
methods of investigating and handling technical questions, par- 
ticularly difficult structural problems. He quickly won the con- 
fidence of Cooper and his clients and was put in charge of many 
reports, investigations, and designs. More and more he tended 
to specialize in long-span steel bridges, concrete arch spans, re- 
inforced concrete, substructure work, and general steel con- 
struction. He was recognized as a leading authority on steel struc- 
tures and a specialist in bridges. His knowledge of steel also 
made him sought after by subway contractors. He played a 
. significant part in the building of the great Quebec Bridge, the 
New York Public Library building, the New York elevated 
railroad structures, and innumerable railroad bridges, in South 
America and Japan as well as in the United States, As a spe- 
cialist in inspections and recommendations for the safety of 
existing structures, he gave help to other engineers, contractors, 
and architects who sought his advice. He put his stamp of ap- 
proval, among other projects, on the steelwork in several sec- 
tions of New York's subway system. 

Outstanding when measured by a technical yardstick, Berger 
won a second reputation among Norwegians for his helpfulness 
to young engineers. Apparently free of the restlessness so com- 
mon in his profession, he remained in the New York area until 
his premature death. He developed into a kind of permanent 

70 



THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

point of contact for Trondhjem's graduates who sought posi- 
tions in America. Many stories are told of his generosity, his 
kindly hand, and his encouraging words. One at least is worth 
recounting: 

In the early days, when he worked for Theodore Cooper, Berger 
was not always in the office when some of these new arrivals called. 
. . . Mr. Cooper sometimes had a hard time explaining when 
Berger would be back. Mr. Cooper then would ask: "Trondhjem?" 
And if they said yes, he would take up his watch and explain by 
pointing with the finger to the hour at which Mr. Berger would 
return. Mr. Berger was of a very kind disposition, and his purse 
always was open to help provide the necessities of struggling young 
engineers and students who had arrived from abroad with only a 
few friends and no experience in this country. He had a hearty, 
affectionate nature that endeared him to his friends beyond the 
ordinary, and his sympathetic actions and manner always will be 
remembered with pleasure. 45 

Despite the heavy drain imposed on Berger's time and en- 
ergy by his technical duties, his studies, and his literary interests, 
he also served in an amazingly large number of organizations, 
charitable and social as well as technical. The fact that he was 
unmarried and therefore did not have the many diversions that 
are a part of family life is only a partial explanation of his 
amazing breadth of activity, A hard worker, he also loved food 
and drink in the company of good friends. He died in 1919, at 
the height of his career, not yet fifty-three, thus depriving his 
adopted country of one of its leading technicians and the 
younger engineers of a true friend. 

It would have been strange indeed if none of a group of emi- 
grant engineers who represented a seafaring people had pio- 
neered in the world of ships. Henrik Lysholm earned an enviable 
reputation in American shipbuilding circles. 46 He might with 
some justice be called the Henry Ford of the shipyards. Lys- 
holm was the son of a captain who had charge of the Carl Johan 
navy yard at Horten, After attending Trondhjem's Technical 

45 Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. , no. %, p. 10. 

40 Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes rmtrikel, 856; Sjfifartstid, a Norwegian publica- 
tion quoted in Alstad, Tttlegg, 105-107; Minneapolis tidende, October 1, 1921, and 
January #9, 192$. 

71 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

College, he worked for a time at the Horten navy yard with 
special emphasis on the study of shipbuilding. In 1887, at the 
age of twenty-one, he migrated to America in search of tech- 
nical knowledge and experience. His search brought him em- 
ployment in many workshops as draftsman, chief draftsman, 
and foreman. In 1889 he became general superintendent for the 
New York Shipbuilding Company, For a short time he had 
maintained, with Carl Wigtel, a ship engineering firm in New 
York. While working as an engineer with Rollings worth's in 
Wilmington, Delaware, he learned the arts employed in bridge 
construction. Later, during the early years of the New York 
Shipbuilding Company, he applied these techniques with infi- 
nite skill to the building of ships. 

The New York Shipbuilding Company, with its model yards 
at Camden, New Jersey just across the Delaware River from 
Philadelphia was in many respects unique; its ships were 
built, however, on two major principles adopted by Lysholm. 47 
First, all materials going into a ship were conveyed in one di- 
rection from the storeroom to the various departments where 
ribs, keel beams, and deck pieces were made. These parts went 
to a general assembling department, where they were riveted 
together into sections, so far as their construction permitted. 
The sections were then hoisted by cranes onto the ship's ways. 
With this system Lysholm eliminated repeated carrying and 
lifting, with their attendant waste of motion and time. The 
other principle involved something of a revolution in the ship- 
building trade. Parts going into a ship were, in so far as pos- 
sible, standardized and marked for assembling. The application 
of these principles necessitated a large and competently man- 
aged mold loft and a separate division in the steel plate shop, 
the "laying-out" department. These two departments were Lys- 
holm's favorites and the workers knew it. When his tall, broad- 
shouldered figure came walking through, one of them would say, 
"That's him! The grand old Norwegian!" Called by his workers 
the "Old Man," he was warmly admired and respected. 

"According to Sjpfartstid, quoted in Tillegg, 105-107. 

72 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

Lysholm J s influence was also felt in methods of fabrication. 
He experimented with punching and drilling and in 1916 pro- 
duced the Lysholm punch machine. This machine eliminated 
the work of at least two men and increased greatly the number 
of holes punched per hour. 

In the spring of 1916 Lysholm took part in the launching of 
the Christoifer Hannevig 48 shipyards at Gloucester, New 
Jersey. He was confronted by so many problems while there 
that he overexerted himself. His work with Hannevig resulted 
in at least one important innovation: the sideways launching of 
7,000-ton tank ships, a feat considered impossible until Lysholm 
performed it. He later established a consulting office in Phila- 
delphia, no longer having the necessary strength to superintend 
the work of the two shipyards at Camden and Gloucester. But 
when, during the First World War, our government decided to 
build 32 torpedo boats at the New York Shipbuilding Com- 
pany, Lysholm was called to organize the work. He continued 
active until he died prematurely in 1921. At the time of his 
death he was working on what promised to be an epoch-making 
arrangement for unloading ships. Authorities, it is reported, 
were eagerly awaiting its completion. 

The last in this series of representative pioneer engineers is 
Carl Wigtel, known for his inventions and general mechanical 
genius. 49 Magnus Bj^rndal states in the Norwegian-American 
Technical Journal that when the history of the development of 
the American machine age after 1887 is written, an important 
section must be devoted to Wigtel, vice-president and chief en- 
gineer of the Watson Stillman Company, manufacturers of 
special and hydraulic machinery. 

Wigtel was born at Stenkjaer in 1862. He finished the local 
public school, and at seventeen went to work as an apprentice 
in a Trondhjem machine shop. In the late 1870's Norway was 

48 For an account of this interesting Norwegian shipping magnate, see A. N. Rygg, 
Norwegians in New York, 1886-1986, 177-180 (Brooklyn, 1941) . 

40 See Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. 4, no. 1, p, 13 (April, 1931), 
and vol. 6, no. 1, p. 10; Wong, Norske utvandrere, 70; 75 drs biografisk jubileums- 
festskrift, Hortens teknuke skole, 148; Skandinaven, June 3, 19&7; and Nordisk tidende 
(Brooklyn), April 29, 1926. 

73 



SAGA m STEEL AND CONCRETE 

changing over from the English system of weights and measure- 
ments to the metric system.Wigtel's employers had the conces- 
sion to complete this undertaking in the entire northern part of 
the country, and the young apprentice was put to work repair- 
ing, adjusting, and making scales. At the age of twenty-one, 
Wigtel set out for England, where many Norwegians were 
working as apprentices, and promptly found employment in 
Hull as a full-fledged machinist earning 30 shillings a week, 

His experience in England only whetted WigteFs thirst for 
knowledge. After one year at what was then a more than re- 
spectable income, he returned to Norway. He attended Hor ten's 
Technical School during 1885-86 and graduated at the head of 
his class despite earlier difficulties in mathematics. For the next 
few months he had a temporary job as draftsman in the Trond- 
hjem machine shops. But economic conditions at home were un- 
favorable, and he emigrated to America in 1887. He arrived in 
New York at six in the evening of March 30; at ten o'clock the 
next morning he had a position with the C. W. Hunt Company 
on Staten Island as draftsman. After six months with this 
firm, he joined the Watson Stillman Company as its first drafts- 
man. For forty-two years Wigtel was connected with this com- 
pany, rising from draftsman to chief draftsman, to director, and 
then to vice-president and chief engineer. 

During his long career with Watson Stillman, Wigtel de- 
signed the hydraulic machinery required for the construction of 
all the tunnels, except the Holland Tunnel, under the Hudson 
and East rivers in New York City, and the hydraulic machinery 
used in building the Boston and Baltimore subways. 

The Watson Stillman Co. built all kinds of special machinery, 
and there never was a job too large or too difficult for Mr. Wigtel. 
He developed the first large presses in the United States for the 
extrusion of copper and brass bars, as well as for drawing seamless 
tubing. He designed giant hydraulic presses for special purposes 
in the steel industry, for the making of projectiles, etc., and he was 
a pioneer in the development of high-speed hydraulic presses for the 
manufacture of pressed steel articles. Presses designed by Mr* Wig- 
tel range in size from 10 to 4,000 tons. The inventor of the famous 
steel pulley, manufactured by the American Pulley Co., once came 

74 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

to Mr. Wigtel and wanted him to design a press to make three 
pulley rims per minute, but when the press was put in operation, it 
actually produced eight to nine per minute. Pulleys made from these 
presses are today turning the wheels of the world. Similar results 
were obtained with presses for making phonograph records. While 
originally it required three minutes to make a record, Mr. Wigtel 
designed a semiautomatic press that made them in 45 seconds, and 
some of these presses eventually were exported to many different 
countries. Another interesting design was a large four-pressure au- 
tomatic hydraulic valve which Mr. Wigtel, in 1901, designed for a 
large steel concern, and which, thirty years later, is still working 
and giving the same satisfactory service as when new. 

During the war Mr. Wigtel was busily engaged making many 
kinds of hydraulic machinery required by manufacturers of ammu- 
nition and ordnance. He also designed much special machinery for 
the ammonia plant erected ... at Sheffield, Ala. 

At one time during the war Mr. Wigtel was asked to bid on 
10,000 hydraulic jacks to be used to lift heavy ordnance in the 
field. Practically all ordnance was then manufactured from French 
designs, but Mr. Wigtel did not like the design of the French jack, 
so he refused to bid on it, but designed a new one, the drawings 
for which he took to Washington and submitted to the French 
officers in command. They were so well pleased that they not only 
approved his design, but decided that his was so much better than 
the French jack that he immediately got the order, totalling more 
than one and a half million dollars, his bid being $350,000 lower 
than the lowest bid on the French jacks. Mr. Wigtel holds more than 
thirty patents which he has obtained on his many special machines. 50 

Among WigteFs many inventions was a hydraulic apparatus 
for hoisting the center span of the Quebec Bridge; this span 
weighed about 5,500 tons. Wigtel is also known for an auto- 
matic valve used under high-pressure conditions. He died in 
1933. 

VIII 

The story thus recounted might suggest that all of the emi- 
grant engineers were satisfied with conditions as they found 
them in the United States, and that their efforts were invari- 
ably crowned with success. Pioneering on the technical fronts, 
as on the physical frontier, was nonetheless frequently colored 
by disappointment and occasionally by tragedy. 

80 Sketch by Magnus Bj0rndal in Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 4, 
no. 1, p, 18 (April, 1931). 

75 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

A considerable number of the Norwegian engineers who set 
out for America later returned to their homeland. The most 
common reason for so doing is revealed in a letter by one who 
made the return trip. Though he belongs to a later generation 
than the men discussed in this chapter, his experiences were 
similar to those of many disappointed pioneers. He writes: 

Arrived in the United States, which meant New York for the ma- 
jority, there was no difficulty in finding a job. We met comrades 
who had been there a year or two and who were thoroughly familiar 
with the ropes. In my own case a day or two after my arrival, a 
comrade . . . explained that his chief had recently asked if he knew 
of any newcomers who would like work whereupon I went right 
to him and got a job. Once employed, one began to look around for 
something that he thought he would like better or that offered more 
pay. Most of us moved around quite a bit; in my case, during the 
five years I was in America I moved five times. . . . 

And now I come to that which I most want to discuss. Of us 
[Trondhjem's Technical College] classmates of 1907 about ^5 per 
cent left for the United States, but today only one is still there. 
... I think that most of us liked America; personally I have only 
good memories and I think often of the many pleasant times I had 
and the many fine people I met. I also feel that after five years I 
was well acclimatized one is quite pliable in the years between 
twenty-two and twenty-seven. And yet all but one of us returned 
home. This certainly ties up with the knowledge we acquired as to 
the chances and possibilities for the future we could look forward to 
in America. As time went on it seemed to us that we had come up a 
blind alley. ... It appeared to be only subordinate work in the 
drafting or construction room that was open to us, and after a four 
to five years' stay most of us had achieved the highest salary for 
that work, which in the years before the World War came to 
$125-150 per month. Up to that point progress was quite rapid and 
regular, but the chances of further advancement seemed to be very 
small. We discovered, too, that our American colleagues in the draft- 
ing rooms were for the most part men without technical-school 
training, and we were even more surprised when we found that the 
chiefs sometimes were unable to solve a simple equation. For us 
who were without acquaintances or connections it seemed that in 
most cases further advancement was extremely difficult or at least 
seemed far off. ... On the other hand we knew that these difficul- 
ties did not exist in the same degree in Norway. . . . The $12&-150 
per month that we earned was then worth about 800-350 crowns in 
Norwegian money, and even if we couldn't at once earn that much 
at home, we would do so in a few years or more. 

76 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

The result of such thoughts was that we desired to see a little of 
conditions in Norway, and found that opportunities were equally 
good there in the years before the World War. After a few years we 
took a trip home, found something to do, and took root there. Of 
us eight from the class of 1907 who went home, two now have their 
own engineering firms, two are engineers at the Saltpeter Works at 
Notodden, and four have excellent government positions. 51 

IX 

The note of pathos, without which the story is incomplete, 
is struck in the case of Hans Peter Herman Krag Hougen. His 
tragic career has been told elsewhere by the present writer, 52 
but it is significant enough to merit repetition. 

An official publication of his alma mater says of Hougen that 
he graduated in 1879 from the mechanical division of Trond- 
hjem's Technical College; that for a short time thereafter he 
worked in the Cathrineholm machine shops at Fredrikshald; 
that, beginning in 1881, he served for several years as drafts- 
man and engineer in the American East; and that in 1886, 
barely launched on a brilliant engineering career, he died at 
Philadelphia. That is about all. What snatches Hougen from ob- 
scurity is the chance preservation of his letters from America 
letters full of courage and charm, telling a story of youth that 
is replete with energy, hope, and ambition. These America let- 
ters, written in the 1880's to Hougen's family in Norway, sug- 
gest anew the magnitude of the task of those who would write 
the history of a transplanted people. 53 

We learn, for example, that Hans accepted work in the 
Cathrineholm shops because he desired to gain practical ex- 
perience with metals and machines. At the age of twenty, in the 
spring of 1881, he set out in a sailing vessel for Baltimore, there 
further to broaden his technical knowledge during a temporary 
residence in the New World. After finding a position as drafts- 
man at Malster and Reaney's Dry Docks, he wrote to his 

Kl A translation from the Norwegian of a letter written March 11, 1940, by an engi- 
neer living in Trondhjem, to the present writer. 

52 Norwegian-American Studies and Records, 14:7-a34 (Northfield, 1944). 

53 The letters quoted here are from a selection made by J. Hougen of Oslo, Norway, 
and sent to the archives of the Norwegian-American Technical Society at Chicago. 
The letters were written in Norwegian except for an occasional English phrase. 

77 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

father in Krager^, "As soon as one can push a drafting pen and 
have a bit of luck with him, one is worth $8 or $10 here; 
theories one seldom has a chance to use; the chief draftsmen 
are shockingly incapable and disgustingly clever at getting by 
without using theory." 

On the day after Christmas and on New Year's Day he 
worked from 7:30 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening; 
"but to tell the truth, I am so crazy about working that I would 
be at a loss without something to do. To stand at my drafting 
board, whistling and designing, singing and figuring, rooted in 
my drawings and in old memories, is so pleasant, Father." Dur- 
ing the Christmas season of his first year in Baltimore, Hougen 
met a number of school friends; about twenty-five of them were 
in the New World. 

In 1883, when Hans moved to Philadelphia to work with a 
cable street railway company, his letters expressed misgivings; 
he had disliked conditions in the Baltimore firm, but his chief 
interest continued to be in ships. In August he wrote: 

I did not, in changing, get into the branch that I like best the 
science of shipbuilding; but I had no invitation in my favorite field, 
and since the new position was much more educational, broadening, 
and remunerative than the old (somewhat detested) job, I moved. 
... I am beginning to think that Wbitton, the Scotchman who 
brought me here, 54 can get me into a good position (in, charge of one 
of the cable railroad stations) . That I will remain as a "road-man" is 
unlikely; such was never my destiny; but if I can use an easy posi- 
tion to learn a little about practical work and the giving of orders, 
I do not think I shall regret the last step. 

The same letter explains the job that Hougen took with the 
cable railway company: 

The method of operating cable cars that I am now working on has 
been used for about 12 years in San Francisco and it made so good 
an impression at the Chicago exposition in the fall that a company 
in Pittsburgh, another in New York, and one in Kansas City, if not 
more, at once began to think of laying a similar drum-and-cable 
line. (The electrically-driven cars can in time ruin these railways.) 
... It was natural that Whitton and I should get into the business 
and we are working now for "the Cable Propulsion Co,/' as it is 

M Andrew W. Whitton. 

78 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

called (with five million dollars in stock), a company that is willing 
to build a cable road for any who can pay and who first build 7 
miles for themselves. As I have said, I hardly believe that I will be 
a "road-man" all my life; I think I must learn to work with my 
hands and think England is the best place to learn that; I can 
get into a workshop there . . . with Whitton's help; but Whitton 
advises against going; I should work up into an independent posi- 
tion, he thinks, and not cross over to Europe when things are going 
so well. 

Hougen's hunger for further education of a practical kind 
and his passion for ships were temporarily forgotten in his ef- 
forts to take out patent rights on an improvement of the driv- 
ing machinery for the cable railway. Before leaving Baltimore 
he had received a letter from his friend Whitton, with whom lie 
had worked in perfecting the mechanical improvement; the let- 
ter asked that he find out how things were with the patent for 
"pulling streetcars." Hans in one of his letters described the 
"model," which they kept in a steam laundry; it consisted of an 
entire cable line, with a miniature car, drawn by a steel band, 
that went up and down at full speed. An exhibition of the primi- 
tive model at Baltimore produced the enthusiasm and head 
shakings that usually accompany a new idea. There were cable- 
car men present, men who "belonged to the old school" and were 
"surprised" at the general principles involved in the mechanism 
after only a superficial inspection. Also present were engineers, 
sent from a railroad company, "who of course thought, and for 
a long time had thought of using a motor instead of a horse." 
One engineer from Boston "smiled a little" at the invention and 
pontifically informed the naive ones present that "the theory 
was sound but the practical execution almost impossible." 
Another said, "A brilliant idea for an elevated railroad but 
hardly suited for the streets." 

Hougen told of a visit to the patent office in Washington, 
where he saw a great number of "good and crazy ideas." He 
added, "You may well wonder why, in spite of such examples, 
I am in the patent game. . . . My idea was found to be good 
. . . and now a proper model has been worked out. . . . My 

79 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

superior, Rice, says that my idea is used in velocipedes." The 
idea for the invention, as a matter of fact, had come from an 
axle joint used in Germany and described in one of Hans's 
schoolbooks, and from a wheel mechanism used in the spinning 
machine. He had put the two principles together and applied 
them to the problem of pulling streetcars; an old mechanism was 
thus applied to a new use. The drawings and descriptions in his 
letters of the patented mechanism are as exact as a scientific 
treatise. 

Later in the same year, 1883, Hougen wrote explaining why 
he had not left for the British Isles: 

What, despite everything, has kept Whitton and me for a year in 
the cable-road business is, first of all, the joy of seeing our large rail- 
way system develop to everyone's pleasure (so we can call ourselves 
cable railroad engineers); and, secondly, the fact that we will have 
our patent tested by the firm; and if it works and we get the patent 
from the great men in Washington, we will be sitting pretty. To 
overcome "slip" is a very great problem in cable propulsion* Much 
is written about this from San Francisco to New York, in fact all 
over America, but no means has yet been found to prevent it except 
ours. Will ours do it? Several engineers think so; they think it so 
definitely that our invention has been recommended for use in 
Union Line's (our company's) new road. Designs for the models are 
all ready; the preparation and casting of all the wheels that belong 
to the mechanism will cost $1,00 if not more. But the mechanism 
will be used a patent in Whitton's name has been applied for, 

Then followed detailed explanations of the invention. An an- 
swer from Washington was expected in February of the next 
year. "How exciting the first trial will be!" 

In his next letter, Hans excitedly and somewhat incoherently 
told of having received word from his chief, George Bice, who 
at the time was out on the west coast: 

He has mentioned our discovery to one of the biggest inventors out 
there (San Francisco) and he, Mr. Lawe, has said that we have 
solved the riddle that he has racked his brain for a long time trying 
to solve that is to say, I have solved it hm I like to say I 
have solved it, for that will never be known either in writing or in 
daily life; but it is recognized, in fact all recognize, that I am the 
one who proposed the idea; but no one says it. Am I not vain? 
All right, Lawe also says that it is the best idea he could think of 

80 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

and that it will certainly have a strong influence on hoisting ma- 
chinery in general (in mines, etc.). 

Finally the long-awaited letter arrived from Washington; the 
patent was granted. 55 Rice got Whitton, in whose name the patent 
was taken out, to surrender one third of his rights to Hou- 
gen and another third to himself. The three then entered 
into a partnership to exploit the new mechanism. Rice, who 
had already put up $350 in cash, agreed to have a new model 
made and to take out patents in England, Belgium, and France. 
Hougen spoke glowingly of Rice, a civil engineer about fifty 
years old, and a member of one of the best families there. He 
continued: 

His father, who built Memorial Hall for the Philadelphia Exposi- 
tion and was chief engineer for the Reading Steam R. R., was once 
so prosperous that he drove a carriage with four horses. Rice him- 
self has traveled about the world. He has not yet spoken to the 
president about the patent. ... It is not only for cable roads that 
our patent can be used for all hoisting contrivances in mines it 
has great value; and it is especially there that Rice thinks the patent 
has a future. A mining engineer who was recently in the office was 
quite enthusiastic at seeing so much done with so simple a mecha- 
nism. The chief thing is there is no more expense with our methods 
than with the simplest lifting arrangement in use up to now. 

Hougen was confident that Rice and one of Philadelphia's 
best attorneys could prevent others from taking away the pat- 
ent rights a possibility that had given him many sleepless 
nights and his thoughts turned once more to working with 
ships this time in Scotland. "If everything goes well," he 
wrote in January, 1884, "then I will be at the workshop in Scot- 
land next summer and let the cable road take care of itself." 
But before he could leave, changes took place within the Phila- 
delphia Traction Company which made it inconvenient for him 
to carry out his plans. Writing in September, he explained: 
"Mr. Rice, 'the chief/ has left us. He does not see eye to eye 
with the president; we were all ready to go when Whitton was 

BB Number 95,701 (March 85, 1884); device for transmitting power. "This inven- 
tion relates to certain improvements in the class of apparatus which has been pro- 
posed from time to time for driving machinery for cable railways, and its object is to 
prevent slip and consequent wear and tear of the pulleys and wire rope or cable," 

81 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

ohosen as Rice's successor, and Rice urged him strongly to stay 
until the railroad was completed." 

So the two friends remained at their posts but were ready to 
leave when the street railway project was finally liquidated. 
Whitton was to go where Rice went, probably to Washington or 
Baltimore to do similar work, if the Philadelphia railway was 
a success. Hougen mentioned having seen a number of his 
Norwegian friends: Holth, who liked the patent very much; 
Heidenreich, who had been recently married; and two other 
Trondhjem men, both of whom were soon to be married in 
Chicago. 

Whitton and Hougen finally sold their shares in the patent 
to a man named Whetherill. Hans, after a trip home to Norway 
in the summer of 1885, at last set out for Glasgow, where he 
became established with J. and G. Thomson in "a worker's 
position/ 5 The work was heavy and he once wrote that he was 
"tired from tip to toe, and yet as healthy as I can ever be while 
working." While in Scotland he also met several of his friends 
from the technical college. 

Hans had thought of remaining at Glasgow, learning the art 
of shipbuilding from the bottom up, but suddenly he had word 
from Whitton in Philadelphia, with a tempting offer for em- 
ployment which he felt he could not reject. So in the spring of 
1886 Hougen returned to Philadelphia. The reception given 
him by his friends is described in a March letter: "Whitton wel- 
comed me as if I were his brother. . . . All (workers and en- 
gineers) have received me in the warmest manner; yes, here 
everything has been cheerful since my return. The railway works 
brilliantly; all are satisfied with it, and the president not least. 
... I surprised all the Norwegians here; all were glad to see 
me. . . . All is warmth and sunshine/* 

Cheerful, happy, full of plans during the spring of 1886, in- 
tensely interested in his work and looking forward to another 
visit to Norway in the near future, Hougen suddenly con- 
tracted typhus and died on Easter Eve, at the age of twenty- 
five. 

82 



PIONEERING THE TECHNICAL FRONTS 

Though Hougen's story is unusual in several respects, it is 
nevertheless true that a sizable group of the engineers failed 
to realize their ambitions in the land of opportunity. A quick 
glance at the records as published in the anniversary volumes 
of the technical schools reveals that some apparently vanished 
completely, even their families in Norway having no knowledge 
of their whereabouts. Others remained in subordinate technical 
positions, and a small number took to farming, shopkeeping, 
and similar activities which, though respectable enough, were 
not the goals sought by the eager graduates when they sailed 
for America. 

Wigtel, interviewed shortly before his retirement, expressed 
the opinion that Norway was making a mistake in educating so 
many engineers when it was a certainty that a large number 
thus trained at direct or indirect state expense would leave at 
the first opportunity for the New World. But he was quick to 
add that he himself had employed many of his countrymen and 
always found them excellent engineers. 56 His experience, multi- 
plied many times over, was to be the experience of American 
technology generally, not only with the pioneers, but also with 
those who followed in their tracks. 

G0 Nordisk tidende, April 29, 1926. 



83 



PHILADELPHIA , 

THERE are two Philadelphias. The 
STORY first is the "green countrie towne n of 

William Penn, a paradise of Quaker 
and German tranquillity. This Phila- 
delphia is known for its historic 
buildings, such as Independence Hall and Old Swedes Church, 
and for its old, exclusive families. It is the home, too, of Benja- 
min Franklin and David Rittenhouse; a center of learning and 
discovery, where the Franklin Institute, proud of its priceless 
heritage, gives aid to science and the mechanic arts. 1 It is a city 
of select clubs and lovely parks, broad boulevards and charm- 
ing suburbs. 

But there is another Philadelphia. This is the city of the im- 
migrant, where the Scotch and Irish held the balance of power 
in the years following the Revolution; where Russians and 
Italians added their strains to those of the Swedes, Dutch, 
French Huguenots, and Germans. Fifty-five per cent of the 
population claim foreign parentage, and the slum edges boldly 
up to Congress Hall. This Philadelphia ranks below only New 
York and Chicago in population and industrial output. Most 
important are its textile plants, established in the eighteenth 
century; but the Baldwin Locomotive Works and the E. G. 
Budd Manufacturing Company provide engines and stream- 
lined trains for America's railroads, and the J. G. Brill Com- 
pany produces half of the country's streetcars. Philadelphia, 
a center of giant oil refineries, Stetson hats, storage batteries, and 
Philco radios, is also the city of the Hog Island shipyards and 
of William Cramp and Sons. It is headquarters of the Pennsyl- 



.^ F 2 r i f ^ information see s y dn ey L. Wright, The Story of the FranMin Institute 
(Philadelphia, 1938), 

84 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

vania Railroad Company, and as a great shipping center it 
maintains commercial contacts with all parts of the world. It is 
this Philadelphia that claimed William Sellers the president 
of William Sellers and Company, the Edge Moor Iron Com- 
pany, and the Midvale Steel Company an inventor of machine 
tools and of our standard system of screw threads. It is this 
Philadelphia that produced Frederick Taylor, high-speed steel, 
and scientific management. And this Philadelphia drew young 
engineers from the technical schools of Norway. 

Three of these engineers made such conspicuous and original 
contributions to the technological development of the coun- 
try and to industrial life generally that they attracted the 
attention of the Franklin Institute and other scientific bodies. 
Their work was thoroughly investigated, and they lived to see 
their inventions become standard products here and abroad. 
They were Tinius Olsen, Henrik V. von Zernikow Loss, and 
Mauritz C. Indahl, all graduates of Horten's Technical School 
and all of them mechanical engineers. Olsen had the distinction 
of producing the first commercial testing machine. Loss suc- 
ceeded in manufacturing an all-steel wheel, and put this wheel 
on the all-steel railway car that had just been produced. Indahl, 
a modern Gutenberg, made the monotype machine what it is 
today, a contribution of lasting value in the cultural as well as 
the technical field, 

II 

As late as 1884, the author of an article on engineering wrote: 

To conquer time and space by joining the two oceans with the rail- 
way and the telegraph; to drive a five thousand ton ship across the 
Atlantic in the face of adverse gales; to erect the structures that 
now span the Mississippi, the Niagara and the East River; and to 
dot the continent with buildings, such as may be seen in the streets of 
any of our cities; would seem to require the most intimate conceivable 
knowledge of all the properties of all the materials used in construc- 
tion. Yet such is far from being the case. Indeed the art of 
construction, perhaps more than all others, is involved in mystery 
and obscurity. . . . The knowledge of materials is at present, at 
least, an absolutely empirical one. . . . Any predictions from ex- 
isting data regarding a new material, or the effects of a new process 

85 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

on an old one, are hazardous in the extreme, and should be received 
with the greatest caution, "Experimenta docet" seems to be the only 
motto for this science. Before the constructor makes use of either a 
new material, or an old one in a new form, the only safe method is 
to experiment. 2 

Despite the prevalence of such unscientific and haphazard 
methods, the testing machine was not entirely unknown in 
1884. Testing of a sort had long been practiced on anchor 
chains in England and elsewhere. In 1852 "a good laboratory 
machine was made for testing in compression as well as in ten- 
sion/ 5 In that year Ludwig Werder of Nuremburg made "a hori- 
zontal machine in which the hydraulic press for straining was 
at the same end of the gauntry as the lever for measuring the 
stress/' 8 In America a Major Wade designed and built for the 
federal government a machine that made tests of cast iron for 
ordinary service. This machine, produced in 1855-56, was later 
remodeled and improved by a Captain Rodman and was used 
at the Washington navy yard and in the Army Building, New 
York City. Others experimented, among them John A. Roebling 
in New Jersey and George W. Plympton. The latter succeeded 
in producing a machine for testing rods used in bridge con- 
struction. 

The Civil War diverted attention from these investigations, 
but after the war's end it was announced that Fairbanks, Morse, 
and Company had built the first platform testing machine, for 
Colt's Armory. The same firm also designed a similar machine 
for Columbia College. The American Society of Civil Engineers 
on June 5, 1872, resolved to urge upon the federal government 
the importance of a complete series of tests of iron and steel, 
and of the need for formulas deduced from such experiments. 
Congress passed a law providing for the appointment of a board 
to test these metals, with an appropriation of $75,000. The 
board awarded the contract for a testing machine to A. H. 

2 Arthur V. Abbott, "Testing Machines, Their History, Construction and Use," 
in Van Nostrand's Engineering Magazine, SO: 204 (March, 1884). 

8 J. H. Wicksteed, "Notes on the History of Testing Machines with Special Befer- 
ence to European Practice," in American Society for Testing Materials Proceedings 
8:622(1908). 

86 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

Emery of Chicopee, Massachusetts, who in 1879 completed one 
with a capacity of 1,000,000 pounds. This machine, first used at 
the Watertown Arsenal, could test a column 30 feet long and 
2% feet in cross sections. 4 

These and several other machines chief among them one 
developed by a Professor Thurston for making experiments in 
torsion and graphic recordings, and another by Arthur V. 
Abbott which recorded the results of tests made in other than 
torsion stresses were indications both of the general accept- 
ance of the need for testing building materials and of an under- 
standing of the general principles involved. Samples of materials 
were broken in the machines, which then registered the amount 
of stress required and the strain produced. Despite this prog- 
ress, however, no one had succeeded in producing a commercial 
testing machine before Tinius Olsen put his models on the 
market. To him goes the honor of making the testing machine 
an essential part of American industry. 5 

ni 

Tinius Olsen was born in 1845 in Kongsberg. 6 His father was 
employed in the local gun factory, making rifle stocks of birch 
or walnut. He worked at home, where young Tinius assisted by 
cleaning the brass mountings on guns being repaired or altered. 
At the age of thirteen Tinius entered a private drawing school, 
where his technical interests were sharpened. There he con- 
ceived the idea of going ultimately to America. After confir- 
mation in the church he prepared to be a stockmaker and began 

4 Van Nostrand's Engineering Magazine, 30:204-214, 325-344, 382-397 (March- 
May, 1884). 

5 See articles by his son, Thorsten Y. Olsen: "Recent Developments in Testing 
Machines," in Forging and Heat Treating, 7:66-69, 131-134, 162-165 (January- 
March, 1921); and "Testing Machines as Related to the Foundry," in American Ma- 
chinist, 53:525-530 (September 16, 1920) ; 

6 The following account of Tinius Olsen is based in part upon articles in Norwegian- 
American Technical Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 2 (May, 1928), and vol. 6, no. 1, p. 10 
(April, 1933); Femti-aars jubilozums-festskrift, Hortens tekniske skole, 100; Wong, 
Norske utvandrere, 149; Chicago Norwegian Technical Society, Year Book, 1985, 
11; Sv. Herbert Herbransen, Ingenifir Tinius Olsen, en norsk banebryter for material- 
prfivemaskiner i Amerika (Oslo, 1925) ; Nordisk tidende, December 9, 1943; and an in- 
terview with Thorsten Y. Olsen in Philadelphia, May 15, 1941. 

87 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

an apprenticeship under his father. During this training period, 
Tinius, with a comrade, began his study of English, tutored by 
a turner who had lived in America. 

Having completed his training as stockmaker, Tinius mast- 
ered the art of the locksmith. When denied the privilege of 
working as a locksmith, he quit his job at the gun factory and 
set out for Horten to find work in the navy's machine shops. 
Despite lack of money, the death of his father, and many hard- 
ships, he went through the brief training period at the technical 
school and emerged, in 1866, at the head of his class. Then he 
again obtained work in the navy shops. 

As a result of Olsen's skill in the use of machinery, he was made 
foreman of the machine department of the well-known Trond- 
hjem machine shops. While at Horten, Tinius had privately in- 
structed backward students in mathematics and mechanics and 
had occupied himself with machine designing and other tech- 
nical problems. He discovered at Trondhjem, however, that he 
had much to learn. The shops, which turned out almost every arti- 
cle made of iron and brass, from ships and locomotives to flat- 
irons, demanded great versatility. Olsen applied himself to his 
work with characteristic energy and thoroughness. He did not, 
however, relish the new job, which called for instructing men 
older than he who were resentful of his teaching. He applied 
for a government stipend to broaden his experience in a foreign 
land, received a modest grant, and resigned his foreman's po- 
sition after a year and a half. He then went to Newcastle, Eng- 
land, where he found it impossible to obtain employment in 
machine designing. At that time his former superintendent at 
the Horten shops, Christian Steenstrup, was in Newcastle, 
Steenstrup was unable to find work for Olsen in England, but 
through English connections, he heard of William Sellers and 
Company in Philadelphia. He recommended that the young 
man try his luck in th,e New World and gave him a letter of in- 
troduction to Sellers. Tinius made a last effort to get a job as a 
designer in Liverpool but, failing, took the first ship to New 
York. He arrived in Philadelphia in August of 1869. 

88 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

It is not difficult to visualize the twenty-three-year-old Olsen 
during his early days in Philadelphia. In many respects his 
story follows a familiar pattern. He suffered from the oppressive 
heat, but he did find work as a designer with William Sellers. 
He craved acquaintances and an opportunity to speak English. 
He took to visiting Lutheran churches, notably one located at 
Broad and Arch streets, and he eventually became a regular 
member of a Sunday Bible class in the church. What he sought 
most was instruction in English, but the Sunday-school experi- 
ence was to have far-reaching effects in his professional life as 
well. 

In the Sunday school were two young teachers, the brothers 
Riehle, who had recently bought a little workshop for the pro- 
duction of commercial scales. They soon discovered that their 
new student was one of Sellers' designers. When the Riehle 
brothers received a request for a machine to test the strength 
of boiler plate, they asked young Olsen whether he could make 
drawings of such a machine. Tinius answered that he would 
make the drawings if they would furnish details as to what was 
needed. Evenings were then devoted to the designing of the 
first machine, one with a capacity of 40,000 pounds, to test 
boiler plate. Thus began for Olsen a long career devoted almost 
exclusively to the design and production of commercial testing 
machines. 

Later an order came for a much larger machine which, like 
the first, had to be constructed in a shop intended for the pro- 
duction of scales. Parts of this machine were larger than any 
the workers in the shop were used to handling, and Tinius' 
presence was needed so frequently that he was invited to take 
over the direction of the plant. On January 1, 1872, Olsen be- 
came director of the Riehle Brothers plant, although he re- 
gretted leaving Sellers, where he still had much to learn. He 
held this position for eight years and helped to establish the 
firm securely in the industrial life of Philadelphia. He planned 
and built new shops and threw himself into the construction 
of scales as well as of new testing machines. Several of the lat- 

89 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

ter were exhibited at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876. Need- 
less to say, many of his discoveries were patented in the name 
of his employers. Olsen apparently asked to be taken in as a 
partner. He was married and sought a more remunerative and 
secure position than that of manager. His suggestion was re- 
ceived with little enthusiasm, and late in 1879 he was informed 
that his services would terminate at the end of the year. 

Despite the sour note marking the end of Olsen's relation- 
ship with Kiehle, his work with this firm was deeply significant. 
The direction of all his subsequent efforts was determined by 
the pioneer contributions that he made with the Riehles during 
the 1870's. His work, in fact, had been closely observed. The 
Franklin Institute, alert to advances on the technological front, 
quickly realized the significance of the young engineer's efforts, 
both to industry and to Philadelphia. Its committee on science 
and the arts in 1879 entrusted a subcommittee with the exami- 
nation of Olsen's testing machines and their appliances. The 
committee's final report reads in part: 

These machines are of various designs, adapted to different mate- 
rials and purposes, with capacities ranging from 1000 Ibs. to 800,000 
Ibs. In most of them the article to be tested is placed so that one 
end receives the stress from the source of power, while the other 
end is acted upon by a system of levers terminating in a gradu- 
ated beam, so that this stress can be accurately counterbalanced and 
weighed. But in some of the machines one end of the article is held 
in a fixed abutment, while the power, which is applied at the other 
end, has its abutment on the weighing mechanism. In other words, 
the first-mentioned machines have the article placed between the 
power and the scales, whilst in the last the power is placed between 
the article and the scales. The stress is produced in various ways in 
the different machines, according to their capacities. In the small 
ones, for testing threads, fabrics, cement, wire, etc., a simple screw 
is used, the nut being revolved by a handwheel or lever. As the 
machines increase in capacity, so the power to produce the stress 
is increased, as follows: hand-power through bevel gearing to nut 
on screw, hand-power through worm and worm-wheel to nut on 
screw, belt-power through bevel gearing or worm and worm-wheel 
to nut on screw, hydraulic jack with single pump worked by hand, 
hydraulic jack with single pump worked by power, and, finally, in 
the large machines, hydraulic jack with triple pump worked by 
power. 

90 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

In all these machines the weighing apparatus consists of a well- 
arranged system of simple levers supported on ample knife-edges, 
the whole being convenient to operate, properly proportioned and 
handsomely designed, and accurate withal. 

Referring to specific machines designed by Olsen for the 
Riehle Brothers, the report says of a 40,000-pound vertical 
machine that the "general design ... is good. It is compact, 
while, at the same time, the parts are accessible .... One man 
can make careful tests, as everything is within easy reach." 
Another much larger, vertical machine for testing materials in 
the actual shapes and sizes used in construction was examined; 
this had a capacity of 100,000 pounds and was built for the 
Pennsylvania Railroad Company's shops at Altoona. "The 
arrangement of the platform, levers and jack is remarkably 
compact, and this . . . enables tests to be made of articles of 
unusual length/ 5 One man could "conveniently control the pres- 
sure and move the poises without changing position. The loca- 
tion of the specimen is, however, inconveniently high." A third 
vertical machine, still unbuilt, was thought to have advantages 
and promised "to be superior in many respects to the other 
forms." A horizontal machine with a capacity of 300,000 
pounds, designed to test chains, was in daily use in a Phila- 
delphia firm. In this machine the stress was produced with a 
jack worked by a triple pump driven by belt power. While re- 
sults were generally favorable, the committee criticized the 
machine on some points. Tools for holding ends of specimens 
while being tested for tensile strength T were said to be improve- 
ments. The report concludes: 

The various forms and sizes of testing machines designed by Mr. 
Olsen and manufactured by Messrs. Riehle Bros, really constitute a 
new industry in this country, and particularly in this city. Messrs. 
Riehle Bros, have undoubtedly increased the interest in, and desire 
for, more extended data as to the qualities of materials. They have 
placed within the reach of manufacturers good, practical and reli- 
able means of ascertaining these qualities, and it is to be hoped that 
their efforts will tend to aid the continual improvement of our prod- 
ucts, and thus be of great service in the advancement of our me- 
chanical industries. 

7 Patent numbers 213,525 and 213,586 (March 25, 1879). 

91 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Although we may criticize some of the details of their machines 
. . , yet we heartily commend their aims, and think they deserve 
great credit for what they have already done and are now doing. 8 

IV 

When Olsen, in 1880, found himself without a job he was not 
without a partner and companion. It had been his good fortune 
to meet a young Swedish woman, Charlotta Yhlen, who was 
studying medicine at the Philadelphia Women's Medical Col- 
lege; in 1874 they were married. His wife's bold intelligence and 
general understanding proved factors of no small importance 
in Olsen's career. Asked once to what he attributed his success, 
Olsen answered quickly, "My interest in mathematics and my 
wife/' 

Olsen was not slow to determine upon a course of action. 
Ten years' experience with testing machines had shaped his 
interests and given him a profession; any new direction was 
unthinkable. His head full of plans for better machines, he 
began at once to make drawings in his home. Work on a new 
machine was completed, patent applications made in January, 
1880, and on June 1 of the same year the patent was granted. 9 
This machine was of "fundamental importance in its technical 
field for it became the basis of all testing machines later pro- 
duced in America." 10 He constructed it at Fairbanks, Morse, 
and Company, because he thought this well-known scale firm 
would become interested in the project and take over produc- 
tion. Nothing came of this scheme, however, since Olsen was 
unwilling to serve Fairbanks as a general employee. The diffi- 
culty in finding a company to produce his machine proved to 
be a significant stimulus: prompted by his *wife, he decided to 
go into business for himself. Their combined capital was very 
small: at best they could produce only a few thousand dollars. 
But, his mind made up, Olsen established a little workshop at 
500 North Twelfth Street, a fortunate location near two main 

8 "Eeport of the Committee on Science and the Arts on Olsen's Testing Machine, 
Riehle Bros., Manufacturers," in FranMin Institute, Journal, 108:80-40 (July, 1879). 

9 Number 228,214 (June 1, 1880), 

10 Herbransen, Ingenitfr Tinius Ols&n, 22. Italics are Herbransen's. 

92 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

avenues In Philadelphia. This plant eventually grew to be the 
largest of its kind in the world, but only after serious competi- 
tion had been overcome. His former employers enjoyed repu- 
table ratings and could draw on large reserves of capital. Olsen 
had only a superior machine to offer, but in the end this proved 
enough. 

His methods were simple and effective. He sent out printed 
circulars, with illustrations of his machines, to various factories. 
Schoenberger and Company of Pittsburgh ordered a machine 
on the condition that they would pay for it only if satisfied with 
its performance after two months' use. The machine was 
quickly made and delivered. Despite the competition of Olsen's 
former employers, his machine met the test and was paid for. 
Olsen was later informed that his competitors had put on a 
heavy campaign to place one of their machines with Schoen- 
berger, but they were finally forced to take it back. 

In 1881 Olsen exhibited his testing machine at expositions in 
Cincinnati and Atlanta. Since it was his policy never to borrow 
money and since his wife was determined to have the machine 
exhibited, she pawned her diamond ring to raise the necessary 
funds a wise investment, for the machine won gold medals 
at both expositions. In 1882 the Olsen company took an order 
for the first 200,000-pound universal testing machine to be 
made; it received good publicity and generous business support. 
The next year Olsen built his first machine with 100,000-pound 
capacity, and one to test the tensile strength of feathers! Both 
of these were exhibited at an exposition in Chicago. In 1883, 
too, he produced his first 10,000-pound machine for steel and 
other wire, and in 1891 the first autographic universal machine 
with 300,000 pounds' capacity. In 1908 he received orders to 
build a 10,000,000-pound capacity machine to test compres- 
sion for the federal government. It was built at Pittsburgh, 
where It was first tested in the presence of members of the In- 
ternational Association for Testing Materials, which met in the 
United States in 1912. 11 Now in use at the bureau of standards 

31 Olsen exhibited Ms machines in Cincinnati and Atlanta in 1881, Chicago in 1883, 
New Orleans in 1885, Chicago in 1893, Philadelphia in 1889, Paris in 1900, St. Louis 

93 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

in Pittsburgh, this is the largest testing machine in the world. 
Of all Olsen's products, the universal testing machine has been 
most widely used. His machines are found in every country and 
are used in the laboratories of leading universities and technical 
schools, factories, and all testing agencies, private and govern- 
mental. 

V 

Tinius Olsen is so unmistakably identified with the develop- 
ment in America of the commercial testing machine that it is 
desirable to investigate more fully his monumental work with 
this mechanism. The Olsen Testing Machine Company today 
advertises hundreds of machines; obviously it is impossible to 
give here anything like a complete account of the founder's 
technical contributions. 

The Franklin Institute was first to make a careful study of 
Olsen's new machines and to publish the results. The report 
made by the institute's secretary on November 15, 1882, is sig- 
nificant. Analyzing the universal testing machine of 50,000- 
pound capacity, this report speaks of it as "combining certain 
novel and useful features, introduced for the purpose of sub- 
jecting materials used in construction to every variety of 
strain." Designed for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of 
Troy, New York, it was capable of making tensile, crushing, 
transverse, and torsional tests. Strain was applied through the 
device of screws and gearing, and the machine was operated by 
a crank. "The strain to which the specimen of material operated 
upon is subjected will bear upon the platform of the machine, 
which is supported on a system of scale levers, and the amount 
of the strain balanced and indicated on the beam, in the main 
similar to the arrangement of a platform scale." The mechanism 
was "provided with an arrangement for applying intermittent 
strains, whereby a specimen under a certain strain may be in- 
stantly subjected to a certain increased strain and again as 
suddenly released. . . . With this machine, then, the experi- 
menter is enabled to apply a very gradual and quietly increas- 

in 1904, Jamestown in 1907, Alaska in 1909, and San Francisco in 1915. In the last 
exposition he won three grand prizes. 

94 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

ing strain, which can be obtained by the use of screws and the 
crank motion; also, when desired, a sudden and intermittent 
loading or series of strains of any desired duration." Machines 
of this type had been built up to 200,000 pounds' capacity. 

The same report also mentions a horizontal chain-testing 
machine, built for the Iron City Chain Works of Pittsburgh, 
which was capable of stretching out and testing 15-fathom 
lengths of chain. It consisted of a straining device and a record- 
ing device, both arranged at the same end of the machine. 

The straining device in this case consists of hydraulic cylinder, 
power pumps and a device for changing and stopping the motion of 
the piston in the cylinder without stopping the pumps as well as an 
automatic stopping arrangement at each end of the stroke of the 
piston. . . . The hydraulic cylinder presses against the main levers, 
and this again transfers the strain to the equal beam, which alters 
the horizontal stress to a vertical one, and is further transmitted 
through the intermittent lever to the beam where it is balanced and 
recorded. 12 

The Franklin Institute, in the early 1890's, was sufficiently im- 
pressed by Olsen's machines to award the designer its highly 
prized Elliott Cresson medal. The award was accompanied by an- 
other report on his work, which called attention to his new 
autographic machine: 

The Olsen testing machine is the result of continued efforts of the 
inventor to improve his original machine and to meet the additional 
requirements demanded by progress in the arts of metallurgy and 
construction in metal. The earlier investigators in these arts were 
careful to ascertain the ultimate strength of materials; afterwards a 
knowledge of the properties of elasticity and ductility were deemed 
important and were crudely examined into by bending specimens 
under the hammer. As the art of making structural work progressed, 
these properties became of importance in estimating the strength 
and durability procurable by selections of materials and questions 
of cost were affected by such selections. Exact ascertainment and 
expressions of all the properties, ultimate strength, limits of elas- 
ticity, both in dimensions and in force, and limits of ductility, 
expressed in force and dimension, were all demanded for intelligently 
applying materials to use, as well as for comparing the values of dif- 
ferent materials. 

u "Olsen's Testing Machines," in Franklin Institute, Journal, 115:39-43 (January, 
1883). 

95 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

The mode of testing these properties or functions of materials 
under strain, by weighing, and ocularly observing the weight and 
measuring from time to time by hand ^ the variations in distance of 
marks previously made upon the specimen, as they changed under 
the stress applied, was found to be too slow and uncertain, and, 
therefore, very unsatisfactory, first, because there were so many 
tests required and the making of them was too long and tedious, and 
second, the changes which took place during tests occurred in such 
rapid succession as often to defy accurate observation. 

Mr. Olsen's machine is designed to meet these requirements and 
furnish easy means of prompt application of the specimens to the 
machine, and of adjustment of the machine to the specimens, with 
the least requirements in preparation. 

Discussing in detail the machine's system of mechanisms, 
the report states: 

The combined effect of the several mechanisms is to enable 
the operator, with rapidity and certainty, to submit specimens to the 
action of the machine under conditions favorable for comparison of 
results, and to secure a graphic record of all the phenomena of 
change of form and variation in stress which occur at every stage 
of the test, to suit different dimensions of specimens and different 
rates of application of force to any required extent, and when de- 
sired, to closely feel the effect of the stress upon the specimen 
through the frictional gear with a delicacy of working, facility of 
observation and accuracy of record never before attempted. 

The Franklin Institute's committee on science and the arts 
recognized that: 

The increased complexity of this machine over others requires 
a more careful handling. . . . Their opinion is that this testing 
method is a long step forward toward making such machines thorough 
instruments of precision, and it introduces instead of the numerical, 
the graphic record. . . . 

In view of the great ingenuity displayed by the inventor in ar- 
ranging the several parts of the machine, notably in the mechanism 
which produces a graphic record of the test, similar to the indicator 
of a steam engine, and thus brings to perception at a single glance 
the variation in the strain of a number of specimens as well as the 
work required to break such specimens, the award of the Elliott 
Cresson medal is recommended. 18 

Commended by Philadelphia's Franklin Institute, Olsen 

18 "The Olsen Testing Machine," in Franklin Institute. Jowrnd* 131:81-88 (Febra- 
aiy, 1891). 

96 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

found that Ms reputation grew with the excellence of his prod- 
ucts. New machines were produced to meet new demands and 
to improve upon the performance of old ones. The technical 
journals noted some of the more significant innovations down 
through the years. Most of the articles or reprinted speeches 
after 1907 were prepared by Thorsten Y. Olsen, the inventor's 
son, who is now president of the Olsen Testing Machine Com- 
pany. In 1908, for example, he mentioned a new 600,000-pound 
universal testing machine; one of these had been installed in 
the testing laboratories of the United States Geological Sur- 
vey at St. Louis; another had been recently put into use in the 
civil engineering department at the University of Pennsylvania. 
It was produced in response to changed methods of construction 
the use of reinforced concrete, large beams and columns. In 
the early years of the twentieth century a demand had devel- 
oped for the testing of full-sized structural members. 14 At 
about the same time Thorsten also described two recent de- 
signs for tensile-testing machines using the pendulum principle 
of weighing. The first was designed to meet specifications, not 
covered by existing machines, for testing materials, from light 
yarn or thin paper to heavier textile materials; the second was 
to meet the demand for an automatic quick-acting machine of 
moderate capacity and low cost, and was intended primarily 
for wire tests. 15 

Announcement was made the next year of a machine for 
"cold bend" testing of iron and steel specimens. "Instead of the 
time taken by the bending tools in a regular testing machine, 
this requires only three minutes to bend a specimen double, 
that is, 180 degrees around a pin, which is of great advantage 
to a steel mill or other establishment, where many tests must be 
made in a short time." 16 

During the years 1908-14 a steady stream of new and in- 

u "Special Features of a Becently Installed 600,000-Lb. Universal Testing Ma- 
chine," in American Society for Testing Materials, Proceedings, 8:626-635 (1908), 

35 "New Forms of Pendulum Testing Machines," in American Society for Testing 
Materials, Proceedings, 8:636-639. 

10 "A New Testing Machine," in American Machinist, vol. 38, part 1, p. 35 (Janu- 
ary 7, 1909). 

97 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

genious mechanisms made by Tinius Olsen reached the market. 
During 1908 a machine was developed that marked a forward 
step in the construction of large testing machines. Its main 
feature was a new system of transmitting to the scale beam the 
pressure developed in the hydraulic cylinder. The standard 
commercial lever testing machine had weighed the entire pres- 
sure directly on three main levers, from which it was then trans- 
mitted to the scale beam. The high cost of the old type of 
machine had limited research work and deprived the engineer 
of data he now needed. Designed for the new testing laboratory 
in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, New York, the 
new machine claimed an "accuracy exceeding one-third of one 
per cent." A 10,000,000-pound compression testing machine of 
the same general design was under construction at the time of 
the announcement; it was to be delivered to the United States 
Geological Survey. Thorsten Olsen says of it: "With the knowl- 
edge of what the smaller machine will do, the success of the 
larger one is assured, and it is safe to predict that it will exceed 
all expectations as to accuracy. . . . The testing of full-size 
structural members is assured. Testing machines far more ac- 
curate and reliable than required either in practice or in re- 
search work can be obtained at a reasonable cost by this type 
of construction." 17 

Prior to 1909 the hardness test for iron, steel, and other 
metals had been used primarily in research work in the develop- 
ment of high-grade tool steel. 18 Thanks to another Olsen ma- 
chine, this test became more versatile: 

[It] stepped beyond the field covered by the research laboratory and 
is demanded for determining the proper material, from the stand- 
point of machining and finishing, for maintaining a constant and 
uniform hardness in gearing, such as used in automobiles; for de- 
termining the uniformity of wheel tires, so that two tires of the same 

17 Thorsten Y. Olsen, "Principal Features of a 1,200,000-Lb. Testing Machine with 
Special Beference to a New System of Transmitting the Pressure Developed in the 
Hydraulic Cylinder to the Scale Beam," in American Society for Testing Materials 
Proceedings, 9 : 663 (1909). 

18 J. A. Brinnel in 1900 invented the method of hardness testing which bears his 
name: measuring the depth of impression made on a specimen by a hardened steel 
ball under a given pressure, 

98 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

hardness may be selected and placed on the same axle to produce 
uniform wear; and a number of other practical applications of this 
nature 'can readily be cited. . . . The difficulty has been to con- 
struct a practical form of machine admitting of use in every-day 
shop practice. 

The machine here described was designed for the Baldwin 
Locomotive Works for testing tires and other materials used in 
the construction of locomotives. The specimen is placed between 
a steel ball and the frame of the machine. The load is applied 
by weights at the end of one lever, "which causes the steel ball 
at the end of the other lever to penetrate the specimen. The 
penetration is measured automatically to ten-thousandths of 
an inch by the instrument ... on the top of the main lever." 
The machine, adapted to a large range of specimens, could 
measure over 500 degrees of hardness for each variation of 
load. 19 

Early in the 1900's rubber had been subjected to tests by 
the United States government and possibly by a few extensive 
users, such as railroads. But by 1910 testing was "passing be- 
yond this stage and the rubber manufacturers are devising more 
thorough tests to determine the quality of their product." At 
the meeting of the International Association for Testing Ma- 
terials in 1909, "the question of rubber testing and machines 
for that purpose was considered, showing a universal tendency 
toward more complete methods for testing this material." The 
result was a machine produced by Olsen at the request of the 
chief chemist of the B. F. Goodrich Rubber Company, "in 
order to obtain more complete data and to determine various 
characteristics of rubber not obtainable on any present testing 
machine. n Intended at first to be used only for autographic 
tensile tests, the machine was actually designed as a universal 
autographic rubber-testing machine capable of performing a 
number of different tests. 20 

One of the best binders used in road construction is pitch, 

19 Thorsten Y. Olsen, "A Machine of New Design for Hardness Tests," in American 
Society for Testing Materials, Proceedings, 9 : 664-666 (1909). 

20 Thorsten Y. Olsen, "An Autographic Rubber-testing Machine," in American 
Society for Testing Materials, Proceedings, 10 : 588-591 (1910). 

99 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the value of which derives largely from its adhesive quality. A 
new method of testing the adhesive strength of pitch was de- 
vised by the United Gas Improvement Company, who then 
turned to Olsen for a machine embodying their principles* The 
result was "a new type of impact tension-testing machine which 
will subject all samples of pitch to the same conditions, and will 
provide a test which can be duplicated at any time on any 
machine built on the same principle." The method of testing 
consisted of "determining the amount of energy required to 
force apart two specially designed dies held together by pitch." 
A machine of this type, it was pointed out in 1910, could be 
arranged to make impact tension tests of standard cement 
briquettes. A machine "of larger capacity built on this princi- 
ple, with the proper gripping device, would form an ideal 
machine for impact tension tests of metals or for testing small 
nicked bars over a die in determining the fragility of steel." 21 

The impact test of steel had been little used on a commercial 
scale, although it was recognized as one of the most important 
tests and one essential for determining the highest quality of a 
steel. The reason was that no standards or specimens had been 
formulated and engineers had used their own varying methods, 
"The advent of the automobile . . . and the consequent de- 
velopment of special and heat-treated steel, has greatly ad- 
vanced the science of steel testing, and where a couple of tests 
would formerly have sufficed, we now have a large variety, with 
the tendency at present toward the most severe test, that of 
impact." Olsen developed a machine that would break a steel 
specimen over an anvil. The impact was confined to a very 
small surface, and "by using a pendulum to apply the impact, 
the work required to break a specimen can readily be accurately 
recorded." 22 

The transverse test was most often used "in general foundry 
practice to determine the physical characteristics of cast iron." 

21 Thprsten Y. Olsen, "A New Machine for Testing Pitch," in American Society 
for Testing Materials, Proceedings, 10:592-594 (1910). 

22 T. Y. Olsen, "New Types of Impact Testing Machines for Determining Fragility 
of Metals," in American Society for Testing Materials, Proceedings, 11:815*818 
(1911). 

100 




Tinius Olsen 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

The tension test, also widely used, required a heavy and expen- 
sive machine; because of the brittleness of cast iron, its speci- 
men had to be specially prepared and care had to be taken in 
gripping it in the machine. The transverse specimen, on the 
other hand, required no machining, and the machine devised 
by Olsen for making the test was small, compact, and inexpen- 
sive well within the reach of any foundry "interested in the 
quality of its daily output." The demand had been for a 
machine that would "automatically record the stress-strain 
diagram to such a scale that the deflection for any given load 
may be read to a thousandth of an inch. Any slight variation 
in the strength, stiffness,, or other property of the test specimen, 
due to a difference in composition or treatment, can thus be 
quickly and conclusively determined." The Olsen machine used 
a pendulum balance system of weighing, the most sensitive and 
accurate automatic weighing device available. The motion of 
the pendulum rotated the autographic drum, thus measuring 
the load on the specimen. The stress-strain curve made a record 
which could be filed for future reference. 28 

The cutting edge of tool steels is of vital concern to our 
entire industrial pattern. It was determined before the First 
World War that "various tool steels should be operated at a 
definite speed for maximum efficiency, depending on their treat- 
ment and the material they are to cut. It is essential, therefore, 
that this speed be determined by test and the machines either 
operated at a speed calculated to obtain the greatest efficiency 
from a given tool, or a steel obtained which will give the great- 
est cutting efficiency at a given speed." A machine put out by 
Olsen could test drills, taps, dies, and reamers, and it covered 
all conditions as to speed and feed and measured the four vari- 
ables of pressure, torque, penetration, and number of revolu- 
tions. 24 

M T. Y. Olsen, "A New Type of Autographic Transverse Testing Machine for Ke- 
search Testing or Regular Foundry Practice," in American Society for Testing Ma- 
terials, Proceedings, 11:819-821 (1911). 

2 * T, Y. Olsen, "An Efficiency Testing Machine for Testing Drills, Taps and Dies," 
in American Society for Testing Materials, Proceedings, vol. 14s, part , p. 541-547 
(1914); and his "Testing Drills, Taps and Dies," in Iron Trade Review, 55 : 159, 182b 
(July 23, 1914). 

101 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Commenting more broadly on the relationship of the testing 
machine and the modern foundry, Thorsten Olsen in 1920 ex- 
plained that the testing machine served two general purposes: 
"Either to improve the product and thus promote reputation 
by having a name for supplying the best that is made; or to 
meet specifications set by the purchaser. There are some manu- 
facturers who go a step further, enter the research or experi- 
mental field of testing and equip laboratories with special test- 
ing machines, in order not only to test material for tensile or 
transverse strength, but to test with regard to the particular use 
to which it is .put and also to demonstrate its value in other 
fields and thereby create a new market." 

The general result has been the production of higher-grade 
materials selling at higher prices. This discussion of various 
machines suited to the foundry serves as a convenient summary 
of the work done by Tinius Olsen and his son. They include 
the universal testing machine; machines for making transverse 
tests, hardness tests, impact tests, and tension tests; and a 
machine for testing the efficiency of machine tools. 25 

After 1920 new machines continued to appear on the mar- 
ket. 26 These included a ductility testing apparatus to determine 
the drawing quality of sheet metal. This machine used a cup- 
ping device and at the same time autographically recorded the 
relations between the pressure and amount of cupping." 7 The 
list also included a cement tester that used a liquid to break 
the specimen instead of shot, as was the practice in other 
machines. 28 In 1930 new cable- and wire-testing machines were 
announced, and in 1931 Olsen advertised new bend and duc- 
tility testers. Olsen also pioneered with a hydraulic univer- 
sal testing machine put on the market in 1931. This machine, 

25 Thorsten Y. Olsen, "Testing Machines as Related to the Foundry," in American 
Machinist, 53:525-530 (September 16, 1920). For a more detailed account, see his 
"Recent Developments in Testing Machines," in Forging and Heat Treating, 7 : 00-00, 
131-134, and 162-165 (January-March, 1021). 

See "Olsen Testing Equipment," in Machinery, 82:664-600 (April, 1926), 

27 Thorsten Y. Olsen, "Ductility Testing Machines," in American Society for Test- 
ing Materials, Proceedings, vol. 20, part 2, p. 398-403 (1920). 

* Thorsten Y. Olsen, "A New Type of Automatic Cement Tester," in American 
Society for Testing Materials, Proceedings, voL 20, part 2, p. 408-410, 

102 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

with lever-weighing and dial-indicating mechanism, combined 
the flexibility of a hydraulic loading system with the conven- 
ience and accuracy of a dial-indicating arrangement. 29 The 
expedience of this machine for the automobile industry was 
quickly recognized. In 1938 a British technical journal described 
a group of new machines, being introduced in England by the 
Olsen firm, for making and recording stiffness and flexure tests 
on a variety of materials in the form of thin sheets, strips, rods, 
and wire. These machines were especially valuable for speci- 
mens that were difficult to test satisfactorily by the usual ten- 
sion, hardness, and ductility methods, and they were small 
and hand-operated. 80 To meet the increasing demand of foun- 
dries, welding and specialty shops, vocational schools, small 
colleges, and small manufacturers for a moderate-priced hy- 
draulic testing machine, the Olsen firm recently produced one 
with a capacity of from 20,000 to 60,000 pounds and weighing 
only about a ton. 

But any discussion of the Olsen machines is necessarily either 
too long or hopelessly incomplete. 31 The reader who wishes to 
pursue the matter may obtain the catalogues of the Olsen Test- 
ing Machine Company. It should be added that many of the 
machines described above were developed under the direction of 
Thorsten Y, Olsen. The father ran the firm as a single enter- 
priser until 1912, when he reached sixty-seven and desired to 
be relieved of much of the work of direction. He reorganized 
the business as the Tinius Olsen Testing Machine Company, 
Inc., with himself as president. Shares to the value of nearly 
half a million were later issued. The company employed between 
200 and 300 men. In 1920, Thorsten Y. Olsen virtually replaced 
his father as the manager of the firm. Tinius retired in 

29 "Olsen Hydraulic Type Universal Testing Machine," in Machinery, 38 : 805 (De- 
cember, 1931)- see also American Machinist, 75:757 (November 12, 1931). 

30 Engineer (London), 165 : 248 (March 4, 1938). 

81 Among the more unusual machines are one designed scientifically to test the 
strength of human hairs, and another to test the durability of walnut shells the 
object in the case of walnut growers being to develop a shell hard enough to permit 
the piling of sacks in storage But not so strong as to draw nourishment from the meat 
of the walnut. 

103 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 
1929 and his son has been president since then. Tinius Olsen 

died in 1933. 

VI 

It would be difficult indeed to imagine a greater contrast to 
the modest inventor of the testing machine than Henrik V. von 
Zernikow Loss, whose technical career in many respects paral- 
leled and rivaled that of Olsen. Loss was born in 1861 at Chris- 
tiansand, where his father was a merchant. He spent one year 
in a Christiansand machine shop and entered Horten's Techni- 
cal School at sixteen. He was graduated in 1878. For a short 
period Loss held various positions in Norway and then found 
technical employment with the state railroad service. In 1883, 
however, he left for America in search of wider experience. 82 

After a few months as a mechanic in Philadelphia, Loss be- 
came a draftsman with the Baldwin Locomotive Works there. 
He had known Carl Earth when the latter was an instructor 
at Horten, and because of Earth's efforts Loss was employed 
by William Sellers as an engineer at the Edge Moor Iron Works. 
There he remained for four years and was closely associated 
with one of America's greatest engineers. Sellers at the time 
was spending money with the financial recklessness of a Napo- 
leon and with equally sensational results. His experiments in 
steel production led to the use of the rotary puddler, special 
gas ovens, hydraulic machinery, and other innovations in the 
rolling mills . 8 ^ For a young immigrant, eager to broaden his 
technical knowledge and skill, this was an ideal place to com- 
plete his education. Of the many experiments conducted during 
Loss's years with Sellers, the most significant for him was with 
hydraulic machinery. 

Loss, familiar with steel and the new techniques in producing 
it, accepted a position with one of Andrew Carnegie's firms at 
Pittsburgh, the Keystone Bridge Company. He obtained this 

82 This and the following paragraphs are based on sketches in the two Horten 
publications; an able article by Magnus Bj0rndal in Norwegian- American Technical 
Journal, vol. 11, no. 2, p. 9 (December, 1938); and interviews with Consul M. Moe of 
Philadelphia and Bjarne Loss of Lake City, Minnesota. 

88 For a record of Sellers' work see Joseph Wickham Boe, English and Am&rican 
Toot Builders, 246-252 (New Haven, 1916). 

104 



A STORY 

post because of his special training with hydraulic machinery, 
and it was the first where, as chief engineer, he assumed abso- 
lute technical responsibility. He soon went to the Pencoyd Iron 
Works of Philadelphia, where his work as an inventor began. 
Asked to design and build a number of hydraulic machines, 
he was soon taking out patents in this field. One of his most 
important productions during this period was a half-million- 
dollar plant, with hydraulic machinery installed in it, for the 
production of eyebars. 84 

In 1893 Loss opened his own consulting office in Phila- 
delphia, In a pamphlet which he had issued the year before, 
he advertised himself as both "consulting engineer" and "hy- 
draulic engineer." He listed among his specialties hydraulic 
shears for hot and cold materials, punches, rolling machines, 
straighteners, flanging and bending machines, special presses, 
valves, riveting machinery, cranes, and accumulators, high- 
pressure pumping engines, testing machines, and oil-burning 
furnaces. The same pamphlet also refers to some of his patented 
machines among them the Loss lifting and rotating riveter, 
the Loss patent hydraulic packing, hydraulic forging machines, 
hydraulic working valves and stop valves, shears, and high- 
pressure pumping engines. 

Thus well launched on the road to a prominent career in 
hydraulics, Loss was nevertheless unsuccessful in business. In 
1895 he became inspector for the construction and operation 
of passenger and freight elevators in Philadelphia. In this 
capacity he worked out a system of regulations that were later 
incorporated into law both by the city and by the state. They 
were copied in part by New York and Chicago, and eventually 
became an international standard. 

Loss, however, soon returned to hydraulic machinery. In 
1898 he was employed as consulting engineer by the Pressed 

84 This machinery and its uses are meticulously described by Loss in a copyrighted 
study, "The Forging of Eye-Bars and the Flow of Metal in Closed Dies," Jn Railroad 
Gazette, 5:846, 868, 908 (November 24, December 1 and 15, 1893), 26:5, 43-45 
(January 5 and 19, 1894). His conclusion is that, while with iron bars the hammer 
must do the main part of the work, steel bars are upset in closed dies and should not 
be hammered. 

105 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Steel Car Company at Pittsburgh, then the leading hydraulics 
plant in the world. There he superintended various lines of 
production and did considerable designing of machinery until 
late in 1901. Early in 1902 he was delegated to build hydraulic 
machinery for the construction of solid steel wheels to be used 
on steel railroad cars. A new firm, the Schoen Steel Wheel 
Company, was started in Pittsburgh in May, 1903. In over- 
coming the difficulties involved in the casting of all-steel wheels, 
soon to be standard, Loss established a lasting reputation among 
engineers. For two and a half years he wrestled with his prob- 
lem; its solution marked a high point in the history of American 

technology. 

VII 

Fortunately, Loss's technical development has been well re- 
corded by himself in articles for engineering journals and his 
speeches before the Franklin Institute and the Engineers' Club 
of Philadelphia. While interest naturally centers on the steel 
wheel, other phases of his work are significant from the point 
of view of his later contribution. As early as 1898, for example, 
Loss was submitting information of pioneer work in the study 
of "Resistance of Metals to Shear/' 85 "It has often fallen to the 
writer's lot," he explained, "to have had to undertake the com- 
putation and design of heavy shearing machinery. The repeated 
vexations due to being forced to fall back upon either guess- 
work or records of former shears . . , led to the inauguration 
of a series of experiments with the view of finding a guide for 
engineers in their professional duties." In his conclusions Loss 
not only pointed out the fallacies inherent in commonly held 
views, but also gave evidence of having learned much about 
the quality of iron and steel. In the nineties, while at the Pen- 
coyd Iron Works, Loss placed on the market a riveter which 
he maintained overcame the tendency toward loss of energy in 
ordinary riveters. 36 

Loss's subsequent work would have been impossible but 

85 American Engineer and Railroad Journal, 67:141-144, 179-182, 47 (March- 
May, 1893). 

Engineers' Club of Philadelphia, Proceedings, 11:7 (January, 1894). 

106 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

for his experiments in the pressing of steel and, in general, the 
flow of metal. The results of this work were set forth in two 
speeches given at the turn of the century before the Franklin 
Institute. 37 In the course of the great industrial competition of 
the time, he explained in his first address: 

The demands upon our profession became greater and greater, call- 
ing for the completion of powerful results inside of shorter and still 
shorter time. This again meant machines which all had to be quick 
in action and capable of exerting intense pressures. In the design of 
motors and machines, simplicity of detail and a small number of 
parts have always been aims of first importance. . . . And it was 
this call for the quick exertion of large powers, coupled with the 
desire to reduce all frictional resistances to a minimum, and also, no 
doubt, to have a machine that should be under the complete control 
of the operator all of which, I say, gave birth to the hydraulic 
press. 38 

Loss went on to explain that the "vast majority of heavy 
hydraulic machines hitherto built have been used in connection 
with processes, the main characteristics of which involve the 
flow of metals." It was in this field that he had carried on the 
experiments, mentioned earlier, at the works of the Pressed 
Steel Car Company, the Pencoyd Iron Works, and the Edge 
Moor Iron Company. He added: 

A number of years ago, when, in the line of my duties, it came that 
I had to design some shearing machinery, I naturally looked around 
for figures regarding the power necessary to sever metals; and this 
was my first effort in examining existing published results. My ex- 
amination covered the publications of different nations as well as of 
different authors. It was, however, all in vain. What little data the 
scientific literature did reveal was of a crude character, and did not 
possess accuracy or logical reasons for its deductions. I then com- 
menced to experiment myself; and little by little my field was in- 
creased, until it covered all the topics which I have given you this 
evening. 89 

The results of his experiments, of which detailed records were 

3T "The Pressing of Steel; with Especial Reference to Economy in Transportation," 
in Franklin Institute, Journal, 148:461-478 (December, 1899), 149:26-40 (January, 
1900); and "The Flow of Metal," in Franklin Institute, Journal, 151:456-464 (June, 
1901). 

88 Franklin Institute, Journal, 148:462. 

"Franklin Institute, Journal, 149:34, 

107 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

presented to the institute, covered the whole field of the flow 
of steel, but led to one conclusion: a lower intensity of pressure 
is required per unit of section for punching than for shearing. 

On March 14, 1901, Loss presented his second paper before 
the mechanical and engineering section of the institute. Refer- 
ring to the earlier address, he said: 

The Institute was pleased to send out advance copies of my lecture, 
thereby securing a very thorough and exceedingly interesting dis- 
cussion. It gave me great pleasure to know that the major points 
covered by my work found such liberal and hearty reception, and 
that the only chapter to which any exception was made at that time 
was the one covering the resistance to punching. Several of the 
learned members of this section criticized my assertion that the or- 
dinarily accepted standard ultimate for punching steel should be 
reduced 30 per cent, or more. . . . There seemed to be a desire on 
the part of several of the engineers present during the evening to inau- 
gurate a series of individual and separate experiments, with a view of 
proving or disproving my statements. The burden of the argument 
seemed to be that punching could not possibly require less power 
than shearing. ... 

This evening ... I wish to [state] that the reason for the low 
ultimate for punching lies in the fact that the punching machinery 
as hitherto used, and with which experiments have formerly been 
made, were power punches, possessing great speed of penetration, 
while the experiments conducted by me have all been confined to 
hydraulic machines, where the velocity of the flow of metal during 
the process has been entirely under the control of the operator. 
Speaking in a general way, I find from observation that the speed 
during the actual punching was from three to five and six times as 
great on a power machine as on one driven by water pressure, and 
herein, undoubtedly, lies the solution of the problem. 40 

In conclusion Loss insisted that "practical punching machinery 
can be constructed upon certain principles which will allow 
them to perform 30 per cent, to 40 per cent, more work with the 
same expense/' and, "It is this particular aspect of the case to 
which I want to call the attention of my fellow members of 
the Institute." 41 

The authority with which Loss spoke and his independence 
of traditional theories in respect to punching and shearing attest 

40 Franklin Institute, Journal, 151:456-459. 

41 Franklin Institute, Journal, 151:464. 

108 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

to a significant fact, about him: an intimate knowledge of hy- 
draulic machinery based upon original experiments and backed 
by a pioneer courage. It is conceivable that this knowledge 
might have been of interest only to engineers but for the happy 
alliance of his skills with American transportation difficulties. 
Since 1898, when he had been working with the Pressed Steel 
Car Company at Pittsburgh, he had supervised production of 
all-steel railway cars. In 1900 he was further identified with the 
steel car when he was general representative of the Franklin 
Institute at the Paris Exposition. At this exposition he pre- 
sented to the International Railway Congress the new pressed- 
steel car, invented by Charles Thomas Schoen, in the production 
of which Loss had played an important part. 42 He naturally 
dwelt on the advantages of the pressed-steel car over one built 
up from standard shapes, and the superiority of steel over wood 
as material in the construction of rolling stock. The introduc- 
tion of the pressed-steel car in the United States had, in fact, 
almost effected a revolution. If, instead of wooden cars, he 
argued, lightweight pressed-steel units were used, a great saving 
would be effected because of reduction in dead weight. 43 

Loss remarked, in concluding his speech at the Paris Exposi- 
tion: 

The last twenty-five years have been very rich in the development 
of mechanical ideas of a more or less startling character and wide- 
reaching effect, but I do not believe, however, there has been any 
one of greater importance than the advent of the large-capacity, 
lightweight pressed-steel car, completely revolutionizing, as it has 
begun to do and will eventually complete, the entire carrying trade 
of the world. The utility of an innovation has always to be gauged 
by its results, and remembering that the pressed-steel car is hardly 
more than two years old, the proof of its title to merit is clearly em- 
phasized when calling to your attention the fact that since the first 

42 Writing some years later, Loss said, "It was my good fortune to have been associ- 
ated with the birth of the steel car, once an experiment, which quickly, however, be- 
came a standard. As the Consulting Mechanical Engineer of the Pressed Steel Car 
Company, I designed practically all of their plants as well as assisted materially in 
developing the different details of car construction." See "The Art of Manufacture of 
Railway Car Axles," in Franklin Institute, Journal, 163:1 (January, 1907). 

48 A New Epoch in the History of Railway Transportation with Special Reference 
to the Schoen Pressed Steel System in Car Construction (Philadelphia, n,d.); a pam- 
phlet printed for the Pressed Steel Car Company. 

109 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

car was placed on its trucks, 26,000 more have found their way as 
carriers on the different railway systems of the world. 

Loss did not realize in 1900 how closely his own reputation 
was to be linked with the new age of steel in transportation. 
But two years later significant patents were issued to Loss, one 
on a "machine for rolling car wheels" and the other for a "hy- 
draulic forging press." 44 The story behind these inventions is 
best told by their author: 

Railway transportation, with its problems road bed as well as 
rolling stock has in later years claimed more than its share of 
capital and inventive thought, arid as was naturally to be expected, 
in no other field of engineering have the undertakings been on as 
large a scale or of more practical and scientific interest to our pro- 
fession. . . . 

Immediately upon the introduction of the 100,000-pound all-steel 
car, the repair sheets of the different railways showed abnormal ac- 
counts, thus on the face of it tending greatly to eliminate the possi- 
bility of the adoption of this new innovation in transportation. A 
little investigation, however, proved that an unexpectedly large 
amount of the expense was caused by breakage of the wheels, and 
having no direct bearing upon the car structure proper. . . . 

It is also pertinent to recall, in this connection, that both the 
axle and the rail have been increased in large ratios to sustain the 
increased duties. The swaying of the heavy steel car, in connection 
with its increased static load, proved, in many instances, ruinous to 
the flanges when passing switches or curves; and Mr. Schoen, the 
inventor and promoter of the steel car, suggested several years ago 
the possibility of applying a solid steel wheel, because of the fact 
that no additional weight or thickness could be given to the wheels 
at the spot where they most needed it, namely: at the root of the 
flange. In fact, the full economy of the large capacity steel car has 
never been realized, nor will it be until supported by a wheel, the 
flange of which will permit increased mileage with a practical elimi- 
nation of wrecks. With this in view, all data and processes bearing 
upon the subject were investigated, and, about two years ago, the 
writer undertook to design for Mr. Schoen a plant to accomplish 
the purpose with a final result, the success of which is witnessed by 
the samples herewith shown to you, as well as by the wheels now 
being tried on the different railways. 45 

The development of the perfect wheel, Loss explained, is "a 

M Numbers 706,674 (August 12, 1902) and 710,286 (September 30, 1902). 
45 "The Manufacture of Hydraulically Forged and Rolled Solid Steel Railway 
Wheels," in Franklin Institute, Journal, 157:338-354 (May, 1904). 

110 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

matter of evolution. 3 ' From the plain cast-iron wheel, engineers 
moved on to the chilled tread, and later, for greater safety, 
made a steel tire that could be fitted to the wheel's center. Since 
the wheel with steel tire required an excessive amount of labor, 
it was soon clear to Loss that the "ideal product should be 
made of steel of proper quality, all in one piece and forged and 
rolled to a perfect finish." 

Along with the technical problems involved, the engineer had 
to keep in mind the question of cost. Loss, using figures ob- 
tained from a leading American railroad, showed the great su- 
periority of the steel-tired wheel over its cast-iron rival and 
indicated its financial advantages. He summed up this discus- 
sion by saying that the "average mileage of a cast-iron wheel, 
when carrying the large capacity steel car, is about 35,000; 
and . . . the life of a steel wheel should be in the neighborhood 
of 150,000 miles when based upon the data previously given." 
Since the steel wheel weighed about 80 pounds less than the 
cast-iron one, it also effected a saving in dead weight per car of 
at least 640 pounds. 

The processes used in manufacturing the new all-steel wheel 
may be briefly described. A round ingot, roughly the shape of 
a .wheel but much smaller in diameter and greater in thickness, 
was placed in a movable die holder of a 5,000-ton forging press. 
The blank, or ingot, was then reduced in thickness, the hub 
forged and finished, and the hole punched "all in one opera- 
tion." Most of the mechanism was automatic, and hydraulic 
cranes were attached to minimize labor. The second stage took 
place in the rolling mill, which had two conical rolls driven 
by a 1,000-horsepower engine. Electric alarms told the opera- 
tors "when the thickness of the web and the rim have reached 
their limit." This rolling process required only one and a half 
to two minutes. The final step was the coning of the wheel, 
done in a separate 1,000-ton press provided with the proper 
dies and handling mechanism. 

In this machine the rim is pushed downwards so as to give the 
proper relation between the edge of the hub and the edge of the 

111 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

flange. . . . The entire three processes are performed In one heat, 
and the transportation machinery, from furnace to press, from press 
to rolling-mill, and again from the rolling-mill to the last press, are 
all worked out so as to be as near as possible automatic, and will 
reduce the entire complement of workmen , . . down to about ten 
or twelve, this number also covering the men who are handling and 
distributing the cold blanks previous to charging. 

In summarizing, Loss called attention to the fact that the 
solid steel wheel is to be considered "as a forward step in the 
freight trade." He then took up one by one and met the argu- 
ments in favor of the cast-iron wheel. He concluded that the 
all-steel wheel had become a necessity with the introduction 
of the steel railway car. With the same disregard for modesty, 
genuine or false, that characterized all his actions, Loss added 
that among the epoch-making events in industrial progress 
"those tliat refer to transportation on water or land are the 
greatest of all/ 5 

Loss's appraisal of the importance of his work with the steel 
wheel was seconded by the Franklin Institute. Through its 
committee on science and the arts the institute investigated 
Loss's innovation and was sufficiently impressed to recom- 
mend that the engineer be given the John Scott legacy premium 
and medal. The report of the committee is both interesting and 
significant in bringing out phases not mentioned by Loss. 40 It 
stated that the "rolling and pressing of the steel wheel ... is 
no simple problem. The shape of the wheel renders it difficult 
to bring a suitable rolling mechanism to bear properly upon 
it. Furthermore, it is essential that hard, or high grade steel 
be used in the rim of the wheel, involving powerful mechanism 
to produce the desired results with the obdurate metal/' 

Numerous methods had been proposed in the past, both here 
and abroad, to overcome such difficulties. Several attempts had 
been made to roll or forge steel car wheels, "but up to recent 
years, no satisfactory results have been attained in this coun- 

48 The report was printed in abstract in PranHin Institute, Journal, 158:S9S (No- 
vember, 1904). The above account was taken from a fuller mimeographed copy of 
report (no. 2801), "Loss's Hydraulically Forged Steel Car Wheels," in the possession 
of Bjarne Loss of Lake City, Minnesota. 

112 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

try." In Germany several mills had been built to roll wheel 
centers, while the tires were produced separately, but, except 
for minor uses, the complete wheel as a rolled unit had not been 
produced. 

In 1899, C. T. Schoen had negotiated with German engineers 
for a mill to roll wheel centers. Loss, as consulting engineer, was 
to devise the best possible method for producing the finished 
product. It is clear that the Germans had in mind a mill for 
rolling only the wheel centers and had no faith a in any attempt 
to successfully roll the rim as well as the centre of the car 
wheel." The report described Loss's hydraulic press as "an 
excellent piece of mechanical design" embracing "several novel 
and original features," and cited as an example of originality 
the independent hydraulic ram which both forged and punched 
and could be "operated in conjunction in exerting intense 
moulding pressure on the work." It also commended the "in- 
genious method" of releasing and withdrawing the punch from 
thick, hot metal and also the arrangements for discharging the 
punchings and taking the compressed blank out of the die. The 
rolling mill that Loss set up was "similar to" the original Ger- 
man mill for which Schoen had purchased designs, but many 
new features had been added to this design "to permit the 
rolling of the flange of the wheel, making a much more power- 
ful mill and applying much greater motive power than originally 
contemplated." Because of the earlier German mill, however, 
the committee cautiously preferred to "give precedence to the 
subject of the hydraulic press." Because of its novel features, 
"so well adapted for the intended purpose," and the "mechanical 
skill displayed by Mr. Loss in its design," the committee be- 
lieved that he had "accomplished a desirable advancement in 
the methods of producing solid, rolled steel, car wheels." 

VIII 

Loss's technical career did not end with the solid steel wheel, 
which was soon to become standard with leading railroad com- 
panies. It was found that the use of steel cars involved increased 

113 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

axle breakage. In 1906 Loss insisted that "the method of manu- 
facture as now in vogue is decidedly unfinished and crude, 
involving large wastes, both in material and labor." The im- 
portant thing, he stressed, was to get away from hammering the 
steel in the axles. 47 

It has already been noted that while Loss was employed by 
the Pencoyd Iron Works, he had designed an upsetting machine 
for bridge eyebars, "adopting in this connection a system of 
dies, which, generally speaking, may be considered to consist 
of a closed box, enveloping a stationary bar and arranged to 
move longitudinally against its free end. This machine, as well 
as a larger one built later on the same lines have been 
both successfully operated for years by the American Bridge 
Company, and as a result of my work in this direction, came 
the suggestion of embodying the upsetting principle to a billet 
with the view of producing an axle." The machine intended for 
this purpose consisted of "a central stationary die, horizontally 
split, and two moving end dies similarly divided, each of which 
contains a cylindrical heading die." The upsetting of a steel bar, 
Loss explained, was "simply a forging process, conducted in a 
longitudinal direction, and if properly performed, will similarly 
condense and refine the metal. Like any closed-die method, it is 
very superior to the use of a hammer." He denied that upsetting 
hurt the steel, as was maintained by some engineers who harked 
back to the days of iron. Loss based his reasoning on experi- 
ments conducted at the American Bridge Company. 48 

At the age of about forty-nine, Loss retired from his engi- 
neering work. He continued, however, to serve as consulting 
engineer on several important undertakings for the Carnegie 
Company and the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Unmarried and 
socially ambitious, he spent the last forty years of his life at 
the University Club in Philadelphia. Though he lived in this 
country nearly sixty years, he was never naturalized. He de- 
voted about six months of each year to traveling in a grand 

47 "The Art of the Manufacture of Railway Car Axles," in Franklin Institute, 
Journal, 163: 1-30 (January, 1907) . 

48 Loss, in Franklin Institute, Journal, 163 : 1-30. 

114 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

manner about Europe; the other six were spent in Philadelphia 
and Atlantic City. 

In May, 1938, Loss left New York City on the last of his 
annual trips abroad. He died in Oslo on June 28 at the age of 
seventy-seven. During his last years his obsession had been to 
leave a million crowns to his native city of Christiansand. His 
large fortune, however, was pruned away in the great depres- 
sion. Most of what was left, about $192,000, went into the von 
Zernikow Loss Fund. The interest on this sum, when it 
amounted to 30,000 crowns per annum, was to be used for the 
beautification and cultural enrichment of Christiansand. 49 

IX 

Mauritz C. Indahl's name is to printing and the monotype 
what the name Olsen is to scientific testing, but it is improbable 
that history will grant the honors that Indahl deserves. It was 
Tolbert Lanston who actually conceived the idea of the mono- 
type. To Indahl went the more pedestrian task of making it 
a practical machine, of giving form to an idea. To this task he 
devoted his entire technical career in Philadelphia. 

Immigrant Americans have figured prominently in the re- 
cent history of printing, their major contributions being in the 
field of typesetting by machine. While it is true that William 
Church of England took out the first patent on a typesetting 
machine in 1822, it was Ottmar Mergenthaler, a German- 
American watchmaker of Baltimore, who worked out the prin- 
ciple of setting and casting type in virtually one operation. 
Mergenthaler's linotype, patented in 1885, was put into use 
the following year, with results well known in the cultural and 
economic fields. This machine, now widely used, casts a line of 
characters upon a single lead slug. 

The second such major contribution Lanston's monotype 
machine appeared in 1887 and was perfected by the gifted 
Indahl in the years that followed. The monotype, as dis- 

M Much of the writer's knowledge of Loss, apart from the purely technological 
phases, has come from sources already cited, various Norwegian newspapers* Consul 
M. Moe in Philadelphia, and Bjarne Loss, a nephew of the engineer. 

115 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

tinguished from the linotype, casts single characters, any of 
which may be replaced without recasting the entire line. Lans- 
ton, Indahl, and Bancroft "separated the processes of composi- 
tion and casting, introduced perfect line-justification, and abol- 
ished distribution." 

Greater output is obtained, and the range of the product Is practi- 
cally unlimited. Owing to the great variety of characters which may 
be composed at the keyboard, also to the fact that the individual 
characters are cast to perfect precision in regard to height and 
width, and again to the fact that corrections are so simply made by 
hand, the production of the Monotype machine has restored the 
quality of printing to that high standard of excellence which existed 
when typography was at its best. 50 

Mauritz Indahl was one of those mechanical geniuses who 
began early in life to model, first with wood and later with 
metals, objects ranging from toys to complicated devices. 61 
From his father's farm in Toten, where he was born in 1868, he 
journeyed to Horten to receive formal training in the line of 
work for which he showed such precocious tendencies. After 
his graduation in 1891, he worked for a short time as a machin- 
ist in Christiania before setting out in the following year for 
Philadelphia. Carl Barth assisted Indahl, as he had Loss, in 
securing work with William Sellers. When the Sellers firm con- 
tracted in 1895 to build 400 typesetting machines for the Lans- 
ton Monotype Machine Company of Washington, Indahl was 
made assistant to the mechanical engineer, J. Sellers Bancroft, 
"in the work of converting the inventions of Tolbert Lanston 
into practical form. In 1900 the Monotype machine was offered 
to the trade/ 5 52 

When, two years later, the Monotype Company moved to 
Philadelphia and began to manufacture its own product, Ban- 
croft became chief engineer for the company and Indahl his 
principal assistant. Bj0rndal writes that Bancroft "insisted on 

*Printinff in the Twentieth Century, a Survey, 47-49 (London, 1930); reprinted 
from the London Times, October 29, 1929. 

61 The writer is especially indebted for details of Indahl's life to Magnus B j^radal 
for his brief but able discussion in Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 14, 
no. 1, p. 24 (May, 1942); and to Mrs. Indahl, whom he interviewed in 1941. 

62 Printing Equipment Engineer, 61:80 (February, 1941), 

116 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

redesigning the entire machine before proceeding with its manu- 
facture, and it was Indahl's good luck to be selected as the de- 
signer for this job." GS 

Indahl's design resulted not only in a larger machine but in 
one with complete typecasting arrangements which were essen- 
tially those of the present-day monotype. When Bancroft died 
in 1919, Indahl was made chief engineer and he continued to 
work modestly and single-mindedly on methods for improving 
the monotype. Two days before he died, in January, 1941, he 
finished "important drawings of a part of the mechanism of a 
newly improved typesetting machine/' 54 

The full cultural significance of the monotype can better be 
grasped when its operation and use are more fully, understood 
and contrasted with the more familiar linotype. The monotype 
actually consists of two machines, the keyboard and the caster. 

The keyboard operator depresses keys similar to those on a type- 
writer, but instead of printing letters the Monotype keyboard per- 
forates a paper ribbon with a combination of two holes for every 
letter. With each key depression the paper ribbon is automatically 
advanced, and at the end of each line special perforations indicate 
(to the casting machine later on) the exact thickness of spaces which 
must be cast to make the line correct to a uniform length. When 
the copy is finished, or when a spool is completed, the perforated 
ribbon is transferred to the casting machine, where it is automati- 
cally cast, and the lines are arranged in proper order ready for 
proofing. 55 

The monotype not only turns out a high-quality product 
at great speed, but it can also produce composition of an intri- 
cate kind. Its type ranges from the smallest to the largest and 
a line runs up to 10 inches in length. Timetables are frequently 
composed on the monotype, and attachments permit casting 
of type for handwork up to 72 points, in addition to leads, 
rules, and ornaments. It has been called "a complete foundry 
machine as well as a composing machine." 56 While few news- 
papers are set by monotype, it is "used to a large extent in the 

63 In Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 14, no. 1, p. #4. 

54 Printing Equipment Engineer, 61:30 (February, 1941). 

55 Printing in the Twentieth Century, 47-49. 
66 Printing in the Twentieth Century, 49. 

117 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

printing of magazines, books, and in commercial printing of 
all kinds. Almost every newspaper plant of any size has at least 
one monotype caster to cast up 'sorts' of display types, leads, 
slugs, rules and other materials needed in every composing 
room," While the monotype may not be as practical as the 
linotype for setting regular news matter, it has many advan- 
tages in the printing of folders, advertising booklets, magazines, 
books, and in general commercial work. The type is "always 
new and fresh and does a cleaner, better printing job. 93 Many 
advertisers have their ads set up by monotype and then supply 
the newspapers with an electrotype or mat of the advertise- 
ment. Still another advantage which applies to book work 
is the fact that the perforated ribbons can be stored indefi- 
nitely and can be used again and again. 67 

It is extremely difficult in the case of a machine like the 
monotype the product of several brains to determine which 
are the specific contributions of one man. But it can be stated 
definitely that when the features devised by Indahl are re- 
moved, very little is left of the machine as it is today. The 
writer has studied a list of 107 patents issued in this country 
to Indahl; most of them pertain to the monotype; many were 
issued jointly to Indahl and Bancroft* Bj^rndal specifically 
mentions as improvements made by Indahl the "new standard 
keyboard, the visible type casting mechanism, the brilliant line 
casting matrixes which make it possible to cast lines in any 
length, the ninety scale, the automatic device which cuts off and 
assembles the cast pieces, the improvement which permits the 
exact casting of the famous type design created by Mr. Frederic 
W. Goudy, and recently a new headline casting machine which 
can produce letters in any size required." 58 A trade publication 
wrote at the time of Indahl's death: 

57 Kenneth E. Olson, Typography and Mechanics of the Newspaper, 111-117 (New 
York, 1930). Other accounts of Indahl and the monotype may be found in Engineer 
(London), 117:197-199, 228-230, 55-257 (February 20-March 6, 1914); Decorahr 
posten, April 1, 1927; 75 ars biografisk jubileums-festskrift, Hortens tekniske skole, 
161; and Wong, Norske utvandrere, 141-144. Olson's book is quoted by permission of 
D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc. 

68 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 14, no. 1, p. 24 (May, 1942). 

118 



A PHILADELPHIA STORY 

It has been said that Tolbert Lanston had thought of the Mono- 
type as a mechanical means for setting type, having no conception 
that the principles involved in his hot-metal typecaster would 
eventually form the basis for the creation of other machines for 
casting type in sizes up to 72 point, and to make rules, decorative 
borders, and leads and slugs in strips, which would be used in the 
then unknown non-distribution methods. 

Indahl played an important part in expanding the scope of the 
Monotype typecaster to make display type for hand use. This ma- 
chine was put on the market in 1905. He also participated in the 
design and development of the first strip lead, slug and rule casting 
machine introduced in 1914. He was inventor and designer of the 
Monotype Material Making Machine introduced in 19&1, and the 
giant caster, first marketed in 1926. 

The same journal adds that Indahl was active in the design 
and manufacture of the lithographic photomechanical appara- 
tus constructed after his company bought the assets of the Di- 
rectoplate Corporation in 1932; this work was carried on with 
William C. Huebner and Joseph P. Costello. 59 

In 1940, Indahl received an award from the National Asso- 
ciation of Manufacturers for being "A Modern Pioneer on the 
. Frontier of American Industry." The citation read on this oc- 
casion stresses the most significant feature of his work, "the 
application of engineering to machines to attain the speed, 
versatility and accuracy of construction requisite to commercial 
success in a highly competitive field/' Together with Tinius 
Olsen and Henrik V. von Zernikow Loss, Indahl added a vital 
chapter to the old Philadelphia story begun by Benjamin 
Franklin and fostered by the institute bearing his name. Like 
his fellow Horten men, he was also a sturdy representative of 
the new Philadelphia which is the home of immigrants, of 
industry, and of technological progress. 

* 9 Printing Equipment Engineer, 61:30. 



119 



SPANNING 
AMERICA'S 

THE development of the North 
RIVERS American continent and the building 

of bridges are twin stories that fre- 
quently intertwine. From the earliest 
colonial days to recent times, the 
explorer and the frontiersman found the crossing of rivers one 
of the greatest obstacles in the westward movement of popula- 
tion. But it was the nineteenth-century revolution in transpor- 
tation, with its development of improved highways and of 
railroads, that made bridges of high quality an absolute neces- 
sity. Later, with the coming of the automobile, the truck, and 
the bus, highways became great arteries of freight and pas- 
senger transport and the result was a veritable epidemic of 
bridgebuilding. The growth of cities and the concentration of 
transportation at these points have been accomplished only by 
spanning the waters that in almost every instance penetrate or 
surround the metropolitan areas. As a result of the daring and 
the skill of American engineers, highways and railways radiate 
from key centers of business within the cities and into the 
surrounding countryside and motor vehicles, streetcars, 
trains, and pedestrians thus move easily across our inland 
waters. 

The names of such distinguished men as Ammann, Linden- 
thai, Modjeski, Pihlfeldt, and Cappelen call to mind the debt 
owed to the foreign-born and foreign-trained engineer in the 
remarkable story of bridgebuilding. Of the immigrant engineers, 
those from Norway played a role partly because they became 
identified with bridgebuilding at vital transportation points 
that seems entirely out of proportion to their numbers. Notably 

120 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

in Chicago and in the Twin Cities, but also in Seattle, New 
York City, and elsewhere, bridges of all kinds serve as New- 
.World memorials in steel and stone and concrete to men trained 
in the schools of northern Europe. 

I 

No name among the Norwegian-American engineers sug- 
gests a more brilliant bridge career than that of Thomas G. 
Pihlfeldt. Bom in 1858 at Vads0, Pihlfeldt attended school in 
Trondhjem, and in Hammerfest and Christiania. He received 
all of his technical training, however, in the famous polytechni- 
cums at Dresden and Hanover. After completing his studies, 
Pihlfeldt left at once for America, and arrived in Chicago in 
August, 1879. Despite the city's rapid growth after the fire of 
1871, Pihlfeldt was unable to find anything except a job as a 
machinist. For several years he was none too happy in Chicago, 
but later he obtained positions as draftsman and designer with 
several private firms. And in September, 1889 ten years after 
his arrival in America he entered the bureau of maps in the 
public works department of the city of Chicago. In 1894 he was 
transferred to the bridge division of the engineering bureau, and 
in 1896 he was made principal assistant to the city bridge engi- 
neer. His rapid climb culminated with his elevation in 1901 to 
the office of chief engineer of bridges, a position he held until 
his death in 1941 after more than fifty-one years of loyal and 
distinguished service to a restless and growing city. 1 

Interest in Pihlfeldt hinges mainly on his work in spanning 
Chicago's rivers and thereby solving the chief transportation 
problem that confronted the sprawling community on Lake 
Michigan. The story of Chicago's bridges is the story of Chica- 

1 Pihlfeldt had a strong aversion to recounting his life story, except for the pro- 
fessional aspect of it, which he considered an open book. The above record is culled 
from the following: Nordisk tidende, March 21, 1918; Decorah-posten, August 5, 
1927; Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 3 (February, 1928); 
Who's Who in Chicago and Vicinity, 775 (Chicago, 1931); A. E. Strand, A History of 
the Norwegians of Illinois, 451 (Chicago, 1905); Nordmands-forbundet, 24:98 (1931); 
Skandinaven, January 14, 1938, and January 28, 1941; Scandia, April 7, 1938; Chi- 
cago Tribune, January 24, 1941; Journal of the Proceedings of the City Council of the 
City of Chicago, Illinois, 4173 (Chicago, 1941). 

121 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

go itself, and Chicago's history constitutes an important chap- 
ter in the history of American transportation. 2 

When the early French explorers came to the lower end of 
Lake Michigan they found a muddy creek, later called the 
Chicago River, flowing eastward into the lake. Close by the 
headwaters of the creek they also discovered the Desplaines 
River, which flows westward. When as frequently happened 
the Desplaines and the creek came together, they formed 
a connecting link between the drainage areas of both the Mis- 
sissippi anc} the Great Lakes. The early explorers immediately 
recognized that here was "a connecting link in a possible trade 
route from the valley of the St. Lawrence to the valley of the 
Mississippi." It was clear that if the Chicago River were con- 
nected with the Desplaines by a canal, "it would be possible 
to transport merchandise from the Atlantic up the St. Lawrence 
into the Great Lakes and from the Great Lakes into the Mis- 
sissippi, and so on to the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, here was a 
water route extending for thousands of miles down through the 
very heart of one of the richest lands on earth/' 8 

A key link in the trade routes of the Northwest and also 
the site of a trading post, the Chicago River remained for over 
a century the only street in the primitive settlement that grew 
up on its shores. Most of the early settlers built their homes in 
an. area south of the main branch and east and west of the south 
branch of the river. The need soon arose for a more convenient 
means of crossing the river than a canoe or boat; as a result a 
ferry was put into operation in 1829 at the present site of the 
Lake Street Bridge. For 6% cents a man could cross on this 
rope-operated scow; for 12% cents he could take his horse with 
him. In 1834, one year after the incorporation of Chicago as a 
town, a primitive movable bridge the first of many was 

2 Since this chapter was written a comprehensive account of Chicago bridgebuHd- 
ing has appeared: Donald N. Becker, "Development of the Chicago Type Bascule 
Bridge/' in American Society of Civil Engineers, Proceedings, 69 (I): 68-093 (Feb- 
ruary, 1943). Becker is present engineer of bridge design for the city of Chicago 

Loran D. Gayton, "The Chicago River and Its Crossings," Armour Tech Radio 
Programs, Station WJJD (Chicago), January 15, 1983; copy in the office of the city 
engineer. Gayton, then assistant city engineer in Chicago, writes well and authorita- 
tively. He later became city engineer. 

122 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

built at Dearborn Street. In 1840 another was added at Clark 
Street, and by 1849 there were bridges at Wells, Randolph, and 
Kinzie streets as well/ 

These bridges served the needs of the time, but the flood 
of March, 1849, carried them all away and wrecked most of 
the shipping in the main and south branches of the river. Be- 
fore the shipping interests recovered from the damages of this 
flood, new bridges began to replace the old. And it was abso- 
lutely vital that they be built. The opening of the Illinois and 
Michigan Canal in 1848 gave the grain-growing country of cen- 
tral Illinois access to the Chicago port facilities. At the same 
time railroads were also being built in the area. Railroads and 
canals increased the commercial activity in Chicago and stimu- 
lated the city's industrial growth. The shipping interests be- 
came especially powerful, and as they grew in strength they 
were increasingly insistent that all obstructions to traffic in the 
river be removed and a new type of bridge designed to take 
the place of the clumsy and inefficient structures then in use. 
The result was the swing bridge. 5 

The great fire of 1871, which wiped out the entire central 
part of Chicago, also destroyed the bridges across the main 
river at Rush, State, Clark, and Wells streets, the one across 
the north branch at Chicago Avenue, and those across the south 
branch at Adams, Van Buren, and Polk streets. By the summer 
of 1872 most of these were replaced by swing bridges of rather 
substantial build. The year 1872 also saw the start of a new 
era in railroad construction. New lines came into being almost 
overnight and reached out in all directions from the city. As a 
result Chicago eventually became the greatest railroad center 
in the world. As traffic across the branches of the river in- 
creased, there developed a strong demand for wide bridges. This 
demand grew as the small sailing vessels gave way to steam- 
driven craft, which, because of their broad beams, required a 
wide channel if they were to ply the river. The old swing 



4 Gayton, "The Chicago Biver." 

5 Gayton, "The Chicago Biver." 



123 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

bridge, with its inconvenient center pier, could no longer serve. 
The need was for wide crossings that could be quickly opened 
and closed and would not obstruct river traffic. 

The first attempt to eliminate the center pier was a jackknife 
bridge built in 1891, at Weed Street. Supported from a pile 
foundation near the shore, this bridge had no center pier. 

The roadway was composed of two parts with a hinge and in 
opening to allow the passage of a vessel, this bridge folded up like 
a jack-knife. It was not at all similar to the present bascule bridge. 
This bridge was an ingenious contrivance, but^due to its many joints 
it got out of order very easily and was expensive to maintain. 

Mr. Thomas Pihlfeldt, a young engineer in the Bridge Division at 
that time, remarked that this jack-knife bridge was a "combination 
folding bed and mouse trap." 6 

An attempt to eliminate the center pier was made in 1894 
a so-called vertical lift bridge over the south branch of the 
river at Halsted Street. Its awkward towers and great expense 
made it impractical. The need to meet the demands of both 
the shipping and land interests produced still another type of 
bridge, patented by William Scherzer and known as the rolling 
lift bridge. One was erected in 1895 over the south branch of 
the river at Van Buren Street. Like the others unsatisfactory, 
this bridge did, nevertheless, mark a great improvement over 
earlier ones. The main objection to it was that during the open- 
ing process the load shifted position on the pier. After a careful 
study of movable bridges, the Chicago engineers finally decided 
upon the trunnion bascule bridge as best suited to meet the 
problem. 

The forerunner of the bascule bridge was the hinged leaf 
over a castle moat. There had been no progressive development 
of it since the medieval period, because the operating power 
and building materials needed for a span of any length were not 
available until recent times. Consequently, the center-pier 
swing bridge enjoyed a long popularity. At the end of the 
nineteenth century, however, with the introduction of steel and 
electric power, it was possible to meet the demand for better 

6 Gayton, "The Chicago River." 

124 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

and larger movable bridges. The word bascule is French, mean- 
ing "see-saw"; and "hence a Bascule Bridge means a balanced 
structure where the balance or counterpoise lowers as the road- 
way rises. Such is truly the case with the present day [Chicago- 
type] bascules for they are balanced in all positions and re- 
volve about trunnions or pins located near the center of gravity, 
the counterweight sinking into a tailpit as the roadway swing? 
into the air." 7 

The question naturally arises, why, specifically, does the 
Chicago River today lend itself so well to the bascule bridge? 
The answer has been well summarized: 

The reason for this can readily be seen by considering the local 
conditions. To begin with it is well to recall the character of the 
Chicago River. Its main branch cuts through a portion of the busi- 
ness district; hence hundreds of thousands of people daily must 
pass over it to reach homes or places of business. Its north and 
south branches reach miles out into the industrial sections of the 
city and there great manufacturies have their docks and loading 
ships. Consequently, the largest lake steamers must ply almost its 
entire length. Furthermore, the concentration of business in the 
comparatively small area of the loop has made land so valuable that 
every foot of ground up to the river's edge must be utilized, and 
so the river has become bound in by docks to a width of approxi- 
mately 00 feet for the greater part of its length. 

In view of these conditions, it is simple to list the advantages 
of the bascule type bridge as against the swing bridge for this 
district: 

(1) No center pier to obstruct navigation. . . . 

(2) Minimum space is required and approaches are easily built. 

(3) Need not be fully opened for passage of small vessels; swing 
bridge must always be fully opened. 

(4) Bascules have a shorter time of operation. 

(5) In cities like Chicago where wide roadways are necessary, a 
swing bridge of considerable road width narrows the channel when 
open. 

(6) Bascules may be built side by side for railroad use without 
interference. 8 

Because of these advantages and the fact that many of the 

7 Gayton, "The Chicago River." 

8 Earle G, Benson, "The Development of the Chicago Type Bascule Bridge," in 
Armour Engineer, 22:81-83, 105 (March, 1931). Benson was, at the time of writing, 
bridge design engineer for Chicago, 

125 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

old swing bridges were beyond practical repair, the city of Chi- 
cago decided in 1900 to replace swing bridges with bascules. 
Competitive drawings were solicited for a bridge over the Calu- 
met River at Ninety-fifth Street, where conditions are about 
the same as those on the Chicago River. John Ericson, then 
city engineer of Chicago, at once submitted three designs, with 
the request that they be presented for criticism to a board that 
included one bridge engineer and two mechanical engineers. In 
his letter transmitting the plans Ericson gave credit to Edward 
Wilmann, a Norwegian who was then city bridge engineer, 
Karl Lehmann, Alexander von Babo, and Thomas Pihlfeldt, 
for valuable assistance in bringing out the designs. 9 Three Nor- 
wegians thus co-operated on this project. 

A bascule type of bridge met with the approval of the board, 
and they selected one of Ericson's designs. 10 The approved 
three-truss bascule bridge, according to an account by Pihlfeldt, 
had a total width of 60 feet, the trusses being 1 feet center to 
center; the sidewalks were carried by 9-foot cantilever brackets. 
The machinery for operating each leaf was placed under the 
approach roadway, and the leaves were operated by means of 
a pinion gearing rack on the curved tail end of each truss. 
Along the top of the abutment extended a shaft carrying three 
pinions and having two sets of driving gear. Each set of driving 
gear was powered by an electric motor of 38 horsepower. 'The 
machinery is so designed that the opening of the bridge from 
the moment it is closed to traffic to the moment when the leaves 
reach their highest position, will not take more than one minute 
in calm weather or two and one-half minutes with a seventy- 
mile wind blowing in a direction unfavorable to the operation 
of the bridge." Two bridges were planned for erection one at 
Ninety-fifth Street over the Calumet River and the other at 
Division over the north branch canal. 11 

9 Engineering Record, 42:50-52 (July 21, 1900). 

10 Engineering News, 45:18 (January 10, 1901). 

A* r -^omas G - PihlMdt, "Designing," in Mayor's Annual Message and the Twenty- 
fifth Annual Report of the Department of Public Works to the City Council of the 
City of Chicago for the Fiscal Year Ending December 81, 1900, 87-91 (Chicago, 1901). 

126 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVEES 
ii 

The Chicago-type bascule soon, took its place in bridge his- 
tory. In an attempt to improve navigation and to increase the 
flowage capacity of the drainage canal, the city decided to re- 
place 12 swing bridges with as many bascules. 12 The first to be 
erected was at Clybourn Place (later Cortland Street). Opened 
to traffic in May, 1902, this bridge new to America became 
a model for others. It was 120 feet long, center to center of 
piers, and gave a clear channel of 100 feet between pile protec- 
tion works. Under the supervision of John Ericson, city engi- 
neer, the design was prepared for the most part by Karl Leh- 
mann and Edward Wilmann. The work of construction was 
completed under Pihlfeldt, who succeeded Wilmann as bridge 
engineer. 13 

There is no indication in the records that Pihlfeldt partici- 
pated prominently in the design and construction of the Ash- 
land Avenue Bridge across the west fork of the Chicago River's 
south branch. Announced and described in the spring of 1901, 
this bridge was actually completed in the fall of 1903, after 
Pihlfeldt had assumed responsibility for bridge work. It opened 
and closed in 42 seconds. 14 

The Division Street Bridge was perhaps the first to be wholly 
designed and built under Khlfeldt's leadership. Opened to 
traffic on June 8, 1904, this double-leaf bascule gave a 160- 
foot clear opening across the Chicago River. Its concrete sub- 
structure was carried down 23 feet below the water level and 
was supported on piles driven to solid rock and cut off 21 feet 
below the water. Concrete had been poured inside a mud coffer- 
dam. In several respects unusual, the Division Street Bridge 
had two independent operating houses one for each leaf 
and contained 700 tons of structural steel and 100 tons of 
machinery. 15 

12 Engineering News, 45:75-79 (January 31, 1901). 
18 Railroad Gazette, 34:550 (July 11, 1902). 

14 Engineering Record, 43:392-394 (April 27, 1901), and 48:434-436 (October 10, 
1903). 

15 Engineering Record, 50:215 (August 20, 1904). 

127 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

The next bridge of importance was a double-deck, double- 
leaf bascule across the Chicago River at Lake Street. With a 
245-foot span, this bridge carried a railroad on the upper deck 
and a roadway with streetcar tracks and sidewalks on the lower, 
During erection the elevated had to be kept in operation over 
an old swing bridge; this added not a little to the difficulties 
met in construction. When finished, the new bridge provided a 
clear width of 195 feet. Steel sheetpile cofferdams had to be 
used in placing the main piers, which were supported by sub- 
piers carried to bedrock. In addition to being one of the heaviest 
bascules ever built, it was the first to eliminate piling and to 
find support on cylindrical caissons resting on solid rock, in the 
same manner as the skyscraper. 16 

Not a little interest was shown in the Michigan Avenue 
Bridge over the Chicago River. The bridge was one of the main 
items in the Chicago Plan and it was first operated in May, 
1920. Incorporating many new features of construction, this 
bascule was considered noteworthy for its great size and the 
heavy traffic it would have to carry. It was believed to be "the 
only double deck bridge ever built having highways on both 
levels in order to provide for a separation of fast and slow traf- 
fic/' The Michigan Avenue structure was "the most important 
part of the widening and extension of Michigan Avenue between 
Randolph St. and Chicago Ave. to afford a wide and direct 
thoroughfare connecting the business district with the north- 
side section of the city, an improvement which eliminates the 
former circuitous and congested route crossing the old Rush St. 
swingbridge." Viaduct approaches connected the street level 
of the avenue with the upper roadway of the bridge; the lower 
roadway was for the heavy and slow traffic between terminals, 
industries, and docks near the river. The bridge provided a clear 
channel width of 220 feet and, because of war department re- 
quirements, allowed navigation headroom of 16% feet from the 
water level for 80 per cent of the channel width when the bridge 
was closed. Believed to be the heaviest bridge in Chicago, prob- 

18 Engineering News, 74:876-879, 934-936 (November 4 and 11, 1915). 

128 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

ably the heaviest of its kind in the world, it weighed about 
13,400,000 pounds. 17 

In the many interviews granted by Pihlf eldt during his long 
term as bridge engineer, he spoke most frequently of the erec- 
tion of the Wells Street Bridge. His quiet pride in this achieve- 
ment is understandable, and it is only natural that he himself 
should have left the best record of its construction. Before the 
Western Society of Engineers in Chicago, he spoke at length 
of the bridge's historical background. He explained that when- 
ever a bascule was being constructed to take the place of a 
center-pier bridge the traffic "was diverted and distributed over 
adjacent bridges in the territory. Or, if the thoroughfare hap- 
pened to be a very busy one, a temporary bridge on pile bents 
. . . was constructed far enough away from the permanent 
bridge site to give ample room for free and efficient construction 
operations." 18 

Early in 1909 the war department, which has control of navi- 
gation on rivers, asked that the swing bridge on Lake Street 
be removed. 19 Pihlfeldt explains: 

The order also stipulated the replacement of the center pier bridge, 
with a bridge having a clear opening for navigation, not less than 
the distance face to face of abutments at datum of the center pier 
bridge. . . . 

The question then arose as to how to take care of the Oak Park 
Elevated Railroad, using the other deck without an encroachment 
on the then existing facilities for vessel movements, during con- 
struction of the new bridge. ... It would have been possible to 
reinforce and double-deck Madison Street Bridge, with a temporary 
elevated structure east of the river, connect to the Market street 
spur, and west of the river in Madison and Canal streets connect 
to the main line in Lake street. . . . This resulted in a vigorous 
protest from property owners along Madison street whose frontage 

17 Hugh E, Young, "Chicago Bascule Bridge Design and Operating Features," in 
Engineering News-Record, 85:508-514 (September 9, 1920). See also Engineering 
News, 70:116 (July 17, 1913) and Engineering News-Record, 83:210-213 (July 31, 
1919). 

18 From a speech made by Pihlfeldt on October 10, 1921, and published under the 
title, "The Wells Street Bridge," in Western Society of Engineers, Journal, 27:59-64 
(February, 1922). 

10 This was part of a fixed plan established in Chicago by the federal government 
to replace all center-pier bridges with those of the bascule type. 

129 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

consent was necessary . . . and the proposition was consequently 
dropped. . . . 

Let us for a moment consider the immense volume of traffic over 
our bridges, particularly the double-deckers. . . . The figures are, 
of course, averages, and cover the period from 7 in the morning 
until 7 at night, or 12 hours. We find as follows: Eight hundred and 
fifty teams, 1,130 autos, 1,000 trucks, 1,050 street cars, 7,000 pedes- 
trians, 1,000 Elevated trains; and let us not forget that these 
bridges are open for vessels on an average of 300 times a month. 
... I think you will agree with me that the task of maintaining 
this enormous volume of traffic over a bridge, when a new bridge 
is constructed under and over it, is not so very easy after all, and I 
do not think you will be surprised when I confess that there were 
times when I thought myself stumped. In analyzing the situation at 
Lake street it occurred to me that by abandoning all the traffic on 
the lower deck and only maintaining the elevated trains, which 
could not be diverted . . . our problem would be materially sim- 
plified, and that actually proved to be so. Shutting off the traffic 
on the lower deck enabled us to remove the sidewalks and their 
brackets, pull the piles in the pier protection, redrive them closer 
to the center pier, which again allowed us to construct cofferdams 
and still maintain the same width of the two draws as before. With 
proper temporary supports for the end of the swing bridge and the 
elevated structure we had fairly good room for the construction of 
the foundations, and with that completed we felt that we were out 
of the woods. 20 

Encouraged by the success of the Lake Street project, the 
bridge division went to work on the Wells Street Bridge. The 
engineers were instructed to design and build the pew bascule 
in such a manner that the full volume of traffic could be main- 
tained over the existing swing bridge with a minimum of in- 
convenience to the public. The old Wells Street Bridge, built 
originally in 1888 and remodeled in 1896, carried ordinary 
street traffic, including streetcars, as well as the double track 
load of the Northwestern elevated railroad. A new double- 
leaf, double-deck trunnion bascule bridge took its place, exceed- 
ing in weight any of the city's two-truss bridges thus far built. 
In explanation of how traffic disturbance was avoided, Pihlfeldt 
said: 

In order to make possible the maintenance of traffic on the lower 
deck, it was necessary to provide temporary supports for the road- 
80 Western Society of Engineers, Journal, 27: 59. 

130 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

way and sidewalks on the fixed approaches to the old bridge, so that 
the new substructure could be placed thereunder. For this purpose, 
steel girders and trusses were provided, and the floor loads were 
carried by them to pile clusters outside of the limits of the new 
work. The construction of the greater part of the cofferdam could 
then be accomplished without disturbing the old bridge. During the 
remodelling of the lower deck on the fixed part the street was closed 
to vehicular traffic only one roadway at a time, and very slight in- 
convenience was caused thereby. 

Provision for driving those portions of the cofferdam directly 
under the swing bridge was .made by stopping traffic between the 
hours of 1 A.M. to 4:45 A.M. for a period of about two weeks for 
each dam, and swinging the span to the open position during that 
time. After the completion of the cofferdam, the excavation for the 
counterweight pits and sub-piers was in order and this was followed 
by the placing of the concrete and steel for these parts of the struc- 
ture. 

To effect the erection of the bridge superstructure, without in- 
terfering with traffic, it was necessary to omit floor beams, stringers 
and bracing in two panels, so that with the bridge leaves in the 
open position, vehicles and elevated trains could pass through the 
structure with a clear space from truss to truss. 

On the 2nd of December we expect the work on the superstruc- 
ture to have progressed so far as to bring it to the last leg of con- 
struction, that of changing from the old swing bridge to the new 
bascule. ... It is expected that the interruption of elevated rail- 
road traffic will not exceed 48 hours. In other words, if nothing un- 
foreseen happens, traffic on the old swing bridge will be shut off 
at 8:00 P.M. Friday, Dec. 8, and traffic resumed on the new bridge 
Sunday evening, Dec. 4. 21 

Pihlfeldt might have been writing in the past tense, so accu- 
rate was his timetable. The Wells Street Bridge, connecting the 
north and south sides of Chicago, was lowered and put in opera- 
tion on December 4, 1921 according to plan. When the new 
bridge was nearly complete in upright position, preparations 
were made for removing the old bridge and lowering the new. 
All traffic on the old crossing stopped at 8: 00 P.M. on Friday, 
December 2. 22 

The old bridge was swung to the midstream position over the center 
pier. Timber bents, supported by piling driven in the river bed, had 

21 Western Society of Engineers, Journal, 27: 60. 

22 Another account of plans for putting the bascule in service is in Engineering 
News-Record, 87:606 (October 13, 19&1). See also Public Works, 53:174-176 (Octo- 
ber, 1922). 

131 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

been previously placed to support the ends of the old bridge when 
the center section should be removed. At midnight on Dec. %, cut- 
ting out the center section of the old bridge was begun. 

Upper members were cut nearly through and allowed to remain 
in place. With the coming of daylight removal of the old steel mem- 
bers was begun. A concrete barge upon which was mounted a der- 
rick similar to the one used in handling the new structural steel 
was anchored near the old bridge. A scow was brought alongside 
for the reception of the steel members as they were removed. . . . 

Attachment was made to a nearly severed member and the der- 
rick cables tightened. Then the cuts at each end were completed 
and the free member lowered into the scow. In this way a section 
80 ft. wide was removed from the old bridge by 4 P.M., Sunday, 
Dec. 4. 

During the cutting away of the old bridge, the omitted portions 
of the new structure were rapidly erected. , . . At 5 P.M., Sunday, 
Dec. 4, both leaves of the new bridge were lowered in. place. The 
two leaves met in the center with less than % in. total error. . - . 

As soon as the leaves were lowered in place construction gangs 
of the elevated railroad company started to lay track over the 
bridge. This was completed and elevated service was resumed at 
7 A. M., Dec. 5, after an interruption of only 59 hours. 23 

Installation of electric signals and warnings and of new ap- 
proaches soon completed the work. The result was a bridge 
with an over-all length of steel structure, from abutment to 
abutment, of 385 feet; this gave a clear channel of 220 feet. 24 
Later, in looking back on his career as bridgebuilder, Pihl- 
feldt regarded the erection of the Lake Street and Wells Street 
double-deck bridges as his greatest achievements. He was 
pleased with the manner in which the new structures had been 
built complete near the shores, except for a few stringers at the 
ends. He explained that the old swing bridge had barely been 
burned out with torches when the new leaves were allowed to 
fall in place. "The men in the drafting room said The Old Man 
is getting daffy. 5 When it worked they said, That was simple/ 
Engineers came from Russia to see one bridge built on top of 
another and the burning out of the old one. And we kept learn- 
ing. On the Lake street bridge we let the X J trains through in 

23 R. F. Imler, "Wells Street Bridge Construction," in Engineering World, 0: 1-8 
(January, 1922). 

u Imler, in Engineering WoM t 0: 1-8. 

132 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

three days, but it was weeks before we got the street level fin- 
ished and paved. When we came to Wells street, a few years 
later, we had both levels open in seventy-two hours/' 25 

Just as the Michigan Avenue bascule was an important unit 
in the now famous Chicago Plan, so the bridge crossing the 
railroad tracks at Roosevelt Road was a part of the vast proj- 
ect of straightening the Chicago River. 26 This work, too, was 
done while maintaining traffic on the street viaduct. At Roose- 
velt Road the new channel of the river at the time of bridge- 
building not yet excavated was west of the old channel, and 
the new bascule bridge cleared an old three-truss swing bridge. 
The removal of the old bridge was ordered by the war depart- 
ment in 1911, but because of the First World War and the city's 
plan for straightening the Chicago River, the swing bridge con- 
tinued in service. It remained in use until the new channel was 
opened. 

The new bridge for the time being over dry land was 
another double-leaf bascule. Measuring 04 feet center to center 
of the trunnion bearings, it was designed to give a clear span 
of 170 feet between masonry piers and a total width of 90 feet. 
Built in the late 1920's, it required clever engineering to over- 
come a number of serious problems, among them the need for 
heavy foundation work and the erection of steel under traffic. 27 

In July, 1929, the city completed a new bridge over the 
Chicago River at Clark Street. The sixth structure at this point, 
the bascule took the place of a swing bridge set up in 1888 
just before Pihlfeldt went to work for Chicago. The existing 
bridge, many times repaired, had witnessed the transition from 
man power to steam to electric mqtors. With the coming of 
motor-truck transportation and heavier streetcars, it had to 
make way for a modern bascule. It was particularly important 
to provide Clark Street with a structure adequate for modern 
needs, since as a streetcar thoroughfare it was surpassed only 

* Chicago Daily News, October 15, 1936. 

20 See Thomas G. Pihlfeldt, "Straightening the Chicago River," in Norwegian- 
American Technical Journal, vol. 1, no. 4, p. 1-3, 8 (December, 1928). 
27 Engineering News-Record, 101:546-550 (October 11, 1928). 

133 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

by Madison and State streets. With its completion the last of 
the old swing bridges was removed from the main branch of the 
Chicago River. 28 

Heavy increases in traffic over the Chicago River had caused 
the engineers in City Hall to think as early as 1922 of new 
facilities near Wabash Avenue. In 1927 final approval was given 
to plans for a bascule to be located on an angle from the center 
line of Wabash, and for a viaduct crossing the tracks of the 
Chicago and North Western Railway and connecting the north 
fixed approach of the bridge. Arrangements were made for 
streetcar tracks on both bridge and viaduct. Construction began 
late in 1929 and ended in October, 1930. 

Since the opening of this new thoroughfare, the Indiana avenue 
street car line, which formerly looped in the downtown district, now 
operates north on Wabash avenue over the new bridge to Grand 
avenue and east over Grand avenue to Navy Pier on the Lake front. 
The downtown district is now relieved of the looping-back of 36 
cars of the Indiana avenue line which operate on a three-minute 
rush hour headway and a five-minute base schedule. Later, other 
routes will ultimately utilize the new bridge and relieve congestion 
in the business district. 

The Wabash Avenue traffic artery will also serve as a link 
across the river to the planned North Bank Drive, which, when 
built, will resemble Wacker Drive on the south side. 29 

Mention will be made of only one more bascule bridge a 
key structure in Chicago's Outer Drive, which links Chicago's 
south and north side lake-front boulevards and carries a vast 
traffic outside the crowded loop district. A conventional double- 
leaf bridge over the mouth of the Chicago River, its distinguish- 
ing feature is its great size and weight: 108 feet in width and 
264 feet in length between trunnions, with leaves weighing 
4,364 tons each. Provision was made for a future lower deck, 
and on the south side of the river a steel viaduct was designed 
as an approach to the bridge; another viaduct connects the 
bridge with Michigan Avenue at Randolph Street. On the north 

28 Paul Schioler, "Construction of the New Clark Street Bridge," ir. Western So- 
ciety of Engineers, Journal, 34:629-634 (November, 1929). 
* Electric Traction, 27:113-115 (March, 1931). 

134 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

side a viaduct, supplemented by a 100-foot single-leaf bascule 
over the Michigan Canal, serves as an approach. This project, 
begun in 1929, was halted by the depression; it was resumed in 
1935, and completed two years later. 80 The records do not re- 
veal Pihlfeldt's part in designing and building this mammoth 
bridge. In all probability his was a consultative role; the leading 
spirit was Hugh E. Young, chief engineer of the Chicago Plan 
Commission. 

Many problems, though seemingly of little significance, re- 
veal the difficulties and at the same time the great interest that 
attach to bridgebuilding. The floor may be offered as an ex- 
ample. A number of paving materials had to be tested because 
of the tremendous volume of Chicago traffic. 31 When the Michi- 
gan Avenue bascule was twenty years old, it was given a new 
upper deck to replace the rubber-block paving which, in its day 
quite an innovation, had been laid fifteen years before. The 
new wearing surface was made of asphalt plank laid on timber 
sub-flooring. In the end zones, where excessive wear results from 
the stopping of heavy busses for traffic lights, a novel cast grid 
filled with concrete was used. The importance of such work is 
obvious when it is remembered that 50,000 vehicles passed 
over the Michigan Avenue Bridge each day in 1939. 32 The in- 
crease in traffic since then has been great. 

The bascule is not the only type of bridge suited to problems 
in Chicago. A lift bridge was constructed over the Calumet 
River at Torrence Avenue, the principal traffic artery through 
the industrial area of south Chicago and the towns further 
south. The war department required a channel width of 200 
feet, and the city had to reckon with the fact that the river is 
at a skew of about 50 with the street. A bascule bridge at this 
point would have required a clear span of 310 feet between 
masonry nearly 80 feet more than the bridges at Wabash 

80 Engineering News-Record, 118:583-587 (April 22, 1937). 

81 See, for example, "Fibrated Asphalt Planking on La Salle Street Bridge, Chica- 
go," in Highway Engineer and Contractor, 34: 72-74 (May, 1929); and "La Salle Street 
Bridge, Chicago, Splendid Example of Modern Timber Moor Construction," in Wood 
Preserving News, 8:60-62 (May, 1930). 

82 Engineering News-Record, 123:626 (November 9, 1939). 

135 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

and Wells streets. The cost of a bascule would therefore have 
been too great. 

In view of these facts, a vertical lift bridge was found to be the 
most practicable solution. This type offers several advantages over 
the bascule type for a large span, because the ends can be skewed, 
as they are in this case, so as to reduce the actual span length, and 
the movable span is balanced by two counterweights, each equal to 
one-half the span weight, while in a bascule the counterweight arm 
weighs at least twice as much as the river arm. In the Torrence 
Avenue bridge, the span and its counterweights have a total weight 
of about 6,100,000 pounds, while the total movable load of a bascule 
bridge with 310 feet clear span would be at least 12,000,000 pounds, 
and the machinery to handle such mass and the wind loads thereon 
would become rather difficult. 88 

This first vertical lift bridge to be built in recent times in 
Chicago 34 gave Pihlfeldt unmistakable gratification. Both the 
design, with its novel features worked out under his direction, 
and the bridge's successful operation were proof that long con- 
centration on bascule bridges had not lessened his skill in other 
directions. Not his least satisfaction came from the fact that, 
whereas the war department required that the bridge must 
open in 2 minutes, under ordinary conditions it actually opened 
in 94 seconds. 35 

Pihlfeldt, as bridge engineer of Chicago from 1901 until his 
death in January, 1941, lived through the entire period of the 
development of the Chicago bascule bridge. During this time 
35 movable structures were designed by the bridge division. 
In addition, Pihlfeldt supervised the building of about 20 fixed 
bridges and viaducts an impressive total of 55 bridges! He 
was chosen in 1918 to represent Chicago during the construc- 
tion of the Union Station. He also played an important part in 
the execution of the Chicago Plan worked out by D. H. Burn- 
ham and the straightening of the Chicago River, begun in 
1928. His reputation, however, will rest on his work with the 
bascule bridge. As the city engineer, Lor an D. Gay ton, said at 
the time of Pihlfeldt's death: 

88 Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, p. 1 (February, 1938). 
8 * Engineering News-Record, 121:618-622 (November 17, 1988). 
85 Skandinaven, January 14, 1938. 

136 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

While the fundamental principle of bascule bridges is centuries 
old, the application thereof to modern bridge structures, capable of 
successfully serving the needs of a metropolitan area, involves the 
application of engineering science and ingenuity requiring the great- 
est skill. It was in this application and the stage of perfection to 
which it has been carried in the modern bascule bridge which made 
Mr. Pihlfeldt a master in his field. The adoption of many of these 
developments by various engineers throughout this and other coun- 
tries is the finest testimony to his high standing in his profession. 36 

Pihlfeldt's appraisal had been similar. 

Skandinaven, in a short article of January 27, 1938, refers 
to Pihlfeldt as the inventor of the bascule, or, as the paper calls 
it, the Pihlfeldt type of bridge. Such an assumption, however 
common even among the non-Norwegian element in Chicago, 
was entirely without foundation and not at all pleasing to 
Pihlfeldt himself. Asked by a reporter if he were the inventor of 
the bridge, Pihlfeldt answered with as much truth as modesty 
that it had developed down through the centuries. "It is just 
two teeter-totters," he said, "one set on each bank of a river 
with machinery to lift the ends that touch when a boat whistles 
to go through. ... I invent the bascule? Why Cain and Abel 
played on a bascule." He continued: 

When we of the bridge division decided shortly after the turn 
of the century that the traditional swing bridges set on a turntable 
in the middle of the river were too slow to operate and too costly 
to maintain, we studied all of the bridges in the cities of Europe and 
America. The best we found to copy was the bascule in the London 
Tower bridge. 

The first one built here was in Cortland street. We have designed 
and constructed forty-nine river bridges in Chicago and maintain 
them in daily operation. I say we because I could do nothing with- 
out the loyal and efficient staff of 100 men in the division, engineers, 
draftsmen, mechanics, electricians and operators and without the 
readiness of city engineers and commissioners above me to accept 
new ideas. 

All that I claim credit for is being constantly on the alert, travel- 
ing around the country when need be, to watch every improvement 
in bridge building in every city and apply that new thing, bettering 
it, usually, on the next bridge built by the city of Chicago. 37 

88 "Thomas George Pihlfeldt, 1858-1941," in Municipal Employes Society, Monthly 
Bulletin, 21:17 (February, 1941). 

87 Dan Fogle, in Chicago Daily News, October 15, 1936. 

137 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

The result of the efforts of Pihlfeldt and other Chicago engi- 
neers was, nevertheless, that Chicago came commonly to be 
regarded as the birthplace and home of the modern bascule. 
There it reached its highest perfection and became a model for 
engineers both at home and abroad. 

in 

The Chicago River is little more than a good-sized creek with 
low-lying banks. It is completely tamed by man; its course has 
been changed until now it actually runs in a direction opposite 
from the one intended by nature, flowing lazily through the 
concentrated Chicago loop district into the drainage canal 
and the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The Mississippi, by con- 
trast, is a mighty river rightly called the Father of Waters, and 
along its entire north-south course, bridge engineers have 
brought forth their best efforts in overcoming one of the main 
obstacles to east-west transportation. Both railroad and high- 
way traffic over the Mississippi have demanded of the bridge- 
builder that he keep pace with the finest in the building art 
and at times that he proceed without benefit of precedent. 

At the head of navigation on the Mississippi lie the Twin 
Cities of Minnesota St. Paul and Minneapolis with a com- 
bined population of about three-quarters of a million. St. Paul 
developed very early into an important commercial center en- 
gaging in steamboat and overland trade, and Minneapolis, set- 
tled somewhat later, has grown into an industrial city once a 
home of lumber mills, now a flour-milling center. Together the 
two cities are an important market for farm products, especially 
wheat and livestock, and they in turn supply a vast northwest 
area with finished goods for town and country. Located in the 
middle of an area rich in natural resources, the Twin Cities 
also constitute a natural financial and cultural center. 

The Mississippi, which loops its way through the Twin 
Cities, now divides Minneapolis into a large western part and a 
considerably smaller eastern division, and at the Falls of St. 
Anthony provides the power needed for a cluster of flour mills. 

138 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

A system of locks and dams, begun in 1915, makes the Missis- 
sippi navigable to the heart of the city. The greater part of St. 
Paul is on the north bank of the river and rises to three levels, 
the first being occupied by railroad yards and industry, the 
second by the business section, and the third by residences. The 
city enjoys a fine harbor and has the greatest inland river termi- 
nals on the Mississippi above New Orleans. 

When the people who founded St. Paul seized upon the good 
boat landings at the foot of Sibley and Eagle streets, they 
discovered that just to the north was land available for a town- 
site. In the early 1860's the first train chugged into the settle- 
ment and a station was built opposite Wacouta Street*. Thus 
the picturesque site of the future business district was fixed. 
Surrounding the rapidly growing settlement both to the south 
and east were the river and high sandstone bluffs. Deep ravines 
also followed Phalen Creek and Trout Brook. 88 Over in Minne- 
apolis the first dwelling house was reputedly built at St. An- 
thony Falls in 1848, and two years later the first was erected 
in Minneapolis proper. Between the towns of St. Anthony and 
Minneapolis, which were united in 1872, early communication 
was by ferry in the summer and on ice in the winter. It was 
there that the first bridge was built. 89 

Since the two cities have one obstacle in common the Mis- 
sissippi, running from the northern boundary of Minneapolis to 
the southern boundary of St. Paul bridges both within and 
between the two cities were obviously imperative as a normal 
part of their development. At first, because of the ready supply 
of materials from the sawmills at St. Anthony, the bridges were 
built chiefly of wood, but later wrought iron, steel, and re- 
inforced concrete came into popular use. Certain other facts 
conditioned the Twin City bridgebuilding program. The com- 
ing of the automobile and the truck and the converging of many 
highways into the cities placed a heavy burden on the bridges, 

88 M. S. Grytbak, "St. Paul Bridges Fifty Years Ago," in Minnesota Federation of 
Architectural and Engineering Societies, Bulletin, 18:17 (October, 1983). 

80 F. W. Cappelen, "The Late Suspension Bridge of Minneapolis," in Association 
of Engineering Societies, Journal, 10:400 (August, 1891). 

139 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

and called for designs recognizing greater concentrated loadings 
than were needed for teams and carriages. The fact that many 
of the highway bridges also carry streetcar tracks demanded 
sturdy construction as well as adequate width for the two-way 
traffic of streetcars, motor vehicles, and pedestrians. Alternat- 
ing spells of freezing and thawing in the Minnesota spring and 
fall made it necessary that careful precautions in waterproofing 
be taken. Since two major bridges the Ford and the Marshall 
Avenue-Lake Street bridges served both St. Paul and Minne- 
apolis, yet another element had to be introduced joint plan- 
ning and financing. And, finally, the scenic beauty of the 
Mississippi is such that pleasing design and suitable building 
materials were required in an unusual degree. In the words of 
the city engineer of St. Paul, "Nature has perhaps nowhere 
provided a more beautiful setting for an arch bridge than in the 
Mississippi River valley between Fort Snelling and St. Anthony 
Falls." 40 

The Twin City area has a heavy Scandinavian population. It 
is therefore not surprising that many Norwegian engineers 
should have been attracted to this metropolitan center, which 
after the dull 1870's experienced a rapid growth. They were 
employed both by the many railroads that serve the Northwest 
and by the engineering departments of the two cities. Four 
Norwegian engineers played major roles as builders of bridges 
in the Twin Cities; many others had minor but significant parts. 
The chief figures, in the order of their appearance on the scene, 
were Kristoffer (Kris) Oustad, Andreas W. Minister, F. W. 
Cappelen, and M. S. Grytbak. 

Kristoffer Olsen Oustad came to America by way of Trond- 
hjem's Technical College in 1882. He entered the Minneapolis 
city engineer's office in 1883 and remained forty-six years. He 
went through the customary stages of draftsman, estimator, 
and assistant engineer, and, in 1893, became municipal bridge 
engineer. During his long service, ended by retirement in 1929, 

40 George N. Shepard, "Twin City Bridge Construction," in Minnesota Techno-Log, 
7: 137 (February, 1927). 

140 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

he had general supervision of the Minneapolis bridges for both 
design and construction. His career was distinguished by careful 
planning and sound engineering ability. 41 

Whereas Oustad came from a farm of southeastern Norway 
and represents the sturdy bonde element of Hedemark, Andreas 
Wendelbo Minister was born at Bergen, the son of a well-known 
military figure and of a sister of Ole Bull, the violinist. Munster 
received his technical training at the popular Chalmers Insti- 
tute in Gothenburg, Sweden. Arriving in the United States in 
1883, he set out for the West and, after varied experiences in 
railroad construction and surveying, became bridge engineer 
for the city of St. Paul in 1884. Twenty years later he left St. 
Paul to become chief engineer of the Chicago, Great Western 
Railway and in 1906 he moved to Seattle, where he opened an 
office as consulting engineer. His reputation had preceded him 
and he found, as a result, that his services were widely sought. 
Consultant for the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad 
Company during the construction of its western extension to 
Seattle, he also designed several railroad terminals and division 
structures in Idaho and Washington including docks, wharves, 
and freight houses. In Tacoma, Seattle, and Vancouver he did 
important work for the Great Northern Railway Company, 
and in addition served as consulting engineer for the city of 
Seattle, returning once more to bridge designing. From 1923 to 
192.9 he served as chief engineer of the city's bridge department 
and at the time of his death, in 1929, was regarded as one of 
the best bridge engineers of his generation. 42 

Frederick William Cappelen, one of the great American engi- 
neers, was educated in the technical school at Orebro, Sweden, 
and at the Polytechnicum in Dresden, Germany. He was gradu- 
ated from the latter school with the highest record ever at- 
tained by a foreign student. Cappelen set out for the New 

41 Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. 2', no. 3, p. 10 (November, 1929); 
Alstad, Trondhjenuteknikernes matrikel, 31; Alstad, Tillegg, 18; Skandinaven, Sep- 
tember 11, 1936; interview with Oustad, March, 1940. 

* 2 American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 95:1565 (1931); Nordmands- 
forbundet, 22:282 (1929); Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. 2, p. 5 
(July, 1929), 

141 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

World in 1880, to find employment, like so many others, with 
the Northern Pacific Railway. His municipal career began in 
1886, when he became bridge engineer of Minneapolis. He was 
elected city engineer in 1893 and re-elected in 1913. From 
1898 to 1913, the period between terms of office, he was a con- 
sulting engineer in municipal and bridgework. By no means 
recognized only for his bridge designs, he planned the Missis- 
sippi reservoir system, which was the first step toward the 
purification of Minneapolis* water supply. This and his later par- 
ticipation in other improvements resulted in his being called by 
some the father of the city's present waterworks system. In 
1904 he served on a commission with Andrew Rinker, then city 
engineer, and Alkn Hazen of New York City, which studied 
the problem of a pure water supply. The commission's report 
favored the purification of Mississippi River water. The opera- 
tion of the city's filtration plant was begun under Cappelen's 
direction in 1913, and by 1921 its capacity had been increased 
to 90,000,000 gallons per day. 

During 1907-11 Cappelen was also associated with the De- 
caries Incinerator Company, and he devised a number of im- 
provements in the garbage reduction process. In still another 
field he was a pioneer; his extensive studies of grade separations 
at street and railroad crossings led to considerable improvement 
in this field and to the outlining of plans for future work. Cap- 
pelen's reputation as a sanitary engineer caused the governor 
of Minnesota in 1918 to name him one of the first two engineers 
to be members of the state board of health, a position to which 
he was reappointed shortly before his death. Brilliant, original, 
daring, Cappelen was an eminently sound engineer who did 
much for transportation, the public health, and safety in Min- 
neapolis, as well as for the natural beauty of the city/ 8 

The fourth engineer to figure in the story of Twin City 
bridgebuilding is Martin Sigvart Grytbak. He attended Trond- 

48 American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 85:1603 (1922); Norwegian- 
American Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. 8, p. 9 (November, 1929); Skandinav&n, Sep- 
tember 11, 1936; Nordmands-forbundet, 6:204 (March, 1913); and archives of Nor- 
wegian-American Technical Society, Chicago. 

142 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

h jem's Technical College, was graduated as a civil engineer in 
1903, and left for America two years later. Grytbak, who had 
relatives in Minnesota, went to the Twin Cities, where he too 
became a draftsman with the Northern Pacific Railway in St. 
Paul. He worked in the bridge department and was promoted 
to chief draftsman eight years later. In 1913 he resigned to 
become bridge engineer for St. Paul. This position, which calls 
for almost exclusive concentration on bridges, he still occupies 
very efficiently. 44 

Though best known as a builder of tunnels, Olaf Hofi also 
had a distinguished career as bridgebuilder. Shortly after his 
arrival in America, Hoff entered the service of the Keystone 
Bridge Company in Pittsburgh and soon rose to the position 
of assistant chief engineer. During 1881-83 he was bridge and 
locating engineer on the Tampico division of the Mexican Cen- 
tral Railway. He then returned to Pittsburgh to become chief 
engineer of the Schiffler Bridge Company. From 1885 to 1901, 
while maintaining a consulting and contracting practice in 
Minneapolis, Hoff was also western representative of the Schif- 
fler Bridge Company and engaged in considerable bridgework, 
in both the designing and consulting phases. In addition to. his 
work in the Twin Cities, he designed a highway bridge across 
the Mississippi at Muscatine, Iowa, that was 2,000 feet long 
and had a 400-foot cantilever span. He also made competitive 
designs for bridges both in the East and in the West. 45 

IV 

There have been two decades of feverish bridgebuilding in 
the Twin Cities the 1880*s and the 1920*s, Both periods were 
characterized by general prosperity. The first bridges, it is true, 
were built before the Civil War; a suspension bridge at St. An- 
thony Falls was erected during the winter of 1854-55, and the 

"Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 198; Alstad, Tttlegg, 55; Norwegian* 
American Technical Journal, vol. 1, no, 4, p. 11 (December, 1928); interview with 
Grytbak, April, 1940; and letters from Grytbak to the present writer. 

^American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 89:1623 (1926). It is inter- 
esting that Hoff, when employed by the New York Central and Hudson River Bail- 
road, renewed or reconstructed some 400 bridges; Harper's Weekly, 56: 2 (March 23, 

143 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Wabasha Street Bridge in St. Paul was built in 1857-58. Their 
completion, however, was followed by a long lull, during which 
the Civil War and the difficult times that followed, especially 
after 1873, put a damper on expensive projects. By the early 
eighties a pronounced change had taken place, and bridges, 
both railroad and highway, leaped across the river at numerous 
strategic points. After the 1880's this nervous tempo subsided 
considerably, only to revive again during the prosperous 1920's. 
Though spanning the mighty Mississippi brought lasting bene- 
fits to the area, at least one large project, begun during the 
eighties, was never completed. This was the St. Paul Broadway 
Bridge; an abutment at the north end of State Street is a 
historic record of the optimism of an earlier day. 46 

The highway bridge at the foot of Wabasha Street was first 
built by a private company before the Civil War and was 
operated on a toll basis. Known as the St. Paul Bridge, and 
built throughout of timber, it was reconstructed of iron in the 
1870's. With the rapid increase of traffic in the next decade, 
the bridge proved too light for its added burden; the channel 
span, in particular, was found to be in poor condition. In 1889 
the northern section, measuring 600 feet, was replaced under 
Minister's direction with a new cantilever structure having a 
36-foot roadway and 10-foot sidewalks. In 1900 the south por- 
tion was rebuilt to the same width as the northern, and the 
bridge was shortened about 300 feet by an embankment at the 
south end. During construction the old spans were moved to 
one side and supported on temporary piers. About 700 feet of 
makeshift bridge had to be built over the south arm of the river 
to carry traffic for a year while work was going on. This engi- 
neering feat was accomplished without a single hitch. 47 

The first Minneapolis bridge designed by a Norwegian en- 

48 Minnesota Techno-Log, 7:137 (February, 1927); and Minnesota Federation of 
Architectural and Engineering Societies, Bulletin, 18:18 (October, 1983). 

47 Engineering Record, 25:58 (December 6, 1891); F. B. Maltby, "Historical and 
Descriptive Sketch of the Bridges over the Mississippi River," in Western Society 
of Engineers, Journal, 8: 434-437 (1903); A. W. Miinster, "Temporary Bridge across 
the Mississippi River, at St. Paul, Minnesota, Moving of Three 140-Foot Spans," in 
Association of Engineering Societies, Journal, 24:58-61 (January, 1900). 

144 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

gineer was perhaps the Northern Pacific Railway bridge, about 
one mile below St. Anthony Falls and a short distance above 
Washington Avenue. It was constructed in 1884-85 and rebuilt 
before the First World War. A double-track deck bridge, it had 
two spans and a viaduct and carried trains about 100 feet 
above the water. Cappelen designed it, and it was one of the 
first steel bridges in the Northwest. 48 

The old Robert Street highway bridge in St. Paul was built 
by Miinster, in 1885-86, just downstream from the Chicago, 
St. Paul, and Kansas City Railway bridge. Built of iron, the 
bridge consisted of several pin-connected spans totaling about 
1,540 feet in length. The channel section was a through span 
of 350 feet. It had fourteen pedestal masonry piers and six 
river piers. 49 Though it was in fair condition, this bridge had to 
be replaced in the middle 1920's because its roadway was only 
33 feet wide, yet carried a double-track streetcar line in addi- 
tion to two 10-foot sidewalks. 50 

Other Miinster structures include the Sixth Street viaduct, 
built in 1887, and the Colorado Street skew stone and brick 
arch, built in 1888. Speaking of the fine masonry construction 
of the eighties, Grytbak said of the design and cutting of the 
outside ring stones of the Colorado structure, that it "is now an 
art of the past." This was also true of the piers of the old 
Robert Street Bridge. 51 

During 1888-89 St. Paul built what was to be known as the 
High Bridge at Smith Avenue. This wrought-iron crossing 
reached from the bluffs on the St. Paul side to those on the right 
bank of the Mississippi and connected the business center of a 
rapidly growing city with what at that time was a beautiful 
residential district. It also opened direct lines of communication 
with the rich agricultural region of Dakota County. This bridge 
has a maximum height of 200 feet above water level and is 

* 8 Maltby, in Western Society of Engineers, Journal, 8:4&5~47. 

40 Maltby, in Western Society of Engineers, Journal, 8:437. 

60 Walter H. Wheeler, "Minnesota Bridge Construction," in Minnesota Techno-Log, 
6:160 (February, 19S6). 

01 Minnesota Federation of Architectural and Engineering Societies, Bulletin, 18: 18 
(October, 1933). 

145 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

some 2,774 feet in length. Designed as a series of bents and 
towers with long and short deck spans, it crosses the river with 
four 250-foot spans resting on high steel towers and rocker 
bents. The plans were prepared in the bridge division under 
Minister. The foundation consists of masonry piers on timber 
grillage and piling. The bridge is unusual because of the light- 
ness of its construction, as well as its great height. The struc- 
ture was partially destroyed by a cyclone in August, 1904, but 
it was quickly restored and serves to this day as a highway 
bridge. 52 

Meanwhile in Minneapolis a great deal of interest had been 
shown in that city's much overrated suspension bridge and in 
Cappelen's construction of the Steel Arch on Hennepin Avenue. 
The story goes back to what is believed to be the first bridge 
over the Mississippi, a cable suspension opened to the public 
in January, 1855, and operated on a toll basis. 53 Just above 
St. Anthony Falls, it connected the west bank of the Mississippi 
with Nicollet Island and was expected to draw the trade of 
settlers on the west side. With the growth of trade and manu- 
facturing in the area once occupied by farmers, a light toll 
bridge with a span of 675 feet took the place of the original struc- 
ture in 1876-77. Soon the sidewalks of the new suspension bridge 
had to be widened and steps were taken to get additional 
bridge facilities next to and paralleling the suspension bridge. 
In 1888 the first half of a steel arch was built, upstream, within 
a few inches of the old structure. But this arrangement was un- 
satisfactory: the suspension bridge was constantly in need of 
repair. According to Cappelen there was "always something 
wrong; an eye breaking here and a bolt there, and the trusses 
always loose and rickety. When the beams were spliced to 
widen the sidewalks I am told there were strong indications of 

63 Minnesota Techno-Log, 7:160 (February, 1927); Engineering and Building JRec- 
ord f 19:144, 158, 175, 242, 313-815 (February 16, 23, March 2, April 6, May 11, 1889), 
20: 102 (My 2'0, 1889), and 21: 38, 56 (December 21, 28, 1889); and American Society 
of Civil Engineers, Proceedings, 30:794-799 (1904) and 31:160-168 (1905). 

68 Cappelen has given us the toll charges on the first suspension bridge: for each 
foot passenger, 5 cents; for horse or mule, with or without driver, 15 cents; for two- 
horse, two-mule, or two-ox team, with or without driver, 25 cents; for single-horse 
carriage, 25 cents; for sheep or swine, 2 cents; and so on, 

146 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

beams rotting." A thorough investigation revealed that the 
structure was entirely bad, and the bridge was therefore closed. 
The question of whether to repair the suspension or to tear it 
down and complete the steel arch naturally passed from the 
city council to the newspapers, which despaired at the prospect 
of losing the beloved suspension. After attempts had been made 
at repair, however, the suspension was taken down and the 
Steel Arch, designed by Cappelen and Andrew Rinker (the 
city engineer) was completed. The new structure, built between 
1888 and 1890, consists of two steel arch spans of adequate 
width. 54 

Mention should be made, too, of a Minneapolis railroad 
bridge built by Olaf Hoff for the Minneapolis and Western 
Railway in 1891. This bridge is located a short distance below 
Tenth Avenue and is now used by the Great Northern Rail- 
way Company. It is a deck structure consisting of several 
channel spans and a long, heavy viaduct. The two river spans 
were built with a single, heavy, two-post rocker trestle bent 
supporting their fixed ends, and four-post iron towers support- 
ing their opposite ends. They were erected without the use of 
falsework. 55 

The decade that followed the active 1880*s was a surprising- 
ly quiet one. The only notable municipal undertaking was the 
widening of the Stone Arch over the east channel of the Missis- 
sippi in Minneapolis, to make provision for the increased volume 
of traffic over this beautiful old highway bridge. Because the 
structure was still in good condition, it was decided in 1895 to 
enlarge and continue to use it. Cappelen, now city engineer, 
worked out the unusual plans which permitted a doubling of 
width and traffic capacity at a surprisingly low cost. The 40- 
foot-wide stone arches could not easily be enlarged and new 
arches would have been equivalent to a new bridge. Therefore, 

64 Thomas M. Griffith, "The Minneapolis Suspension Bridge," in Van Nostrand'a 
Eclectic Engineering Magazine, 18:24S~251 (March, 1878); F. W. Cappelen, "The 
Late Suspension Bridge of Minneapolis," in Association of Engineering Societies, 
Journal, 10:400-426 (August, 1891); Engineering and Building Record, 21:358 (May 
10, 1890); Minnesota TechnoLog, 7:138 (February, 1927). 

86 Engineering Record, 29:37 (December 16, 1893). 

147 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Cappelen devised a steel platform on each side of the bridge, 
thus widening the roadway about 40 per cent and adding side- 
walks without greatly disturbing the old masonry or requiring 
additional piers. According to the Engineering Record, the 
construction that made this possible was "novel and ingenious, 
and secures a rigid and economical support for the main gird- 



ers." 56 



The first of the graceful reinforced-concrete arch bridges in 
the Twin Cities was built during the First World War in the 
neighborhood of Third Avenue in Minneapolis. There had been 
for some time, as a natural consequence of the city's growth, a 
demand for a handsome crossing at this point. In 1912 the city 
council responded to public pressure and asked the Concrete- 
Steel Engineering Company of New York to prepare designs 
for a concrete arch bridge between Third Avenue South and 
First Avenue Southeast. The resulting designs were subjected 
to a public hearing before the engineers of the war department 
in 1913. At this point the water-power companies, which had 
strongly opposed a bridge, announced that, if necessary, they 
would go to the courts to fight any bridge project so near the 
falls. 5 , 7 

The reason for this opposition also explains the design of the 
bridge that ultimately resulted. The river bottom at Third 
Avenue consists of a limestone bed about 15 feet thick; this is 
almost bare in the west channel and covered only by sand and 
silt in the east channel. The limestone ledge rests in turn on 
St. Peter sandstone, which goes down about 600 feet. When the 
power at St. Anthony Falls was first utilized, it was found ad- 
vantageous to dig tailrace tunnels in the soft sandrock below 
the limestone. 58 These tunnels broke through at two points, 
causing the federal government to make repairs that closed the 
breaks and thereby also insured continued water power. The 
sinking of bridge foundations might easily have undone the ex- 

56 Vol. 32, p. 454 (November 23, 1895). 

57 A. M. Richter, "A 2,223-Ft. Concrete-Arch Bridge Built on Reverse Curve," In 
Engineering News, 74:1268-1273 (December 30, 1915). 

68 "The water was led from the mill pond in a canal above the limestone, and the 
tunnels served as tailraces"; Richter, in Engineering News* 74: 1268. 

148 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

tensive repairs, which had restored the condition of the river 
bottom almost to normal. Hence the opposition of the power 
companies and the use of curved ends for the bridge when it 
was finally built. 59 

While the power interests were fighting the plans drawn up 
by the New York firm, Cappelen was elected city engineer in 
Minneapolis. His experience as bridge engineer had given him 
the knowledge necessary to cope with the situation. Refusing 
to approve the location that had been selected, he influenced 
the council to reject these plans and to approve a steel bridge 
that would not endanger the falls or in any way affect power 
rights. Considerable opposition developed to Cappelen's pro- 
posed steel bridge, which would have had one span clearing the 
whole area of limestone breaks. The opposition sprang chiefly 
from aesthetic considerations. "At this time, however, Mr. Cap- 
pelen conceived the idea that by adopting a curved location for 
the line of the bridge, a design satisfactory to all parties might 
be worked out. On investigation it was found that at one point 
the limestone break could be cleared by a concrete arch of 211 - 
ft .-clear span. A revised plan for the desired ornamental struc- 
ture was then prepared. This proved satisfactory to all parties 
and was finally adopted." 

The problem thus solved, Cappelen and Oustad exercised 
real skill in constructing the reinforced-concrete bridge now 
spanning the river. Consisting of seven main river spans, the 
bridge is 2,223 feet long and has a wide roadway that carries 
a double-track street railway and sidewalks. Its peculiar fea- 
ture, however, is its gracefully curving design. 60 

Bridges must at times be protected against the elements. A 
serious problem arose when the Marshall Avenue-Lake Street 
Bridge threatened to become partly submerged; a government 
dam had raised the water some 30 feet for a distance of about 
6 miles up to the falls. Most of the bridges, supported as they 

60 RicL.ter, in Engineering News, 74:1269. See also Minnesota Techno-L&g, 7:162 
(February, 1927), and Chas. F. Bornefeld, "Design and Construction of the Third 
Avenue, South, Concrete-Steel Arch Bridge, Minneapolis, Minn.," in Municipal Engi- 
neering, 58: 242 (December, 1917) . 

Kichter, in Engineering News, 74:1269, 1270-1273. 

149 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

are on high masonry piers, were not affected, but the dam raised 
the water over the tops of the piers at Marshall Avenue and 
threatened to submerge about 5 feet of the ends of the steel 
arches. Concrete protecting walls were built under Grytbak's 
direction around the north abutment and the center pier of the 
bridge to a point 1 foot above high water. The steel was cleaned 
by sandblast and blowtorch and painted with mineral pipe 
coating applied hot. 61 

Though the twenties saw the first of the beautiful million- 
dollar bridges across the Mississippi, the Cappelen Memorial 
Bridge at Franklin Avenue was actually begun in 1919 and only 
completed in 1923. What made this bridge famous and brought 
engineers from Europe to study it was neither its simple and 
rugged beauty nor its cost, but the fact that in its 400-foot 
center span it had the longest concrete arch until then ever 
built. The Cappelen Bridge, 1,100 feet in length, is located in 
Minneapolis' southwestern residential district; Franklin Ave- 
nue, which crosses it, is a main link between two well-settled 
city districts formerly served by a thirty-year-old five-span 
steel bridge. The need for a new crossing at this point was so 
great that Cappelen, after the completion of the Third Avenue 
Bridge, immediately put his mind to the problem; it was he 
who made the general plans, though he did not live to see them 
completed. Oustad was immediately responsible for the design 
of the structure that was to become a memorial to Cappelen's 
long municipal service. 62 

Permanence and beauty were especially desirable in the 
Franklin Avenue Bridge the latter because of the scenic sur- 
roundings. The only building materials that would give the 
desired monumental appearance were stone and concrete. Of 
the two, concrete reinforced with steel was the more practical. 
An arch bridge was best from an aesthetic point of view, but 

61 Engineering and Contracting, 48:538 (December 6, 1917), and Engineering 
News-Record, 79:1195 (December 7, 1917). 

02 Some of the best discussions of this bridge are Engineering News-Record, 90: 
148-152 (January 25, 1923); Concrete, 24:207 (May, 1924); Cement and Engineering 
News, 32:21 (May, 1920); Minnesota Techno-Log, 6:145 (February, 1926), and 7:174 
(March, 1927). 

150 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

navigation requirements called for a span at least 300 feet long 
and a clearance height of 50 feet presenting a real problem 
to the engineer. Where Franklin Avenue crosses the Mississippi 
the distance between the gorge's limestone bluffs is over 1,000 
feet. Ponding, resulting from the government dam several miles 
downstream, caused some people to believe that river naviga- 
tion would become important in the future; for the present it 
necessitated special precautions against high water. It was also 
desirable that construction of the new bridge interfere as little 
as possible with traffic across the old one that at least a 
crossing for pedestrians should be maintained during construc- 
tion. Since there was also a possibility of using the old bridge 
for the transportation of materials used in construction, it was 
decided to build over and around that structure and to thrust 
the main span long enough to pass beyond the old piers. 

The sides of the gorge naturally invited the larger part of the 
thrust of the 400-foot span, and to transmit the thrust, it was 
desirable to make the approach spans as long as possible; un- 
fortunately, however, the nature of the gorge limited the length 
of the latter to about 200 feet. 

Under these conditions the thrust on the main piers could not be 
balanced, unless the side arches had been made of shallow rise by 
depressing the crown far below roadway level, which was not con- 
sidered esthetically desirable. But a pleasing proportioning of spans 
was obtained, and Mr. Cappelen's skill and good taste in design 
soon developed this layout into the general plan as now being 
carried out. . . . 

The detailed design, largely worked out by Mr. Oustad, is un- 
usually simple in its architectural features, making use of almost no 
ornament; for example, the ends of the spandrel columns are simple 
square faces, without any molding. The result is a demonstration 
of what can be achieved with plain details provided the structural 
proportioning is good. 63 

In June, 1927, the Intercity (or Ford) Bridge was completed, 
connecting the Highland-Ford Parkway in St. Paul with Forty- 
sixth Avenue South and Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. An- 
other reinforced-concrete arch bridge, it consists of a main 

88 Engineering News-Record, 90: 149. 

151 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

structure of 1,520 feet spanning the river and 1,200 feet of ap- 
proaches, including an overhead viaduct and an undercrossing 
bridge for the separation of grades. A state law specified that 
the new bridge was to be constructed by a Twin City commit- 
tee with C. M. Babcock, state highway commissioner, as chair- 
man. The design and construction were worked out under the 
general direction of the city engineers of Minneapolis and St. 
Paul. Grytbak was in immediate charge of the preparation of 
plans and was later entrusted with construction, which began 
in August, 1925 . 64 

Where the Intercity Bridge crosses the Mississippi, a short 
distance above the high dam, the river has a deep narrow gorge 
in the sandstone, filled to a depth of 35 feet with sand, gravel, 
and boulders; the water is also about 35 feet deep and about 
1,000 feet in width. To cross the gorge, three main arches were 
provided with 300 feet of clear span, each with two-arch ribs 
having a rise of about 88 feet. These were flanked on either 
end by an arch of about 139 feet. The concrete viaduct has 
four shorter arch spans at right angles to the bridge; thus river- 
front pleasure drivers ride under the bridge approach on the 
east side. The roadway of the bridge proper was designed for 
heavier traffic than the Cappelen Bridge and provides a double 
streetcar track. 

The Intercity Bridge differed from the Cappelen in its foun- 
dation problem. The sinking of the pier caissons and the con- 
struction of sheet pile cofferdams in deep water constituted a 
most difficult feature. According to the city engineer of St. Paul, 
George M. Shepard, the piers were "carried down to solid rock 
a depth of 70 feet below water level/' He continues: 

With practically 35 feet of water above the gravel, coffer dam 
construction was extremely difficult. It was, however, successfully 
carried out by driving single sheet steel sheet piling 50 feet long 

M For the Intercity Bridge, see P. Caufourier, "Pont en beton arro^ sur le Missis- 
sippi entre Saint-Paul et Minneapolis (Etats-Unis) ," in Le Genie Civil, 98: 880-888 
(September 8, 1928); M. S. Grytbak, "Concrete Arch Bridge over the Mississippi," in 
Engineering News-Record, 99:754-758 (November 10, 1927); Minnesota Federation 
of Architectural and Engineering Societies, Bulletin, 18:21-&8 (July, 1928); and 
Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, p. 1, 14 (March, 1929). 

152 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

about each of the two center piers. Forms for the four concrete 
caissons of 10 feet inside diameter were located in their proper 
position inside the coffer dam of each pier. The caisson shell was 
concreted in this position and the cylinders sunk to rock without 
accident or failure. . . . Following the sinking of the cylinders the 
interiors were filled with concrete and a 10 foot slab of concrete 
poured about the tops for the entire area of the pier. The water was 
then pumped from the coffer dam and the pier construction carried 
above water line. 65 

Another unusual feature of this project was the cableway, sup- 
ported by movable towers, which carried form materials, sheet 
piling, and concrete out over the river to where it was used. 
This, combined with the concrete plant on the Minneapolis side 
one of the best in the Northwest made for an ingenious 
working arrangement that was well described in an account 
written at the time of building: 

Materials are dumped from trucks into chutes at the top of the 
cliff and go by gravity flow directly into bins above the mixing 
drums. The mix is proportioned by weight in a hopper resting on 
the lever system of a large dial scale. From the drums, the mixed 
concrete is transported up by belt conveyor to the cableway bucket 
loading platform at the top of the bluff. It takes four minutes for 
the mix to be transported from the mixing drums to the forms in 
the bed of the river. 

The entire works are ,run with electric power supplied from two 
generators driven by Diesel engines. 66 

The civil engineer not infrequently has had to contend with 
the politician, whom he unjustly despises, and a type of archi- 
tect-aesthete, whose fine sensibilities are often disturbed by the 
vigorous honesty of engineering designs. Both politicians and 
aesthetic architects had their innings during the building of 
the Intercity Bridge, as in all such projects, and no one was 
more keenly affected than Grytbak. 

Certain factions in St. Paul were anxious to postpone the project 
indefinitely, and for a while had the newspapers and a number of 

"Minnesota Techno-Log, 7:192 (March, 1927). 

** Walter H. Wheeler, "Minnesota Bridge Construction," in Minnesota Techno-Log* 
6:160 (February, 1926). See also Charles R. Hansen, "Methods of Concrete Control 
and Some Test Results in the Construction of a Concrete Arch Bridge across the 
Mississippi River between St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota," in Minnesota Fed- 
eration of Architectural and Engineering Societies, Bulletin, 18:21-28 (July, 1928). 

153 



SAGA IN' STEEL AND CONCRETE 

city organizations attacking the committee and engineers which 
had the bridge in charge, and the architects especially were in- 
censed over not having been consulted in the design of the structure. 
The plans when completed were severely criticized by the archi- 
tects; especially were the 139-foot approach arches the point of at- 
tack. The selection of these spans was made by the engineers for 
reasons of economy because the preliminary plans and estimates 
had shown a two-hundred-thousand-dollar increase in the cost were 
each 139-foot span to be replaced by three short-arch spans. While 
the shorter spans would have added to the massiveness of the 
approaches, the hazards of construction would have been larger, 
and the cost would have exceeded the $1,600,000 bond issue. This 
at least would have delayed the project for another two years. 
Since the completion of the bridge, no further criticism has been 
heard; in fact, the committee has received compliments for its ap- 
pearance as well as the workmanship. 67 

The fourth of the Twin Cities arched concrete bridges in 
whose design and construction a Norwegian engineer took part 
crosses the Mississippi at Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis. 68 This 
bridge was completed in September, 1929, at a cost of about 
$1,260,000, a figure somewhat greater than that for the Cap- 
pelen bridge. It was the opinion of Oustad and also of other 
engineers that in designing the Franklin Avenue structure he 
had made it too heavy; the Cedar Avenue Bridge is conse- 
quently lighter in plan, with smaller arch spans and concrete 
bents. 69 Two 250-foot spans form the channel portion of the 
structure; their crown rises about 110 feet above low water. 
Like the Third Avenue Bridge, this one is built on curves, 
the reason for this arrangement, however, being the nature of 

67 M. S. Grytbak, "Concrete Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River between St. 
Paul and Minneapolis/' in Norwegian-American Technical Journal , vol. , no. 1, p, 14 
(March, 1929). 

08 It should perhaps be noted that Oustad, in Minneapolis, designed the bridges 
across Minnehaha Creek, Bassett's Creek, and Shingle Creek; also the Lowry Avenue 
Bridge, with five steel bow truss spans, the Forty-second Avenue North Bridge, of 
the same general type, and the Cedar Avenue Bridge over Lake Nokomis. He also 
supervised the rebuilding of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge in 1913 and the Washington 
Avenue South Bridge in 1905. Grytbak likewise has designed a large number of 
bridges in St. Paul, the most notable being the Kellogg Boulevard viaduct, built in 
1930 and 2,100 feet in length; the Keserve Street Bridge, 1942; and all structures in 
connection with the widening of Kellogg Boulevard between Sibley Street and Seven 
Corners, 1928-36. 

00 Interview, March 87, 1940, in Minneapolis. Frederick T. Paul, city engineer in 
Minneapolis, co-operated in designing this bridge under the direction of N. W. Elsberg. 

154 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

the location rather than of the foundation conditions that 
existed. 70 

v 

While Chicago and the Twin Cities are the major bridge 
centers in our story, there were others where the influence of 
Norwegian engineers was significant. The largest city in the 
Pacific Northwest and one of the most important seaports on 
the Pacific coast is Seattle, located on the east shore of Puget 
Sound. The city was ravished by fire in 1889, and after that 
date experienced a tremendous growth, one phase of which was 
the building of bridges. Located in an almost unbelievably 
beautiful region, where mountains, water, and evergreens are 
the chief scenic features, Seattle rises from the shores of the 
sound and of inland lakes, presenting a series of hills and val- 
leys that are at once an invitation and a challenge to the bridge- 
builder. In addition, Lake Washington is linked with Puget 
Sound by a ship canal more than 8 miles long, which passes 
through Lake Union in the north central p'art of the city and 
connects with the sound by means of locks. This canal within 
the city must be kept open for shipping and it calls for a modi- 
fied form of the Chicago bascule bridge. 71 

When Minister moved to Seattle from St. Paul, he served, it 
will be recalled, for many years as consulting engineer for the 
city, particularly on the design and construction of a number 
of its bridges Notable were those at Fifteenth Avenue West, 
Fremont Avenue, Eastlake Avenue, and West Spokane Avenue. 
For a short time he was also bridge engineer and in this capac- 
ity directed the design and construction of the Montlake Bridge 
over the Lake Washington ship canal. One of Minister's first 
important jobs in Seattle was the designing of a reinforced- 
concrete viaduct carrying a street over railroad yards. With the 
opening of the vast unclaimed tideland areas in the southern 

70 Engineering News-Record, 105:49 (July 10, 1930); Minnesota Techno-Log, 7:174 
(March, 1927). 

71 An effective argument for beauty in Seattle bridges is H. G. Tyrrell, "A Plea 
for Beautiful Bridges/' in Association of Engineering Societies, Journal, 54:35-43 
(January, 1915). 

155 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

part of the city, the business interests that moved in demanded 
street improvements and new facilities for an increasing high- 
way traffic. Under the pressure of these demands, in 1912 the 
Great Northern Railway Company put up a viaduct carrying 
the west half of Fourth Avenue south of Jackson Street, clear- 
ing the extensive yards of the railroad. Miinster designed this 
viaduct and acted as consultant during the entire period of its 
construction. 72 

When Seattle decided to build three double-leaf bascule 
bridges across the Lake Washington-Puget Sound Canal, the 
federal government, in assuming a share of the cost, put down 
certain conditions that the city had to meet: the bridges must 
be of a permanent nature and should give a clear navigation 
channel of 200 feet as well as a head clearance of 30 feet above 
the level of the lake. Three of the bridges that were built, at 
Eastlake, Fifteenth, and Fremont avenues, actually have spans 
of over 200 feet. The bridges at Fifteenth and Eastlake avenues 
have no counterweight pits. The head clearance of all three is 
sufficient to permit small ships to pass without opening the 
bridge. These bridges followed the general design developed in 
Chicago but embodied a special arrangement of supports at 
the trunnion piers, "by which the counterweight is made to do 
double duty. . . . The bridges, which are ... of simple trun- 
nion type, have a live-load bearing near the river edge of each 
trunnion pier, 13 ft. in front of the trunnions, and in closed 
position each leaf pivots on this bearing instead of on the trun- 
nion," Two of the bridges were begun in 1915 and finished in 
1917, and the one at Eastlake Avenue was completed in the 
spring of 1919. Miinster, as consulting engineer, had a major 
part in designing all three. 78 

As acting bridge engineer in Seattle, Miinster also had charge 
of the bascule over the canal at Montlake Avenue, near the 
University of Washington. Completed in 1925 four years 
before the engineer's death -this structure is a fitting me- 

72 Engineering News, 67: 519-523 (March 21, 1912). 

TO R. A. Rapp, "Three Double-Leaf Bascule Bridges at Seattle, Wash.," in Engi- 
neering News-Record, 84:718-722 (April 8, 1920). 

156 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

morial to Minister's long bridge career. The Montlake or Mont- 
lake-Stadium Bridge rests on foundations that had been put 
in twelve years earlier, at the time the canal was built. It was 
designed according to its location and to the peculiar problems 
involved. Its span is 182 feet between the centers of rotation 
of the two leaves and its roadway carries two streetcar tracks. 
The trunnions of the Montlake Avenue Bridge are a distinctive 
feature. "By supporting the trunnions on a cantilever projection 
or bracket extending out from the side of the pier . . . the 
necessity for a cross-girder was done away with." The bracing 
around the trunnions and their provision for taking the weight 
of the floor when the leaves are in open position is also novel. 
The bridge is at the east entrance of the university campus, 
and because of the hilly nature of the city, the towers rise more 
than 100 feet above water and are visible from afar. Consider- 
able attention was given to the design of the concrete ap- 
proaches and towers, which blend easily into the surrounding 
architecture. 74 

No discussion of Seattle bridges is complete without refer- 
ence to the floating, or pontoon bridge across Lake Washington. 
It is the work of Jacob Samuelsen, who graduated from Christ- 
iania's Technical College in 1905. As chief engineer of the Gen- 
eral Construction Company, he has figured prominently in the 
planning and construction of many projects in the Pacific 
Northwest, including power dams as well as bridges. During 
World War II he was associated with Henry Kaiser in vital 
war projects. 

VI 

The engineer who is destined to be known as the builder of 
novel, yet sound bridges is John Geist, a native of Bergen. As 
chief engineer of the Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Company, he 
was responsible for the spiral bridge at Hastings, Minnesota, 
and the lift bridge of the Sixteenth Street viaduct in Milwau- 
kee. 

The lift bridge at Milwaukee, completed in 1895, connects 

74 Engineering News-Record, 95:826-829 (November 19, 1925). 

157 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

two densely populated portions of the city by spanning the 
North Menominee Canal. A 68-foot opening in the clear of the 
canal was needed for the passage of large vessels to and from 
the coalyards and other industrial and commercial establish- 
ments in the neighborhood. Moreover, because of the high 
value of the dock property on both sides, an ordinary swing 
bridge was out of the question. A swing bridge, even if made 
with unequal arms, would prevent boats from mooring close 
to the bridge and would obstruct the already narrow channel. 
It was thought desirable to locate the opening as near the mid- 
dle of the stream as possible. The city engineer decided to adopt 
some kind of lift bridge but left the general design to bidders. 
Geist's design was accepted. 

The Geist bridge, built of steel, had two main girders sup- 
ported by a swinging strut near one end and by rollers near the 
other. These rollers moved on a stationary curved track of such 
form that when the strut swung through the arc, the center of 
gravity of the swinging portion moved back in a horizontal 
line. 75 When the bridge was fully opened, the floor of the swing- 
ing portion formed a gate for roadway and walks. Though ac- 
tually run by electric motors, the mechanism could be operated 
by two men using hand power. 76 

Every motorist who crosses the Mississippi at Hastings, 
Minnesota, has the curious experience of going up a corkscrew 
approach on the Hastings side of the river before coming to 
the bridge proper. The Hastings Spiral Bridge, believed to be 
the only one of its kind, is the ingenious solution of a peculiar 
problem. The height of the river span would have necessitated 
on the Hastings side either a long approach or a very steep one. 
A steep approach is never satisfactory and a long one was out 
of the question, as valuable business property borders the river. 

75 The motion is like that of two bascule leaves supported, and revolving upon 
horizontal trunnions at their middle points above the piers, but the trunnions arc 
replaced by two pairs of revolving radial struts and guide rollers. Engineering Record, 
31: 56 (March 9, 1895). 

76 The best accounts are by Geist in Engineering News, 83:146 (March 7, 1895); 
and Railroad Gazette, 27:649-651 (October 4, 1895). 

158 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

Geist and others solved the problem by making use of a corner 
lot and erecting a spiral approach on it. 7T 

Mention has been made earlier of Edward Wilmann, Pihl- 
feldt's predecessor as bridge engineer for Chicago. Wilmann 
graduated from Bergen's Technical College in 1883. He was one 
of many engineers to plan the buildings of the Columbian Ex- 
position of 1893 and he has been credited, among other things, 
with the construction of the Union Station in Washington, D. C. 

Hans Ibsen will be remembered for having designed and 
constructed the double-track steel arch bridge over Niagara 
Falls for the Michigan Central Railroad. The new structure, 
the heaviest yet built over the Niagara River, opened to traffic 
early in 1925, replacing a famous cantilever bridge. It created 
considerable attention at the time because its two-hinged span- 
drel-braced arch of 640-foot span embodied advanced methods 
of construction and was bold in design. Its location at Niagara 
Falls also placed more than common emphasis on pleasing pro- 
portions and generally good appearance. 78 

The new Michigan Central bridge took a slightly different 
location from the old, just below the city of Niagara Falls; the 
reason was the necessity for finding satisfactory abutments for 
the long arch in the walls of the gorge. An arch sprung between 
gorge walls is the best possible solution of the problem of such 
a bridge, and the walls in this case are composed of horizontal 

77 Hastings Gazette, May 27, 1927; and Minnesota Techno-Log, 9:252, 268 (May, 
1929), Oscar Claussen, St. Paul city engineer, 1912-20, was consulting engineer for 
Hastings during the planning of the bridge. He must therefore be credited with sharing 
the honor of devising the spiral design. The Minneapolis Tribune, June 23, 1946, 
names three possible originators of the spiral idea H. E. Hortan of the Chicago Bridge 
Company, Oscar Claussen, and James C. Meloy but does not mention Geist. Paul 
Kingston, in "A Bridge Oddity," in Minnesota Techno-Log, 9:252, 268 (May, 1929), 
says that John Geist was the engineer in charge of construction, and that "he had 
much to do with the actual design of the steel." This, he says, was "only one of the 
unique bridges on which John Geist worked." He mentions, together with the lift 
bridge in Milwaukee, the "long spans on the Great Northern Railroad at Albans Falls 
in Idaho." Kingston adds that Hortan suggested the spiral and Claussen "worked up" 
the general plan of the bridge. 

78 Good accounts are Engineering News-Record, 90:380-386 (March 1, 1923), and 
93:716-718 (October 30> 1924); H. Ibsen, "New 640-Ft. Arch Span Bridge at Niagara 
Falls," in Canadian Engineer, 44:139-142 (January 16, 1923); Engineering Journal, 
8:159-162, and 205-210 (April and May, 1925); Engineer (London), 139:490, 492 
(May 1, 1925); Minneapolis tidende, December 25, 1924. 

159 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

strata of firm limestones, sandstones, and shales. The floor, too, 
is unusual, ill that it rests on the top chord, thereby forming 
no part of the arch structure. A total of 7,500 tons of steel went 
into this bridge, which carries trains 223 feet above water. In- 
terestingly, each half of the arch was erected as a cantilever 
and was held in place by an eyebar tie running back to an 
anchorage in the upper part of the cliff's rocky side. The ad- 
vantages claimed for Ibsen's bridge by the Canadian Engineer 
were that it would carry the heaviest loads at the greatest 
speeds obtainable and, because of its design, would fit pleas- 
ingly into the scenic surroundings. 79 It was developed and 
constructed under the direction of Ibsen, once a student at 
Bergen's Technical College and later special bridge engineer 
for the Michigan Central Railroad. Olaf Hoff served as advi- 
sory engineer. 

Another designer of railroad bridges is Erik Eriksen, a gradu- 
ate of Trondhjem's Technical College employed by the Cana- 
dian National Railways in the bridge department of the central 
region, at Toronto. In 1933 Eriksen, as designing engineer, was 
responsible for the plans of a double-track rigid-frame rein- 
forced-concrete bridge for heavy loading. Providing a clear 
span of over 72 feet, this is believed to surpass in length other 
bridges of its kind; it was built under traffic west of Montreal, 
on the main line between that city and Toronto. It crosses a 
concrete highway at Vaudreuil and is on a skew, both the rail- 
road and the highway below having a curvature at the crossing. 80 

Prominence has recently come to yet another graduate of 
Trondhjem's Technical College. He is Ingolf Erdal, formerly 
with the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company but since 1936 
a member of the consulting firm of Hazelet and Erdal of Chi- 
cago. The company, in which Erdal acts as chief engineer, in 
1938 won the first prize of $5,000 in international competition 

70 Canadian Engineer, 48: 101-108 (January 6, 1925). See also H. Ibsen's "Demoli- 
tion of Niagara Falls Cantilever Bridge," in Engineering News-Record, 95: 105&-1063 
(December 31, 1925). 

80 Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 207; materials in archives of Norwegian- 
American Technical Society, Chicago; Concrete, 42:5 (January, 1934)" and Railway 
Age, 96:430-433 (March 24, 1934). 

160 



SPANNING AMERICA'S KIVERS 

for the best structural and architectural design of an elevated 
superhighway; the contest was sponsored by the American In- 
stitute of Steel Construction and attracted nearly 300 designs. 81 

Erdal's bridge career has followed the usual pattern; he has 
been draftsman, detailer and checker, and designer with private 
companies and with the Chicago sanitary district. While work- 
ing for the architectural firm of Holabird and Root, he designed 
the steel trusses over the ballroom of the Stevens Hotel in 
Chicago; these trusses support the 20 stories above. With the 
Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company, he directed the design 
of six large bascule bridges for the French Railways, two for 
the city of London, and four in China. The last include the 
large highway bridge connecting the international settlements 
in Tientsin, which his company built after an international 
competition involving 35 European and American firms. In 
1939 Erdal's firm won first prize for the most beautiful mov- 
able bridge actually constructed in 1938, in another competi- 
tion sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction 
and entered by more than 200 individuals or firms. 82 

The prize-winning bridge erected by Hazelet and Erdal 
crosses the east channel of the Saginaw River at Lafayette 
Avenue in Bay City, Michigan, and it is composed of a long 
bascule span and two shorter approach spans. 83 The double-leaf 
skew bascule, affording space for navigation on the river's east 
branch, is of the Scherzer rolling-lift type. A fixed bridge of 
deck-plate girder spans covers the nonnavigable west channel. 8 * 

81 Erdal to the author, April 2'2, 1940; Alstad, Trandhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 106; 
Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 12, no. 1, p. 14 (July, 1939); interview 
with Erdal, February, 1941; Engineering News-Record,, 120:666 (May 12, 1938). Ac- 
cording to the Chicago Tribune, April 8 and 12, 1938, the elevated highway had a 
streamlined four-lane roadway lifted above surface congestion by single pedestals made 
up of two supporting legs. It could be put up without causing heavy property damage. 
Erdal was pleased that beauty was obtainable without sacrifice of functional efficiency. 
One notable feature was the roadway's open steel grid floor, which replaced the usual 
concrete and increased safety by preventing skidding, at the same time providing ven- 
" tilation and making for a shallower deck. 

** Engineering News-Record, 120:490 (April 7, 1938). 

88 Engineering News-Record, 122:827 (June 22, 1939). 

84 Craig P. Hazelet, "Bay City Improves Its Bridges," in Engineering News-Record, 
123: 238 (August 17, 1939). 

161 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

VII 

Of the engineers thus far discussed all have been prominent 
and have therefore figured publicly in the designing and con- 
structing of America's bridges. There are many more who, 
though of subordinate rank, nevertheless have earned a fair 
measure of recognition in their profession, either because of 
their particular function or the magnitude of the project with 
which they were associated. 

In 1905 the engineering journals proudly announced what 
was to be the longest span bridge in history to carry both 
highway and railway across the St. Lawrence at Quebec. This 
ill-fated steel bridge was to have been completed by 1909. 
Theodore Cooper, the great New York engineer, served as con- 
sultant, and designs, calculations, details, estimates and quan- 
tities were approved in his office, where Bernt Berger, his chief 
of staff, personally supervised all these matters. On August 29, 
1907, the boldly conceived bridge collapsed. On the day of the 
disaster Cooper telegraphed to the builders to place no more 
load on the structure until it had been looked over, but no one 
dreamed that collapse was imminent. In the C. C. Schneider 
report that resulted from an investigation of the accident, the 
general opinion of engineers was confirmed: the bridge had 
turned out to be some 20 per cent heavier than was contem- 
plated by the stress sheets. 85 Cooper and Berger were cleared 
of any guilt. 

Despite the failure of the first attempt to throw so vast a 
bridge over the St. Lawrence, the task was taken up again, 
and in September, 1917, the engineers were ready to hoist fhe 
central span weighing about 4,950 tons between the canti- 
lever arms at either end. In what was said to be one of the 
"greatest feats of bridge engineering the world has ever seen/' 
the work was completed on September 20; a clear distance of 
1,800 feet the longest span in the world between main piers 
was finally bridged. All of the lifting apparatus hydraulic 

85 Engineering Record, 51:268-274, 868-370, 408 (March 4, April 1, 8 1905) 56' 
249 (September 7, 1907); Engineering News, 60:153 (August 6, 1908). 

162 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

machinery furnished by Watson Stillman was designed by 
Carl Wigtel. 86 

An equally notable achievement was that of Einar B. Ber- 
gendahl, a native of Vads0, in planning and building the famous 
Delaware Bridge between Philadelphia and Camden, New 
Jersey. Completed in 1926, this was for a time the world's 
largest suspension bridge. It was jointly built by the states of 
New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and it became a vital link in 
highway traffic between two populous cities as well as on a 
trunk east-west route. A board of three engineers was chosen 
to design and build the bridge; its chairman was Ralph Modjeski, 
one of America's greatest builders of bridges. The result of their 
labors was the spanning of a distance of 1,750 feet with a bridge 
allowing for a six-lane roadway and four streetcar tracks as well 
as sidewalks. Both from technical and aesthetic points of view 
the bridge was a "distinguished achievement." 87 

The Delaware Bridge at Philadelphia, though referred to in 
the Norwegian-American newspapers as the work of a Norwe- 
gian engineer, is rather the product of a small army of engineers, 
none of them if the official records are reliable Norwegian. 
Nordisk tidende, however, refers to Bergendahl as the man who 
made the calculations (beregninger) for the bridge. 88 He was 
office engineer for Modjeski in the firm Modjeski and Angier 
of Chicago, then the largest bridgebuilding concern in the 
country, and Modjeski was chief engineer of the Delaware pro- 
ject. That Modjeski would delegate much of the work of calcu- 
lating and estimating to Bergendahl was only natural. 89 

Just as Bergendahl worked with Modjeski, so Hans Henrik 

86 For vivid accounts of this event, see Railway Age Gazette, 63:569-573 (Septem- 
ber 2'8, 1917); Engineering and Contracting, 48: 59-261 (September 26, 1917); Engi- 
neering News-Record, 79:580-584 (September 27, 1917); Canadian Engineer, 33:235- 
239, 266 (September 20, 1917); Engineer (London), 124:381-384 (November 2, 1917). 

87 Of the many able discussions of this bridge, see Engineering News-Record, 97: 
530-535, 578-584 (September 30 and October 7, 1926); Franklin Institute, Journal, 
193:1-14 (January, 1922); and Western Society of Engineers, Journal, 28:229-248 
(June, 1923). The last two articles are by Ralph Modjeski. 

88 February 2, 1922. 

,* For more information about Bergendahl, see Minneapolis tidende, July 14, 1927; 
Nordmands-forbundet, 15:123 (1922); Scandia, June 2', 1917; and Skandinaven, Au- 
gust 17, 1917. 

163 



SAGA IN STEEL AM) CONCRETE 

Rode was an assistant to Gustav Lindenthal, another outstand- 
ing figure in American bridge history. 90 A native of R0ros, Rode 
was a graduate of the Hanover .Polytechnicum. During his 
early years in America he was supervisor of design for McClintic- 
Marshall Company and thus had charge of the design of the 
New York Connecting Railroad, including the Hell Gate Bridge 
at the time the longest and heaviest steel arch in the world 
and the most important part of the connecting railroad. He 
supervised the design and was field inspector for the Kentucky 
River High Bridge and took an active part in developing plans 
for LindenthaFs competitive design of the Quebec Bridge. After 
a period as chief engineer in a German firm, Rode was called 
as professor to Norway's Institute of Technology. But during 
1924-26 he was back in the United States with his former chief, 
this time as resident engineer in charge of the Burnside, Ross 
Island, and Sellwood bridges built for Multnomak County at 
Portland, Oregon. Of these bridges, the Burnside over the Wil- 
lamette River has a large bascule span. The Ross Island Bridge 
is characterized by its graceful appearance and ingenious canti- 
lever scheme; with approaches it is 4,307 feet long and the 
central part has a channel span of 535 feet, 91 The Sellwood 
Bridge is distinguished by continuous girders over four open- 
ings. Rode, who later met death in an automobile accident in 
the Tyrol, was highly regarded by Lindenthal. 

Aksel Andersen was destined for a role not unlike that of 
Rode as assistant bridge engineer and professor in Norway's 
Institute of Technology. He is identified chiefly with the George 
Washington Bridge over the Hudson. But his career in America 
includes much more. A graduate of Christiania's Technical Col- 
lege and a fellow of the American-Scandinavian Foundation, 
Andersen completed his studies at the Massachusetts Institute 

80 Lindenthal prepared the memoir of Rode in American Society of Civil Engineers, 
Transactions, 95:1594 (1981). 

^Engineering Record, 69:784-736 (June 27, 1914); Engineer (London), 120:495- 
.497 (November 26, 1915); Nordmands-forbundet, 19:S4Q (1926); Engineering News- 
Record, 95: 584 (October 8, 1925); Western Construction News, 2: 28-81 (February 25, 
1925). 

164 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

of Technology and the University of Wisconsin. 92 Finding em- 
ployment after the customary variety of positions, one under 
Lindenthal with the Port of New York Authority during the 
years 1925-32, he became assistant engineer of design and 
served in this capacity on the George Washington Bridge. His 
work consisted of directing, under the engineer of design, the 
greater part of the calculating, designing, and estimating. The 
3,500-foot structure, completed in 1931, displaced the Delaware 
Bridge as the longest suspension in the world. 

The Washington Bridge was the first to provide a highway 
connection between New York City and the suburban districts 
of northern New Jersey; it crosses from Fort Washington Point, 
on the New York side, to the borough of Fort Lee on the Jersey 
shore. In arrangement and detail the bridge is simple, and from 
an aesthetic point of view, a work of art.* 3 Something of its 
tremendous size is grasped when one considers that it is twice 
the length of the Delaware Bridge span and has eight auto 
lanes, two lanes for pedestrians, and four tracks. Its towers rise 
to great heights and it provides sufficient clearance for even the 
largest seagoing ships on the Hudson River. The wires used in 
each of its four cables, to mention merely one detail, number 
26,000; and the cables are able to support ten times as much 
weight as those of the Brooklyn Bridge. It operates on a toll 
basis, the method also employed to pay for the tunnels spon- 
sored by the Port Authority. 

According to a Norwegian engineer who worked on the 
Washington Bridge, the best possible engineers were employed, 
no matter where they were summoned from. The engineering 
department of the Port Authority was therefore called the 
"foreign department/' and in it Norwegians were probably in 

99 Information about Andersen's career was obtained from letters from Andersen 
to the author; material in the archives of the Norwegian-American Technical Society, 
Chicago; and Scandia, July 8, 1938. 

83 Engineering News-Record, 99: 212-217 (August 11, 1927), and 107: 640-645 (Octo- 
ber 22, 1931). Ole Singstad was consulting engineer for the vehicular tunnel approach. 
Volume 97 (1933) of the Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers is 
given over entirely to the Washington Bridge. A most significant section is "George 
Washington Bridge: Design of Superstructure," by Allston Dana, Aksel Andersen, and 
George M. Rapp, p. 97-163. 

165 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the majority. 94 In addition to Andersen, who was right-hand 
man to the chief engineer in the laying of plans, mention should 
be made of H. C. Borchgrevink and Arne Lier, who participated 
in the vast project. 95 

Andersen also made, under the advisory engineer of design, 
studies and estimates for the Raritan Bay Bridge; he worked 
out the preliminary design and estimates for the Outer Bridge 
crossing and Goethals Bridge, and directed in part the prepara- 
tion of contract drawings, co-operated with architects in the 
development of various design features, and checked the con- 
tractors' working drawings and other projects. 96 When the Kill 
van Kull Bridge between Bayonne, New Jersey, and Port Rich- 
mond, New York, was undertaken during the depression, An- 
dersen was again assistant engineer of design. The Kill van Kull 
Bridge, completed in 1932, is a 1,675-foot steel arch costing 
$16,000,000. 97 Andersen, after serving a short time with Waddell 
and Hardesty, consulting engineers, was employed from 1934 
to 1936 by Ash, Howard, Needles, and Tarnmen, also consulting 
engineers in New York City. While with the latter firm he 
designed, checked, and partly directed the design of shop draw- 
ings for the steel structures of the Harlem River Bronx Kills 
lift and approach spans of the Triborough Bridge in New York. 
The Triborough project, completed in 1936, joined Manhattan 
by highway with the growing borough of Queens to the east 
and Queens, in turn, with the Bronx. These three areas had 
formerly been isolated by water. 98 Andersen also checked the 
structural design and contract plans for the Mantua Creek lift 
bridge, the design for the Cohansey River and Manasquan 
River bascule bridges, and the proposed Yazoo River Bridge 
all in New Jersey. He designed and directed calculations for 

M Trygve Gimnes, "Norske ingeni0rer i New York," in Nordmanns-jorbundet, 25: 
38 (1932). 

95 Nordmands-forbundet, 20:20 (1927). 

90 Port of New York, 7:9 (March, 1928); materials in archives of Norwegian- 
American Technical Society. 

97 Engineering News-Record, 105:640-645 (October 23, 1930); Engineering and 
Contracting, 69:285-289 (August, 1930); and Engineering (London), 133:1-4, 59-62 
(January 1 and 15, 1932). 

M Civil Engineering, 6: 515-519 (August, 1936) . 

166 



SPANNING AMERICA'S RIVERS 

the cantilever structure and 300-foot continuous spans of the 
Neches River Bridge in Texas; finally, with Robinson and Stein- 
man, of New York, he designed, co-ordinated, and checked the 
contract plans for the superstructures of the Marine Parkway 
Bridge in New Jersey." What the brilliant Andersen might 
eventually have become as a bridge engineer in the New World 
is a matter for pure conjecture; in 1938 he accepted a position 
as professor in the Institute of Technology at Trondhjem, be- 
lieving that "an exchange student should, sooner or later, return 
to his native land and bring back with him the fruits of his 
studies and experiences." 

Representative of many engineers whose work was done in 
smaller cities, Knud Sophus Riser, a graduate of Christiania's 
Technical College, was once chief engineer of the Clinton (Iowa) 
Bridge and Iron Company. While in this position he designed 
a bridge across the Mississippi at La Crosse, Wisconsin, that had 
three fixed spans and a single draw span of 450 feet, and the 
High Bridge at Clinton totaling 3,300 feet in length. After 
holding other positions in Detroit and Pennsylvania, he be- 
came, in 1901, president and chief engineer of the Gran4 Rapids 
(Michigan) Bridge Company; later he went into private prac- 
tice in Grand Rapids, where he won the reputation of being 
the "court of final resort" in all problems involving steel de- 
sign. 100 

The long list of significant bridge engineers is by no means 
exhausted. Hilmar Andresen, a graduate of Christiania's Tech- 
nical College, was for almost fifteen years bridge designing 
engineer for the city of Chicago. Ralph Eng, structural engi- 
neer with Waddell and Hardesty in New York City, played an 
important role in the building of the Jamestown Bridge in 
Rhode Island, the St. George Bridge in Philadelphia, and the 
Thomas Circle Underpass in Washington, D. C. Another gradu- 
ate of Christiania's Technical College, L. E. Sangdahl, was once 
assistant engineer in the bridge and building department of 



89 Information supplied by Aksel Andersen, 

100 American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 96:1537 (1932). 



167 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the Northern Pacific, with office at Glendive, Montana; in this 
capacity he did much pioneer work with railroad bridges as well 
as shops and tracks. Later becoming chief engineer of the Mil- 
waukee Bridge Company, Sangdahl was placed in charge of the 
construction layout of the Belle Island Bridge at Detroit. And 
George Kristian Parman, a graduate of Christiania's Technical 
College who became bridge designer for the Union Pacific Rail- 
road Company in Omaha, designed, over a period of thirty 
years, most of the standard bridges built by his progressive 
employers. 101 These men, by overcoming obstacles that would 
hinder normal transportation, have also woven their lives un- 
mistakably into the fabric of America's growth. 

m Resume supplied by G. K Parman. He takes particular pride in the planning of 
the Spokane, Washington, passenger terminal. 



168 



REVOLUTION 

WHILE bridges have evolved from IN 

the primitive structures of early man 
and have a history spanning every TUNNELING 
known means of transportation, tun- 
nels and subways belong peculiarly to 
our own age. They are a part of the story of the railroad and the 
motor vehicle both of recent origin. In their construction, 
therefore, inventiveness and novelty play a part that is a vital 
one when no large body of slowly accumulated experience is 
at hand to guide the engineer. And the men who pioneered in 
this branch of transportation, while still embarking on new 
projects and meeting problems peculiar to local conditions, yet 
recognize that the major obstacles involved in underground 
travel have been met and overcome; their task today is largely 
one of perfecting and improving tunnels that were only recently 
completed. In the saga of tunnel and subway building Ameri- 
can engineers have been conspicuous leaders, though they have 
borrowed much from English experience; and among these en- 
gineers Olaf Hoff, Ole Singstad, and Sverre Dahm were pioneers 
of unquestioned prominence. 

I 

The underwater tunnel originated in England. The first of its 
kind was driven under the Thames about three miles east of 
Charing Cross and was completed in 1843 after attempts cover- 
ing a period of twenty-five years. The successful engineer, M. I. 
Brunei, invented a strange device known as a "shield" which 
was used to drive tunnels in soft ground. The tunneling pro- 
cedure begun by Brunei and developed by P. W. Barlow and 
J. H. Greathead can best be described by comparing it with the 

169 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

wood-boring worm, which in fact was supposed to have sug- 
gested the shield method to Brunei. The worm, as it bores its 
way through wood, secretes a lining which prevents the wall of 
the passageway in back of it from caving in. In a similar man- 
ner the shield leaves behind it a tube of cast iron or steel, made 
up of narrow rings which constitute the lining of the completed 
tunnel. 

The use of compressed air, now a regular feature in shield 
tunneling, is credited to Thomas Cochran, who patentee! the 
procedure in 1830. Compressed air is used both for sinking 
shafts and for tunneling under water; it permits work to pro- 
ceed in the dry by holding back the water that constantly 
threatens to pour in. Its chief disadvantage is that it prevents 
the tunnel laborers or "sand hogs" from working for more than 
a few hours at a time. 

With the use of the improved Greathead shield and of com- 
pressed air, English engineers were able in 1869 to drive the 
second Thames tunnel, the little Tower subway, in the short 
span of eleven months. In this project the shield method as it is 
known today was employed in all its essentials. 1 

How the shield works can best be understood by observing 
one in action. After shafts have been sunk and the shield low- 
ered, it is started on its course. As the earth is removed in front, 
the shield is forced ahead by a row of hydraulic jacks around 
the end of the finished lining. The outer rim of the shield is built 
as a blunt cutting edge that also trims the tunnel. Running 
back from the cutting edge is a thick steel cylinder plate about 
15 feet long which supports the freshly tunneled ground be- 
tween the finished lining and the cutting edge. When the shield 
has been driven forward by the jacks about 2% feet, a lining 
ring is put into place. Jacks are released several at a time, a seg- 
ment of the ring is placed by an erector and securely bolted to 
other segments, and the jacks are shortened and replaced. This 
routine is repeated eleven to fifteen times for one ring, which 

1 Kirby and Laurson, Modern Civil Engineering, 171-174. 

170 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

thus constitutes about 2% feet of tunnel. An interior lining of 
concrete is later applied. 2 

The shield might seem, from this description, a kind of steel 
monster operating without human assistance. In reality it is 
bustling with life. Doors can be opened, permitting workers to 
remove the soft dirt in the path of the tunnel. As the shield is 
shoved forward into the muck of the river bed, ribbons of mud 
come pouring into the interior. The dirt is carried back on a 
conveyor and loaded into dump cars. The working chamber of 
the shield is under air pressure sufficient to hold back the rush 
of water or dirt while digging is going on. A bulkhead closes the 
tunnel near the shore, men and material passing in and out of 
it through air locks. 

In the United States the first two efforts at driving river tun- 
nels were unsuccessful. Significantly, both failures occurred at 
points where Hoff, Singstad, and others later succeeded. The 
first attempt was under the Detroit River between Windsor, 
Canada, and Detroit, where a tunnel was to serve as a connec- 
ting link between the Michigan Central Railroad and the Great 
Western of Canada. Begun in 1872 by Ellis Sylvester Ches- 
brough, city engineer of Chicago, the tunnel was never com- 
pleted. The river broke through, workers were killed, and the 
backers became discouraged; they abandoned the project in 
1873. 3 

n 

The obstacles at Detroit were overcome by Olaf Hoff when 
he solved the practical problems involved in laying a tunnel in 
a prepared underwater trench. He thus contributed to the most 
revolutionary development in tunneling since the discovery of 
the shield and the use of compressed air. AS vice-president and 
engineer of Butler Brothers-Hoff Company, he worked out 
plans that supplemented and altered the bold and original idea 

2 S. A. Thoresen, "Tunnel Lining of Welded Steel," in Iron Age, 125:989 (April 3, 
1930) . 

3 Kirby and Laurson, Modern Civil Engineering, 175. For the detailed story of 
discouragement and defeat, see E. S. Chesbrough, "Sketch of the Plans and Progress 
of the Detroit River Tunnel," in American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 
2:85-91 (1872-1874); and "Detroit River Tunnel," in Transactions, 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

of another engineer, and was later rewarded by seeing Ms name 
linked with the new and ingenious techniques. 

Hoff entered upon his work at Detroit after an extensive and 
brilliant career. He was born at Smaalenene in 1859 and gradu- 
ated from Christiania's Technical College with the highest 
honors ever granted by that institution. He left for America in 
1879 and entered the Keystone Bridge Company as assistant 
foreman in one of the firm's Pittsburgh shops. Transferred to 
the drafting room, he was rapidly promoted to assistant chief 
engineer. After a period with the New York Central and Hud- 
son River Railroad, 1901-05, he formed a new company in New 
York with Butler Brothers of St. Paul to develop his plans for 
laying the subaqueous tunnel at Detroit. Hoff was to supervise 
the work of construction if his firm received the contract and to 
have a financial interest in the company. 4 

The Michigan Central Railroad, after vainly trying for years 
to reach an agreement with the Grand Trunk (formerly the 
Great Western) Railway for jointly constructing a bridge or 
tunnel entrance into Detroit from Canada, finally decided to 
build a double-track tunnel under the Detroit River for its own 
use. All through traffic on the Michigan Central, Grand Trunk, 
and Pere Marquette was being ferried across the river that di- 
vides Windsor, Ontario, from Detroit at no little expense and 
inconvenience to the railroads. In the late 1860*s the Michigan 
Central and Great Western lines had agreed to build a tunnel 
jointly and for this purpose had organized the Detroit River 
Transit Company, which was to own and operate the under- 
water connection. It was shortly thereafter that Chesbrough 
was employed to drive a tunnel by means of the familiar shield 
method. 5 Early in the twentieth century, interest once more 

* American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 89:1628 (1926); Who's Who 
in America, 13:1590 (Chicago, 1924-25); Nordisk tidende, November 10, 1921; Min- 
neapolis tidende, December 26, 1924; Morgenbladet (Christiania) , October 26, 1913; 
Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. 1, no. 4, p. 5 (December, 1928) ; Harper's 
Weekly, 56:22 (March 23, 1912); Norwegian- American (Northfield) , April 25, 1913; 
and information received from F. J. Vea of Madison, Wisconsin, a brother-in-law of 
Hoff. 

5 "The Detroit River Tunnel of the Michigan Central," in Railroad Gazette, 
40:149-152 (February 16, 1906). This is the first installment of a serial record. 

172 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

focused on the need of a tunnel which would not only provide a 
link between Canada and the United States but, more signifi- 
cantly, facilitate an uninterrupted rail connection between East 
and West by way of Detroit. 

In 1904, William J. Wilgus, then vice-president of the New 
York Central, anticipating the successful electrification of his 
railroad's terminals in New York City, suggested the feasibility 
of an electrically operated tunnel under the Detroit River. Sub- 
sequent discussion favored a tunnel to consist of two separate 
and single-track tubes, making use of electricity as a driving 
power. Shortly thereafter the Detroit River Tunnel Company 
was organized, and in July, 1905, an advisory board of engi- 
neers, composed of Howard A. Carson, W. S. Kinnear, and 
Wilgus, who was chairman, was engaged to plan construction 
and electrification. Kinnear was charged with local authority as 
chief engineer, a position which he occupied very competently, 
and Benjamin Douglas had direct supervision of construction 
proper. 

By the fall of 1905, the usual surveys and borings had been 
completed and the alignment and profile of the tunnel had 
been determined. The next problem facing the board was the 
choice of one of four suggested types of construction. Wilgus 
said: 

[It] was found that if possible some other method than the usual 
compressed air shield-driven type should be employed, in the in- 
terest of life and health of workers and time and expense of con- 
struction. To that end Mr. Howard A. Carson suggested the use of 
precast pipe sections laid in a dredged trench. This did not appeal 
to me because of anticipated difficulty in effecting tight joints under 
water and securing continuity of support. . . . The idea came to 
me of lowering forms in sections in a prepared trench, around which 
concrete deposited from the water surface by means of the tremie 
[pipe] would harden and seal all joints, thus enabling the interiors to 
be pumped out successively and the concrete lining laid in the dry. 

Wilgus prepared sketches of the tunneling method based on 
this idea, expanded and drew these to scale, made estimates of 
cost, and submitted the scheme to his colleagues on the board 
and to other engineers, including Olaf Hoff. 

173 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

The consensus was that my method, though bold, was practicable. 
The Board thereupon voted to include it, as well as Mr. Carson's 
and the compressed air shield-driven methods, in the requests 
issued for bids on alternative designs. Each bidder was required to 
submit supplemental plans by him deemed necessary to more 
clearly explain the manner in which he proposed to carry out the 
work in conformity with the method of his selection. The lowest 
acceptable bidder proved to be the Butler Brothers Construction 
Company. ... Its proposition was based on the employment of 
the method of which I was the inventor, and was accompanied by 
the required supplemental plans, prepared by Mr. Hoff, illustrative 
of the ingenious manner in which the contractor proposed to build, 
transport, deposit, join and surround the forms in the prepared 
trench, all in conformity with the tunnel specifications I had pre- 
pared. ... I took out a patent on my invention, in the application 
for which I was joined by Mr. Carson, and a free license thereunder 
was given the tunnel company. . . . The idea was presented to the 
world. 6 

Before the contract was closed Butler Brothers-Hoff Com- 
pany asked for and received protection against any claims that 
might arise from the use of the Wilgus design, and the patent 
indemnity clause in the contract was accordingly modified. 

The revolutionary scheme proposed by Wilgus was known 
as Design A and that of Carson as Design B; Design C was a 
modification in details of Design A, while the compressed air- 
shield method was labeled Design D. The contractors were 
given the interesting option of "selecting any one of the four 
methods for the subaqueous work, or submitting entirely new 
designs, or modifications of those suggested, restricted only to 
a compliance with certain conditions regulating stability, clear- 
ances, workmanship, etc." The plan worked out by Hoff was 
a "modification of Design A, embodying some of the elements 
of Design C, accompanied by a large amount of detail covering 
the methods to be used in the prosecution of the work." The 
contract was "unique, particularly with reference to the sub- 

6 A letter to the writer from Wilgus, August IS, 1045, thus takes one behind the 
scenes and tells more vividly than the official records the origins of the Detroit tunnel 
idea. Statements in the Wilgus letter have been checked against documents In the 
possession of the Engineering Societies Library, New York City, by Harrison W. 
Graver, director. See also Wilgus, "The Detroit Kiver Tunnel, between Detroit, Michi- 
gan, and Windsor, Canada," in Institution of Civil Engineers (London), Minutes of 
Proceedings, 185:2-86 (1911). 

174 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

Aqueous section, leaving the working out of details to the in- 
genuity of the contractor/' 7 Work was begun on October 1, 
1906, and completed July 1, 1910. 

Briefly considered, the novel underwater portion of the 
Detroit Tunnel was laid in the following manner: A trench was 
first dredged in the river bottom and supports placed in it to 
receive twin-tubed steel forms in sections, each about 260 feet 
in length, that were built and launched in a shipyard, towed 
like barges to a position above the trench, lowered into place, 
and connected together by divers. Wooden sides and cross dia- 
phragms of steel restrained the concrete which was later poured 
around the forms through pipes, or tremies, from a floating 
concreting plant anchored in the river. After several lengths of 
tunnel had been laid, they were unwatered, leaks were stopped, 
and an inner layer of concrete, reinforced with steel rods, was 
added in the dry and without the use of compressed air. The 
combination of surrounding concrete and the firm lining inside 
prevented water seepage and provided resistance against the 
shock of trains passing over rails and ties that rested directly on 
the underlying concrete. In this manner it was possible to 
enlarge the diameter of the tunnel from 18 to 20 feet. 8 

Ill 

The tunnel, once construction was begun, attracted consider- 
able attention, the Engineering News in the fall of 1907 desig- 
nating it the "most novel and interesting tunnel works now in 
progress," The technical journals called special attention to the 
length of the river portion, which measured over 2,600 feet, 
the difficulties of construction inherent in the project, and the 
methods of setting grillage and depositing the exterior concrete 
which made of the completed tunnel one great monolithic mass. 
Both Wilgus and Kinnear in their exhaustive accounts paid 

7 See Wilson Sherman Kinnear, "The Detroit River Tunnel/' in American Society 
of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 74:288-356 (December, 1911). The quotations are 
from pages 303, 304, and 356. 

8 Other accounts of the Detroit Tunnel are James C. Mills, "The Detroit River 
Tunnel," in Cassier's Magazine, 33:337-349 (January, 1908); Engineering News, 
58:453-455 (October 31, 1907); and Engineering Record, 60:678-680, 719-722 (De- 
cember 18 and 25, 1909). 

175 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

tribute to the skill of the contractors who gave form to an idea. 
In the discussion that followed the Wilgus paper, E. W. Moir 
said that his British firm, S. Pearson and Son, which had ten- 
dered a bid, would have made a "handsome profit at their price 
if they had been as clever as the firm who obtained the work" 
and added that since the author of the paper "gave such great 
credit to the contracting staff," he was "sorry to see that the 
names of individual members of it did not appear." These senti- 
ments were echoed by E. W. Monkhouse, who tried to place 
himself mentally in the position of the one laying sections 260 
feet long on the grillage in moving water and then joining these 
one to another with great accuracy. 9 August Gundersen, HofFs 
chief assistant, went much farther indeed too far in stating 
that "none of the four designs submitted by the Board was used 
in the actual work," for they "did not solve the old question 
'how to build a subaqueous tunnel in an excavated trench/ The 
first solution of this problem as carried out at Detroit, is en- 
tirely due to the ability of Mr. Hoff." 10 

It is well known that contractors regularly work out their 
own methods to put into effect a given design, within the limits 
of specifications and always with an eye to reducing costs. 
In the case of the Detroit Tunnel, however, the engineer of 
the contracting firm went much further both because of the 
freedom afforded by the tunnel company and the very newness 
of the design that was employed. Several "ingenious measures" 
were credited to Hoff by Wilgus: "(a) the bracing of the forms 
to prevent distortion in launching, towing and lowering into 
place; (b) the use of outside planks attached to the forms to 
minimize the quantity of tremie-placed concrete; (c) the em- 
ployment of air cylinders to regulate the lowering and placing 
of the forms; and (d) the adoption of devices for drawing the 
forms together in the bottom of the trench all means which 
this contractor deemed necessary for accomplishing the desired 

See "Discussion" following the Wilgus paper, Institution of Civil Engineers, Pro- 
ceedings, 185:45-64 (1911). 

10 See "Discussion" following a paper by Kinnear in American Society of Civil En- 
gineers, Proceedings, 37:1169 (1911) . 

176 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

purpose set forth, in the contract at the least possible cost to 
ft." 11 

In the light of these and of innumerable other statements, 
both published and unpublished, concerning the Detroit project, 
it is of prime importance that Hoff be given the opportunity to 
speak for himself. Fortunately, he has left a record of his work 
in the form of a letter published in the Transactions of the 
American Society of Civil Engineers: 12 

When the firm with which the writer was connected [Hoff wrote 
in February, 1906] received invitations to submit proposals for 
the construction of the Detroit River Tunnel, he immediately 
and with assiduity set to work on this intensely interesting problem. 
At that time he had no knowledge of the numerous patented in- 
ventions for building subaqueous tunnels in a trench in the bottom 
of a river or waterway. . . . Later, having occasion to look the 
matter up, he was surprised to find a number of patents on such, 
tunnels, mostly impracticable schemes, of doubtful merit, not one 
of which was ever carried out. 

Hoff then proceeds to discuss the designs submitted for bids, 
stating that all of them contemplated a tunnel two feet smaller 
in diameter than the one actually built. Analyzing the designs, 
he also shows their defects. "The result of the foregoing analy- 
sis," he concludes, "was the gradual development of the design 
submitted by the writer, which, together with the specifications 
and the accompanying proposal, was accepted by the Board of 
Engineers, and according to which, the tunnel was built." 

The first object sought in working out his plans, Hofi tells 
us, "was the elimination of compressed air, with its attendant 
cost and restrictions in prosecuting the work." He felt, however, 
that he should be ready to use it in case the outer concreting 
should be a failure. "The initial step toward the accomplish- 
ment of this was a tube of steel of sufficient strength in itself 
or in connection with the exterior concrete, to resist the water 
pressure and effectively to prevent its ingress into the tunnel. 
. . . This shell, at the same time, would constitute an inner 
form for the exterior concrete." 

31 Wilgus to the writer, September 22, 1945. Italics are Wilgus'. 
13 Vol. 74, p. 861-373 (December, 1911) . The letter follows Klnnear's paper on the 
Detroit Tunnel. 

177 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

The next step was "to reduce the exterior concrete to a defi- 
nite quantity the minimum required without filling up the 
whole trench, thus saving a large item of cost. A little study 
and a few calculations soon demonstrated that this minimum 
would be the quantity necessary to overcome the buoyancy of 
the mass in the trench, when the tubes were unwatered, and 
prevent them from floating up again." Hoff then had to secure 
his outer form to the steel shell. A solid steel plate seemed to 
him to be the proper solution, since this would divide the tubes 
into compartments, which could be filled with concrete, one at 
a time. "Thus the diaphragms were developed, together with 
the pocket or compartment principle, to which, in the writer's 
judgment, the success attained at Detroit is to be attributed. 
The concrete was discharged through the tremies under a head; 
its lateral flow was confined to the exterior sides of the compart- 
ment, and thus it was forced under the steel tubes, affording 
them a reliable and satisfactory bearing." 

One peculiarity of HofFs tunnel system is that "the load on 
the bottom of the trench during construction will be as great as, 
or greater than, the maximum load of the completed tunnel 
when in use. In other words, the weight of the water inside the 
tubes is equal to or greater than, the weight of the concrete 
lining and the live load." Because of this and his uncertainty 
as to the quality of the concrete, he increased the thickness 
above the tubes more than was necessary. The quality of the 
concrete, "to the very top surface," proved to be good. 

"Of the greatest importance," Hoff continues, "was the prob- 
lem of lowering the tubes into the trench and keeping them 
always under absolute control. To this end the four air cylin- 
ders were devised, and served the purpose most successfully. 
They were of such size as to have a combined buoyancy, when 
submerged, slightly in excess of that required to hold a tunnel 
section in suspension." Water was admitted to the center or 
adjustment compartment of each cylinder to lower the mass 
into the trench. 

178 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

When the tubes had been sunk in the trench and concrete 
placed under them at the ends and at least at one point in the 
middle, the air cylinders could be released. "This was done by 
first filling them with water, which caused the weight of the 
tubes to be gradually transferred from the cylinders above to 
the concrete below." Then the cylinders were brought to the 
surface by forcing air into the center compartments and by using 
derricks. Hoff explains how the tubes were held against the 
river current during the sinking. The plans originally called for 
anchors of concrete planted in the bed of the river, but the 
superintendent of construction thought ordinary anchors would 
serve. The superintendent's plan failing, Hoff was forced to use 
concrete slabs in a hole dredged out in the river bottom; clay 
was filled in on the top. 

The time needed "for taking a section from its moorings, 
placing it in position over the trench, attaching it to the anchor 
lines, filling the tubes, adjusting the air cylinders, lowering the 
section to the bottom of the trench and pulling it home, so that 
the keys could be inserted in the pilot pins, thus locking the 
sections together . . . took from, say 8 A.M. until 8 or 9 P.M., 
after the first two or three sections had been sunk. The lining up 
of the tubes at the outer end, and the bolting up of the flange 
connections, could then be commenced the next day." The bolt- 
ing process, performed by divers, generally required two days, 
since there were about 50 bolts to the joint, or 100 bolts to a 
section. 

A significant innovation was made at Detroit in placing 
concrete under water by means of the tremie. Properly con- 
structed and operated, Hoff explains, concrete may be placed 
so that "the great mass of it will not come in contact with the 
water at all, after the first surface of concrete has been formed. 
This is accomplished by mixing it so wet that the mouth of 
the tremie at all times is buried in it, thus sealing the end of the 
pipe and controlling the flow by raising or lowering the tremie 
in the concrete, and by confining its lateral flow in compart- 

179 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

ments which are filled one at a time, the concrete all the time 
seeking its level within the compartment." 1S 

In some cases the bottom of the trench became soft when 
excavated. To secure a proper foundation for the tubes where 
this occurred, wooden sheeting was driven down into the dirt 
and the width of the base was increased. Tremies were then 
lowered, under their own weight of from 7 to 8 tons, as far as 
they would go through the soft clay; "they would generally go 
down to within 1 or 2 ft. of the rock bottom at a depth of from 
85 to 90 ft. below the surface of the river. A little extra force 
was used to put them down as far as possible, and concrete was 
then deposited until it reached the underside of the diaphragms. 
In this manner a series of piers, 6 ft. in diameter, was built 
up under the tubes, two to a pocket longitudinally of the tun- 
nel, and three rows, one for each tremie; that is, there was one 
row under the center wall and one under each of the side- walls 
of the tunnel." 

The tubes were unwatered by pumps, which were installed in 
the first section of the tunnel before it was launched, remaining 
submerged more than seven months before they were started. 
No difficulty was encountered; the unwatering usually "re- 
quired 3 hours per tube in a section, or 6 hours for two adjoin- 
ing tubes." Hoff explains also: 

One object in developing the adopted design, was to reduce the use 
of divers to a minimum. Diving is expensive work, and frequently 
unreliable. The only physical labor performed by divers was the 
temporary attaching of the steel tubes to the grillage in the trench, 
the bolting up of the joints of the tube sections, and the disconnect- 
ing of the air cylinders. In other respects, divers were only used as 
"eyes to see with," that is, as inspectors to report conditions. The 
total cost of diving at Detroit was only about one-half of 1% of 
the total cost of the river tunnel. 

Commenting on workers and accidents, Hoff states that "the 
construction of the whole river section was singularly free from 
accidents, not a single fatality occurring in connection with 

13 In another article by Hoff, "Laying Concrete under Water in the Detroit River 
Tunnel," in Engineering News, 68:318-321 (March 17, 1910), reasons are given for 
the success of the method of concrete laying at Detroit. 

180 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

the river work a striking contrast to the general experience 
when compressed air and shields are used. It may be of interest 
to note that three of the largest concerns in the country writing 
Employers' Liability Insurance offered to give protection at 
about one-third the rate they charged for tunnel work done 
under compressed air." 

Hoff estimates, in discussing the advantages of his tunnel, 
that about $2,000,000 was saved at Detroit because of the small 
labor cost involved; and this was not offset by a greater cost of 
materials. He argues, too, that a capitalized saving in the rail- 
road's annual cost of operation was effected, since his tunnel 
provides a roadbed some 15 feet higher than would have been 
the case with a deeper shield-driven tunnel thus reducing 
the vertical lift of tonnage. About 1,000 feet of approach tunnel 
on the Canadian side was also saved, and about 750 feet on the 
American side. 

"After two years of constant effort and sacrifice of health to 
make this new and untried method of subaqueous tunneling a 
success," Hoff concludes, "it was a source of the greatest regret 
to the writer that he was unable to remain with the tunnel and 
witness its completion; circumstances beyond his control made 
it necessary for him to retire from the contracting firm in Octo- 
ber, 1908, after Section No. 6 had been sunk, and after practi- 
cally all problems presenting themselves with this work had 
been solved." " 

How Hoff worked has been described by one of his assistants 
at Detroit. The tunnel plan "occupied many pages in his 
neatly-kept book of sketches and calculations. Every detail was 
worked out, not only those pertaining to the strength of the 
finished structure but also every little accessory and arrange- 
ment in connection with the execution of the work. So when the 
job was turned over to the construction forces everything dove- 
tailed; it all worked out as calculated, with no lost time. It was 
a complete success." No detail, however small, was overlooked 
by Hoff, and his sandy hair and keen blue eyes behind gold- 

14 American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 74: 361-373 (December, 1911). 

181 



SAGA EN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

rimmed glasses became a familiar sight to the tunnel workers 
during the months that he supervised construction at Detroit. 15 
The sudden disappearance of Hoff from the tunnel scene was 
caused by a sharp clash he had with Butler Brothers. Hoff 
maintained that, after the success of his plans had been dem- 
onstrated beyond all doubt, disagreements about the disposal 
of machinery resulted in an effort by his partners to deprive 
him of his predetermined share of the company's financial re- 
turn from the project. This share amounted to one fifth of the 
profit, which would have been about $1,500,000. When Hoff's 
salary, too, was cut to very little, he brought suit against Butler 
Brothers. Whatever the legal or other merits of his claim, a 
financial settlement was made out of court. One result of Hoff s 
troubles at Detroit was that during his second great tunnel 
undertaking he made all necessary arrangements with a bank, 
kept the financial strings in his own hands, and realized about 
$1,000,000 as his share of the profit. 18 

IV 

In the various articles describing the Detroit River Tunnel, 
HofFs name was mentioned only in passing. With the beginning 
of his next project, a subway tunnel under the Harlem River 
in New York, it was given a prominent place. 17 Now a member 
of the contracting firm Arthur McMullen and Hoff Company, 
he was made consulting engineer for the Harlem Tunnel; his 
firm received the building contract and his patented method of 
tunneling was employed. 18 , 

The Harlem River borders Manhattan Island on the north. 
The new tunnel, at Lexington Avenue and One Hundred Thirty- 
fifth Street, crosses the river where it is some 600 feet wide 

15 Guttorm Miller of Detroit to the writer, January 11, 1941. For a sketch of Hoff 
see Flynn Wayne, "Olaf Hoff His Work," in National Magazine, 38:51 (April, 
1913} . 

lft Information furnished by F. J, Vea of Madison, Wisconsin. 

17 "Subway Tunnel under Harlem River," in Engineering Record, 68:556 (Novem- 
ber 15, 1913) . See also Wayne, in National Magazine, 38: 51. 

Patent numbers 907,356, subaqueous tunnel (December 22, 1908); 907,357, 
method of sinking subaqueous tunnels (December 22, 1908) ; and 972,192, apparatus 
lor subaqueous pile driving (October 11, 1910) . 

182 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

and 26 feet deep at low tide. Several factors called for the 
trenching method. It was not permissible to block navigation 
on the river, and therefore open cofferdams and pneumatic 
caissons, which tend to obstruct the channel, could not be used. 
The thin roof of the river bed and the extremely soft ground 
under the river, it was believed, would have made shield tun- 
neling difficult. These and other factors called for a method 
different from the customary one, "and eventually the sunken 
tube method was adopted on considerations of safety, rapidity, 
economy and convenience, and it was built by a modification 
of the design and method first used by Olaf Hoff . . . under 
the Detroit River at Detroit, Michigan." 19 

The Harlem River Tunnel, 1,080 feet in length, is composed 
of nearly equal sections containing four tubes instead of two as 
at Detroit. These tube sections were built on shore, floated into 
place, sunk, and bolted up under water as in the first under- 
taking. Similarly, too, concrete was poured through tremies and 
the tubes were unwatered in the manner described by Hoff. 
Little" that was basically new was added in the Harlem Tunnel, 
but it nevertheless utilized a number of improvements in con- 
struction and proved the adaptability of the trench-and-tremie 
methods to this location. Each four-tube section was assembled 
on a staging about one mile from the tunnel site. When it was 
completed and ready to be sunk, narrow scows were placed 
between the rows of piling that made up the staging. When the 
tide rose, the scows lifted the tunnel section from its staging 
and towed it into the river's stream. The scows were then 
scuttled and the section left afloat to be towed by barges in the 
usual fashion to the place where it was to be sunk. 

A section was first lowered in the middle of the river, rather 
than at the shore, and half of the river was closed to naviga- 
tion. At Detroit the first section had plunged endwise instead 
of settling evenly, despite, the use of buoyancy cylinders. At the 

19 Frank W. Skinner, "The Harlem River Subway Tunnel, New York," in Engi- 
neering (London), 104:32 (July 13, 1917) . Skinner's detailed report of the tunnel is 
carried in serial form, appearing also p. 83-87 (July 7, 1917) . See also Nordisk ti- 
dende, August 22, 1912. 

183 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Harlem River, the sections had, in addition to the cylinders, 
partial bulkheads placed on the heavier ends and extending 
halfway down from the upper part of two of the tubes. As water 
poured into the tubes, the heavier end of the section tipped 
downward until the bulkheads touched water, whereupon the 
air trapped back of the bulkheads buoyed up the lighter end 
and the section leveled off. The air was then allowed to escape 
through a hose leading to one of the barges. When all but about 
a foot of the section's top had submerged, the tubes sank 
abruptly until the buoyancy cylinders, which were strapped at 
the ends, made contact with the water. When water was ad- 
mitted into the chambers within the cylinders, the tunnel piece 
sank beneath the surface; derricks, which then took command, 
lowered it slowly and accurately into place on bents which had 
been laid in the trench on the river bottom. The sections, it is 
said, came within a fraction of an inch of true position. 20 The 
diaphragms of steel, which held the four tubes together during 
the sinking process, then provided the necessary reinforcement 
for the concrete that was later poured around the section. 

Following the successful completion of the Harlem Tunnel in 
1915, HofE continued to work as before on problems having 
to do with subway, tunnel, harbor, and bridge construction. 
He was chief consultant to the Cunard Company when it pro- 
posed to construct a steamship terminal in the port of New 
York, and served in a similar capacity with the New York 
Central Railroad when the A. H. Smith Memorial Bridge was 
designed and built across the Hudson at Castleton, New York. 
When the arch bridge of the Michigan Central was thrown 
across Niagara River near the falls, he was again called in as 
consultant. Studious and inventive, he made invaluable contri- 
butions in connection with submarine pile driving, the general 
use of reinforced concrete, floor construction, and numerous 
other structural features. Varied and significant as his many 
undertakings were, none matched his performance at Detroit in 

20 Scientific American, 109: #44 (September 87, 1913). See also vol. 108, p. 86 
(March 29, 1913) . 

184 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

working out designs deemed by him essential to constructing a 
tunnel in a prepared trench. 21 Hoff died in December, 1924, 
honored as a great and original engineer. 

V 

Just as Hoff 's name is identified with the sunken-tube method 
of tunneling, so Ole Singstad's is associated for all time with 
the special tunnel that was developed to carry the automobile. 
Tunnels for the use of vehicles are of recent origin, the first of 
importance being the Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames at 
London, which was opened to traffic in 1897. Others to be 
built before the extensive use of automobiles were the Glasgow 
Harbor Tunnel (1895), the Elbe Tunnel at Hamburg (1910), 
and the Rotherhithe Tunnel under the Thames (1908). The 
Holland Tunnel in New York was the first of any size or signifi- 
cance built to care for the needs of present-day motor vehicles. 22 
As a result this tunnel presented new and difficult problems, 
the solution of which put Singstad's name on the roster of 
modern pioneers. Singstad designed the Holland Tunnel, worked 
out its unique system of ventilation, completed its construction 
as chief engineer, and operated it for two and a half years after 
its completion. In subsequent years he acted either as chief 
engineer or as consultant in connection with the most important 
vehicular tunnels that were constructed. 

The Holland Tunnel and its successors in New York play 
such a vital part in the life of America's greatest port city that 
a brief discussion of these tunnels seems essential here. Prior to 
the building of the first vehicular tunnel under the Hudson 
River, Manhattan was connected with New Jersey, lying to the 
west, only by electric-car and train tubes and about fourteen 
steamboat ferries. With no bridges for many miles up the river, 

21 Asked for an appraisal of the Detroit job, Carl H. Stengel, New York consulting 
engineer and former partner of W. S. Kinnear, said, "Mr. Wilgus originated the 
idea. . . . Mr. Hoff developed a practical means of accomplishing the results of the 
Wilgus idea"; to the writer, September 11, 1945. 

23 S. A. Thoresen, "Constructing the Detroit- Windsor Tunnel," in Civil Engineering -, 
1:613 (April, 1931); Ole Singstad, "Ventilation of Vehicular Tunnels," in World En- 
gineering Congress, Proceedings, 9:381-399 (Public Works, part 1 Tokyo, 1931). 

185 



SAGA IN STEEL AMI CONCRETE 

ferries were overworked to such a point that it was necessary 
on Sundays and holidays for motorists to wait for hours before 
crossing the Hudson. And weekdays were only slightly better. 
As is generally known, the financial and wholesale districts of 
New York are concentrated in lower Manhattan. Strangely 
enough, this nerve center was and still is linked with the 
Jersey side by only six railroad and electric-car tubes. 23 In Sing- 
stad's own words: 

[When] it is borne in mind that on the Jersey side of the river are 
the terminals of eight trunk line railroads, that the greater part of the 
population of the metropolitan district is located to the east of the 
Hudson River, that most of the steamship terminals, both for 
coastwise and foreign shipping, are located either in Manhattan or 
in Brooklyn, and also that there are large population centers in 
New Jersey immediately west of the river, it is quite evident that, 
when a comparison is made of the volume of traffic crossing the 
Hudson River with that crossing the East River, the absence of 
vehicular traffic facilities has been a great hindrance to the develop- 
ment and free movement of the traffic between Manhattan and 
New Jersey. It was this pressing need . . . which prompted the 
two states to create the commissions which are now constructing 
the Holland Tunnel. 24 

Earlier efforts had been made to tunnel under the mile-wide 
Hudson. In 1874 a western promoter, De Witt C. Haskins, 
came to New York, raised the necessary capital, and began the 
first attempt to pierce the river's soft bed. Legal difficulties 
postponed the project for five years, but finally in 1879 work 
was begun. Using compressed air but no shield, Haskins failed 
utterly. Walls and ceilings gave in, 23 men were killed and 
the tunnel was abandoned. Eventually, in 1908, it was com- 
pleted as the McAdoo Tunnel under different engineers. 25 Next, 
a large English engineering firm sent experts to New York to 

23 Frank W. Skinner, "The Holland Vehicular Tunnel, under the Hudson River," 
in Engineering (London), 124:601-606 (November 11, 1927). This article, which is 
continued in the issues of November 25 (p. 667-671) and December 9 (p. 735-788) , 
is the mast exhaustive study on the subject to be found in the technical journals, 

** Ole Singstad, "The Relation of Tunnels and Bridges to Traffic Congestion," in 
American Academy of Political and Social Science, Annals, 183:69-71 (September, 
1927) . 

25 Eorby and Laurson, Modern Civil Engineering, 174; Nordisk tidende t December 
15, 1938. 

186 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

see what might be done in the way of a tunnel. Plans were 
drawn up but never executed; the cost was too great. 26 

A bridge had long been considered both feasible and desir- 
able. As early as 1868, Singstad informs us, the states of New 
York and New Jersey granted charters to a private corporation 
to build a bridge across the Hudson. Nothing came of this 
plan. In 1906, at the instance of public-spirited citizens, each 
state appointed a commission to study the possibility of a 
bridge to be built with public funds. These commissions con- 
cluded in 1913 that it would be economically impracticable to 
build a bridge where the traffic needs were greatest. They then 
began a study of the possibilities of a tunnel. 27 

The bridge and tunnel commissioners had made sufficient 
progress by 1919 to justify the appropriations of $1,000,000 
made by each state to begin plans and actual construction of a 
tunnel. Clifford M, Holland, who was appointed chief engineer 
of the joint commissions, recommended in 1920 that twin tun- 
nel tubes, each of which would handle two lines of one-way 
traffic, be constructed under the Hudson. 28 

The plan for a bridge had been discarded for a number of 
reasons. It was evident, in Singstad's opinion, "that a tunnel is 
a more suitable and economic type of structure than a bridge, 
where the conditions are similar to those existing at the location 
of the Holland Tunnel, and, in fact, for entire Manhattan Island 
below Central Park." These conditions consist of a waterway 
over 3,000 feet wide between pierhead lines, low riverbanks, 
and high land values. 

If a bridge were to be built at this location, the cost would be exces- 
sive due to the long span, the expensive foundations due to the great 

26 Nordisk tidende, December 15, 1988. 

27 Ole Singstad, "The Holland Tunnel," in Norwegian-American Technical Journal, 
vol. 1, no. 3, p. 1 (September, 1928) . 

28 It should be made clear that Holland was the genius of the tunnel project. A 
summary of his report to the joint commissions is found in Engineering News-Record, 
84:857-364 (February 19, 1920). Singstad, as Holland's engineer of designs, was 
ably assisted by A. C. Davis, mechanical engineer, and J. N. Dodd, electrical engineer. 
The more important parts of Holland's report were approved by a board of consulting 
engineers composed of W. J. "Wilgus, J. A. Bensel, William H. Burr, Edward A. Byrne, 
and J. V. Davies. 

187 



SAGA EN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

depth to rock . . . and the expensive approaches. A bridge would 
have to have a clearance of from 180 to 200 feet above mean high 
water, and its approaches . . . would have to be carried inland as 
far as Broadway. ... A long bridge approach also would be detri- 
mental to the real estate values under and in the vicinity of the 
bridge. With a tunnel it is only necessary to go down a distance of 
less than 100 feet below mean high water with the roadway due to 
navigation requirements, so that the approaches would be about 
one-half as long as those for a bridge. . . . The tunnel further has 
the advantage that it does not depreciate real estate values in its 
immediate vicinity, as there is no surface evidence of the structure 
except in the short distance from the portal to the point where the 
roadway meets the street surface. 29 

The decision made in favor of a tunnel, Holland lost no time 
in approaching Singstad. They had known each other from the 
time the latter was designing engineer of rapid-transit tunnels; 
Holland was construction engineer on the same projects, and 
Singstad's abilities had impressed him. Singstad had acquired 
a broad experience and skill which the brilliant Holland, now 
chief engineer for the new tunnel, was quick to seize upon. One 
day in 1919, the story goes, Holland telephoned Singstad and 
asked him to call at his office. Holland, himself only thirty-six 
years old, invited the young Norwegian to be his engineer of 
design. 30 After some hesitation Singstad accepted the proffered 
post. In 1924 Holland died and was succeeded as chief engineer 
by Milton H. Freeman, Three months later Freeman died, and 
Singstad, who had designed the tunnel, carried it to completion 
in 1927 as chief engineer. 

The man who made history in designing and completing the 
Holland Tunnel" and who is now the dean of all tunnel engineers 
was born at Lensvik in 1882. Following his graduation from 
Trondhjem's Technical College in 1905, Singstad had left with- 
out delay for the United States. In New York he immediately 
found work with the Central Railroad of New Jersey. He left in 
the next year for Norfolk, Virginia, where he designed railroad 
structures and assisted in rail and bridge construction for the 

29 American Academy of Political and Social Science, Annals* 133: 73-76. 

30 Nordtsk tidende, December 15, 1938; an interview signed "H.O." This is the best 
sketch of Singstad to be found in the Norwegian-American press. 

188 



CITY OF JtKSCY CITY 



PLAN 




PROFILE 





CROSS SECTION 



THE HOLLAND TUNNEL 

CONSTRUCTED UNDER THE JOINT SUPERVISION OF NEW YORK STATE 
BRIDGE AND TUNNEL COMMISSION AND NEW JERSEY INTERSTATE BRIDGE 
AND TUNNEL COMMISSION GROUND BROKEN OCTOBER 12. I2O 
TUNNEL OPENED NOVEMBER 11.1027 * TUNNEL COMPLETED It2 



Plan of Holland Tunnel 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

Virginian Railway. Returning to the East, lie took a position 
with the Hudson-Manhattan Railroad, preparing designs for 
work on Hudson River tunnels during 1909-10. He also de- 
signed rapid-transit subways and tunnels in New York, in 
Brooklyn, and under the East River, remaining for seven years 
in charge of this work and working with Holland for the Public 
Service Commission of the first New York district. After estab- 
lishing a sound reputation as a first-class tunnel engineer, Sing- 
stad served during 1917-18, in charge of structural design, with 
the Chile Exploration Company, and in 1918-19 with Barclay 
Parsons and Klapp, in charge of laying out and estimating a 
rapid-transit system for Philadelphia. While with the latter 
firm, he made preliminary designs and estimates and reported 
on a vehicular tunnel under the Delaware River. 31 

A great deal has been written about the Holland Tunnel, for 
it began a new chapter in engineering history. 32 Much of what 
has been written is in technical language and has no great 
interest for the layman. A few general facts, however, seem to be 
pertinent here. The new project cost about $48,500,000, each 
state paying half of the total expense. The tunnel connects 
Twelfth and Fourteenth streets in Jersey City with the borough 
of Manhattan at Canal and Varick streets and Broome Street, 
and operates on a toll basis. The tunnel actually consists of two 
separate tubes, each with an exterior diameter of 29% feet; the 
northern one serves west-bound and the southern serves east- 
bound traffic. Between portals it is 8,463 feet long. 33 

In planning the tunnel, we are told, two types of construction 
were considered the trench-and-tremie, together with other 

^Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 4, no. 1, p. 12 (April, 1931); H. 
Sundby-Hansen, in American-Scandinavian Review, 15:360 (June, 1927); Wong, 
Norske utvandrere, 76; Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 226; Alstad, Tillegg, 
63; "H.O.," in Nordisk tidende, December 15, 1938; information supplied by Singstad 
in May, 1941. 

83 In addition to the articles cited in this chapter, there is a lengthy unpublished 
account of the tunnel, written by Ole Singstad, in the Engineering Societies Library, 
New York City. 

38 A comprehensive general survey of the Holland Tunnel may be found in Engi- 
neering (London), 124:601-606, 667-671, 735-738 (November 11, 5, and December 
9, 1927). A briefer and less technical account is contained in Scientific American, 
137:201-203 (September, 1927) . 

189 



SAGA IN STEEL AJND CONCRETE 

trench methods, and the well-known shield technique. "On 
account of the heavy river traffic, the soft character of the 
river bed, and the intensive use of the water front, the shield 
method was considered the safer and more economical," The 
tunnel was constructed by first sinking shafts as pneumatic 
caissons on shore. Shields were started from these shafts, two 
from the New York side and two from the Jersey side, the 
shields meeting under the river. "On their way the shields 
passed through a second set of caissons, which had been sunk 
in advance of the approach of the shield to serve as founda- 
tions for the second set of ventilation buildings located in the 
river back of the pierhead line. On the New Jersey side, two 
additional shields were started westward, to carry the construc- 
tion back to points where excavation by the open-cut method 
could be successfully carried on/' 

Work in compressed air required pressure up to 47% pounds 
per square inch above atmospheric pressure, involving "756,000 
decompressions of men coming out of the compressed air work- 
ings/* The job was finished with only 528 cases of "bends/' and 
none of these cases resulted in death. 84 

However interesting the detailed designs of the tunnel itself, 
the tools employed, and the problems inherent in driving a 
shield for tubes of great diameter, these must give way to 
another feature the novel system of ventilation which is Sing- 
stad's unique contribution and a pioneering feat of real signifi- 
cance. 35 Fortunately, Singstad has told in detail the story of 
how this system evolved under his direction. Because of its 
importance, we quote at length from a paper presented by 
Singstad before the World Engineering Congress at Tokio in 
1929. 36 In this paper is explained how the chemist and physiolo- 

^Ole Singstad, in Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 1, no. 3, p. 1-3, 10 
(September, 198) . For detailed information on work under compressed air, see Sing- 
stad, "Industrial Operations in Compressed Air," in Journal of Industrial Hygiene 
and Toxicology, 18:497-523 (October, 1936) . 

35 For other accounts, see "Studies and Methods Adopted for Ventilating the Hol- 
land Vehicular Tunnels," in Engineering News-Record, 98:934-939 (June 9, 1927); 
and "Ventilating the Holland Vehicular Tunnel," in Heating and Ventilating Mag- 
azine, 23: 79 (August, 1926) . 

36 Singstad, in "World Engineering Congress, Proceedings, 9: 381-899. 

190 



A REVOLUTION JN TUNNELING 

gist came to the aid of the engineer in overcoming one of the 
greatest barriers to underground travel. 

The extreme length of the tunnel tubes, each with a 20-foot 
roadway "providing for two lines of traffic in the same direction 
in each tube with an estimated total capacity of 3,800 vehicles 
per hour," and the assumption that all traffic would be pro- 
pelled by gasoline engines presented a problem in ventilation 
which, "both in character and magnitude, had no precedent/* 

It was therefore necessary to establish original fundamental data 
on which to base the ventilation plan, as it was fully realized that 
the success of the tunnel project was dependent on the ability of the 
engineers to devise a system of adequate ventilation under all traffic 
conditions. The problem was studied under three main subdivisions: 

1. Amount and composition of exhaust gases from motor vehicles; 

2. Physiological effects of exhaust gases from motor vehicles; 

3. Method and equipment required to provide adequate venti- 
lation. 

The most serious gas thrown out by the gasoline motor is, 
of course, carbon monoxide. Because of the great length of the 
tunnel this gas was a problem to Singstad and his fellow engi- 
neers whether large or small quantities of it were present. It 
was found that if the carbon monoxide content were kept with- 
in safe limits, other gases would not be present in sufficient 
amounts to be injurious to health. The researchers, however, 
were handicapped by the fact that "only a small amount of 
experiments had been made on engine gases, and these results 
did not give the information necessary to serve as a basis for 
the planning of the ventilation of the -tunnel." There was 
nothing for Singstad to do but to conduct a series of experi- 
ments to establish the necessary data. 

With estimates at hand of traffic capacity and such informa- 
tion as was available on the amount and composition of exhaust 
gases and their physiological effects, Singstad and his associates 
were convinced that the method of ventilating railroad tun- 
nels of blowing fresh air from one portal to the other was 
not adaptable to this case. 

Such large quantities of air were required that the air velocities 
would be excessive, causing not only discomfort to the traveling 

191 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

public but also creating a hazard, particularly in case of fires in the 
tunnel. Many modifications of such a plan were considered whereby 
intermediate shafts were introduced and the tunnel was divided 
into several sections. There were many practical objections to all of 
these plans, and it was concluded that the only practicable method 
was to supply the fresh air through an independent duct, feeding 
the air into the roadway from this main duct at frequent intervals 
and to withdraw the vitiated air through a similar duct also separ- 
ated from the tunnel roadway, drawing the air from the roadway 
through openings at frequent intervals throughout the entire length 
of the tunnel. 

By this method, the longitudinal flow of air in the tunnel 
would be eliminated, the movement being instead a transverse 
one from the supply duct toward the exhaust duct. Singstad 
explains further: 

In a tunnel of circular cross-section with the roadway located at 
an elevation giving maximum clearance for vehicles, there is space 
available for ventilating ducts both below and above the roadway, 
one for the fresh air and the other for the vitiated air. 

The power required to move the large quantities of air is an im- 
portant factor, and it was found economical to divide the tunnel 
ducts into a number of sections by locating the ventilation equip- 
ment in four shafts, two on each side of the river. Navigation re- 
quirements did not permit the location of any shafts beyond the 
pierhead lines, which at the site of the tunnel are about 3,200 feet 
apart. 

In designing the ventilation equipment it was necessary to know 
the coefficient of friction for the flow of air in the concrete ducts 
such as planned for the tunnel and the power losses where air is 
taken from or supplied to a duct. No assurance could be found 
as to any reliable bases for the existing formulas, and it was deemed 
necessary to verify them by independent tests on large scale models 
before accepting them as a basis for the design of the ventilation 
equipment for a project of this magnitude. 

The New York State Bridge and Tunnel Commission and 
the New Jersey Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission ac- 
cordingly entered into a contract with the federal bureau of 
mines, to conduct these tests. Studies to determine the amount 
and composition of exhaust gases from motor vehicles were 
carried out at the bureau of mines experiment station in Pitts- 
burgh. A study of the effects of motor exhaust gases was made 
at the bureau of mines experiment station at Yale University. 

192 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

The conclusions drawn from the tests have been given by Sing- 
stad: 

When an automobile engine with gasoline as a fuel is running 
properly, the exhaust contains no substance which is toxic to any 
appreciable extent other than carbon monoxide. Gasoline engines 
with cylinders missing or when cold, oversupplied with oil or gaso- 
line, or smoking from any cause, may throw off disagreeable vapors 
irritating to the eyes and nauseating to some persons. 

The physiological effects of carbon monoxide are wholly due to 
the union of this gas with the hemoglobin. To whatever extent the 
hemoglobin is so combined, by that amount it is rendered incapable 
to transport oxygen to the organs and tissues of the body. The 
combination of carbon monoxide and hemoglobin is a reversible re- 
action, so that when a person returns to fresh air the carbon mon- 
oxide is gradually eliminated. Of all physical signs and tests of 
carbon monoxide poisoning, headache proved the most definite and 
reliable. Concentration of gas too weak or periods of exposure too 
short to induce this sign are to be considered harmless. No one had 
this symptom to an appreciable degree after a period of one hour in 
the chamber with 4 parts of carbon monoxide in 10,000 parts of air. 
With 6 parts the degree of effect, if any, was usually very slight, 
while with 8 parts there was decided discomfort for some hours, 
although not enough to interfere with the continuance of efficient 
work in the laboratory or at the desk. . . . 

Based on the investigations, a standard of ventilation was 
adopted providing for a carbon monoxide content in the tunnel at- 
mosphere not exceeding 4 parts in 10,000 under capacity operation. 

Tests were also conducted at the engineering experiment 
station at the University of Illinois to determine the power 
required to supply and exhaust the air under the adopted plan 
of ventilation. With data from the three groups of investiga- 
tions in hand, it was possible to proceed with designs of the 
ventilating system. 

Before actual construction of the system, it was considered 
advisable to demonstrate it on a large-scale model of the tunnel. 
This investigation was carried out under an agreement with 
the bureau of mines in the bureau's experimental mine at 
Bruceton, Pennsylvania, part of which was reconstructed for 
the purpose. There was a miniature tunnel, oval in plan, with 
a roadway length of 400 feet; it was shut off from the outside 
air except for a drift connecting it to a ventilation plant. 

193 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

The results of the tests showed that "the methods of trans- 
verse air movement investigated were practicable for tunnel 
ventilation and that the best method from the standpoint of 
power saving and safety against fire hazard was the one in 
which the air is introduced from the duct under the roadway 
and exhausted through the duct above the ceiling." 

The plan of ventilation finally adopted is described thus by 
Singstad: 

Air is supplied to the tunnel from the fresh air duct located under 
the roadway. The air is taken off from this duct through flues 10 
feet to 15 feet apart, provided with adjustable dampers and leading 
into continuous expansion chambers located just above the road- 
way, one on each side. From these chambers, two continuous trans- 
verse fresh air streams sweep across the roadway and dilute the 
exhaust gases. The air then slowly ascends to the ceiling where it 
is drawn through adjustable openings, located from 10 to 15 feet 
apart, into the exhaust duct. In the four ventilation buildings are 
located blower fans connecting through downcast ducts with the 
fresh air ducts in the tunnel. These fans take air from the fan 
rooms, the air entering the rooms through large louvred openings in 
the sides of the buildings. In the same buildings the exhaust fans are 
located in airtight rooms which are connected through ducts with 
the exhaust duct in the tunnel. The exhaust fans connect to vertical 
expanding stacks extending above the roofs of the buildings, 
through which the vitiated air is expelled to the outside atmosphere. 
The ventilation ducts in each tube are divided into seven sections 
by transverse bulkheads, so that the equipment in each building 
ventilates sections of the tunnel extending from the building to the 
portal or half-way to the next building except in the case of the en- 
trance downgrade between the land and river buildings in each 
tube, which is ventilated from the land building alone. Each duct 
section has three fans, two of them required to be operated at full 
speed to supply the normal maximum ventilation requirements, the 
third unit constituting the reserve. 

The fans . . . are operated by electric motors through chain 
drives. The ventilation equipment required about 4,000 horsepower 
at capacity operation. 

The Holland Tunnel was not planned and built without con- 
siderable doubt and criticism from certain quarters, and there 
were those who were unconvinced of its efficacy. The first year 
of its operation was therefore of greatest interest, and Singstad, 
as engineer in charge of operations, was called upon to report 

194 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

the results. Parts of his review are of more than casual in- 
terest. 87 

During the first twelve-month period, ending in November, 
1928, a total of 8,517,689 vehicles used the tunnel. Of this num- 
ber nearly 80 per cent were passenger cars. The average daily 
traffic was 23,372, while the average Sunday and holiday traffic 
was 36,391. The tunnel took about 43 per cent of the auto traf- 
fic crossing the Hudson, a figure far in excess of the estimate 
made in the plans. There was no shutdown except for a few 
hours on certain nights when the north tunnel was closed in 
order to take accurate readings of the distribution of air in the 
various parts of the tube. There was no serious accident, largely 
because of rigid enforcement of traffic regulations, brilliant il- v 
lumination, and prompt handling of stoppages in the tunnel. 
Nearly 200 fires broke out in vehicles that were going through 
the tunnel. All fires, however, were extinguished by policemen 
using chemical fire extinguishers, and without the aid of a 
special fire-fighting apparatus mounted on an emergency truck. 
Over 2,000 disabled vehicles were towed out of the tunnel, and 
a number of arrests were made, summonses and warnings 
issued. 38 

The real test lay, however, in the performance of the ven- 
tilation system. Orders were given to operate at a normal maxi- 
mum capacity on the first day. About 3,760,000 cubic feet of 
fresh air per minute was provided. Nearly 52,000 vehicles, of 
which about 98 per cent were passenger cars, went, through 
the tube. The average carbon monoxide content in both tun- 
nels was .69 part per 10,000 parts of air. The highest was 1.60 
parts per 10,000. The permissible standard, previously men- 
tioned, is 4 parts per 10,000 parts of air. The longitudinal air 
draft caused by vehicular movement at times reached 10 miles 
per hour. It was found, too, that there was never enough fog 
or smoke to interfere with safe traffic, and, in fact, the public 

37 Ole Singstad, "A Year's Operating Experience with the Holland Vehicular Tun- 
nel," in Engineering News-Record, 101:942-949 (December 27, 1928) . 

88 For the technical operation of the tunnel, see also "Method of Operating Holland 
Vehicular Tunnel," in Engineering News-Record, 99: 700-702' (November 3, 1927) . 

195 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

and the press proclaimed air conditions were actually better in 
the tube than in some streets of New York City. The general 
cleanliness of the tunnel was also remarked by the traveling 
public and the newspapers. 

From a purely financial point of view, as well, the tunnel 
was a success. Whereas its total cost, not including interest on 
the investment during construction, was about $48,500,000, 
profit over operating costs was more than $3,500,000 during the 
first year, one half going to each state. For the first year the 
tunnel operated at about one half of estimated capacity. Traffic 
has been at near capacity since the middle thirties. At capacity 
operation the net annual earnings are about $7,000,000. The 
tunnel was fully paid for out of toll charges at the end of 1940, 
or after it had been in use for thirteen years. This was far be- 
yond the expectations of the legislatures of New York and 
New Jersey back in 1919. 89 

VI 

Further tunneling did not, however, await the success of the 
New York model. In March, 1925, contracts were let for the 
construction of the George A. Posey Tunnel between Oakland 
and Alameda, California, which when completed in 1928 was 
nearly a mile in total length and some 37 feet in diameter. 40 

The cities of Oakland and Alameda, lying on the eastern 
shore of San Francisco Bay, have grown in recent times to be, 
with Berkeley and Richmond to the north, an important indus- 
trial center. Alameda, besides having the traffic problems com- 

30 Singstad to the author, October 16, 1946. 

40 For a valuable account of the Holland, George A. Posey, and Detroit- Windsor 
vehicular tunnels by Ole Singstad, see his "Bau von Unterwassertunneln in den 
Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika," in Zeitschnft des Vereines deutscker Ingenieure, 
77: 265-270 (March 11, 1933) . Competent studies of the Posey Tunnel are S. W. 
Gibbs, "Construction Methods on Oaidand Estuary Tube," in Engineering News- 
Record, 100:100-105 (January 19, 1928); A. R. Baker, "The Oakland-Alameda 
Estuary Tube," in Engineering (London), 130:383-386, 449-451 (September 26, 
October 10, 1930) ; "Ventilating the World's Largest Subway," in Domestic Engineer, 
123:18-21, 38, 40-44 (May 12, 1928); Alvin A. Horwege, "Methods Used in the Con- 
struction of Twelve Pre-cast Concrete Segments for the Alameda County, California, 
Estuary Subway," in American Society of Civil Engineers, Proceedings, 53 (2) :2675- 
692 (December, 1927) ; and "Methods of Controlling Traffic in the Oaidand Estuary 
Tube," in Engineering News-Record, 102: 710-712 (May 2, 1929) . 

196 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

mon to all dynamic American communities, was cut off from 
direct connection with Oakland by an arm of San Francisco 
Bay known as the San Antonio Estuary. Five miles long with 
an average width of 1,000 feet and a depth of 30 feet over most 
of its length, this estuary, while important commercially, pre- 
sented a problem to vehicular traffic that had been only partly 
met by four swinging bridges fast becoming obsolete. Delays 
to motorists became unendurable; and finally the federal gov- 
ernment condemned the most westerly of the bridges near the 
business center of Oakland. This action caused the Alameda 
County board of supervisors to ask George A. Posey, county 
engineer, to proceed with a study of the vehicular problem and 
to work out a solution. 

Since the country on either side of the estuary is low and flat, 
a high-level bridge was considered uneconomical and a tunnel 
was decided upon. In working out the designs, Posey and his 
associates adopted the methods, somewhat modified, which had 
been worked out by Olaf Hoff, Ole Singstad, and others. They 
decided to build 1,000 feet of tube for the underwater section 
on the Oakland side, float the twelve units of precast tubes, sink 
them in place, and cover them under water with tremie cement. 
The tunnel plans called for two lines of traffic and sidewalks on 
both sides, thus requiring an unusually efficient system of 
ventilation; the Holland Tunnel system was adopted in all its 
important aspects. Ole Singstad, its author, acted as consulting 
engineer for the Posey Tunnel. 

The next important vehicular tunnel, which was the first 
international tube of its kind, was built between Detroit and 
Windsor, Ontario, and is generally called the Detroit- Windsor 
Tunnel. Designed by S. A. Thoresen, another American engi- 
neer of Norwegian birth and training, this tunnel, like the one 
at Oakland, borrowed heavily and wisely from the pioneer work 
of Hoff and Singstad. 

Soren A. Thoresen, an 1896 graduate of the Mechanical 
Trade School at Porsgrund, studied electrical engineering at the 
technical institute in Mittweida, Germany, before coming to 

197 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the United States in 1903. After working for a time in Minne- 
apolis and later with Westinghouse at Pittsburgh, he found his 
real opportunity with William Barclay Parsons of New York 
City. Taking employment in 1905 as a draftsman, Thoresen 
rose to become, in 1940, a member of the present distinguished 
firm of Parsons, Klapp, Brinckerhoff, and Douglas, consulting 
engineers. Although his training was along mechanical and elec- 
trical lines, Thoresen has participated ably in many other 
branches of engineering. While his work as an engineer has thus 
covered a variety of undertakings including hydroelectric 
and defense projects he also made a successful excursion into 
the field of tunneling and is therefore linked to our story of 
transportation. 41 

In the early seventies of the last century the people of De- 
troit were engaged in a heated debate over the relative merits 
of a bridge or tunnel to cross the Detroit River to Canada. The 
struggle became tense when two powerful and interested groups 
lined up on opposite sides in the battle. The shipping interests 
favored a tunnel, because of their fear of what bridges might do 
to the high masts of the ships which plied the river. The rail- 
roads, on the other hand, favored bridges. It soon became clear, 
however, that bridges high enough to clear the masts of ships 
would require approaches a mile long at either end, and favor- 
able opinion for a tunnel thus gradually made headway. 

Chesbrough's failure to tunnel under the Detroit River has 
already been noted. A second venture in 1879, seeking to link 
Grosse Isle and the Canadian mainland by a tube, was aban- 
doned because limestone formations made the cost prohibitive. 
When the Grand Trunk Railway tunnel under the St. Clair 
River was completed at Port Huron in 1891, another flurry of 
tunnel excitement swept over Detroit, whose citizens feared 
that shipping might be diverted to Port Huron. In the mean- 
time several renewed attempts to push a bridge project through 
failed as miserably as the first tunnels. Finally, the remarkable 

a Norwegian-Amer hem Technical Journal, vol. 11, no. 2, p. 7 (December, 1988); 
Wong, Norske utvandrere, 73; and information furnished by Thoresen in an interview! 
May, 1941. 

198 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

success of the Michigan Central project settled the question of 
tunnel versus bridge in favor of the former, and when auto- 
mobile traffic became heavy, a vehicular tunnel under the De- 
troit River was agreed upon. 42 

Formally opened on November 1, 1930, the Detroit-Windsor 
Tunnel met a serious need in motor traffic between the 
two cities. Total crossings both ways reported in 1929 were 
17,000,000 passengers and 2,066,000 motor vehicles. Up to 1929 
two ferry systems, located about two and a half miles apart, 
had to carry business and pleasure traffic, a strain increasingly 
too great for that type of service. The new tunnel, 5,137 feet in 
length between portals, begins, on the American side, only a few 
hundred feet from the center of Detroit's financial and shopping 
district. At the Canadian end the entrance is located in the 
heart of Windsor's business center. Two and a half years under 
construction, the tunnel's underwater section of over half a mile 
was built in sections on shore; these were towed into position, 
sunk, and concreted after the manner of HofFs earlier tunnel. 
The shield-driven sections at both shore ends are about a quarter 
of a mile long, and the rest, built by the cut-and-cover method, 
is over a quarter of a mile in length. The roadway, which pro- 
vides one lane of traffic each way as well as patrol sidewalks, is fl 
ventilated in the Holland Tunnel tradition. 43 

While similar to earlier tunnels, the Detroit-Windsor tube 
nevertheless was novel in several respects. Not least unusual 
was the financing method used. Late in 1926, Thoresen writes, 
a man entered the New York offices of Parsons, Klapp, Brinck- 
erhoff, and Douglas, where Thoresen was employed. The visitor 
put forward the idea of a tunnel under the Detroit River, a 
project which he thought would be profitable as well as feasible 

^"Detroit and Canada Vehicular Tunnel," in Canadian Engineer, 60:11-15, 53 
(April 81, 1931) . 

43 "The Detroit- Windsor Tunnel," in Engineering (London), 180:605-609, 667- 
669, 702-705 (November 14, 28, and December 5, 1930) ; S. A. Thoresen, "Construc- 
tion of Detroit-Canada Tunnel," in Canadian Engineer, 56:257-260, (February 26, 
1929) ; "Detroit and Canada Vehicular Tunnel," in Canadian Engineer, 60: 11-15, 53; 
"The Detroit-Canada Vehicular Tunnel," in Engineering News-Record, 103: 600-606 
(October 17, 1929); and S. A. Thoresen, "Constructing the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel," 
in Civil Engineering, 1:613-618 (April, 1931) . 

199 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

from a technical point of view. The tunnel, he said, would be 
financed by private capital. This promoter, a captain in the 
Salvation Army, proved to be something more than a visionary. 
A group of Detroit bankers organized the Guardian Detroit 
Company, which, assisted by New York and Chicago banking 
houses, took over the financing of the tunnel and engaged Par- 
sons, Klapp et al. as engineers of design and construction. To 
Thoresen went the responsibility of design; Singstad acted as 
consulting engineer for the whole tunnel and was responsible 
for the plan of its ventilation system. 44 

As an international artery of travel the Detroit- Windsor 
Tunnel presented an unusual problem in traffic regulation. 
Theoretically it can handle 1,000 vehicles per hour on each of 
its two lanes, but capacity is regulated in fact by the speed with 
which customs and immigration officials finish their duties at 
either end. At the two terminal plazas are facilities for inspec- 
tion, eight lanes on the American side and ten on the Canadian 
side being kept busy when traffic is at a maximum. Lights 
placed on the pavement help customs officials on the American 
side to detect contraband. Bus passengers are discharged at the 
terminals and are admitted to the streets after passing a routine 
inspection. 

In the shield-driven part of the tunnel, the distinguishing 
feature is that for the primary lining structural steel was used 
instead of cast iron, which had been commonly employed in the 
past. Greater economy, lightness, ease of erection, and strength 
were the qualities mentioned in defense of this choice, 45 It 
should be added that the steel lining was planned by Thoresen. 

Several other novel features characterized construction at 

^Thoresen, in Civil Engineering, 1:613-618. 

45 S. A. Thoresen, "Tunnel Lining of Welded Steel," in Iron Age, 125:985-989 
(April 3, 1930) . The question of steel versus cast iron for tunnel lining is a highly 
controversial one, with respect both to merit and economy. The chief objection made 
to steel lining is the difficulty and expense of making it watertight in places like 
New York, where this precaution is imperative. The tunnel at Detroit was cut through 
generally impervious clay which, but for sand pockets, is nearly ideal material for 
tunneling; as a consequence it was not designed to be absolutely watertight. The only 
other tunnel built of structural steel without provisions for watertightening is the one 
under Boston harbor, where ground conditions are similar to those at Detroit. 

200 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

Detroit. The junction between the shield-driven section and 
the subaqueous tube was effected without sinking a shaft at 
that point. The shield was driven into a bell-shaped enlarge- 
ment of the river tube near the shore. The operation was per- 
formed under a clay blanket dumped in advance, the shield 
being pushed blindly through the blanket, 46 In laying the giant 
steel tube sections each measuring about 250 feet in length 
which form the river section of the tunnel, sand was first placed 
in the bottom of the trench at a correct grade by use of a spe- 
cially designed leveling device. Sand was lowered into the 
trench by means of clamshell buckets. 47 All in all, the Detroit- 
Windsor Tunnel, in design and construction, was no mere imi- 
tation. 

On September 10, 1933, two tunnels one for vehicles and 
another, about half a mile distant, for pedestrians and cy- 
clists were opened to traffic under the Scheldt River at Ant- 
werp, Belgium. Behind this event lies an interesting story of 
American collaboration and the eastward movement of immi- 
grant skills. In the spring of 1930, M. Frankinoul, a prominent 
Belgian contractor, visited the United States in anticipation of 
the Antwerp undertaking. The contractors were responsible for 
plans, estimates, and bids, as well as for construction. The only 
tunnel work in progress in this country at the time was at De- 
troit, where Frankinoul studied construction techniques and 
decided to employ the Parsons firm as consultants. But before 
returning to his homeland he made further inquiries and as a 
consequence asked Singstad to serve in a consulting capacity. 
In the completed shield-driven tunnels at Antwerp, American 
precedents were followed throughout, except for the escalators 
and elevators serving the pedestrian tube. Cast-iron linings 
similar to those in New York were adopted, on Singstad's rec- 
ommendation. Singstad designed not only this lining in all de- 
tails but also the tunnel shield, and he was wholly responsible 
for the ventilation system and the equipment design. Thoresen, 



^Thoresen, in Canadian Engineer, 56:257-260. 
** Thoresen, in Civil Engineering, 1: 613-618. 



201 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

representing his firm, also participated as an active consultant 
and has given an interesting record of the project. Both Ameri- 
cans were decorated by King Albert for their services. 48 

In the meantime traffic across the Hudson between New 
York City and New Jersey had continued to increase rapidly. 
The Port of New York Authority, established in 1921 by the 
states of New York and New Jersey to promote the commercial 
development of the New York port, with special regard to im- 
proving terminal and transportation facilities, 49 was faced with 
the fact that all vehicles crossing the Hudson in the vicinity of 
New York City were borne by the George Washington Bridge 
(completed in 1931), the Holland Tunnel, and nineteen ferries. 
Traffic had risen from 5,000,000 vehicles in 1915 to 31,500,000 
in 1936 an increase of over 500 per cent in twenty-one years. 
A further increase to 40,000,000 was anticipated by 1941. 50 The 
Holland Tunnel and Washington Bridge left the large mid-town 
section of Manhattan unprovided for. The result was that the 
Port Authority planned what is called the Lincoln Tunnel to 
link New Jersey with the central Manhattan business district 
and to form part of a future through highway route to Long 
Island. 51 

The Lincoln Tunnel followed the Holland tube in its basic 
plan. 0, H. Ammann, the Port Authority's engineering director, 
was responsible for designing and all other work, but Singstad, 
chief consulting engineer on tunnels for the Port Authority, 
was also chief consultant on this enormous project, the south- 
ern tube of which measured 8,215 feet between portals and 
called for exceptional skill in construction. 52 



Singstad, "Vehicular and Pedestrian Tunnels at Antwerp," in Civil Engi- 
neering, 4:1-5 (January, 1934); and S. A. Thoresen, "Shield-driven Tunnels near 
Completion under the Schelde at Antwerp," in Engineering News-Record, 110: 827-832 
(June 29, 1933) . 

48 "The Port of New York Authority," in Engineer (London), 162:2-4 (July 3, 
1936) . 

50 O. H. Ammann, "Planning the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson," in Civil En- 
gineering, 7: 387-391 (June, 1937) . 

51 "New Eoad under the Hudson," in Engineering News-Record, 118:901-907 
(June 17, 1937) . 

62 Two excellent accounts of this tunnel are "The Lincoln Vehicular Tunnel," in 
Engineer (London), 164:276-279, 284, 302-305, 310 (September 10 and 17, 1937); 

202 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

Almost directly across from the Lincoln Tunnel, connecting 
Manhattan and Queens, the Queens Midtown Tunnel carries 
vehicles under the East River, relieving a great traffic strain 
that had existed for many years. Prior to the construction of 
this tunnel, the Queensborough Bridge was the only crossing 
on the East River for a stretch of over 5 miles between Tri- 
borough Bridge to the north and Williamsburg Bridge on the 
south. The new tunnel not only carries traffic between Queens 
and Manhattan, but also serves as an important link in a 
highway system in Greater New York which furnishes a "direct 
connection between midtown Manhattan and Queens, Brook- 
lyn and the routes that lead to the communities, parks and 
resorts that lie farther out on Long Island, while via the pro- 
posed Midtown Manhattan Underpass the system will be ex- 
tended to the west side of Manhattan, and by way of the Lin- 
coln Tunnel across the Hudson River to the mainland/' 53 

The Queens Tunnel, conceived at an early date, was only 
slowly realized; but the mounting volume of traffic, the in- 
adequacy of existing crossings, and the pressure of citizen 
groups all served to hasten its construction. After numerous 
preliminary steps, largely negated by the depression that fol- 
lowed 1929, the New York State legislature created in the 
Queens Midtown Tunnel Authority "a public benefit corpora- 
tion empowered to plan and construct the Queens Midtown 
Tunnel as a self-supporting and self-liquidating project/ 3 No 
funds were provided; in 1935 the Queens Midtown Tunnel Au- 
thority asked the Public Works Administration for assistance, 
and at the same time received a loan from the city for making 
preliminary plans and studies. Finally in January, 1936, a P.W.A. 
loan and grant of $58,365,000 was approved, $47,130,000 of 
which was in the form of a loan. During the same month the 
name of the new body was changed to the New York City Tun- 
nel Authority, which still exists. "The obligations of the Au- 

and "The Lincoln Vehicular Tunnel, New York," in Engineering (London) , 145: 375- 
377, 435-437 (April 8 and 22, 1938) . 

63 Ole Singstad, "The Planning and Construction of the Queens Midtown Tunnel," 
in Municipal Engineers Journal^ no. 3, p. 114 (New York, 1938). 

203 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

thority are not a debt of the State or City of New York, and 
the Queens Midtown Tunnel will be operated and its cost 
amortized out of revenues from tolls, without any expense to 
taxpayers. When all the liabilities of the Authority have been 
met, its corporate existence will terminate, and all its rights 
and properties pass to the City of New York." M 

Singstad, as chief engineer for the New York Tunnel Au- 
thority, had charge of the design and construction of the Queens 
Midtown Tunnel. Preliminary plans were altered, and after con- 
siderable delay caused by politicians, the work of tunneling 
was begun. Completed in 1940, this tunnel, the most difficult 
to construct and therefore the most costly, resembles both the 
Holland and Lincoln tunnels. The cast-iron sections measure in 
diameter slightly more than those in the Holland Tunnel, thus 
giving a wider roadway. Improved lighting, larger air ducts, 
better use of fans, and general progress in details characterize 
the newer project in a comparison with the Holland tunnel 
but the pattern is the same. Composed of two double-lane 
tubes, the tunnel measures over 6,000 feet in length and was 
cut through extremely unfavorable ground. The cost was about 
$55,000,000, which represented a saving of millions below esti- 
mate; it was completed in less than scheduled time. 55 

Singstad writes, discussing the completed Queens Midtown 
Tunnel: "Extended research is no longer necessary in planning 
and designing tunnels for highway traffic, and, with proper 
coordination of contracts, such projects can be completed in a 
practical minimum of time. The operation of existing highway 
tunnels will continue to provide data for improvements in de- 
sign which will add to the safety, utility, and economical 
operation of future tunnels/ 556 The pioneer period is past. 

But the story of Singstad's career did not end with this 
project. Under construction at the time of Pearl Harbor was a 

64 Singstad, in Municipal Engineers Journal, 117. 

55 Singstad, in Municipal Engineers Journal, 119-183. Since this section was writ- 
ten, a more comprehensive account has come from Singstad's pen, "The Queens Mid- 
town Tunnel," in American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 109:679-762 
(1944) . 

86 American Society of Civil Engineers, Proceedings, 69:396 (March, 1948). 

204 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

$75,000,000 undertaking to be known as the Brooklyn-Battery 
Tunnel, which the New York City Tunnel Authority is driving 
from Hamilton Avenue in Brooklyn to the Battery. When com- 
pleted it will serve as a link in a by-pass route around the con- 
gestion encountered on the way to Manhattan. The Battery 
tunnel had a spectacular beginning because of a controversy 
that resulted in 1939 from the sudden proposal by certain in- 
terests to substitute a bridge. The fight raged for several months 
and was finally resolved by the war department, which favored 
the tunnel. The two tubes of this tunnel, when shut down 
because of wartime problems, each had advanced a distance of 
2,800 feet from the Manhattan shore and a maximum of 1,200 
feet from the Brooklyn construction shaft. The Brooklyn- 
Battery Tunnel, which will perhaps be completed in 1949, will 
be the longest vehicular tunnel in the country, measuring some 
9,1 17 feet in length. 

A proposed Narrows tunnel connecting Brooklyn and Staten 
Island will in all probability be the next subaqueous project of 
importance in New York. It will provide for two lanes of traffic 
in either direction, will be operated on a toll basis, and will cost 
about $73,500,000. The Narrows tunnel is expected to stimulate 
residential and commercial development on Staten Island, 
whose growth has been retarded by lack of physical transporta- 
tion connections except for bridges to New Jersey. It will serve, 
too, to by-pass through travel between the South and West and 
New England around the congested sections of New York City 
and will complete an outer belt loop. The tubes may be con- 
structed by either the trench or the shield-and-compressed air 
method in the Narrows undercrossing; the land section connect- 
ing to the portal in Brooklyn will consist of two cast-iron lined 
tubes constructed by the shield technique; and the land section 
on Staten Island will resemble the opposite end except for a 
short section of cut-and-cover construction. 57 

Singstad, baldish, short, and vigorous, had thirty-five years 

67 See Singstad's Final Report of New York City Tunnel Authority on Proposed 
Narrows Highway Tunnel between the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Richmond (New 
York, 1945) . 

205 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

of public service before retiring in 1945 to his own private prac- 
tice. He has had the distinction and pleasure of seeing his work 
properly appraised and himself recognized as the greatest tun- 
nel authority in the world. At the time of the opening of the 
Holland Tunnel the New York Times stated editorially: "To 
Ole Singstad, Holland's Designing Engineer, fell the task of 
finishing an undertaking that will rank with such engineering 
monuments as the Panama CanaL . . . Technical history was 
written when the ventilating apparatus was designed." 58 Engi- 
neers and scientists have since acknowledged Singstad's pre- 
eminence in the field that he has made a lifelong specialty, and 
institutions like New York University and Stevens Institute of 
Technology have echoed this acclaim by conferring honorary 
doctoral degrees, while mentioning also his "daring vision and 
irrepressible action," his resourcefulness and skill. 59 

vn 

To many Norwegian Americans living in New York City or 
in one of its near-by suburbs, Sverre Dahrn's name is still a 
familiar one. The reason is not far to seek. Though he neither 
sought nor received great publicity, Dahm is remembered as 
one of the leading engineers associated with the construction 
of the now excellent subway network in Greater New York, 
from its beginnings in 1900 to his death in 1932. Over its tracks, 
millions regularly travel at great speed to and from their work. 
Dahm supervised the design of the various branches of the 
B.M.T. and I.R.T. roads and of the entire New York City sub- 
way system still under construction in the 1930's. Subway 
construction, though it involves most of the engineering 
sciences, has many features in common with tunneling, and 
Dahm's name therefore belongs properly beside those of Hoff 
and Singstad. 

England was the birthplace of the subway as well as of the 

68 November 11, 1927. 

Bfl It should be mentioned that Singstad was consulting engineer on the tunnel ap- 
proaches to the George Washington Bridge, the Penn-Lincoln Vehicular Tunnel at 
Pittsburgh, and similar projects. He has also lectured on foundation engineering arid 
similar subjects at Harvard and New York universities. 

206 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

shield-driven tunnel; the first underground system of tracks was 
one designed in 1860 to connect some twelve ordinary railway 
stations in London. No sooner was this project completed than 
regular underground railways were planned; the earliest of the 
"tuppenny tubes'* was begun in 1886. The Paris Metropolitaine 
was authorized in 1898 and its first section opened three years 
later. 

The history of New York's subways began in a novel manner 
when Alfred Ely Beach, an engineer-editor, invented a shield 
and proposed a tunnel, operated by pneumatic power, to carry 
such items as mail, merchandise and possibly passengers 
in the Manhattan area. He actually tunneled through the 
earth under lower Broadway as early as 1868-70 and an experi- 
mental section of about a hundred yards was in fact operated, 
but the project was abandoned because of the development of 
elevated lines, political opposition, and the fear current among 
engineers of the time that tunnels bored beneath narrow streets 
lined with great buildings involved too hazardous an under- 
taking. 60 Thus the first contract for a subway system was let 
as late as 1900, the contractor agreeing to build 1 miles run- 
ning from City Hall northward by two routes to the Bronx. 
William Barclay Parsons was chief engineer of the project. 6 * 
Dahm, as assistant designing engineer, planned much of this 
line, and before it was completed in 1904, he had already begun 
a second unit. 

Sverre Dahm's career is in several respects unique. With him 
the significant history of Norwegian engineers in New York 
really began. Not entirely inexperienced in railroad work, 
Dahm had built a stretch of the Vestbanen in southern Norway 
before coming to America. He sailed from the Old World with 
his close friend Gunvald Aus, with whom he had studied at the 
Munich Polytechnicum, and together they obtained work with 
Theodore Cooper and Bernt Berger some time after their ar- 
rival in 1883. This unusual friendship, which persisted through 

60 An interesting account of this "subway" is in Scientific Americm,, vol. , no. 10 
(March 5, 1870). 

tt Kirby and Laurson, Modern Civil Engineering, 180-182. 

207 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

tlie years, had a third party added to it later in the person of 
Kort Berle, with whom Aus was to make history in the de- 
velopment of skyscrapers. Dahm's first experiences in America, 
however, were with the Delaware Bridge and Union Bridge com- 
panies as designer and computer of stresses. His next assign- 
ment took him to Panama in 1884, where he mapped the 
country on the Pacific side of the proposed canal site. Return- 
ing the next year to the States, he became bridge engineer with 
the Long Island Railroad. In 1889 he took charge of the office 
of a consulting engineer, Albert H. Wolf, in Chicago, and there 
had an opportunity to participate in skyscraper construction in 
its infancy. Later in New York he was responsible for the de- 
signs of numerous tall office buildings during an association with 
the Jackson Architectural Iron Works. 

Dahm was peculiarly well trained for the work that was to 
crown his brilliant career. Steel and skyscraper, railroad and 
tunnel problems were a major part of the difficulties facing a 
man in charge of subway design. Dahm took employment in 
1900 with the board of rapid-transit commissioners. As the 
administration of subways switched from organization to or- 
ganization, Dahm served with the public service commission, 
the transit construction commissioner, the transit commis- 
sion, and finally the board of transportation. He fully earned 
the reputation of being the world's foremost subway designer. 
By 1929, when he resigned, he was the only board engineer in 
high position who had been connected with New York subway 
construction from its beginning; he had 800 engineers under his 
supervision, and directed a yearly budget of some $75,000,000. 
From 1905 on Dahm had been in charge of the design depart- 
ment, and in 1925 he was appointed deputy chief engineer, in 
charge of designs, of the board of transportation. Following 
his retirement, he served as consulting engineer till his death 
in February, I932. 62 

62 So far as the writer is able to determine, Baton published only one article rela- 
tive to his work a summary of tests made of the steel-concrete construction used 
in building extensions of the New York Rapid Transit Lines; Beton und Eis&n, (Berlin), 
2:100(1904). 

208 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

An understanding of the nature of Dahm's work and of the 
responsibility he carried is clear to one who recalls, among other 
things, that by the end of 1925 subway rapid-transit lines in 
New York City carried almost 2,000,000,000 passengers, while 
surface cars carried only half that number. In 1923, whereas 
there were over 47,000 accidents on surface cars, there were only 
about 15,000 similar cases on the subway and elevated lines. 
Underpinning beneath the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan 
and below the narrow streets was another problem. The build- 
ings had to be left intact and business permitted to continue 
its normal course during construction. Building foundations 
were jacked up and then columns or piles about 15 inches in 
diameter placed under the jacks, the weight of the buildings push- 
ing down one spliced pile upon another deep into the earth. This 
simple method could not always be used, however, for an intri- 
cate maze of gas pipes, steam and water mains, tunnel aque- 
ducts, high- and low-tension wire ducts, submarine cables and 
pneumatic tubes, sewers, and surface trolley track supports had 
somehow to be avoided and proper underpinning provided in 
one ingenious way or another. 63 

During the period of Dahm's service, rapid-transit lines to 
the value of about $800,000,000 were designed and built and for 
most of it Dahm himself had charge of the designing features 
involved. Though he was consulted on every aspect of planning 
and regarded as final judge in all technical phases, his special- 
ized knowledge of the principles involved in steel and reinf orced- 
concrete design was singled out by engineers as his most valu- 
able asset. 64 He will also be remembered as the author of the 
steel-bent type of structure used to build subways and as one 
of the most efficient and loyal employees ever to work for the 
city of New York. 65 

63 An excellent account of this and other phases of Dahm's work is provided in an 
article by Katrine Hvidt Bie, in Nordisk tidende, July 8, 1926. _ ._ _ . 

64 Robert Ridgway and A. I. Raisman, in American Society of Civil Engineers, 
Transactions, 96:1448-1451 (1932). ^ rr 7j 

65 New York Times, February 15, 1932, and New York Herald Tribune, February 
15 1932 In addition to the accounts listed above, see Norwegian-American Technical 
Journal, vol. 2, no. 2, p. 9 (July, 1929) and vol. 6, no. 1, p. 10 (April, 1933) ; Wong, 
Norske utvandrere, 67; and archives of Norwegian-American Technical Society, 

209 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

VIII 

The contributions of Anders Bull during the early years of 
radio are discussed elsewhere in this volume. But Bull, well past 
the years in life when the average engineer has done his best 
work, has also earned an enviable reputation as research engi- 
neer with the New York board of transportation, as a result of 
discoveries that are significant in the subway story. Inventive 
of mind, with wide interests and a purely scientific approach to 
problems, Bull has made studies in acoustics, track alignment, 
reinforced concrete, and earth pressure. Perhaps his most lasting 
contribution to engineering knowledge has derived from a 
mechanical system of calculating stresses in statically indeter- 
minate structures, a subject about which he has written and 
lectured considerably. Using a wire model, he has been able to 
determine stresses produced by settlement in a multiple-frame 
structure. Mathematical analysis had been found too extensive 
and cumbersome for practical use, and previous methods of 
model analysis based upon Maxwell's law of reciprocal deflec- 
tions were found impracticable by Bull. His new system avoided 
both earlier disadvantages and he has demonstrated its accuracy 
by checking results with values determined mathematically. 60 

Bull moved on to a similar problem in foundation engineer- 
ing how to determine the soil pressure distribution along a 
flexible slab transmitting its load to an elastically yielding 
ground. Finding comparatively little reliable information on 
the subject, despite the extensive use of flexible foundation 
slabs in modern structures, he set about discovering a simple 
and direct method of determining soil pressure distribution, 
knowing that such a method was essential in subway work as 
well as in foundation design. In subways the "bottom slab or 
'invert' transmitting the weight of the structure and overlying 
soil to the ground below, is subjected to an ever varying array 

Chicago. There is no really adequate study of the New York subway system; but Gil- 
bert, Wightman, and Saunders, Subways and Tunnels of New York (New York, 1912) 
and Archibald Black, The Story of Tunnels (New York, 1927) are useful. 

06 Anders Bull, "Settlement Stresses Found with a Model," in Civil Engineering* 
7: 561--565 (August, 1937) . An earlier report is found in numbers 48, 49, and 50 of 
Teknisk ukeblad (Oslo, 1030). 

210 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

of loading conditions." Bull recently presented to the Franklin 
Institute the details of two methods approaching the problem 
in different ways and "meeting all reasonable demands for 
speed, simplicity and accuracy/' 6T The institute was sufficiently 
impressed to award him the Louis E. Levy medal for "a paper 
of especial merit" containing material that is "both theoretical 
and experimental, original with the author and in a field of 
fundamental importance." Of Bull's methods of determining 
pressure, the institute said that his approach "enables the 
engineer to predict the resulting earth pressures along a founda- 
tion, with a minimum of calculation and with a maximum of 
certainty." 68 

IX 

August Gundersen, now manager of H^yerElIef sen, Norway's 
largest contracting firm, was Olaf HofFs first assistant during 
the construction of the Detroit River Tunnel. Then only twenty- 
seven years old, he was chief engineer for the firm Butler 
Brothers-Hoff Company, which had the tunnel contract. With 
the Detroit job completed, however, Gundersen returned to 
Norway, thus depriving this country of a promising engineer. 69 
HoiFs confidence in Norwegian engineers is further demon- 
strated by the fact that his first assistant for the Harlem River 
Tunnel was Guttorm Miller, now chief engineer of the A. I. 
Dupuis Company of Detroit. Miller, a graduate of Christiania's 
Technical College, was construction engineer for the Penn- 
sylvania Railroad tunnels under the East River, New York 
City, and the Michigan Central Tunnel under the Detroit 
River. He was once underpinning engineer for the New York 
subways and is now an expert on hydroelectric construction 
and docks. 70 

67 Anders Bull, "Soil Pressure Distribution along Flexible Foundations," in Frank- 
lin Institute, Journal, 33:559-580 (June, 1942) . 

**Nordisk tidende, May 13, 1943. Bull has also contributed an article of special 
interest to the tunnel story: "Stresses in the Linings of Shield Driven Tunnels," in 
American Society of Civil Engineers, Proceedings, 70 (2) : 1363 f. (1944) . On January 
31, 1944, Bull retired from the board of transportation, having reached the age limit of 
seventy, 

00 Skandinaven, December 14, 1937. 

70 Archives of Norwegian-American Technical Society, Chicago. 

211 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Gundersen and Miller may be linked with HofFs work, while 
Hans Rude Jacobsen is associated historically with Singstad. 
Born in Drammen in 1876 and a graduate of Christiania's 
Technical College, Jacobsen is a genial dean among New York's 
Norwegian engineers and has been active in tunnel work over a 
long period, chiefly in connection with the city's subway system. 
Associated first with the Rapid Transit Subway Construction 
Company in 1902, when it began subway work, in 1904 he was 
made engineer in charge of the eastern part of the Belmont 
Tunnel under the East River and its extension in Long Island 
City. In 1917-18 he was consultant for two tunnels under con- 
struction on Long Island, until he joined the army as captain 
of engineers and was engaged by General G. W. Goethals to 
make reports on tunnels in New York and Seattle. Later em- 
ployed by the city of New York as engineer in charge of cais- 
son and triangulation work for the Narrows railroad tunnel, he 
did significant work from 1922 to 1934 on subway tunnels. When 
he retired from the board of transportation, he was appointed 
by the federal government to be supervising engineer of the 
Lincoln Tunnel. After 1936 he was in charge of construction on 
the Queens Midtown Tunnel at Long Island City. 71 

Erling Owre, a graduate of Trondhjem's Technical College, 
has worked closely with Singstad as architect with the New 
York City Tunnel Authority. He has designed the architectural 
features of the ventilation buildings and the portal and open- 
approach embellishment of more vehicular tunnels than any 
other man; his projects include the Holland, Queens Midtown, 
Brooklyn-Battery and the proposed Narrows tunnels. 72 

Others have helped to make American tunnel and subway 
history. Emil Bie, like Miller a graduate of Christiania's Tech- 
nical College in 1900, has served with the Interborough Rapid 
Transit Railway Company and the New York , State Barge 
Canal Office, and was associated with the design of the Nar- 
rows railroad tunnel. At present he is engaged in the design and 

71 Magnus Bj^mdal, in Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 8, no. 1 p 11 
(November, 1935) . 

^Alstad, Trotndhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 165; Alstad, Tillegg, 46. 

212 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

construction of new subway lines at the board of transporta- 
tion. He has contributed to engineering knowledge by his re- 
searches in indeterminate structures, soil pressure, and transit 
line operation. His most outstanding contribution is a new 
theory for the calculation of soil pressure as it affects tunnels 
and subways. In November, 1923, he presented a paper on this 
subject before the Brooklyn Engineers' Club, winning the Alfred 
T. White prize of the year for his originality. 73 He won con- 
siderable recognition, together with Alfred Varley Sims, brother 
of Admiral Sims, as a result of their scheme for air-raid shelters 
in New York's subways. 74 They proposed to build subway 
stations in outlying areas of Greater New York; later these 
would be transformed into finished subway stations and tun- 
nels would be driven linking them together. The Sims sand slab 
was recommended for use as an under-street covering for the 
station. A model has been demonstrated; it was based on Bies's 
study of soil pressure. 75 

An electrical and mechanical engineer of note who died re- 
cently was Alf Hjort, chief engineer of the George H. Flinn 
Corporation. Hjort was born in Christiania in 1877 and edu- 
cated at the Hanover Polytechnicum. After practicing in Berlin 
and London, he came to the United States in 1903 as electrical 
engineer for S. Peaxson and Son of England, in the construction 
of the Pennsylvania Railroad tunnel under the East River. 
After 1909 he was engineer for the Degnon Contracting Com- 
pany on the Catskill water-supply project, and in 1914 he 
joined the Flinn Corporation, engineers and contractors. Other 
projects in which he participated prominently were the Man- 
hattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Bronx subways, the Montague 
and Clark streets tunnels, the Holland and Brooklyn-Battery 
vehicular tunnels, the Bayonne dry dock for the navy, the 
Liberty Tunnel in Pittsburgh, the International Bridge over 

78 "Arching Effect in Soil," in Brooklyn Engineers' Club, Proceedings, no. 190, p, 
5-54 (January, 1924) . 

74 Magnus Bj0rndal, in Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, p. 
12, 23. 

75 Queens Civic News,. April 10, 1941; Emil Bie, "Subway Shelters," in Norwegian- 
American Technical Journal,, vol. 14, no. 1, p. 3-5 (May, 1942) . 

213 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the St. Lawrence River at Cornwall, Canada, and highway and 
bridge construction for the Westchester County parkway sys- 
tem. Hjort died in December, 1944. 76 

Berge B. Furre, as a draftsman with the Rapid Transit Sub- 
way Construction Company, was involved in the building of 
New York's first subway; later, with the board of transpor- 
tation, he advanced to the position of designing engineer in the 
planning division in charge of general designs and the layout 
of new rapid-transit lines in the 1920's and early 1930's. 77 

Bj^rgulf Haukelid, a graduate of Christiania's Technical 
College in the early years of the present century, also served 
as subway designer under Dahm. Shortly after the end of 
World War I he returned to Norway. His daughter is the film 
star Sigrid Guri, who was born in Brooklyn. 

Tollef B. M^nniche worked on the Panama Canal as first 
assistant in 1907 to Professor David Molitors and designing 
engineer of the emergency dams on both sides of Gatun Lake. 
When Molitors left to accept a position at Cornell University, 
his place as chief of the project was taken by M^nniche. A 
graduate of the War Academy in Norway and of the technical 
institute at Dresden, Mjzfnniche had come to America in 1901 
and had been employed by the Pennsylvania and Virginian 
railroads before going to Panama. 78 

Thus in the history of tunneling in America, the development 
of the trench-and-tremie method at Detroit, in which Hofl 
figured prominently, added a new and revolutionary type of 
construction to the familiar shield method. With the advent of 
the automobile, itself of untold significance in our economic and 
social life, a new kind of underwater tunnel, adapted to the 
peculiar needs of the gasoline motor, came into being in the 
twenties and thirties of the present century. A great engineering 
feat in any aspect, the vehicular tunnel owes its remarkable 

NordM tidende, December 21, 1944; New York Times, December 14, 1944; En- 
gineering News-Record, 133:799 (December 1, 1944). 

77 Wong, Norske utvandrere, 69; materials in archives of Norwegian-American 
Technical Society, Chicago. 

78 Minneapolis tidende, May 3, 1917, and August 15, 1919; Nordmanns-forbundet, 
7:57 (1914), and 28:343 (1935). 

214 



A REVOLUTION IN TUNNELING 

success to the method of ventilation developed by Singstad, 
S. A. Thoresen made his greatest single contribution in the 
Detroit- Windsor Tunnel, and proved that steel could be used 
as a tube lining. Sverre Dahm might with justice be termed the 
technical father of New York's subway network. And numerous 
other engineers from Norway, though less familiar to the gen- 
eral public, have contributed to the tunnel story with skills 
potentially as great as those of the men in prominent positions. 
The result of their combined efforts is nothing less than a revo- 
lution in tunneling. 



215 



BUILDING 

TO THE 

THE American skyscraper is a source 
SKIES of unfailing comment by foreign visi- 

tor and American alike. Though as 
was the case with the Gothic cathe- 
dral the skyscraper is sometimes 
termed crude and naive in conception, it has generally been 
hailed as a dynamic form embodying the restless energy and 
initiative of the New World. "In the skyscraper," Alfred C. Bos- 
som, a well-known British architect, has said, "America has in- 
vented and developed a wholly new and revolutionary form and 
type of building that is absolutely and characteristically her 
own. . . . These mighty structures proclaim the daring, the 
inventiveness, the self-confident power of their creators." Ac- 
cording to the same writer, twentieth-century America, "sus- 
ceptible to size, eager for novelty, spurred on by a conquering 
quasi-Elizabethan vitality and groping for expression, found it, 

to its immense satisfaction and stimulus, in the skyscraper 

The stamp of the pioneer was on it from the first." * 

Bossom's views have been generally accepted by discerning 
Americans. Few indeed who have traveled from city to city in 
the United States will deny that the skyscraper occupies the 
same dominant position once held and in many cases still 
held by the cathedral in the cities of Europe. To the traveler 
from abroad the parallel is at once apparent. 

It would be wrong to assume, however, that the skyscraper 
was aesthetically inspired or primarily the creation of a new 
school of architecture. It was rather the product of the American 

1 Building to the Skies, the Romance of the Skyscrapers, 9, 14 (London, 1984). 
Bossom expresses himself similarly in the New York Herald Tribune, July 22, 1928. 
The skyscraper, he says, is "the one new thing in the architectural world, and it typifies 
America the world over." 

216 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

economic revolution and as much a part of modern business as 
banking and the factory system. Built by engineers trained in 
bridge construction, the skyscraper developed from this tech- 
nique and grew naturally with the growth of America itself. 
Among the engineers who saw the new structure originate and 
assisted in its growth were several Norwegians, who thus had a 
peculiarly vital part in one of the most significant chapters in 
recent American history. 

I 

No understanding of the part played by these men is possible 
without a fuller history of the skyscraper. While associated in 
the popular mind with lower Manhattan and the loop district 
of Chicago, the tall office building is found in every American 
city of any size and volume of business, and the explanation is 
the same in all places. After due allowances are made for an 
understandable competition between cities and firms, and for 
a national fondness for display, size, and great financial out- 
lay even of recklessness and daring it is found that the 
skyscraper came into being as a result of certain changes in 
American commercial life. Toward the end of the nineteenth 
century efforts were made to combine various business units 
both vertically and horizontally, thus bringing vast segments of 
our economic life under unified control and common ownership. 
With the success of these attempts, "The association between 
businessmen and their lawyers, manufacturers and their banks, 
merchants and their creditors, became so close and so continu- 
ous that neither letters nor the telegraph nor even the new- 
fangled telephone were competent to handle it." 2 In other 
words, the skyscraper was one with giant mergers, the concen- 
tration of business, and the specialization and increasing inter- 
dependence of the various units of the industrial and commercial 
world. It was the inevitable structural result of New World 
economic conditions. 

As business tended to concentrate in certain sections of our 
cities, a demand arose for offices on a particular street or group 

2 "The Skyscraper," in Fortune, 2: 86 (December, 1930). 

217 



SAGA IN STEEL AM) CONCRETE 

of streets in these areas, and with this demand for office space 
went a corresponding increase in land values in the chosen dis- 
tricts. Rising land values forced buildings higher and higher; it 
therefore became necessary to build so that the financial return 
would be "commensurate with the investment. The reason for 
a building is to supply floor area and the more floors there are 
the greater the rentable floor area from which the income is 
obtained/ 5 3 The only deterrent to height is the fact that each 
added story costs more to build than the preceding one. The 
matter thus resolved itself into the familiar problem of increas- 
ing costs. Just where the economic height or point of optimum 
financial return is reached is determined by many factors, chief 
of which is the cost of land. Assuming land values at $200 per 
square foot, Clark and Kingston in 1930 declared 63 stories to 
be the point of greatest return on the office building invest- 
ment. 4 Changes in land values and in costs of materials and 
labor naturally prevent any such figure from becoming a static 
one; it changes with the fluctuations of modern life. One au- 
thority went on record in 1930 with the following words, "As 
an engineer I know that tall buildings can be safely built to a 
height of 2000 ft. ... but whether such buildings would pay 
on the investment ... is a matter that must be passed upon 
by others." 5 

Since the trend in office buildings has been skyward, the 
major question involved was whether or not skyscrapers could 
be made to stand up, despite their great height, and thus not 
endanger the lives of thousands of people. This was essentially 
an engineering problem and "the skyscraper has been shaped 
and developed by practical . . . necessity." 6 There was no 
weight of tradition to hold back the structural engineer. Closer 

* George E. J. Pistor, The Art and the Economics of Skyscrapers, a speech delivered 
July 18, 1930, in London, and printed in pamphlet form. 

* W. C. Clark and J. L. Kingston, The Skyscraper, a Study m the Economic Height 
of Modern Office Buttdmgs, 150 (New York and Cleveland, 1930). 

5 Pistor, The Art and Economics of Skyscrapers, S. 

e Claude Bragdon, "Skyscrapers," in American Mercury, 22:289 (March, 1931). In 
fairness to the present-day architect it should be stated that his training now includes 
a thorough study of engineering problems and that he is now fully aware of the basic 
nature of his task. 

218 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

than the architect to the industrial civilization that he helped 
to create, he was ready to push buildings into the sky without 
regard to the past, and he waited only for materials strong 
enough for the skyscraper's frame and for foundations capable 
of bearing the tremendous weight of the skeleton. Fortunately 
for him, the introduction of structural steel and of the modern 
foundation, both of which had already been used in bridge con- 
struction, kept pace with the commercial centralization creat- 
ing the congestion that in turn necessitated the tall office 
building. 

On the other hand, the architect, who until late in the nine- 
teenth century worked traditionally with such materials as 
brick, stone, and wood and exercised his talents on such subjects 
as churches, houses, colleges, theaters, and more recently 
civic buildings and banks, was unprepared to meet the new 
challenge that confronted him almost overnight. He "miscon- 
ceived his problem, which is not to adorn the necessitous en- 
gineering structure, nor to make a translation of it into this or 
that dead architectural style, but to dramatize it." T What the 
architect did at first was to try to conceal the building's height 
and structural form. He used cornices and attempted to make 
the walls give the appearance of supporting the structure. He 
tried to make office buildings look like Roman palaces and, 
later, like Gothic churches. This eclectic tendency finally went 
to such lengths that some architects, notably Louis H. Sullivan, 
asked, "when native instinct and sensibility shall govern the 
exercise of our beloved art; when the known law, the respected 
law, shall be that form ever follows function; when our archi- 
tects shall cease struggling and prattling handcuffed and vain- 
glorious in the asylum of a foreign school?" 8 While other 
architects continued to speak in a foreign language with a slight 
American accent, Sullivan pioneered by demonstrating that a 
skyscraper "need not and should not be made to look as though 
the walls were of solid masonry. . . . He emphasized and *opti- 

7 Bragdon, in American Mercury, 22:290. 

8 Louis H. Sullivan, "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered," in Western 
Architect, 31:3-11 (January, 1922). 

219 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

cally* increased the building's height by means of long, un- 
broken vertical lines, forever putting an end to the ridiculous 
practice of piling the classic orders on top of one another like a 
house of cards/ 3 9 

In summing up this development, an American historian of 
architecture writes, "Civil engineers had run up to unbelievable 
heights skeletons of steel . . . but the architect . . . doggedly 
and blindly refused to see in this wonderful new thing a glorious 
opportunity. He feared the engineers while bearing gifts/' And 
again: "It is futile and to my notion aesthetically wrong to 
condemn or oppose the skyscraper. ... In its train has come 
the most brilliant era of structural engineering that the world 
has ever known/ 5 

Briefly considered, the skyscraper is composed of an elongated 
steel skeleton, or frame, a "system of riveted-together vertical 
and horizontal members insuring strength, lightness, rigidity, 
stability . . . being, in effect, a truss stood on end/* 11 Support- 
ing this skeleton is a foundation ingeniously built on hardpan 
or solid rock. Inside the building "the very piston of the 
machine" is the speedy, safe passenger elevator. Around 
the steel frame is a veneer material which, unlike the walls 
of the past, has no supporting function but is decorative and 
protects against the weather. 

Contrary to popular notions on the subject, the skyscraper 
originated in the West, the first of its kind rising out of the 
swamp that is now Chicago. It was there, too, that the modern 
foundation, without which the great structures of today would 
be impossible, was developed to overcome the uncertain support 
of Chicago's mud and fill. And like so many other features of 
modern life, the tall office building is of recent origin. It was in 
the 1880's that the foundation problem was solved, permitting 
Chicago temporarily to lift its skyline higher than its great 
rival in the East. Charles Sooysmith, an engineer-contractor, 
was first to sink the necessary piers to bedrock. The first patent 

9 Bragdon, in American Mercury, #2:290. 

10 Tafiinadge, Architecture in America, 252, 296. 

11 Bragdon, in American Mercury, 22: 289. 

220 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

for a steel frame building was also taken out in the eighties by 
a westerner, L. S. BufHngton. Bossom says that Buffington was 
a Minneapolis architect and that his plan, for a 28-story build- 
ing, was finally patented in 1888 but was never used because 
of lack of appropriate materials and sufficient building knowl- 
edge. 12 

There is fairly general agreement that the first skyscraper 
was the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, built in 1884-86. 
This 10-story building, designed by W. L. B. Jenny and located 
at the corner of La Salle and Adams streets, conformed in at 
least two essentials to the requirements of the modern sky- 
scraper. 13 With a skeleton frame of iron concealed in masonry, 
it was the first building in the world in which the walls were re- 
lieved of supporting the weight of the structure. The economy 
thus effected was great, and so there was now almost no Iftnit to 
the height which structures might attain. In addition, the build- 
ing could be altered and stories added without difficulty or 
change of style. 14 The 14-story Tacoma Building (1889) , though 
ornamented in Romanesque, conformed to the same standards, 
as did the Reliance Building (1895), the First National Bank 
(1896), and the Fisher Building (1897), aU in Chicago. 

n 

In 1871 a fire swept over Chicago, destroying the greater part 
of the city. Terrible as this disaster was, it nevertheless gave a 
stimulus to the building art that was little short of miraculous. 
After 1871 all structures in Chicago were to be made new; this 
was an opportunity for those who dared to experiment and 
shake themselves free from architectural restraints. Out of the 
new Chicago came not only the skyscraper but also Daniel EL 
Burnham, "the architect who grasped the significance of Amer- 
ican industrialism/' It was he more than anyone else who ere- 

32 Bossom, Building to the Sides, 11. 

18 See Thomas E. Tallmadge, The Origin of the Skyscraper (Chicago, 1939). Tall- 
madge attributes the origin of the high building to the invention of the passenger ele- 
vator, which appeared in practical form about 1878. 

14 Bossom, Building to the SJdes, 15; Fiske Kimball, American Architecture, 185- 
144 (Indianapolis and New York, 1928). 

221 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

ated the American architect's office as it is today. 15 And it was 
with Burnham that Joachim G. Giaver, a Norwegian-trained 
engineer, was closely identified in a building experiment that 
literally lifted the faces of America's cities. 

When Burnham acquired Giaver in 1898, he was more than 
fortunate in his choice of structural engineer. Giaver had been 
thoroughly trained in the use of steel and solid foundations in 
what turned out to be the preparatory school of so many engi- 
neers bridgebuilding. Born in 1856, at Gj0vik, near Troms0, 
Giaver came of a prominent Norwegian family, his father being 
a merchant, a large landowner, and a leading figure in the north- 
ern fishing industry. Joachim was tutored at home, as were 
many of the early engineers, and then went to Trondhjem's 
Technical College, where he was graduated in 1881 with the 
degree of civil engineer. He went to America in the following 
year, and there rose from the position of draftsman to chief 
engineer of the Schiffler Bridge Company at Pittsburgh. One of 
his early projects, interestingly and symbolically, was the de- 
sign of the structural framework in the Statue of Liberty. He 
also designed several of the bridges over the Allegheny and 
Monongahela rivers at Pittsburgh. 

Rapidly forging ahead as one of the promising structural de- 
signers in the country, Giaver went to Chicago in 1891 and 
became assistant chief engineer for the Columbian Exposition. 
Quick to sense the importance of windbracing in the framework 
of buildings, he was put in charge of this feature for the exposi- 
tion structures. Among other things, he designed the three- 
hinge arch in the dome of the Liberal Arts Building, then the 
largest truss of its kind in the world. Burnham met Giaver dur- 
ing the planning of the exposition, and possibly he determined 
then to invite the energetic Norwegian, when the time was 
favorable, to become his chief structural engineer. After five 
years, during which Giaver engaged in general contracting and 
served as bridge designer for the sanitary district of Chicago, 
he joined the firm of D. H. Burnham and Company. 16 

15 Khnball, American Architecture, 152'. 

16 For accounts of Giaver's career, see American Society of Civil Engineers, Trans- 

222 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

While it is difficult to enumerate the innovations of one man 
in a work that is essentially co-operative, Giaver nevertheless 
can be credited with several significant contributions to sky- 
scraper development. He introduced the riveted spandrel 
girders used between columns to give stiffness to tall buildings. 17 
He was also among the first to adopt Mohn's H-shaped col- 
umns. He was the very first to use steel sheet piling to reinforce 
walls, and was a pioneer in the development of Chicago's caisson 
foundations. In addition, he worked out the system of wind- 
bracing generally used by the Burnham company. 

During Giaver's long association with Burnham, until the 
latter 's death in 1912, and for several years thereafter as leading 
engineer for the succeeding firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst, 
and White, he was responsible for the design of over 400 build- 
ings, including many of the recognized structural landmarks of 
the country. 18 The period 1898 to 1915 was one in which the 
modern skyscraper developed from the old spread-footing foun- 
dations, cast-iron columns, and wrought-iron framework to the 
now commonly used caisson or pile foundation and the struc- 
tural steel skeleton. Giaver's part in this general development 
can hardly be overemphasized. Such well-known buildings as 
the Plat Iron, Gimbel, Maiden Lane, and Equitable in New 
York; the Field Museum, Continental and Commercial Na- 
tional Bank, Railway Exchange, People's Gas, and Conway, in 
Chicago; the Union Station and post office in Washington, 
D. C.; the Prick, Oliver, Smithfield, and Pirst National Bank 
buildings in Pittsburgh; the May Store in Cleveland; and the 
Wanamaker and Land Title buildings in Philadelphia these 
and many others speak for Giaver's engineering skill. 19 

actions, 89:1604? (1926); Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, p. 9 
(March, 1929); Strand, Norwegians of Illinois, 319; Scandia, April 7, 1938; Skandi- 
naven, March 1, 1935; National Cyclopedia of American Biography, 21:181 (New 
York, 1931); and the publications of Trondhjem's Technical College. The writer is also 
indebted to A. C. Bull of Chicago, Giaver's son-in-law, for details of the engineer's life. 

17 Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, p. 9. , 

18 For a complete list of buildings raised by Burnham, see Charles Moore, Daniel 
H. Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities, 2:211-214 (Boston and New York, 1921). 
In 1915 Giaver opened his own office in Chicago. 

19 Amasa C. Bull, memoir of Giaver in American Society of Civil Engineers, Trans* 
actions, 89:1604 (1926). It is significant and revealing that in 1915 Giaver took the 

223 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

ra 

It is neither desirable nor possible to trace in detail the devel- 
opment of the skyscraper at Giaver's hand; a few of his novel 
designs, however, attracted the attention of technical journals, 
and thus records were left for the historian. In the spring of 
1910 Engineering News 20 devoted some space to a discussion 
of the building being erected for the People's Gas Light and 
Coke Company on Michigan Avenue at Adams Street, Chicago. 
An office structure 21 stories high and about 170 by 195 feet in 
plan, the new building had a steel frame construction and the 
usual Chicago foundations consisting of cylindrical concrete 
piers carried to hardpan at depths of from 80 to 86 feet. The 
article noted that the upper 18 stories of each street front were 
carried on cantilevers having a projection of 4 feet, 5 inches. 
This feature, together with the setting back of the lower sec- 
tions of the columns from the front of the building, was adopted 
to permit placing at the building line a row of monolithic granite 
columns from the sidewalk to the third-floor level; these col- 
umns, which served a purely decorative purpose, show how 
features of the past were grafted to the new style of office build- 
ing and forced the engineer to produce almost freakish designs. 
Wind resistance was derived from Giaver's spandrel girders, 
the wind load being figured at 25 pounds per square foot. 

Mention has already been made of the foundation used in 
Chicago, but since Giaver was one of its leading authorities, a 
few supplementary words might be added about this skyscraper 
feature. The tricky nature of the soil in Chicago was demon- 
strated when the federal post office and customs house, erected 
in 1877 upon inadequate supports, sank sufficiently to make 
of the building a virtual fiasco. As a result of this experiment 
the Chicago foundation was worked out. Wells, or caissons, 

leading part in a battle to raise the legal status of the engineering profession. In Illi- 
nois previously a structural engineer could engage in construction work only as the 
employee of an architect, and building plans had to bear the signature of a licensed 
architect, A state act in 1915 provided for the licensing of structural engineers and 
made it possible for them to practice on equal terms with the architects. 
90 Vol. 63, p. 894 (March 10, 1910). 

224 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

were dug to hardpan or rock, and concrete was poured into the 
wells. The caissons were from 4 to 10 or 12 feet in diameter, de- 
pending on the load they were expected to carry. The columns of 
tall buildings were placed on a nest of grillage beams or solid 
steel slabs which transmitted and spread the load onto the cais- 
sons. The fact that the Chicago foundation was generally bor- 
rowed for large buildings elsewhere is proof of its excellence. 21 

The Gimbel Building in New York, which Giaver designed, 
attracted considerable attention. A department store structure 
on Sixth Avenue between Thirty-second and Thirty-third 
streets, the building was completed in 1910. It has 10 stories, 
a mezzanine above street level, and 3 stories below, giving in 
all 14 tiers of floor beams weighing, with the columns, about 
11,000 tons. The store was built of steel, brick, and terra cotta, 
and its columns were made of single H-shapes the type intro- 
duced by Richard Mohn. 22 

Giaver, it has been pointed out, was the first to use steel 
sheet piling to reinforce deep basement walls. This feature, a 
brilliant innovation at the time of its adoption, has gone out of 
favor since new and cheaper methods of obtaining the necessary 
support have been developed. The building in Chicago now 
called the Marshall Field's Men's Store was one of the first, if 
not the first structure to employ Giaver's sheet piling in its 
basements. 28 

The crowning work performed by Giaver, however, was the 
Equitable Building in New York, which, situated on Broadway 
and bordered by Pine, Cedar, and Nassau streets, has a location 
that is considered one of the most valuable in the world a 
fact quickly noted by the Norwegian newspapers. 24 At the time 
of its completion, the Equitable was also the largest office build- 
ing in the world, having 3 stories below ground, 36 main floors, 

21 A. M. Wolfe (with T. L. Condron), "Chicago Building Foundations," in Wis- 
consin Engineer, 16:149-161 (January, 1912); and J. F. Springer, "Why the Giant 
Skyscrapers Are Safe," in Gassier 9 s Engineering Monthly, 43: 85-42 (June, 1913). 

22 Engineering Record, 62:120 (July 80, 1910). 

23 Engineering Record, 68:677, 715 (December 13 and 27, 1913). 
^Minneapolis tidende, November 27, 1914. 

225 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

and 2 intermediate stories. It occupied a ground space of a little 
more than an acre, or an entire city block. 25 

The steel framework of the Equitable was carefully studied 
and praised by Engineering News. The building's large size, ac- 
cording to this journal, was due not so much to its height such 
tower buildings as the Singer and the Woolworth were taller 
as to its large area of ground plan and the reversion to a normal 
type of construction which it represented; that is, one carrying 
the ground plan area up undiminished to the top. Structurally 
of regular design, the Equitable's columns ran from footing to 
roof and there were no complicating trusses; as a result, the 
frame consisted simply of columns, beams, and windbracing. 
Though only ordinary floor loads were figured on, the weight 
of the frame was unprecedented; column sections of I-shape 
were developed to areas of over 390 square inches, about twice 
the size of such columns used in previous construction. The 
windbracing, though normal and regular by comparison with 
that in tower buildings of the Woolworth type, was considered 
individual in its arrangement; there were eight vertical wind 
trusses and one horizontal, and because of their number and 
depth they relieved the columns of considerable concentration 
of wind load. 

Caissons around the outer edge of the building were so ar- 
ranged as to form a tight cofferdam wall holding back the sur- 
rounding earth and water, and steelwork in the basement and 
sub-basement floors braced this cofferdam wall. The concrete 
foundation piers were sunk only after considerable difficulty. 
Bounded by busy city streets that are lined with heavy and 
fully occupied buildings having foundations on the sand above 
the tops of the Equitable wall caissons, the soil of the new build- 
ing lot was "loaded" and great care had to be taken to prevent 
the displacement of foundations and the transverse movement 
of the structure. 26 

25 Edgar Marburg, "Steel Structural Engineering," in Engineering Record, 71:9 
(January 2, 1915). 

** "JVamework of the Equitable Building," in Engineering News, 72: 25-229 (July 
30, 1914); Engineering Record, 70:417 (October 10, 1914). 

226 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

Besides being the largest office building, the Equitable also 
gave one of the first practical demonstrations of the skyscraper's 
fireproof quality. During the night of February 16, 1926, a 
blaze broke out on the third-floor level in a shaft housing vari- 
ous service pipes. Flames shot up to the thirty-fifth story and 
came out on that floor because a door of the shaft had been 
carelessly left open. The fire, however, burned itself out on this 
floor, doing no serious damage to the building and, in fact, was 
isolated to one section of the floor. 27 

Giaver's last work was the engineering design for the Jewel- 
ers' Building in Chicago, at one time the tallest building west 
of New York. Discussing this structure shortly before his death, 
Giaver said that it would be 523 feet high from the upper level 
of the South Water Street improvement. Located on the south- 
west corner of Wabash Avenue and South Water Street, the 
"main building contains twenty-three stories and the tower ten 
to be rented as office space, and in the upper part of the tower 
will be space for a club room. The jewelers will occupy from 
120,000 to 160,000 square feet of floor space." 2S 

What made the Jewelers' Building unusual was a plan to use 
it for automobile storage as well as for offices. An ingenious me- 
chanical arrangement, almost automatic, was worked out to 
take cars up and down in the building. It is the writer's under- 
standing that this scheme was never employed, but Giaver, 
always in league with the future, was convinced "that a multi- 
storied garage can be operated in a building built on fairly valu- 
able property and made to pay as well as an office building on 
the same property. We confidently believe garages of this type 
will help to solve the parking problem of congested parts of 
large cities." Time has demonstrated the shrewdness of his 
prophecy. 

IV 

Giaver was the Norwegian pioneer and Chicago the home of 
the new skyscraper, but it was the Woolworth Building in New 

27 Clark and Kingston, The Skyscraper, 109. 

28 "The New Jewelers* Building Skyscraper Garage," in Chicago Norwegian Tech- 
nical Society, Year Book, 19&4, 5. Giaver died in 1925. 

227 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

York, built with the nickels and dimes of the American public, 
that signaled the triumph of the new structural technique. The 
steel skeleton and foundations for this, long the world's tallest 
building, were as great an engineering feat as the concept of its 
architect, Cass Gilbert, constituted an advance over earlier de- 
signs. The engineering work was done by Gunvald Aus and 
Kort Berle. 

The remarkable partnership of Aus and Berle began in the 
early 1890's when both were employed by the Phoenix Bridge 
Company, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania; it was renewed when 
Aus in 1894 appointed Berle his chief assistant at Washington, 
D. C., where Aus was engineer in charge of all federal buildings; 
and once again in 1909 when Berle became a partner in the firm 
Gunvald Aus Company, consulting structural engineers. The 
history of this partnership is, in itself, an interesting and signi- 
ficant chapter in American engineering. 

The senior partner, Gunvald Aus, received his technical edu- 
cation at Bergen and Munich, came to America in 1883, and 
after a brief period with a locomotive works, was employed by 
Theodore Cooper, the famous bridgebuilder. 29 At Cooper's, as 
bridge engineer with the Long Island Railroad, and at the Phoe- 
nix Bridge Company Aus acquired the knowledge and skill that 
qualified him for the position of chief engineer in the office of 
the supervising architect, treasury department, which planned 
all federal buildings at home and abroad. In 1902 Aus resigned 
the Washington position, went to New York, and opened a 
consulting office. 

Berle, trained as a mechanical engineer at Christiania's Tech- 
nical College, left for the New World in 1887. 30 After working 
for a short time with Tinius Olsen and the Cramp shipbuilding 
firm in Philadelphia, Berle went over to the Phoenix Iron Com- 

28 See the able article by Magnus Bjjzfmdal in Norwegian- American Technical 
Journal, vol. 4, no. 1, p. 5 (April, 1931); Nordmcend jorden rundt (Christiania), April, 
1023; Morgenbladet, July 2, 1911; Minneapolis tidende, September 26, 1913. When the 
writer last heard from Aus, in July, 1941, he was living at Vollen, Asker, in Norway, 

80 For his career, see American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 100: 1602 
(1935); Wong, Norske utvandrere, 71; Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 2, 
no. 2, p. 12, 16 (July, 1929); and New York Times, May 7, 1934. 

228 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

pany in 1889, later switching to the Phoenix Bridge Company, 
where Aus was employed. In 1894 he became Aus's first assistant 
in engineering design for federal buildings; when Aus resigned, 
Berle became chief engineer in his place. In 1909 Berle, too, left 
for New York and became a partner of his old associate, and 
when Aus resigned in 1915 Berle took over control and con- 
tinued to hold this position until his death in 1934. His firm 
confined itself strictly to engineering, refusing to enter the gen- 
eral contracting field. 

The structural work undertaken by these two men, if prop- 
erly described, would fill a large volume. For the federal govern- 
ment they made the engineering designs of the customhouse 
and post office in New York; the post offices and courthouses in 
New Orleans, Cleveland, Providence, Denver, and New Haven; 
the Treasury Annex, Washington, D. C.; government wharves 
at Fort Mason, California; the enormous army supply base at 
Brooklyn; the federal building at Hilo, Hawaii; the American 
embassy at Paris; the capitol at San Juan, Puerto Rico; the 
federal reserve bank in Minneapolis; and the supreme court 
building in Washington, D. C. In the various states Aus and 
Berle accounted for the capitol buildings of Arkansas (re- 
design), Missouri, Washington, and West Virginia; the Eighth 
Coast Artillery and Squadron A armories, New York City; sev- 
eral county courthouses; and many other structures. Their 
municipal work includes the public libraries of St. Louis, De- 
troit, and St. Paul; auditoriums in Portland, Oregon, Youngs- 
town, Ohio, and Macon, Georgia; municipal buildings in 
Springfield, Massachusetts, Chester, Pennsylvania, and Water- 
bury and New Haven, Connecticut; not to mention hospitals 
and memorial foundations. Buildings abroad include a giant steel 
arch bridge in Costa Rica; hospital structures at Chang Sha, 
China; an office building in Jemshedpur, India; mills at Delagoa 
Bay, South Africa; the powerhouse, Dolores Mines Company in 
Mexico; the Masonic Temple, Manila, P. L; the Carnegie Li- 
brary, San Juan, P. R.; and the American cemetery, Surrey, 
England. 

229 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

But the tall structure in America was the Aus-Berle specialty, 
if indeed they can be said to have had a specialty. They planned 
over 50 apartment houses in New York City, varying in height 
from 10 to 20 stories; the Roosevelt and Monteleone hotels in 
New Orleans; the Bitz Tower in New York City; Hotel St. 
George, Brooklyn; the Aetna Insurance Building, Hartford, 
Connecticut; the Perm Mutual Building, Philadelphia; the Pru- 
dential Building, Newark, New Jersey; the Union Central Insur- 
ance Building, Cincinnati; and the New York Life Building, New 
York. 31 

The Gunvald Aus Company did the engineering work for a 
great number of churches, banks, warehouses, powerhouses and 
general industrial buildings. At Yale University they erected 
the Harkness Memorial Quadrangle, the Elm dormitories, 
Trumbull College, the Berkeley dormitories, Timothy Dwight 
College, and the library building; at Northwestern University, 
the buildings erected between 1927 and 1932. They put up the 
student housing and administration buildings at Atlanta Uni- 
versity; the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School; the Niriam 
Osborn Home, Rye, New York; the Columbia University li- 
brary; the Columbia Medical School housing and the Eye Insti- 
tute, Medical Center, New York City; the Academy of Arts 
and Letters, New York City; Huntington Seminary, Long Is- 
land; a classroom building at Fordham University; the Union 
Building at the University of Wisconsin; St. Michael Novitiate, 
Englewood, New Jersey; the Seaside Hospital and Employees 
Home at Waterf ord, Connecticut; and many other similar struc- 
tures. 32 

The purpose of enumerating these buildings, erected both 
before and after the Woolworth Building, is only to demonstrate 
that, regardless of what architects may have thought, for Aus 

81 It is interesting to note that this colossal building was erected on the site of the 
old Madison Square Garden, the steelwork of which was designed by Berle when he 
was with the Phoenix Iron Company; Norweaian-Ainencan Technical Journal, vol. 2, 
no. 2, p. 16. 

32 This partial list of buildings was supplied by S. F. Holtzman, a present member 
of the Gunvald Aus Company. A similar list is given in Norwegian-American Technical 
Journal, vol. 2, no. 2, p. 12, 16. 

230 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

and Berle the giant tower was merely another engineering proj- 
ect with new and difficult problems, it is true, but still some- 
thing to be taken in stride. Experienced builders with a 
reputation for work of the first order, they were entrusted with 
seeing to it that the Woolworth Building, as conceived by Cass 
Gilbert, would endure. 

V 

It is a source of some irritation to engineers as a group that 
the architect is at times publicized in connection with some 
new or revolutionary undertaking, while in reality it is the 
engineer who is more deserving of the plaudits. A statement 
by an engineer who is in harmony with this protest has been 
recorded in connection with the Woolworth Building. While 
acknowledging Gilbert's architectural skill and vision, the engi- 
neer nevertheless insists that what the architect did for the 
Woolworth was merely to "formulate its Gothic, church-like lines 
and to design its exterior and interior decorations/' to lay out the 
"plans of its sixty floors," and to decide "where there should 
be a window, where the corridor, and where the elevators 
should be located." The next and most vital step was to call in 
the engineers to design the "enormous steel structure that forms 
the backbone of this young giant. They also had to dig down to 
bedrock and design the massive foundations upon which these 
thousands and thousands of tons of steel and brick should rest. 
It was not the architect who guaranteed that the building would 
stand forever." 3S 

Nevertheless, even before the night in April, 1913, when 
President Wilson pressed a button in the White House and 
caused 80,000 lights to flash throughout the building, there was 
general agreement that the Woolworth was "in every inch a 
proud and soaring thing." Cass Gilbert's reasoning must have 
followed a line similar to this: America has made a religion of 
business, despite a certain lip service to the traditional churches. 
Mr. Woolworth, of five-and-ten-cent store fame, is a kind of 

^Magnus Bjjtadal, "Kort Berle, Designer of Tall Buildings," in Norwegian- 
American Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. , p. 12. 

231 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

priest of the new religion. He symbolizes a good deal of Amer- 
ican idealism, the sound variety as well as the perverted. Why 
not, as one writer suggests, "treat the mart more or less as a 
temple, lavishing upon it all our best?" 34 Considerable progress 
has since been made in shaking off the restraints of the past 
chiefly through the efforts of the Finn, Eliel Saarinen but the 
Woolworth remains "one of the great architectural creations of 
all time" the "great example of the triumph of the perpen- 
dicular over the horizontal motive" and it fortunately "closed 
the period of Eclecticism." 35 

A Gothic masterpiece when studied from a strictly architec- 
tural point of view, the Woolworth Building is even more inter- 
esting when analyzed from a technical viewpoint. 36 Exceeded in 
height only by the Eiffel Tower, the structure as planned in 
1910 called for 69 concrete piers carried down to solid rock by 
the pneumatic caisson process. No wood or other inflammable 
material was to be used anywhere in the building; windows, 
doors, and the like were to be made of pressed steel and the 
floors of mosaic, while the tower was to be "sheathed with tiles 
and covered with copper." When completed in 1913, the build- 
ing contained 24,000 tons of steelwork, rose to a height of 
760% feet above the curb, had a space content of 13,200,000 
cubic feet above the subbasement, and cost $7,500,000. The 
main portion of the building was only 30 stories in height, the 
upper half consisting of a 25-story tower about 85 feet square. 
The structure was notable for its heavy column sections, some 
of which exceeded in weight any previously used. The largest 
column had a cross section of 700 square inches and carried a 
maximum load of about 4,740 tons, of which 1,300 tons was to 
be wind load. A remarkable building indeed, and one which 
called for universal admiration. 

Of invaluable aid to an understanding of the structure is an 

84 Bragdon, in American Mercury, 2'2: 91 . 

85 Talfinadge, Architecture in America, 256. 

86 See Engineering Record* 63:591-598 (May 27, 1911), 64:256 (August 26, 1911), 
65:714 (June 29, 1912), 66:97-100 (July 27, 1912), and 68:22-24 (July 5, 1913); 
Engmeermg News, 72:232 (July 30, 1914); and American Architect, 103:157-170 
(March 26, 1913). 

232 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

article by Gunvald Aus titled the "Engineering Design of the 
Woolworth Building," in which the author surveys the prob- 
lems met in planning and construction and offers an excellent 
answer to the question, how the modern skyscraper appears to 
the engineer who helped build it. 37 "The use of steel for the 
support of the walls of buildings/* he writes, "permits construc- 
tions, that were never dreamed of by the architects of old, and 
unfortunately permits all kinds of freak designs. From an en- 
gineering point of view, no structure is beautiful where the lines 
of strength are not apparent, or in other words, where one can- 
not follow the distribution of the loads from the top of the 
structure to its foundations." 

Fortunately architects are gradually recognizing that steel and 
stone should act together in such a way that one does not have to 
guess the support of an apparently unstable structure, although 
there are still a few who have the idea that the steel frame is 
merely a necessary evil, and that the structural elements should be 
as far as possible concealed, so that the building gives the impres- 
sion of a masonry construction, whereas in reality the high modern 
buildings are essentially steel cages with the masonry forming only 
a veneer, or an enclosure, which serves the object of making the 
buildings habitable and beautiful, but where the walls have lost the 
function of supporting the floors and the roof, and are themselves 
supported at every floor by horizontal girders between the columns. 

This should be acknowledged in the architecture, which obvi- 
ously should be so designed as to clearly indicate the location of the 
supporting elements. 

With respect to the columns, the location of the Woolworth 
Building "is such that the renting agent insisted on a certain 
maximum and minimum size of office, and these requirements 
were practically responsible for the spacing of most of the col- 
umns in the wings of the building. In the tower proper, the 
column spacing was determined largely by the architectural re- 
quirements, that is to say, the front elevation and the space 
required by the elevators." 

Having determined the location of the columns, the next point 
that generally in a high building causes considerable debate is the 
wind bracing. The architect is very apt to think that the engineer 

m ln American ArcUtect, 103:157-170. 

233 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

requires too much space for the wind bracing, both in the interior 
of the building and in the walls. After considerable discussion it 
was determined that the most suitable bracing for the tower . . . 
was a system of portal braces, as these could be concealed in the 
piers of the exterior walls and in the partitions enclosing the ele- 
vators. 

It was, however, found feasible to utilize full triangular bracing 
between certain of the interior columns in the tower, and as this 
form of bracing requires less steel than the portal braces, it was 
adopted in places where it could be used. For the two wings of the 
building a system of double plate girders, riveted with gussets to 
each side of the column, was adopted, and the gussets which pro- 
jected below the bottom of these girders were omitted as soon as the 
bending stresses could be taken care of within the depths of the 
girders. This form of bracing is generally best adapted for interior 
transverse bracing, as it is not much in evidence in the finished 
building, whereas knee braces or gussets are very objectionable 
when exposed in the larger offices. 

To the layman the foundations of skyscrapers remain little 
short of miraculous. In the case of the Woolworth Building the 
problem of sinking foundations was unusually complicated. 
"The subsoil . . . consists of a very fine sand to the depth of 
approximately 110 feet below grade. At this level/ 3 Aus records, 
"hard rock is encountered. It became therefore in this case easy 
to decide that some method of foundation had to be adopted 
which, would penetrate the sand and make the foundations rest 
directly on the hard rock, and under the given conditions pneu- 
matic caissons were almost a necessity/* 

Originally Woolworth had not secured the entire block front- 
ing on Broadway between Park Place and Barclay Street. In 
the original design, therefore, the corner on Barclay Street was 
omitted and the tower was not centered in the block (as it was 
later in actual construction) but was located nearer to Park 
Place. The contractor had a number of caissons in place before 
the owner purchased the Barclay Street corner and ordered the 
re-design of the entire building. 

How to utilize the tower foundations, which were already in 
place now became a very different problem, as these foundations 
did not come under the columns as located in the new design. After 
careful study it was decided that the new columns could always 
be on line with the columns in the original design, and that addi- 

234 



BUILDEVG TO THE SKIES 

tional caissons could be put on these lines, so that the columns 
could be supported on plate girders between the two adjacent cais- 
sons .... Wherever the caissons had not already been put in, they 
were shifted to the new position, so that they came directly under 
the columns. 

It may be noted that the height of the tower was very materially 
increased in the new design, so that the old and new caissons com- 
bined in most cases were only large enough to support the load 
coming from the columns. It should also be noted that the additional 
caissons were, as far as possible, so spaced with reference to the 
columns' centers and the old caissons as to distribute all that part 
of the load that could be carried by the old caisson, to it. 

In other words, that the center of the column would be as far as 
possible in the center of gravity of the cross sections of the com- 
bined caissons. 

The very deep box girders which became necessary to bridge the 
opening between the two caissons were surrounded with a rich con- 
crete twelve inches thick on the bottom of the girder and six inches 
thick over the extreme projections, and the space between the 
girders is carefully filled with the same concrete, so as to protect the 
steel thoroughly against corrosion. The concrete which surrounds 
and fills these girders, and in fact all other beams and girders in 
the foundation, adds enormously to the carrying capacity of such 
girders and beams; in many cases it fully doubles the bending 
strength of such girders and beams. 

Aus was irked by a borough ruling to the effect that no part 
of a foundation could extend beyond the building line, and he 
makes no secret of his pique, for the ruling handicapped Mm 
greatly. It was necessary "to cut a segment off from the one 
caisson on Broadway, whose diameter was so great as to make 
this caisson project beyond those already in place, and along 
Barclay Street it became necessary to use the narrowest caisson 
that can be constructed for such great depth, which is about 
six feet, and move the wall columns three feet back from the 
building line, or to the center of these caissons." Aus argues in 
favor of a reasonable projection beyond a private lot into the 
city's property, provided the owner is willing to pay for the space; 
engineers would thus be spared many difficult foundation prob- 
lems. While on the general subject of city building regulations, 
Aus also asks for a revision of New York's building code, which 
he insists was the cause of many "irrational designs ." Because 

235 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the codes of most cities demanded that all foundations be de- 
signed for either the full live load or a very large part of it, the 
wall columns "receive practically all the load, for which they 
are figured, and transmit this load to the foundations. The 
interior columns carry only the weight of the floors and the mov- 
able live load, which will probably never be more than a frac- 
tion of the load, for which they are figured, and this movable 
load does not come on the columns until long after they are 
erected. The result will be that the wall columns, if supported 
on a yielding foundation, will settle considerably, because they 
receive practically the full load, for which they are figured, 
whereas the interior columns together with their foundations 
will not compress the subsoil, and therefore they will not settle/' 
Discussing the structure's columns, Aus says that when "a 
building is erected as high as the Woolworth Building, the loads 
on the columns including the wind load become so great as to 
approach the limit of practical construction. The columns are 
of necessity built up of plates and angles, and as the lateral 
dimensions must be limited, so as to occupy the least practical 
floor space, the thickness becomes very great. It was found 
impossible to design columns in this building with a dimension 
of about three feet by four feet without using rivets, which had 
as much as five and one-quarter inches grip. The rivets were 
made one inch in diameter, in order to allow for this great 
length of rivets, but even then it is a question whether five 
inches is not about the permissible thickness of metal, and hence 
it would seem that it is not practical to design a building much 
over 800 feet high, unless the columns are spaced closer to- 
gether/ 5 

It may, of course, be possible to use a steel of greater resistance 
than the commercial steel, as for instance nickel steel, but so little 
data exists as to the strength of such enormous built up sections, 
that I do not believe it would be safe to use stresses much higher 
than those employed in the Woolworth Building, that is, about 
14,000 pounds in compression on the lower tiers of columns. The 
actual stresses are, of_ course, very much smaller than those as- 
sumed, because the building law calls for a live load of seventy-five 
pounds per square foot, and a reduction of only five per cent per 

236 




Woolworth Building 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

floor down to a minimum live load of fifty per cent, or thirty- 
seven and one-half pounds for all the lower floors. 

Now, it is a well known fact that the actual live load in an 
office will not exceed ten pounds per square foot, and it would 
therefore -seem rational to allow a very much greater reduction 
of the live load, for which columns are designed. ... If such a re- 
duction was allowed, and if walls could be made only sixteen inches 
thick for three or four stories and twelve inches thick for the entire 
height of the building above, it would, of course, be possible to erect 
a building possibly not less than 1,200 feet high, and such buildings 
will probably be erected under special conditions in New York, if 
the Building Law can be so amended as to permit the construction 
of thinner walls and the consequent reduced live load that would be 
imposed. 

Coming back to windbracing, the writer informs us that ac- 
cording to New York's building code at the time the Woolworth 
tower was erected, the building "must be designed to resist a 
lateral wind pressure of thirty pounds per square foot over the 
entire area of the building. This is a very excessive requirement, 
as all observations have shown, that while the pressure of the 
wind over a very limited area may be fifty pounds per square 
foot or even more, it is only a very small part of a building, that 
is exposed to such great pressure, and that in other parts of the 
building the pressure may be zero, or in actual suction, that is 
negative pressure, so that the total resulting pressure will prob- 
ably never be as much as ten pounds per square foot over the 
entire area." 

However, the Woolworth Building was designed for the full load 
of thirty pounds per square foot, and the system employed was, 
as already stated, portal bracing in the tower. . . . This is a rather 
expensive form of wind bracing, as the material in the portals is not 
strained in direct tension and compression, as is the case with di- 
agonal bracing, but on the other hand, the portals can generally 
be arranged so as not to interfere with window openings, and the 
piers in the tower can be made very much lighter than would be 
possible with a system of diagonal braces. 

For the upper part of the tower, that is to say about the twenty- 
eighth floor, it became possible to use a system of corner braces 
without interfering with the window openings, and it would un- 
doubtedly have been possible to utilize this system in a number of 
places further down in the tower, but I believe that the great rigid- 
ity, which is found to exist in the tower, is due mostly to the sys- 

237 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

tern of portal braces, and that the money spent on this system of 
bracing is a very good investment, as not the slightest tremor can 
be observed on the top of the tower, even in a very heavy wind. 

The two lower floors of the building were constructed of re- 
inforced stone concrete, and the columns were cased with con- 
crete. This construction, Aus tells us, was adopted in order to 
provide a "continuous sheet of great strength which. wouH 
transmit the wind loads into the retaining walls, which in turn 
are held by the surrounding subsoil/' For the upper floors terra 
cotta fireproofing was used for all the columns, and the floor 
arches were made "of hollow blocks of end construction/' Aus 
believes it would have been much better, structurally, to use a 
system of reinforced concrete floor arches throughout the build- 
ing, "but the long time required in placing the reinforced con- 
crete, and also the difficulty of working in freezing weather 
made it practically impossible to use such concrete for floor 
arches and fireproofing of columns, although the cost including 
suspended ceilings, which were required throughout all the 
offices, was somewhat less than the flat terra cotta arches. The 
great advantage of easy setting, and the absence of dirt and 
water incident to the placing of concrete arches, and the splen- 
did plastering ground formed by the flat soffit of the terra cotta 
arches, decided in favor of this latter construction/' 

It is evident that the question of paint was given a great 
deal of study by the engineers of the Woolworth Building. 
"There is probably no more important consideration in a steel 
skeleton building, than the proper protection of the steel 
against corrosion, which is not only caused by air and moisture, 
but also, and under special conditions to a much greater degree, 
by vagrant electric currents passing through the steel members 
and thus inducing what is popularly termed electrolysis/' Aus 
doubted that it was possible entirely to protect steel against 
electricity by painting, but he felt that certain paints, contain- 
ing various asphalts or tar products, insulate the steel to a con- 
siderable extent. "As a protection against ordinary rusting the 
ordinary red lead paint ... is probably unexcelled, and it 

238 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

was therefore finally decided to paint the steel work in the 
Woolworth Building with two coats of such red lead paint, and 
a final coat of waterproof paint, which would protect the red 
lead against the attacks of the free lime in the cement, and to 
some extent insulate against vagrant electric currents/ 5 

VI 

Magnus Gundersen may be said to have continued the work 
begun by Giaver in the field of the tall office building. 38 Going 
to Chicago in 1910, only a few months after graduating from 
Trondhjem's Technical College, Gundersen had Ms first prac- 
tical experience in design of reinforced concrete with the Julian 
S. Nolan Company, and in structural steel with Morey, New- 
gard and Company. In 1913 he took a position as draftsman 
and designer with the D. H. Burnham Company, which the 
next year became Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White. Gun- 
dersen worked under Giaver's inspiring leadership until 1915 
and under Giaver's successor, William Braeger, until 1927, 
when Gundersen was made chief structural engineer for the 
firm. In 1938 he went into independent consulting work. 

In his capacity as engineer with the famous Chicago architec- 
tural firm, Gundersen was responsible for the structural design 
of a number of outstanding buildings. Among them was the 
one at 20 Wacker Drive, a 45-story structure that was planned 
as a combination office building, opera house, and theater. 
Completed in the late 1920's, it contains in its south and middle 
portions the auditorium for the Chicago civic opera, with a 
seating capacity of 3,300 and a height equivalent to a 6-story 
building* The north portion of the structure is occupied by the 
civic theater, which has a considerably smaller seating capacity 
than the opera house. Since the civic opera has always operated 
at a financial loss, it was decided in planning the building on 
Wacker Drive that offices should be included as a means of 
supplying extra income for the musical organization, thereby 

88 See Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. 3, p. 7, 16 (November, 
1929); Skandinaven, March 1, 1935; Alstad, Trondhjemstekwkernes matrikd, 281; 
Nordmanns-iorbundet, 28:353 (October, 1935). 

239 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

making the opera a self-supporting public institution. From the 
eighth story and up through its tower, Wacker Drive is 
therefore an office building with the column spacing required 
of such a structure. 

The resulting problems of design and construction were 
many. From the street level to the eighth floor the require- 
ments of the opera and theater were such that columns, which 
would normally be located in the spaces occupied by the audi- 
toriums and stages, had to be brought over to new locations 
so as not to create annoying obstructions. This was accom- 
plished through the use of large trusses and heavy girders. Part 
of the tower section of the building, whidi rises 37 stories to 
form a skyscraper, rests on trusses that span the main audi- 
torium. The pin connections in the trusses were made of special 
steel to a diameter as great as 22 inches. Windbracing was com- 
plicated by the large, open auditoriums and stages in the lower 
portion of the structure, where wind stresses are the greatest. 
A further and obvious difficulty in construction was met in the 
Chicago River, which runs along the west side of the building. 
And, finally, it was necessary to sink concrete caissons to rock 
about 105 feet below the sidewalk. 89 

Shortly after the planning of the Chicago opera building, ar- 
chitects and engineers in Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White 
were busily at work on designs for the famous Chicago Mer- 
chandise Mart. The owners, Marshall Field and Company, 
sought in this enormous structure not only facilities for an 
extensive wholesale trade, but also a single roof for representa- 
tives of concerns doing business with Marshall Field. Completed 
during the early years of the depression, the Merchandise Mart 
was proclaimed the largest building of its kind in America, con- 
taining a floor area of about 4,000,000 square feet, or more than 
90 acres, and having a frontage on Kinzie Street of 724 feet, 
580 feet on the Chicago River, and 400 feet on Wells Street. The 

** Engineering News-Record, 103:758 (November 14, 199); and Norwegian- 
American Technical Journal, vol. 3, no. 1, p. 1, 12-14 (February, 1930). The writer 
is indebted to Gundersen for descriptions of this and other buildings in whose con- 
struction he participated. 

240 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

main building is 18 stories high, but a tower extends 7 additional 
floors. It required in all 53,000 tons of structural steel, and 6,000 
tons of reinforcing steel for the concrete floors. 

It should perhaps be pointed out that the "Mart" is an air- 
right building; that is, it occupies only the space from the side- 
walk and up, except for the room below required by columns 
and foundations. The balance of the space below the first floor 
is occupied and owned by the Chicago and North Western 
Railway and is used for tracks and a freight station. 40 

The next large building constructed in Chicago was the new 
post office. The old structure, built near the close of the last 
century, was inadequate to handle the volume of mail dis- 
tributed by the postal officials in 1930, despite the fact that a 
separate parcel post building had been erected in the 1920 ? s. 
As a result, the federal government ordered a new post office, 
to be located between Van Buren, Harrison, and Canal streets 
and the Chicago River, with a passageway in the middle of the 
building to permit the proposed Congress Street to pass 
through. Another air-right structure, built over the tracks lead- 
ing to the Union Station, the post office is a combination of two 
distinct units. The north part, which houses the administrative 
offices of the postal department and several other branches of 
the federal government, is a typical office building, while the 
south unit, where mail is handled, is of a heavy-duty type of 
construction. 

The Chicago post office, one of the largest and most modern 
mail-handling buildings in the country, has mile after mile of 
conveyors, chutes, and elevators for receiving, sorting, and dis- 
tributing mail for local distribution as well as for reshipment 
to other cities. But from an engineering viewpoint the greatest 
significance of the building lies in the type of structural steel 
used in its framework. Of the total 44,000 tons employed, more 
than half . were of silicon steel. Though silicon steel had been 
used before in isolated cases where members of carbon steel 

40 Engineering News-Record, 103:420 (September 12, 1929); and Norwegian- 
American Technical Journal, vol. 3, no. 2, p. 4, 6 (August, 1980). 

241 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

tended to become too heavy, the Chicago post office was the 
first building to employ this material extensively and advanta- 
geously, and its erection therefore marked a step in the advance 
of steel construction. 

Among the remaining structures for which Gundersen was 
responsible as structural engineer was the Field Building, which 
rises 44 stories to a height of 535 feet in the heart of Chicago's 
loop. Completed in 1934, the Field skyscraper occupies the site 
of the old Home Insurance Company building, which has been 
mentioned earlier as the first skyscraper, and which had to be 
taken down to make room for the new structure. The Field 
Building was designed primarily for office purposes but it pro- 
vides banking space in the lower stories, and shops on the 
ground and basement levels. A strikingly modern building of 
strictly vertical design, it also has the latest types of cooling, 
dehumidifying, and ventilating equipment, as well as air condi- 
tioning on the lower floors. It contains about 22,500 tons of 
steel and its columns rest on concrete caissons going down to 
rock at depths of from 80 to 100 feet. 41 

Engineers are occasionally called upon to alter existing struc- 
tures while permitting business to continue with a minimum of 
interference. When the First National Bank in St. Paul, oc- 
cupying a 16-story building, decided to add to this structure 
and change the design of its banking room, Gundersen was 
called in to perform the operation. Two rows of columns had 
to be removed in order to satisfy the new bank plans. While the 
addition to the building was being constructed, heavy transfer 
girders were erected in the fourth story on both sides of the 
columns that were to be removed from, the banking room 
immediately below. In addition, new reinforced support was 
constructed for the transfer girders. Heavy brackets were con- 
nected to the columns in the fourth story, and with the aid of 
hydraulic jacks having a capacity ,of more than 1,000,000 
pounds, the loads on the columns were transferred from the f oun- 

**- See Magnus Gundersen, "Design of the Field Building, Chicago," in Cwil Engi 
nevring, 5:631-035 (October, 1935). 

242 



BUILDING TO THE SKIES 

dations to the transfer girders and their support. After the load 
had been transferred and the calculated deflection in the 
girders had been obtained, the columns were connected perma- 
nently to the girders and burned ofi just below the bottom 
flanges of the transfer girders thus providing the desired open 
space in the banking room. This feat was accomplished with the 
building fully occupied above the fourth floor and without 
causing the slightest damage to the bank. 

Gundersen also designed the engineering features of the 
Alamo Bank Building in San Antonio,, the Bryant Building in 
Kansas City, the addition to the Washington (B.C.) post of- 
fice, the O'Neil department store and the Mayflower Hotel in 
Akron, the Higby Store in Cleveland, the Koppers Building in 
Pittsburgh, the main Pennsylvania Station and office building 
in Philadelphia, the Northwestern Bank Building in Minne- 
apolis, and the Belknap and Heyborne buildings in Louisville 
to mention only the more important structures outside Chi- 
cago. 

The close relationship between tall buildings and subways 
has already been noted. When Chicago recently decided to 
build a subway system, Gundersen was called in as a consulting 
engineer to solve the problem of underpinning and support in 
those places where the subways were to be constructed below 
existing buildings. Under his direction, supports consisting of 
new caissons and transfer girders were installed for the first 
time in Chicago. Performances were actually given in theaters 
while this work was being done immediately below. 

Large, jovial, and competent, Gundersen, before his death in 
January, 1946, gave proof of his ability to continue the tradi- 
tion of Giaver, Aus, and Berle in the field that is truly America's 
gift to the art of building. These Norwegian-trained engineers, 
together with many of their own countrymen and with men of 
other national origins, have had a leading part in erecting the 
"campanili of the New Feudalism* 3 which now form the skyline 
of America's many cities. 



243 



MEN IN 



METALLURGY 



OURS has been variously called an 
age of steam, electricity, petroleum, 
glass, or plastics, and certainly it owes 
a peculiar debt to all these forces and 
materials. But underlying all tech- 
nology are certain vital minerals, without which the conduct of 
modern life would indeed be difficult, either in war or in peace. 
Production, whether it concern itself with bridges, skyscrapers, 
tunnels, ships, industry, railroads, or the many other phases 
touched upon in this volume, calls for building materials in 
greater quantities and ever-improved quality. The smelting and 
processing of steel, copper, nickel, and other metals and their 
alloys constitute in themselves a significant branch of engineer- 
ing. It is therefore natural that a number of Norwegians should 
have been attracted by the possibilities in New World metal- 
lurgy, have become involved in the world-wide activities that 
are associated with it, and have contributed significantly to its 
development. 

I 

The individual dominating almost any discussion of metal- 
lurgy is E. A. Cappelen Smith, since 1925 a partner in the 
well-known firm of Guggenheim Brothers and for a long time 
before that director of research for the same company. The 
history of this engineering giant includes a revolution in copper 
converting, the origin of the Chuquicamata method of extract- 
ing copper in Chile, the discovery of the Guggenheim process 
used to take saltpeter from Chilean caliche, and the develop- 
ment of a biochemical method for treating sewage. In the back- 
ground of Smith's story we find the struggle to reduce copper 
production costs, a world competition in nitrates, international 

244 



MEN M METALLURGY 

diplomacy, and the operations of a great cartel. Here indeed is 
a tale of modern pioneering the like of which is rarely told; but 
only its outline, with emphasis on the technical aspects, can be 
recorded in this book. 

Cappelen Smith was born at Trondhjem in 1873, the son of 
a wholesale merchant of iron and steel products. 1 He attended 
Latin school and the technical college in his native city. He 
graduated from the latter in 1893 with the degree of chemical 
engineer; it was his intention to continue his chemical studies at 
Charlottenburg in Germany. 

But 1893 was also the year of the Columbian Exposition in 
Chicago, an event which attracted engineers from every coun- 
try in Europe, among them Cappelen Smith. Thus began a 
"visit" that was to continue through a long and productive 
life. Caught up in the whirl of a rapidly expanding New World 
economy, Smith took a job in a Chicago laboratory, later trans- 
ferring to Armour and Company as assistant chemist in their 
Chicago plant. His task was to find methods of utilizing the 
by-products of the meat-packing industry, a field in which 
great progress was made later. Today, looking back upon his 
early years, Smith is aware of the many opportunities that lay 
within his reach had he stayed with Armour. After two years at 
the stockyards, in 1896 he accepted a position as chemist with 
the Chicago Copper Refining Company. While working in their 
laboratory at Blue Island, about forty miles south of Chicago, 
he began his first studies in metallurgy. Smith learned smelting 
from the ground up, supplementing his theoretical training with 
practical experience of the best kind. Thereafter the story of 
his life moves unfalteringly, if somewhat circuitously, toward 
his first major contribution to the metallurgy of copper. 

Smith was not, however, satisfied to remain in the Chicago 
area. The restlessness common to most young immigrants 
caused him to give up his job and set out for Anaconda, Mon- 

1 This section is based on a number of sources, chiefly two articles in Nordisk 
tidende, December 6, 1923, and November 24, 1938; an interview with Cappelen 
Smith, May 20, 1941; and scattered bits of information in popular and technical 
journals. 

245 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

tana, the copper El Dorado of the West. His sights were raised 
high enough; at the age of twenty-three he sought nothing less 
than the superintendency of the electrolytic refinery owned 
by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Facing Marcus 
Daly, the copper king, Smith was told that he was too young, 
, but was given the position of chief chemist. One month later 
he was superintendent, and he held this position for four years. 

Restlessness again overcame Smith, leading him this time to 
the west coast. In Republic, a little town in northern Washing- 
ton, he organized a company whose purpose was to extract gold 
from local ores. Machinery was set up and everything was in 
order for the start of operations when the man who had financed 
the project suddenly died. Unfortunately for the experiment, 
the heirs of the financier had no interest in the company but 
were intensely interested in his money. Smith's career in the 
American West, as a result, came to an abrupt end. 

In September, 1900, Smith visited Norway, remaining in 
Trondhjem until January of the next year. Upon his return to 
the United States, he became assistant to the engineer in charge 
of metallurgical operations at the Baltimore Copper Smelting 
and Rolling Company, During the years he worked in Balti- 
more, new metallurgical methods were coming into use. Men 
were experimenting with converters and borrowing the lessons 
learned in steel production. Smith missed nothing; he was deter- 
mined to make the most of New World possibilities in the field 
of copper, and it was in this field that he achieved his first great 
success. 

In 1907 the Guggenheim Brothers bought control of Smith's 
firm, and in 1912 he became their general consulting metallurgi- 
cal engineer. Thereafter he held many additional offices. He 
was for a time president and director of the Anglo-Chilean Con- 
solidated Nitrate Company, the Lautaro Nitrate Company, 
Limited, and Cosach (Compania Salitrera Anglo-Galena) . At 
present he is a member of the firm of Guggenheim Brothers; 
president and director of Minerec Corporation; and director of 
the Chilean Nitrate Sales Corporation, the Anglo-Chilean Ni- 

246 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

trate Corporation, the Lautaro Nitrate Company, Limited, and 
the Pacific Tin Consolidated Corporation. 

II 

It was during the early years of the twentieth century, from 
1901 to 1912, that Cappelen Smith made his first contributions 
to the metallurgy of copper. In those years he helped put into 
general use an improved method of furnace refining that intro- 
duced air under the surface of molten copper, thus borrowing 
a principle long employed in steel production and more recently 
in the copper industry; it made possible the present-day use of 
giant furnaces for copper smelting. Mention should also be 
made of his new method of treating the precious-metals slimes 
obtained in electrolytic refining; of the recovery on a comifier- 
cial basis of selenium, tellurium, platinum, and palladium from 
the same slimes; and of the production of nickel salts as a by- 
product of copper refining. 2 His major contribution during this 
period, however, was his new method of basic copper convert- 
ing, a method that revolutionized smelting practices and was 
immediately adopted by every large copper producer in the 
world. With his superior at Baltimore, Smith built a furnace 
embodying the principle of basic lining and employing his im- 
proved Bessemer techniques. They then began a successful 
venture in manufacturing the new product. 

It is well at this point to explain that there are in use today 
several methods of extracting copper from its ore. The first 
method, commonly used in the Lake Superior region where the 
mines are underground, is to crush the ore and then send it to 
what is known as a concentration mill. There the copper is 
separated from the waste and then sent to a smelter to be 
treated in reverberatory furnaces. Air blown through the molten 
copper oxidizes the impurities. The second, or leaching, process 
is used most commonly in the pit or surface type of mining. 
After the copper ore is crushed, it is placed in huge vats where 

a From a summary of Cappelen Smith's work prepared in the Guggenheim offices, 
New York City. 

247 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

leaching solutions, acidified with sulphuric acid, percolate 
through the ore. The acid, when it unites with copper, forms a 
copper sulphate solution which passes to an electrolytic tank 
house, the waste being left behind. In the tank house an electric 
current is shot through the copper solution, resulting in the 
deposit of metallic copper on cathodes. The cathodes, after they 
are sufficiently built up with copper, are sent to reverberatory 
furnaces, where they are melted and cast into commercial 
forms. 

The third method is used in ores rich in sulphur content. 
The copper concentrate goes from a concentrating mill to a 
roasting furnace where the sulphur is driven off and other im- 
purities oxidized. Proper fluxes being added, the copper is 
melted in reverberatory furnaces and the floating slag is re- 
moved through a taphole on one side of the furnace. The 
matte copper containing iron, sulphur, and precious metals 
collects in the bottom of the furnace and is removed in ladles. 
The matte while in a molten condition is dumped into con- 
verters, where it is Bessemerized; that is, air is forced through 
the molten matte, the mass being heated by the oxidation of 
the sulphur in the rnetaL Two products are thus produced 
copper, and a slag composed of silica, aluminum, and other 
materials, including a small amount of copper, which is later re- 
claimed. The sulphur is eliminated through the chimney as 
gas. Copper produced by this method is known as blister copper 
and has a purity of about 98 per cent; the remaining 2 per cent 
consists of such impurities as gold, silver, and other metals. 3 

The origins of modern copper converting go back to the work 
of Sir Henry Bessemer, who in 1856 introduced the method of 
blowing air through molten cast iron in the production of steel. 
The Bessemer process, so successful in turning out a quality 
steel, was first applied to copper on a commercial scale by 
Manhes in 1880. In 1883-84 the Manhes converter, with a ca- 

8 Copper and Brass Research. Association, "The Copper Industry," in John George 
Glover and William Bouck Cornell, The Development of American Industries, Their 
Economic Significance, 384-386 (New York, 1935)* 

248 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

pacity of from 7 to 10 tons, was introduced into the United 
States. This converter was acid lined and the lining was quickly 
consumed in the converting process. 4 Attempts were made at 
an early date to introduce a basic or neutral material such as 
chrome or magnesite brick as a lining for the converter, the 
purpose being to eliminate chemical action between the lining 
and the molten mass in the converter. To Cappelen Smith goes 
the honor of successfully introducing basic lining on a commer- 
cial scale. 

When Smith was employed by the Anaconda Copper Mining 
Company in the late nineties and was temporarily in charge of 
its tilting furnaces, he began to experiment with the idea that 
later developed into the basic-lined converter. He was not alone 
in this work; Ralph Baggaley conducted similar experiments 
at Butte, Montana, about 1903. In Norway still other work of 
a similar nature was carried out. But it was Smith's efforts at 
Baltimore that finally put a successful product on the American 
market. Free at last to experiment, and encouraged by William. 
H. Peirce, his superintendent and manager, he produced in 
1908 a magnesite-lined converter for leady copper mattes. "To 
Smith and Peirce belongs the credit of taking a long-discarded 
idea and developing it into a successful product." 5 To posterity 
the very name Peirce-Smith converter will suggest a dual con- 
tribution, and justly. By making it possible for Cappelen Smith 
to work at the problem of conversion, Peirce immortalized his 
name along with that of his brilliant associate. 

The Peirce-Smith converter could produce 3,000 tons of 
copper, instead of the former 10, without relining. This figure 
was later increased to 40,000 tons. Needless to add, the effect 
on the copper industry was nothing short of revolutionary. Be- 
fore the new converter was put into use, the cost of converting 

* Milo W. Krejci, "Development of Copper Converting," in Engineering and Min- 
ing Journal, 104: 669-674 (October 20, 1917); Donald M. Levy, Modern Copper Smelt- 
ing, 192-195 (London, 1912). 

5 E. P. Mathewson, "Development of the Basic-lined Converter for Copper Mattes," 
in American Institute of Mining Engineers, Transactions, 46:473 (1914). When Smith's 
converter underwent its first real test, he stood for 72 hours on the converter's plat- 
form, exhausted but confident of success; Nordisk tidende, November 24, 1938. 

249 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

copper was from 15 to 20 dollars a ton. This figure was quickly 
reduced to 4 or 5 dollars by the new process one which au- 
thorities had confidently asserted would not work. 6 The most 
important feature of basic lining is, of course, its permanence. 
By eliminating frequent relinings the new converter permitted 
many plant economies, both in capital investment and operat- 
ing costs. It was no longer necessary to haul converters fre- 
quently to the repair shop a fact which in turn made possible 
the use of larger converters and increased "the ultimate possi- 
bility of continuous operation." The converters that were im- 
mediately put into operation were about 26 feet by 12 feet in 
size, with a capacity of 35 to 45 tons of matte and a daily out- 
put of 33 tons of copper from 40 per cent matte. 7 The daily 
output was soon increased to 125 tons or more. 

The steel vessel df the early Peirce-Smith converter was lined 
with magnesia brick at least 9 inches in thickness, except at the 
air openings or tuyeres, where it was 18 inches thick; its bottom 
was lined with ordinary firebrick. The magnesite bricks were 
laid in dry magnesite powder, except near the tuyeres, where 
linseed oil was mixed with the magnesia. Inserted at intervals 
along the side of the fresh linings were so-called expansion cush- 
ions of wood which were "seasoned" with molten copper. A 
siliceous flux was dumped into the converter; the matte charge 
was poured upon this. 8 

The converting of copper in a Peirce-Smith converter is done 

*Nordisk tidende, November 24, 1938. "Keller's report on basic linings in 1890 
stated that they could not be employed successfully, because (a) basic material, being 
a good conductor, caused the outside of the converter to become too hot and the inside 
too cold; (b) such material broke up easily and so was unsuitable for use in permanent 
linings; and (c) even when basic linings were employed, the silica which was added 
as flux, refused to combine with the iron oxides. These views were very generally ac- 
cepted for some years, until Baggaley's persistent efforts and finally those of Peirce 
and Smith showed that by perfecting the constructional methods and details, by pre- 
venting heat losses as much as possible, and by operating on very large masses of hot 
material, the above difficulties could all be overcome and the basic lining successfully 
employed"; Levy, Modem Copper Smdting, 202. 

7 Levy, Modern Copper Smelting, 202. For a more detailed account of the advan- 
tages of the Peirce-Smith converter, see H. 0. Hofman, Metallurgy of Copper. 211- 
213 (New York, 1924). 

8 Levy, Modern Copper Smelting, 202'. See also Hofman, Metallurgy of Copper, 
211-213. 

250 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

by forcing air through the tuyeres into the molten matte. 
Small streams of air pass through this, oxidizing the iron to iron 
oxide and the sulphur to sulphur dioxide, and at the same time 
giving a converting temperature of about 1200 C. The iron oxide 
then combines with the silica in the flux to form slag, while the 
sulphur dioxide passes off as gas. Heat is furnished by the oxida- 
tion of the iron and sulphur and by the formation of the 
iron-silicate slag. The copper, reduced to a metallic state, settles 
to the bottom of the vessel and is then cast into forms suitable 
for further treatment. 9 

The new converter naturally created great interest when it 
appeared. The Engineering and Mining Journal, to mention 
only one technical periodical, spoke of it as a new outgrowth, 
in a sense, of the steel industry which it was and empha- 
sized that basic converting along orthodox copper lines was 
by no means untried when Smith went to work on it. This 
periodical described the first converter as a tilting reverberatory 
furnace, a large cylindrical shell with ends like the frustums of 
cones. From experience with this furnace a later type of con- 
verter was evolved. The new converters were improved by 
moving the mouth to the center and substituting pipe tuyeres, 
the number of which was increased to 37. Ordinary converters, 
it was explained, could easily be changed to the new method 
by the simple expedient of lining them with magnesia bricks 
a procedure actually undertaken by Anaconda. The latest 
Peirce-Smith converter (in 1917) was described in detail. Tilted 
by an electric motor and capable of producing over 100 tons of 
blister copper while converting a 40 per cent matte, the new 
converter was in use at such important copper centers as Ta- 
coma, Garfield, and El Paso, and was being installed at Hay- 
den, Arizona, at the Braden Copper Company mines in Chile, 
and at the new plant of the British America Nickel Corpora- 
tion in Sudbury, Ontario. 10 

One voice was raised to protest the honors given Cappelen 



9 Krejci, in Engineering and Mining Journal, 104: 669-674. 

10 Vol. 91, p. 943, 964 (May IS, 1911); voL 104, p. 674 (October 20, 1917). 



251 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Smith and Peirce, that of Ralph Baggaley, whose experiments 
with basic lining at Butte have already been mentioned. Bag- 
galey not only questioned the originality of Smith's work, but 
claimed all credit for the new process for himself and even 
charged that Peirce and Cappelen Smith had merely subjected 
his discoveries to certain elaborate tests. Baggaley claimed that 
he had unwisely described his experiments to the Guggenheims. 
"What have Smith and Peirce invented or developed?" he 
asked. "I practiced the art [of basic lining] with perfect success 
for 8 l /2 months, using a single lining, years before they even 
commenced to test the correctness of my theories and which 
theories all of their own experts disputed. As a well-known 
authority has stated to me, all of Smith and Peirce's patents for 
Improvements 3 on my process are really 'steps backward/ 
Their design and construction are such that it is impossible to 
hold their linings or tuyeres in place/' Baggaley then proceeded 
to detail the advantages of his own converter. 11 Authorities, 
however, are unanimous in crediting Smith and Peirce with the 
successful introduction of basic lining. 

Their professional standing was strengthened by a severe 
test. The basic patents for the converter properly filed, the two 
men organized the Peirce-Snuth Converter Company to manu- 
facture the new product, with Smith as vice-president and 
director of the firm. Within two years every large copper com- 
pany was using the new converter, but it occurred to none to 
pay royalties to the inventors. In this they were merely fol- 
lowing tradition: no copper company in America had ever paid 
an inventor for the privilege of using his discoveries. In the case 
of the converter, however, they made a mistake. The Peirce- 
Smith Company decided upon a test case, patiently waited until 
the copper interests had installed their converters, and then 
began legal action against Senator W. A. Clark of Montana 
and his United Verde Copper Company, The result was a classic 
case in the history of the American patent system; 12 and the 

n American Institute of Mining Engineers, Transactions, 46:480-485. 

12 United Verde Copper Company vs. Peirce-Smith Converter Company (1923) . 

252 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

four volumes of testimony that resulted constitute a veritable 
textbook in metallurgy. Peirce and Smith were completely es- 
tablished as the inventors of the basic-lining process. 13 Senator 
Clark was less fortunate. The Peirce-Smith Converter Company 
had originally asked him for only $40,000; this request had been 
rejected. After the trial Clark's firm turned over $850,000 to the 
converter company. 

in 

Cappelen Smith's career, so brilliantly begun in the United 
States, was destined to continue on another continent this 
time resulting in the invention and introduction of the extrac- 
tion method in use at Chuquieamata, in Chile, the largest de- 
veloped copper deposit in the world. 

The problem of this remarkable mine was perhaps first 
brought to Smith's attention in the period 1910-12, when, as 
consulting metallurgist of the American Smelting and Refining 
Company, he also served as consultant to the Braden Cop- 
per Company, a Guggenheim firm in Chile. He visited South 
America for the first time in 1912. The Chuquicamata mine 
was acquired by the Guggenheims when Pope Yeatman, who 
had previously bought Braden and other low-grade copper 
mines for them, concluded that "Chuqui" could be made to 
yield millions if a satisfactory method of extracting the copper 
could be developed. 

Chuquicamata lies north of Calama, a station on the railroad 
going up to Bolivia from Chile, between a coastal range of 
mountains and the Andes. Located in a desert region at an ele- 
vation of from 9,000 to 10,000 feet, it enjoys neither rain nor 
snow. Its ore deposits had been worked by the Indians long 
before the Spanish conquest. Later attempts to mine its copper, 

13 The patent under fire was number 943,280, filed in October, 1909, by Cappelen 
Smith alone. The Circuit Court of Appeals (Third Circuit), in reviewing the case, held 
that Smith was the "first to show that slag had two habits . . . innocent and vicious, 
and he was the first to show how one could be obtained and the other avoided, and, 
in consequence, how a basic lining could be preserved through greatly increased 
length of operation." The patent was held "not anticipated, valid, and infringed"; 
Federal Reporter, Second Series, vol. 7 (d), November-December, 19&5, p. 13-19 
(St. Paul, 1926). 

253 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

however, met with general failure. It came under Guggenheim 
control in 1911. Early the next year the Chile Exploration Com- 
pany, with a capital of $1,000,000, was incorporated for the 
purpose of opening the mine. By 1913, exploratory work in 
which Cappelen Smith played a part revealed that there were 
at least 154,000,000 tons of ore at Chuquicamata, averaging 
about 2% per cent copper. Actually the deposit is vastly greater. 

The Chile Copper Company, with a capital of $110,000,000, 
was then organized to buy up the properties of the Chile Ex- 
ploration Company. It is said that immense sums were invested 
in developing and equipping the property. Many unexpected 
difficulties arose, among them the fact that the ores were found 
to contain nitrates as well as chlorides and sulphates. The re- 
sulting technique involved both leaching and precipitation of 
the low-grade ore. Not only was it the first large-scale operation 
of its kind, but the Chuquicamata process involved a surpris- 
ingly low plant cost. 14 J 

The scientific studies that followed Yeatman's preliminary 
investigation of "Chuqui" ores were conducted under Cappelen 
Smith's leadership in the Guggenheim laboratories at Perth 
Amboy, New Jersey. Considerable money was spent in what is 
generally regarded as extremely clever research. The outcome 
was the chemical process already referred to, worked out to the 
last detail and requiring an elaborate set of equipment. A 
crushing plant, which would reduce the ore to one-half inch 
mesh, was built. The leaching plant called for six great tanks 
each 150 feet long by 110 feet wide and 16 feet in depth. In 
addition, a pump house, an electrolytic tank house, and a 
smelting plant had to be provided. It was found, however, that 
the same results were obtained when the ore was treated in 
Chile on a 10,000-ton scale as in Perth Amboy with much 
smaller units. 

The Smith process (it is more commonly known as the Gug- 

M ,See H. Foster Bain and Thomas Thornton Read, Ores and Industry in South 
America, 221 (New York, 1934); A. B. Parsons, The Porphyry Coppers, 256-283 (New 
York, 1933); Fortune, 2: 72-76 (My, 1930). A good general account is Joseph Newton 
and Curtis L. Wilson, Metallurgy oj Copper, 345-356 (New York, 1942). 

254 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

genheim process) is logically suggested by Chuquicamata ore. 
The principal mineral in the ore is brochantite, a basic sulphate 
of copper easily soluble in sulphuric acid. Therefore, according 
to one writer, leaching with sulphuric acid "suggests itself at 
once." In the opinion of the same writer, "the electro-deposition 
of copper from this sulphate solution, thus producing fine cop- 
per at one step, presents itself as the most advantageous and 
feasible method of precipitation." 15 The crushed ore is leached 
with sulphuric acid. The greater part of the chlorine is elimi- 
nated by treatment in drums with metallic copper. The remain- 
ing copper is precipitated by electrolysis and the cathodes 
melted into commercial bars. Cuprous chloride, formed in the 
dechloridizing drums, is treated to recover copper either by 
smelting or dissolving the cuprous chloride with salt and then 
electrolyzing, or by treatment with metallic iron to form ce- 
ment copper. 16 

But while in theory the process of dissolving the ore in cold 
acids and recovering the copper by electrolysis is relatively 
simple, the problems facing Cappelen Smith were innumerable. 
He had to develop, first of all, materials with which to make 
vats, pipes, and anodes in the electrolytic cells where dis- 
solved copper is precipitated as metal that would withstand 
the action of acid solutions and at the same time have the 
necessary structural and electrical properties. For lining the 
concrete leaching vats as well as the cells, a solution composed 
of asphalt and silica sand, reinforced like concrete, was worked 
out. Many experiments were tried before a satisfactory ma- 
terial for the anodes was developed. 17 To these and many other 
technical problems must be added the fact that water for all 
purposes had to be brought by pipe line from sources 40 to 250 
miles away. Long-distance transmission of power at 110,000 
volts also presented difficulties. 

35 C. A. Rose, "Metallurgical Operations at the Chile Exploration Co.," in Engi- 
neering and 'Mining Journal, 101:321 (February 12, 1916). 

16 Pope Yeatman, ''Mine of Chile Exploration Co., Chuquieamata, Chile," in Engi- 
neering and Mining Journal, 101:313 (February 12', 1916). 

17 Parsons, The Porphyry Coppers, 268-271. 

255 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

The Chuquicamata plant began operating on a commercial 
scale May 19, 1915. It was soon found that in purity "ChuquiY 5 
copper was somewhat higher than that from American electro- 
lytic refineries. By 1929 the Guggenheim property was produc- 
ing copper "at the rate of 400,000,000 pounds per year, at a cost 
of about six cents per pound delivered in Europe." 18 The immi- 
grant engineer had thus successfully made his second great 
contribution to the American copper industry. In recognition 
of Smith's pioneer work at Chuquicamata, in 1920 he was 
awarded the gold medal of the Mining and Metallurgical So- 
ciety of America an honor bestowed on very few for dis- 
tinguished service in the art of hydrometallurgy. 19 

Proud as Smith is of this honor, he is more pleased with the 
growth of a thriving city of 5,000 at Chuquicamata. It may 
be questioned whether the mining activities of American and 
European firms have been an unmixed blessing to Chile, but 
one cannot doubt Cappelen Smith's sincerity when he describes 
the conditions now existing among the native workers at 
"Chuqui." In a strange world high above sea level, the workers 
enjoy warm clothing; company-built houses, hospitals, and 
schools minister to their physical and mental needs; and parks 
lend a touch of warm beauty to the city. 20 

IV 

According to the magazine Fortune, Smith could not go from 
Antofagasta to Chuquicamata without crossing great nitrate 
pampas. "It was but natural," we learn, "that he should specu- 
late on the possibility of translating the cold acid technique of 
Chuqui to a cold water technique for the nitrate field." 21 The 
same source suggests that he had "looked over the great ancient 

18 Bain and Read, Ores and Industry in South America^ 222. 

10 Mention should be made of the fact that Cappelen Smith also planned and 
built a new smelting plant for the Braden Copper Company in southern Chile. The 
Braden mines and plant, handling a copper pyrite and producing commercial copper 
by the usual smelting and converting methods, constitute one of the largest copper 
units in the world. Cappelen Smith was consulting engineer and vices-president of 
Braden. See Engineering and Mining Journal, 101:315-321 (February 12, 1916). 

20 See Nordisk tidende, November 24, 1938. 

21 Vol. 2, p. 59 (October, 1930). 

256 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

industry of the desert" and had studied the 150 "relatively 
small oficinas (nitrate extraction plants). They drilled holes and 
blasted the desert rock, scraped off the barren upper layer, and 
three or four feet beneath came on the rich nitrate-bearing 
caliche" 2 * This caliche is a rock of ordinary appearance but 
nearly as hard as granite. Smith, brooding over the subject of 
nitrate, concluded that he could improve upon the technique 
then used the Shanks method for taking the nitrate from 
this rock, and in three years "the chemistry of nitrates was re- 
written in New York laboratories/' To test his theories, Smith 
built an experimental plant at Oficina Cecelia near Antof agasta 
"and in two years more demonstrated the feasibility of his 
idea/ 3 The Guggenheim brothers, by now thoroughly aroused, 
"gathered in their joint office at 120 Broadway and issued or- 
ders to buy nitrate fields." 23 

To understand why the Guggenheims were so vitally inter- 
ested in Cappelen Smith's experimental work with Chilean 
nitrate, one must only keep in mind the competition in nitrates 
during peacetime. Necessary in modern warfare, Chilean ni- 
trates sold for a good price during the First World War. In the 
years that followed the war, however, the market was dull, since 
their only other large use is in commercial fertilizers. Competi- 
tion for the agricultural market was keen, and only low-cost 
nitrates had a chance. 

The cost of producing nitrates had been greatly reduced by a 
revolutionary method introduced in the early years of the twen- 
tieth century. In Norway Professor Kristian Birkeland and 
Sam. Eyde, an engineer, succeeded in their attempt to fix atmos- 
pheric nitrogen. They developed a furnace in 1903 that was 
able to form nitrogen oxides by means of an electric spark. 24 As 
later improved, both in Norway and in Germany, the new 
method lowered costs considerably below those of the old method 
of producing Chilean nitrates. 25 The chief requirement of the 

^Fortune, 6:66 (August, 1932). 

23 Fortune, 2:59 (October, 1930), 

24 Frank A. Ernst, Fixation of Atmospheric Nitrogen, 12 (New York, 1928). 

25 For an account of Chilean nitrates see J. K. Partington and L. H. Parker, The 
Nitrogen Industry, 33-84 (New York, 1923). 

257 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

new process was an abundance of cheap power. The Chilean de- 
posits were obviously doomed, unless Smith could find a process 
as revolutionary in its way as the Birkeland-Eyde process had 
been some years before. 

The Guggenheims, in contemplating the results of Cappelen 
Smith's laboratory and plant experiments, perhaps reasoned in 
this manner: They had spent large sums on what had once been 
considered worthless copper properties. Smith's work had cost 
about $50,000,000, but the low-grade ore was made to pay hand- 
some dividends. "A $50,000,000 hole in the ground became a 
$200,000,000 property and it was with some satisfaction that 
the Guggenheims pocketed their profits when they sold it to 
Anaconda in 1923." 26 The copper that came from "Chuqui" 
had also become a standard for purity. Now Smith's new proc- 
ess for treating the low-grade caliche promised returns at least 
as great as those in copper. 

The Guggenheims therefore bought up nitrate-bearing desert 
areas in northern Chile. From the Chilean government they 
bought at auction a nitrate deposit at Coya Norte near Tocopilla; 
they then added the near-by lands held by the Anglo-Chilean 
Nitrate Company. The railroad to the coast was modernized 
and in 1924 the Anglo-Chilean Consolidated Nitrate Company 
was formed. Cappelen Smith was then instructed to build a 
modern nitrate plant. Debentures to the value of $16,500,000 
were issued and Maria Elena, the new plant, "began to rise 
from the white desert." The problems were many. The Gug- 
genheims had to put up additional funds totaling about 
$25,000,000. The plant's original capacity of 45,000 tons of ni- 
trogen a year was eventually increased to 106,000 tons, or 
more than the United States bought from Chile in 1913. 

Maria Elena was put into operation late in 1926. Its advan- 
tages when weighed against the Shanks process were obvious. 
The Lautaro Nitrate Company, Limited a British firm de- 
cided to avail itself of the new Smith technique and in 1929 
gave the Guggenheims a half interest in exchange for a con- 

26 Fortune, 6:65 (August, 1932). 

258 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

tract to build a plant similar to Maria Elena, but with a ca- 
pacity of 132,000 tons of nitrogen a year. To pay for the plant 
Lautaro issued bonds to the amount of $32,000,000. 2T 

James ("Don Santiago") Humberstone had worked out the 
method known as the Shanks process. This process, in use for 
some time before the Guggenheims interested themselves in 
Chilean nitrates, depended to a large extent upon hand labor, 
both in mining the caliche and in extracting the saltpeter. It 
also used hot solutions for extracting the nitrate from the ore, 
thus involving the use of much fuel. The tanks used were rela- 
tively small and the commercial product, only 96 per cent pure 
nitrate, came in the shape of irregular crystals. 28 

The Guggenheim process, by contrast, almost eliminated the 
workman. "From the mining of the caliche to the bagging of 
the nitrate the machine does all the work, the workman is nec- 
essary only to direct it." 28 The three feet or so of overburden, or 
costra, is removed by giant electric scrapers. The caliche, thus 
exposed, is "lifted" by blasts "utilizing as much as 7,000 pounds 
of black powder (made in the plant from nitrate of soda and 
charcoal) in a single shot, breaking up in a few seconds 10,000 
tons of the ore/' The pieces of rock are then picked up by elec- 
tric shovels half a ton or so at a time and dropped into the 
cars of an electric train that runs to the extraction plant. Here 
they are tilted by mechanical power and their contents dumped 
into crushers capable of reducing 1,200 tons of caliche per hour. 
Boulders are "reduced to rocks, rocks to pebbles about the size 
of a California cherry." 30 Then, moving on a conveyor belt, the 
crushed ore is delivered to one of ten concrete leaching tanks 
where the nitrate is separated from the ore by lukewarm leach- 
ing solutions. 

According to J. Enrique Zanetti, an authority on nitrates, it 
is at this point that Cappelen Smith's system proved its effec- 

27 Fortune, 6:66. 

28 J. Enrique Zanetti, The Significance of Nitrogen, M-Z7 (New York, 1932); For- 
tune, 2: 59 (October, 1930). 

20 Zanetti, Significance of Nitrogen, 24. 
* Fortune, 2:60 (October, 1930). 

259 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

tiveness. The solutions, when applied to the crushed caliche, 
are warm, as already stated; precipitation of nitrate is caused 
by cooling these warm solutions to about freezing temperatures. 
No direct fuel as a source of heat is necessary; waste heat is 
taken from the huge Diesel engines furnishing electric power 
to the plant. "The water which circulates around the cylinders 
of the Diesel motors is warmed sufficiently to heat the solution 
to the desired temperature. . . . Solutions coming to and from 
extraction tanks are passed through a system of heat inter- 
changes where the solution that has been cooled takes up heat 
again from one that is going to be cooled, thus saving impor- 
tant amounts of fuel/' The strong nitrate solutions from the 
leaching tanks flow to crystallizing tanks where the solution is 
cooled by means of a heat interchange with the cold returning 
solutions. The nitrate is separated from the solutions by means 
of centrifugal machines; when dry it is white and about 98.5 
per cent pure. The solution from which the nitrate was crystal- 
lized the mother liquor is "warmed up again through heat 
interchangers and pumped back to a new extraction tank. The 
solution is then really acting as if it were a belt conveyor. It 
picks up nitrate from the caliche, deposits it in crystallizers and 
goes back again to begin its cycle." 31 

The nitrate coming from the crystallizing process is in the 
form of tiny crystals, not unlike table salt; in this form it 
greedily absorbs moisture from the air. It was found, in fact, 
to be "so finely divided, so thirsty that it ... formed into 
white boulders the size and shape of the bags in which it was 
packed and practically impervious to the onslaught of crowbar 
or pickax." To prevent this, the crystals are melted at a high 
temperature in a shaft furnace and then "forced through a pipe 
which terminates in a fine spray cap. The scalding yellow liquid 
leaps high in the air, where it cools and forms into snow white 
beads that tumble back into the last conveyor, bound for the 
automatic weighing and sacking machines. These beads have a 
glaze which resists moisture and have a much more attractive 

* Zanetti, Significance of Nitrogen, 25. 

260 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

commercial appearance than that of the irregular crystal of 
the old Shanks product." 32 The spraying is done in large steel- 
plate towers kept cool by air circulation. The saltpeter is packed 
in bags weighing 100 or 200 pounds. The farmer can spread the 
pellets on fields either by hand or machine. 

When the caliche is being reduced in the giant crushers a col- 
umn of dust shoots skyward and is visible ten miles away. Over 
this part of the plant "hangs a pall of dust." According to 
Zanetti, this is one of the "inevitable nuisances of a nitrate 
plant. The fine dust, carried by the wind, settles over the en- 
tire plant, covering everything with a layer half an inch thick." 
In any place where there is oil or water a thick, hard crust 
forms. 33 

Fortune reveals that the production costs of the Smith 
process are 6 to 9 dollars less per ton than those of the Shanks 
method. Chilean nitrate sells at the same price as synthetic 
sodium nitrate, which was about 27 dollars F.O.B. cars at Atlan- 
tic seaports up to the beginning of World War II, and thus the 
economies of the new process have apparently permitted Chil- 
ean nitrate to maintain a competitive position with its equiva- 
lent synthetic product. Zanetti describes the Guggenheim 
process as "an outstanding achievement of modern chemical 
engineering," and a U. S. government publication states, "In 
Chile, the erection of the two Guggenheim plants [Maria Elena 
and Pedro de Valdivia] did not greatly enlarge the national ca- 
pacity but probably prolonged for a number of years the ability 
of that country to compete effectively." 34 

The Smith process was not only superior technically to 
methods used elsewhere in Chile, but it also led to the establish- 
ment of a giant Chilean nitrate industry dominated by the 
Guggenheims. The story of this industry must be told by others, 

32 Fortune, 2:60 (October, 1930). 

33 Significance of Nitrogen, 26. 

34 United States Tariff Commission, Chemical Nitrogen, 5 (report no. 114, second 
series Washington, 1937). For a further discussion of costs, see Fortune, 2:105 (Oc- 
tober, 1930); Zanetti, Significance of Nitrogen, 27, 67; Harry A. Curtis, The Nitro- 
gen Situation, 46-49 (Senate Document no. 88 Washington, 1942); Ernst, Fixation 
of Atmospheric Nitrogen, 88. 

261 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

but none can study the international competition in nitrates 
without being aware of its implications in "dollar diplomacy" 
and world imperialism. As a background to this drama, confer- 
ences of all nitrate interests were held during the summer 
months of 1930 at Paris, Berlin, and Ostend. Cappelen Smith 
attended as a representative of the Chilean producers, who were 
fully conscious of the effects of increasing tariff walls and the 
tendency of European nations to build up synthetic nitrogen 
plants. In 1931, on the insistence of the Chilean government 
and as a result of Smith's efforts, a consolidation of the Chilean 
nitrate industry resulted in the formation of the Nitrate Cor- 
poration of Chile, with Cappelen Smith as president. In 1934 
this corporation was dissolved by a law declaring the export 
of nitrate a government monopoly. 

V 

In addition to his other work in metallurgy, Cappelen Smith 
has interested himself in the treatment of sewage and the 
elimination of smelter gases for the recovery of sulphur. He has 
been in charge of the research work connected with both 
projects. The first of these, because of its universal interest, 
seems to justify some space in this account. 

Early in 1936 Water and Sewerage Works commented on a 
"novel method of chemical treatment" of sewage "first devel- 
oped on a small scale in New York and later at New Britain, 
Conn." This biochemical process, the magazine observed, "ap- 
pears to yield a very satisfactory effluent/' 35 The story behind 
this new Guggenheim process is not so distantly removed from 
previous experience as it might at first seem to be. Smith's New 
York staff of researchers, naturally interested in nitrates, 
chanced upon an article titled "Nitrate Prevents Obnoxious 
Odors" in the September, 1931, issue of Chemical and Metal- 
lurgical Engineering. They began in 1934 to experiment with 
the effect of sodium nitrate (the Chilean product) on sewage 

35 Samuel A. Greeley, "A Review of Sewage Disposal in the United States at the 
Close of 1935," in vol. 83, p. 31-36 (February, 1936). 

262 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

treatment and in a short time worked out what is known as the 
Guggenheim process. 

The biochemical process was said to give excellent results in 
treating ordinary sewage. New Britain, Connecticut, however, 
was the first city of any size to install a treatment plant of this 
type. In the spring of 1935 the Guggenheim Brothers got the 
city's permission to set up a 100,000-gallon-per-day experi- 
mental station. A coagulant was there mixed with the sewage 
in air-agitation tanks from which most of the settled sludge 
was returned to the mixing tanks. The results proved the claims 
made for the system. 36 In 1936 New Britain then decided in 
favor of the new system to handle her industrial and domestic 
waste. By January, 1937, a plant "designed to treat nine million 
gallons of sewage daily was ready to be put into operation. The 
plant . . . consists of coarse bar screens, primary settling 
tanks, dosing tanks, aeration tanks, final settling tanks, vacuum 
filters and a multi-hearth furnace. There also were provided 
adequate chemical feed machines and standard auxiliary equip- 
ment." After the first difficulties met in breaking in the plant, 
it worked very well. Because of the flexibility of the process, its 
ability to withstand sudden shocks of industrial waste, much 
time and money were saved by the Guggenheim process. "The 
results for the first five months of 1939 . . , speak for them- 
selves. With monthly flows as high as 40% over designed ca- 
pacity of the plant, the overall reduction in suspended solids 
and B.O.D. averaged 91% for this period." 37 

Anderson, Indiana, like many another city, had been dump- 
ing raw sewage and untreated trade wastes into the White 
River. In November, 1938, contracts were let for a modern 
treating plant of the Guggenheim type. Commenting on this 
decision, Russel B. Moore says, "It is not the writer's purpose 
to convey the impression that the Guggenheim. Process can be 
considered a panacea for all sanitary ills, but we do feel that in 

86 F. G. Cunningham and H. K Galley, "New Britain Completes Plant of Gug- 
genheim Type," in Municipal Sanitation, 8:214-220 (April, 1987). 

37 John R. Szymanski, "Bettering the Treatment of the Sewage of New Britain, 
Conn.," in Water and Sewerage Works, 86: $15-319 (August, 1939). 

263 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the case of Anderson the adaptation of biochemical treatment 
is definitely the best solution to the problem." 38 

VI 

Less spectacular perhaps, but of far-reaching importance in 
New World nickel production, has been the work of Anton M. 
Gr^nningsseter, consultant with the Falconbridge Nickel Mines, 
Limited, of Toronto, Canada. The fruit of Gr^nningsaeter's 
work in Norway was used by the Nazi invaders to supply their 
war machine. During World War II he did all in his power to 
enable Canadian mines, supplying 90 per cent of the world's 
nickel, to contribute their share to ultimate Allied victory. 

Gr^nningsseter was born at Hj^rundf jord, S^ndm^r, in 1880, 
the son of a lensmand. He attended Trondhjem's Technical 
College during 1896-1900, graduating with a degree in chem- 
istry. After two years as an instructor at his alma mater, he 
improved his technical education by a year of study at the 
Royal Bergakademie at Freiberg, in Saxony, Germany. Return- 
ing to Trondhjem, he served a second period as instructor in 
the technical college and afterwards obtained practical experi- 
ence in the copper smelter at Sulitjelma. Later he thus described 
the state of metallurgy in Norway (and the world) in 1904, be- 
fore the epoch-making contributions of Cappelen Smith: "Our 
water-jacket furnaces had a capacity of 50-60 tons daily, we 
charged by shovel on 12 hour shifts, so many shovels of ore, so 
many of flux, so many of coke; the acid-lined copper converters 
had a capacity of 1500 Ibs. per charge and were moved by hand 
on rails from the stand to the settler for charging with matte. 
The pay was 8 cents an hour/' 39 

Like many another young engineer before him, Gr^nning- 
sseter was dissatisfied with the wages and technical opportuni- 
ties of the homeland and came to the United States armed 
with letters of introduction to get experience in his profession 

88 f *Bio-chemlcal Treatment for Anderson, Ind.," in Water and Sewerage Works 
85: 1029-1034 (November, 1938). 

89 From a lecture delivered in 1941 to fourth-year students of mining and metal- 
lurgy at Toronto University. A copy of this lecture was put at the writer's disposal by 



264 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

that would later stand him in good stead in Norway. Arriving 
in New York early in 1905, he found work at once as chemist 
with the International Nickel Company, at Bayonne, New Jer- 
sey; in the same year he went to the Sudbury nickel mines in 
Ontario. 

Sudbury, the very heart of the nickel industry, lies in what 
was then a desolate region some miles north of Lake Huron. 
The raw ugliness of the little town of between two and three 
thousand inhabitants, with its thirty or forty saloons, must have 
impressed Gr^nningsseter greatly, for he dwelt on the subject 
years later in a newspaper interview. 40 Dependent upon the 
nickel and lumbering industries, the town witnessed strange 
goings-on when the workers came in with pay in their pockets. 
Sudbury today is an orderly and up-to-date city of about 35,000 
inhabitants. In 1905, however, the young engineer found little 
that was attractive, and the intense cold and long winters made 
the experience a rather trying one. The nickel industry in Sud- 
bury was then about twenty years old and the vast deposits of 
ore were considered inexhaustible. 

For four years Gr^nningsseter worked in the smelters and 
refineries of Canada, but in 1909 he returned to Norway to be- 
gin a notable project in his homeland. Invited by the promoter, 
Admiral B^rresen, he took a vigorous part in building the 
Christiansand Nickel Refining Company's plant, and this re- 
finery he directed for the next ten years. This company, with 
Admiral B0rresen as administrative director, was a purely Nor- 
wegian concern and at first produced about 300 tons of nickel 
a year. The ores came only from Norwegian mines, chiefly from 
Evje, and the undertaking was therefore necessarily a modest 
one. Production at best never surpassed an annual output of 
800 tons, and employment did not exceed about 100 men. 41 A 
stimulus of some kind was needed. 

During the First World War the Norwegian company be- 
came interested in Canadian nickel output and the British 

40 Fcedrdandsvennen (Christiansand), October 20, 1939. 

41 See Reidar Lund, **En fremragende industriell innsats," in Teknisk ukeblad, 
no. 9, p. 139 (March 1, 1934). 

265 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

America Nickel Corporation of Ottawa, Ontario, was accord- 
ingly organized. Gr^nningsaeter went to Canada in 1919 to help 
start the new company's mine, smelter, and refinery in the 
Sudbury district. His connection with this company was severed 
in 1924 when the firm went bankrupt, largely because of the 
letdown in nickel production that followed the war. For some 
years he held jobs in the United States, including a temporary 
employment with Victor N. Hybinette at Wilmington, Dela- 
ware. Hybinette, a great Swedish engineer, introduced the basic 
principles today used in the electrolysis of nickel matte, a 
method which accounts for about 70 per cent of all nickel pro- 
duced. His methods had also been introduced in the Christian- 
sand refinery in 1910. 

In 197 Gr^nningsseter became consulting metallurgist for 
Falconbridge Nickel Mines, Limited, of Toronto, the firm with 
which he is still associated. This company in 1929 bought the 
refinery at Christiansand, largely on the advice of its new engi- 
neer. It may seem strange that they should have made an in- 
vestment in Norway; in fact, for some time Falconbridge had 
contemplated building a refinery in Canada. After reflection, 
however, it was decided to acquire, remodel, and enlarge the 
Christiansand plant. After years of careful study and applica- 
tion, the newly acquired plant was made to produce nearly 
one tenth of the world's supply of nickel. From 2,500 tons an- 
nual output in 1929, production gradually climbed to 10,000 
tons. 

Falconbridge bought only the Christiansand refinery, the 
mines and smelter remaining with the Norwegian company. 
The refinery was planned for a novel system of production 
which drew from mines on both sides of the Atlantic, since 
Norwegian ores alone did not permit the economies of large- 
scale production. Up to the time of the Nazi invasion of Nor- 
way, Canada supplied the Christiansand refinery with many 
times the amount of raw material that Norway did. In the re- 
organization and management of this refinery Gr^nningsaeter 
was the leading figure, and under his direction began an inter- 

266 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

esting experiment in co-operation between the Old World and 
the New. 42 

Gr^nningsaeter's metallurgical work in Norway centered in 
perfecting production techniques and getting a steadily im- 
proved quality of nickel. These two objectives have remained 
with him to the present in his work on both sides of the At- 
lantic. 

Production in Norway presented the problem common to 
all small countries with limited resources. Unable to compete 
with the mass-production methods of countries like the United 
States, they must concentrate on quality. A good example of 
this is the iron and steel industry of Sweden. 43 Nickel produc- 
tion offered the same difficulties. Gr^nningsaeter's success in 
meeting these difficulties is described by another Norwegian en- 
gineer. Writing in Teknisk ukeblad, Reidar Lund explains that, 
"Mr. Gr^nningsseter . . . saw that with the help of cheap 
Norwegian water power and skilled Norwegian workers and 
staff he could turn out nickel cheaper in Norway than in 
Canada. . . . Expansion and modernization were immediately 
undertaken at the Christiansand plant . . . and the results 
were so encouraging that new enlargements were introduced in 
1 932-33 ." This rapid development was also accompanied by 
steady improvement in the quality of nickel. "Not so long ago, 
one struggled with impurities determined and specified in the 
order of one tenth to one hundredth of one per cent. Today 
only pure metal is acceptable, that is to say, high quality prod- 
ucts, where impurities are determined and specified in the 
order of thousandths of one per cent. . . . Mr. Gr^nningsseter's 
work is of the finest and most notable that has been accom- 
plished in Norwegian industry in recent years and it deserves 
to be generally known and esteemed." 44 In recognition of his 
work the Norwegian Polytechnic Society in 1937 awarded him 

42 This section is based largely on the exceedingly competent review of Grinning- 
saeter's career in Fcedrdandsvenner f October 0, 1939, and on information obtained 
from GrjzJnningsseter. 

43 See Gr0nningsaeter, "En oversikt over elektrometallurgiens nuvaerende stilling 
med'spesielt henblikk pa norske forhold," in Teknisk ukeblad, no. 10, p. 3 (1936). 

** Tekmsk ukeblad, no. 9, p. 139 (March 1, 1934). 

267 



SAGA IN STEEL AM) CONCRETE 

its highly valued Sam. Eyde prize, and in the same year he 
was elected to Videnskapsselskapet in Oslo, a learned scientific 

group. 

vn 

If it may be said that Gr^nningsseter introduced American 
production techniques in Norway, it is also true that he carried 
with him to the New World the point of view of the Old. His 
contribution to the metallurgy of nickel includes the lowering 
of metal losses. 

The need for this would seem to require little emphasis to- 
day, but Gr^nningsaeter recently found it necessary to remind 
the Sudbury branch of the Canadian Institute of Mining and 
Metallurgy that "ores do not grow within historical periods 
although our forefathers thought so. No matter how great the 
supply of mineral wealth in Canada now seems to be, it is cer- 
tainly not inexhaustible. In the older countries, where mining 
is an important industry, this fact has been realized for many 
years, and steps have been taken to conserve supplies. The same 
must be done here." 45 Speaking to the seniors in mining and 
metallurgy at the University of Toronto, he said: "Lessening of 
waste has been an important factor . . . during the period I 
have been considering. . . . Lower grade ores have been mined. 
But there is room for much more improvement in this line and 
I wish to stress the importance of this. I think we old country 
people, who have been raised in old, more worked out countries, 
have a stronger feeling of the importance of this, than you 
who have been raised on this continent, where you yet, to a con- 
siderable extent are occupied with skimming the cream. Sooner 
than imagined you will come down to the blue milk. ... I 
think the time has now come that in the metal business the 
principle should be to save everything that can be saved at a 
profit, be this profit ever so small." 46 

The pertinence of these words becomes apparent when it is 



(Ontario) Daily Star, March 4, 1941. 

From a lecture delivered in 1911; a copy was put at the writer's disposal by 
Gr0nningsseter. 

268 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

recalled that most of the world's nickel is obtained from the 
Sudbury field. The ores are copper-nickel sulphides containing 
cobalt, iron, and precious metals; they are smelted to low- 
grade mattes which are then blown in basic converters of the 
Peirce-Smith type for the removal of iron. The product of the 
converters Bessemer matte is shipped to nickel refineries 
where the process employed is a combined thermal and electro- 
lytic one. 47 The method of extracting nickel and other metals 
from the ore had not escaped criticism. Robert E. Vivian said 
some years ago, "Although improvements have been made, the 
accepted processes so far have all slagged off and wasted the 
iron, comprising 90% of the metal content of the ore; they have 
lost 10-15% of the copper and nickel, and higher percentages 
of the precious metals, and have made use of crude processes 
for the separation of the copper from the nickel in the matte 
produced/ 5 48 

The need for waste elimination increases with the normal in- 
crease in demand for nickel. Once used mainly for armor plate 
and ordnance, nickel's chief use today normally has nothing to 
do with war. Because it lends great strength, hardness, and re- 
sistance to corrosion, it is an important ingredient in ferrous 
alloys. Most stainless steels and irons contain considerable 
nickel. It is also used in Monel metal, coins, and many other 
alloys. Such industrial products as motor vehicles, railroad 
equipment, farm implements, common machinery, chromium 
plating, sheets, wires, radio tubes, and a host of other items use 
nickel. Because of the increasing strains and stresses of modern 
industrial life, the demand is constant for a higher quality 
nickel. 49 

The development of a better grade of nickel has taken place 
without any rise in metal price, thanks to improved metallurgi- 
cal and other processes. According to Gr^nningsaeter: "It is to 

47 C. L. Mantell, Industrial Electrochemistry, 259-267 (New York, 1940). 

48 A Chemical Engineering Study of Sudbury Ore Processes, 9 (New York, 1932), 

49 Vivian, Sudbury Ore Processes, 7. See also Robert C. Stanley, Nickel, Past and 
Present (Toronto, 1934), a reprint of a speech by the president of the International 
Nickel Company of Canada. 

269 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

be expected that the present trend of demanding purer and 
purer metals will continue. ... As the physical testing meth- 
ods continue to improve, the demands for purity will keep step 
and become stricter and stricter. ... It is probable that many 
of the consumers will only be satisfied with almost chemically 
pure metals, even if the impurities for many purposes may be 
harmless, or even useful alloying elements. . . . Accurate de- 
terminations of impurities down to 0.001% in metals and as low 
as 0.1 milligrams per liter in solutions is now regular laboratory 
routine. . . . We can perhaps say that the change that has 
taken place in the laboratory since the turn of the century is 
that the demand for accuracy has been moved one decimal 
point. . . . We now talk in figures instead of in trends, we work 
on a quantitative instead of a qualitative basis/' 50 

Throughout this entire development in the metallurgy of 
nickel Gr^nningsaeter has been a leader. It is difficult at any 
time to place a finger on precise scientific contributions, many 
of which never materialize in patented processes. But a glance 
at Gr^nningsseter's American letters patent tells a part of the 
story of his work. One describes a process for treating nickel- 
copper solutions to remove iron. Another has to do with the 
reduction of oxygenous nickel or nickel-copper compounds. A 
third and a fourth tell of methods for the electrolytic deposition 
of nickel from nickel-salt solutions. Still another describes a 
method for the production of malleable and annealable nickel 
direct by electrolysis, thus eliminating the resmelting common 
to electrolytic metal refining. A sixth "relates to the treatment 
of nickel cathodes obtained by electrolytic deposition and has 
for its object certain improvements in the method of treating 
the electrolytically deposited cathodes whereby their solubility 
characteristics particularly are so greatly improved that the 
cathodes may be directly used as anodes in nickel plating 
baths." In all he has eight patents in this country and more in 

60 From a speech, "Some Features in the Progress of Metallurgy from the Begin- 
ning of the Century ," before Norske Videnskaps-Akademie (Oslo), September, 1938. 
A copy of this speech was put at the writer's disposal by Gr0nningsaeter. 

270 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

Canada and Europe. Pending in the United States are two 
applications, one for the purification of nickel electrolytes and 
another for malleable and annealable nickel. He plans to file at 
least one more application. A paper read before the Canadian 
Institute of Mining and Metallurgy brings out the "possibilities 
of obtaining appreciable economic advantages by udng the 
converter as a smelting machine. When all factors entering into 
converter operations are studied, understood and given proper 
consideration, I believe that it will be found that there is more 
flexibility possible in operation to meet varying conditions than 
generally has been assumed." 51 As he himself has modestly put 
it, Grjtoningsseter has "made a number of improvements of de- 
tails in the metallurgy of nickel." 

During World War II Gr^nningsaeter lived in Canada and 
New York. Though prevented by the German invasion of Nor- 
way from taking part in the work of the Falconbridge plant 
at Christiansand, until World War II he spent much time in 
that city. It was his conviction in 1936 that this nickel refinery- 
would soon turn out 10 per cent of the world's supply. 52 The 
Nazi seizure of the plant, so largely the product of Grinning- 
sseter's planning, naturally came as a great shock and disappoint- 
ment to a man who might truly be called an internationalist, 
both in his personal life and in his professional attitudes. 
Since 1929 he has sailed back and forth across the Atlantic no 
less than 53 times. A citizen of the United States, he is married 
to a Canadian and has always felt most at home in Norway. 
Sensing the futility and stupidity of nationalism in economic 
life, he deplored the trend toward national self-sufficiency in the 
post-World War I period. 53 Like Cappelen Smith, he is engaged 
in a work requiring international co-operation and good faith 
among nations. 

51 Anton Gr0nningsaeter and Peter B. Drummond, "Notes on the Operation of the 
Basic Copper (and Copper-Nickel) Converter," in Canadian Institute of Mining and 
Metallurgy, Transactions, 45:99-139 (1942). 

52 Teknisk ukeblad, no. 10, p. 3 (1936): "En oversikt over electrometallurgiens 
nuvaerende stilling med spesielt henblikk pa norske forhold." 

53 Teknisk ukeblad, no. 10, p. 6; see also his article "Teknisk gjestfrihet," in Tek- 
nisk ukeblad, 84:162 (April 1, 1937). 

271 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

vm 

The number of engineers specializing in metallurgy in recent 
times has been considerable, and of the graduates from Nor- 
way's technical schools many have made solid contributions 
to American industry. Among the earliest to arrive in this coun- 
try was Eystein Berg, on a special mission to erect a synthetic 
nitrogen plant the first of its kind in America in South 
Carolina. Berg, a close associate of Sam. Eyde in Norway, was 
also credited with planning the American Nitrogen Products 
Company at Seattle. 54 Otto H. Lorange, who came to the 
United States in 1901, made a specialty of manufacturing ferro 
alloys with the Primus Chemical Company: ferro-tungsten, 
f erro-vanadium, and ferro-molybdenum. Later he became super- 
intendent of the United States Vanadium Corporation in Ohio. 55 
Trygve Yensen, another to migrate in the early years of the 
present century, introduced a novel method of processing elec- 
trolytically-refined iron and thus influenced the production of 
steel. 56 

Of more recent importance has been the work of Haakon 
Styri, who at present is director of research for the SKF Indus- 
tries at Philadelphia, a part of the great Swedish ball-bearing 
cartel. In 1910 Styri spent a year studying at the Carnegie 
Institute of Technology under the auspices of the American- 
Scandinavian Foundation. He came to the United States to 
stay in 1916, after having served as chemist at the Notodden 
saltpeter plant in Norway and as instructor in the Institute of 
Technology at Trondhjem. Educated at Christiania's Techni- 
cal College, the Technical Institute at Aachen, and the Sor- 
bonne in Paris, Styri has also traveled extensively in France, 
Germany, Belgium, and Sweden, studying metallurgical prac- 
tices. 

Styri planned to contribute to the growing iron industry in 
Norway, but with the entrance of the United States into the 

** Washington posten (Seattle), December 1, 1916. 

K Norwegian- Am&rican Technical Journal, vol. 3, no. , p. 10 (August, 1930). 

M Ugens nyt (Christiania), January 2, 1916. 

272 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

First World War, he remained in America, served on the faculty 
of the Carnegie Institute, and worked as a metallurgist for a 
Pennsylvania steel company. In 1919 he was invited to become 
laboratory chief of SKF Industries, and since 1927 he has been 
director of all research for them. Author of several improve- 
ments in the refining of steel for tools and ball bearings, he 
also has patents on special steels and on the heat treatment of 
steel that have improved the quality of SKF products, though 
he modestly insists that his contributions are "of minor impor- 
tance/ 5 Perhaps his most significant work has been directing 
research on the properties of anti-friction bearings and their 
uses in industry. -His papers and discussions appear frequently 
in the publications of the British Iron and Steel Institute, the 
American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, the 
Society for Testing Materials, and other similar groups. 57 

Axel G. H. Andersen, metallurgical engineer with the re- 
search laboratory of the Phelps Dodge Corporation in New 
York State, has done significant work on strategic alloys, and 
has published a part and withheld other parts of the results of 
his investigations. Educated at the Copenhagen Polytechnic 
Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, An- 
dersen has conducted special research studies at Columbia Uni- 
versity for Union Carbide. Most of his contributions to the 
Transactions of the American Society of Metals, the American 
Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, and the Ameri- 
can Society of Mechanical Engineers have been jointly written 
with Professor Erick R. Jette of Columbia University. In 1937 
the two men received Henry Marion Howe medals for their paper 
"X-Ray Investigation of the Iron-Chromium-Silicon Phase 
Diagram," presented before the American Society of Metals. 58 

Among others whose work has attracted the attention of 
engineers and businessmen is Birger H. Str^m, a graduate of the 
Norwegian Institute of Technology at Trondhjem. Leaving the 

57 Most of this information was supplied by Styri. See Who's WJio in America, 
17:2221 (Chicago, 1932-33) . 

58 American Society of Metals, Transactions, 24:375-418 (1936). See also Nordisk 
tidende, October 26, 1939. 

273 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

nickel refinery at Christiansand in 1919, Str^m went to Ottawa, 
Canada, to take a position with the British America Nickel 
Corporation. When this company closed down, he left to hold 
various positions in the States. While employed by the Ana- 
conda Copper Mining Company at Great Falls, Montana, he 
collaborated in a 'number of improvements in the commercial 
process of electrolyzing zinc, helped work out the first commer- 
cially applied process for the recovery and electrolysis of cad- 
mium in the United States, and also took the first steps in the 
discovery and removal of germanium in zinc solutions. During 
this period he participated in the development and design of 
zinc plants abroad at Eitrheim in Norway, Cotrone in Italy, 
and Katowitz in Poland. In 1929 Str^m became assistant editor 
of the Engineering and Mining Journal and Chemical-Metallur- 
gical Engineering at McGraw-Hill Publishing Company in New 
York. At present he is technical editor in the publicity depart- 
ment of the Bethlehem Steel Company. 

Bj0rn Andersen, now technical director of the Celluloid 
Corporation of Newark, New Jersey, also received his technical 
education at the Norwegian Institute of Technology, where he 
remained for a time as chief chemist in the testing department. 
Setting out for America in 1924, he found employment with 
Guggenheim Brothers as assistant manager of their research 
laboratory; while associated with Smith, Andersen was respon- 
sible for a new process of recovering tin from Bolivian tin con- 
centrates, another for the recovery of bismuth from South 
American ores, and a new electrolytic process for recovering tin 
from reduced tin ores. Transferring to the Celluloid Corporation 
in 1928, he progressed from research chemist to assistant tech- 
nical director, to director of research, and finally to his present 
position as technical director. He holds a couple of dozen pat- 
ents for new processes in the production of cellulosic plastics, a 
field which he has made a specialty. 

A third graduate of Norway's Institute, Arne J. Myhren, 
came to the United States in 1924 to obtain industrial experi- 
ence, and remained to hold several positions, among them one 

274 



MEN 1ST METALLURGY 

as research chemist in the Guggenheim laboratories. At present 
he is chief of the chemical engineering section of the New Jersey 
Zinc Company at Palmerton, Pennsylvania, and he has patented 
some of his many contributions in hydrometallurgy and chemi- 
cal engineering. Odd Lowzow, after completing the metallurgical 
engineering course at Trondhjem, served for a year in the offices 
of an Oslo firm and then joined the police force of the League 
of Nations at Vilna. Finding himself without a job in 1921, 
he came to America and eventually became construction engi- 
neer with the Chemical Construction Corporation of New York 
City. 

Representative of a number of engineers who have con- 
tributed to metallurgy, although their training has been pri- 
marily in other lines, is Torleif K. Holmen. Educated in the 
technical schools of Porsgrund and Mittweida and associated 
in America with such firms as the American Sugar Refinery 
Company and the Brooklyn Edison Company, Holmen is 
credited with the invention of a process by which magnesium 
is produced by the waste heat in nitrogen production. It is 
believed that his process will have special significance in Nor- 
way, where abundant and cheap water power is utilized in the 
production of nitrates. 

Our story of the younger metallurgists closes with the bril- 
liant career of Robert Lepsoe, director of electrochemical re- 
search with the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company 
of Canada, at Trail, British Columbia. A product of both 
Bergen's Technical College and Norway's Institute of Tech- 
nology, Lepsoe came to the United States as a fellow of the 
American-Scandinavian Foundation in 1920, with a technical 
background acquired in Norway's budding metallurgical in- 
dustry. He came for the specific purpose of studying the elec- 
trolytic zinc process which had just been successfully developed 
in the New World; in 1921 he also visited metallurgical plants 
in France, Belgium, and Germany. Upon his return to Norway, 
Lepsoe advocated the use of the new process as the basis of the 
zinc industry in his homeland, but the firm with which he be- 

275 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

came associated could not finance the undertaking alone. 59 Al- 
though. Lepsoe was awarded a medal by the Norwegian 
Polytechnic Society in 1923 for a thesis on the zinc industry, 
and also received the backing of the Institute of Technology, 
which offered the financial means to demonstrate the new 
method, he was unable to interest the leading industrialists 
and bankers of the country. So when he was invited to join the 
Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, which has one 
of the world's largest nonferrous smelters, he accepted and 
left for Canada in 1925. 

As research engineer in British Columbia, Lepsoe blazed a 
remarkable technical trail. His patents, beginning as early as 
1916, include such items as a process for ferro alloys, the electric 
smelting of copper, the production of zinc oxide, the production 
of zinc and zinc dust, the recovery of zinc, lead, silver, and iron 
from waste residues, the production of elemental sulphur and 
ammonium sulphate or sulphuric acid from smelter gases, the 
production of catalytic material and of magnesium from mag- 
nesite or dolomite. All of his processes found their way into 
commercial or semi-commercial use. Thus far perhaps the most 
important group of patents have been those dealing with the 
fixation of noxious sulphurous gases. Such gases are liberated 
into the air from metallurgical and power plants and are highly 
toxic to vegetation. In the past they have caused many litiga- 
tions, among which the trial U.S. A. (in behalf of Stevens 
County, Washington) vs. Canada (Consolidated Mining and 
Smelting Company) was the most noteworthy. Apart from the 
elimination of smoke nuisance, Lepsoe's researches led to the 
recovery of large quantities of useful products such as sulphur, 
sulphuric acid, and ammonium sulphate. 

Next in importance was his magnesium process, developed 
recently on a semi-commercial scale pending an increased de- 
mand for the metal. When Lepsoe developed the process there 
was only one producer of magnesium in North America the 

88 Norway already had a zinc industry. A large smelter, for example, had been in 
operation at Sarpsborg since early in the First World War. 

276 



MEN IN METALLURGY 

Dow Chemical Company of Midland, Michigan, which had 
exacted a monopoly. The Dow process was not only expensive 
but its raw material, brine, is limited. When the demand for 
magnesium grows to a point greater than can be supplied from 
the Midland brine well, other sources, notably magnesite, of 
which there are large deposits in Washington and British Co- 
lumbia, will be utilized. The Lepsoe method was developed 
specifically for this eventuality, and it was anticipated that 
production costs would be less than at Midland, possibly less 
than for aluminum. The recent war called for extensive utili- 
zation of Lepsoe's process. 60 Canada has shown its gratitude for 
the contributions of the Norwegian engineer; the Royal Cana- 
dian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy in 1938 awarded him a 
medal for "distinguished service to Canadian industry." 61 

Thus the younger metallurgists, most of them graduates of 
Norway's Institute of Technology, are supplementing the work 
of men like Cappelen Smith and Gr^nningsaeter. Coming from 
a small country vitally conscious of the value of its mineral 
resources and skilled in exploiting them, these men have con- 
centrated on the utilization of mineral wastes; at the same time 
their careers have demonstrated the international nature of 
technology and industry. They have learned much in the New 
World and have used this information to promote the metal- 
lurgy of the homeland. But they have also taught priceless les- 
sons to America and applied their skills to a development whose 
full significance is not yet fully evident. 

60 The writer has recently discovered that from 1941 Lepsoe's firm successfully 
produced magnesium powder for the Canadian and Allied governments, including the 
United States. The "atomized" magnesium which Lepsoe assisted hi perfecting is 
made at surprisingly low cost by a new process; it was used in flares and tracers. As 
for Lepsoe's earlier magnesium process, this too was put to good use in the war years 
when shortages of magnesium metal and fluxes called for rapid production. The process 
employed at Trail was studied "by American engineers during the period of expanded 
output in the United States. 

61 See Nordmanns-forbundet, 30: 46 (1937) and 31: 162 (1938). The discussion above 
was based chiefly on materials supplied by Lepsoe. 



277 



PUTTING 
SCIENCE 

INTO NO less important than the activities 

of the inventors, builders, and metal- 
PRODUCTION lurgists is the story of Carl G. Earth's 

pioneer work with Frederick W. Tay- 
lor in the development of scientific 
management. It was this movement that revolutionized pro- 
duction in America and elsewhere by substituting science for 
the rule-of-thumb methods that once prevailed generally in 
our industries. While Barth is the major character in this story, 
he is supported by other engineers from Norway who added 
their bit to one of the most significant trends in recent times. 

I 

Scientific management consists of applying the results of 
careful study and observation to industrial production, and thus 
of setting up a division between management on the one hand 
and labor on the other. It has been defined as "a body of theory 
and practice directed toward more rational and efficient per- 
formance in industry. While it was used originally with refer- 
ence to direct efforts to increase the productivity of labor, the 
application of the term has since been extended to include 
the basic factors in the process of production as a whole/' The 
fundamental characteristic of scientific management is "the 
utilization of research as an approach to the solution of prob- 
lems of management/* * 

The origin of the new management movement, however, is 
not so easily stated. It began, in a sense, in the early 1880's 
when a new technology made itself felt in American production; 
railroad extension and the westward movement of the frontier 

1 H. S. Person, "Scientific Management,** in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 
13:603 (New York, 1934). By permission of the Macmillan Company, publishers. 

278 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

created new markets; new markets led in turn to the enlarge- 
ment and mechanization of plants. The labor situation was un- 
satisfactory because of difficulty in adapting labor, both native 
and immigrant, to machine techniques. As a final incentive, the 
depression following the panic of 1873 lessened profits and ne- 
cessitated the lowest possible unit cost of production. 2 One 
writer suggests that scientific management was a response to 
the requirements of the second stage in the American industrial 
revolution, which became pronounced about 1880 a time 
"wjben productive capacity began distinctly to outrun the ca- 
pacity of the market to absorb goods at profitable prices. . . . 
Increasing limitations of the market now made imperative a 
more efficient use of productive equipment to cut costs and 
raise profits." 3 Two major causes thus emerge: the full impact 
of the industrial revolution upon American life and the need 
for lowering the unit cost of production. 

But such scientific management as existed before 1910 was 
undefined and the concern of a few engineers only, and it cut 
no great figure in our economic life. Before that date it was the 
almost exclusive concern of the father of the movement, Fred- 
erick Winslow Taylor, and a zealous coterie of his assistants. 
Taylor began his experiments in 1880 but did not deliver his 
epoch-making address, "The Principles of Scientific Manage- 
ment/' until the January, 1910, meeting of the American So- 
ciety of Mechanical Engineers. 4 This address, printed in book 
form, created a sensation rarely accorded a speech before an 
engineering society. 5 

Taylor himself linked scientific management with the na- 
tional conservation program that was popularized in the early 

2 Person, in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 13:603. 

3 Willaxd E. Atkins, "Taylor, Frederick Window (1856-1915)," in Encyclopaedia 
of the Social Sciences, 14:542 (New York, 1934). By permission of the Macmillan 
Company, publishers. 

* Mention should, however, be made of three earlier papers which laid the foun- 
dations for this discussion: "A Piece-Rate System/* presented in 1895; "Shop Man- 
agement," read in 1903; and "The Art of Cutting Metals," presented hi 1906, all 
before the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. 

5 This discussion is based on a special edition of Taylor's Principles of Scientific 
Management,, printed for confidential circulation among engineers (New York, 1911). 

279 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

years of the present century by Theodore Roosevelt, and in 
the preface of his book he quoted the president's statement, "The 
conservation of our national resources is only preliminary to the 
larger question of national efficiency/ 5 Thus Taylor's plea was 
for efficiency in the largest possible sense, and he argued that the 
remedy for inefficiency "lies in systematic management., rather 
than in searching for some unusual or extraordinary man/' and 
that the best management of production "is a true science rest- 
ing upon clearly defined laws, rules, and principles, as a foun- 
dation" applicable to "all kinds of human activities, from our 
simplest individual acts to the work of our great corporations, 
which call for the most elaborate cooperation/' 6 The four major 
principles of scientific management, as defined by Taylor, are: 

First. The development of a true science. 
Second. The scientific selection of the workman. 
Third. His scientific education and development. 
Fourth. Intimate friendly cooperation between the management 
and the men. 7 

These, then, are the principles of scientific management. But 
Taylor, the author of the movement, was also responsible for 
accumulating a great body of data and formulating laws, chiefly 
but not solely in the art of cutting metals, and for devising 
mechanisms essential to the introduction of his principles into 
any plant. Carl G. Earth, an immigrant Norwegian engineer, 
"had as much to do with the details of development, testing 
and perfection of mechanisms as Taylor himself"; the Taylor 
technique remains to this day "essentially as these two devel- 
oped it." 8 Barth, who was a scientist by nature and a practical 
mathematician, became after Taylor's death the leading expo- 
nent of the Taylor system. In retrospect his role seems to be of 
more than the minor importance often attributed to him by 
those students of the movement who ignore the technical skills 

e Taylor, Principles, 7. 
7 Taylor, Principles,. 69. 

9 Person, in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 13:607. By permission of tne 
Macmillan Company, publishers. 

280 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

without which the Taylor system of scientific management 
would have been impossible. 9 

H 

Carl George Lange Barth was born in Christiania, February 
28, 1860. His father, Jacob Bjzfckmann Barth, was Norway's 
"first technically educated and professionally devoted and re- 
spected forester/' as well as a Unitarian with a sharp penchant 
for criticizing the religious and educational systems of his coun- 
try. 10 At the age of twelve Carl was taken by an older friend 
to see a small brass foundry and machine shop. The young boy 
said that he was "so fascinated with the manner in which the 
chips were made to fly from the candle sticks being turned up 
under the skillful manipulation of a hand tool, that I then and 
there decided that I wanted to work in a machine shop when 
I got through school/ 5 His father had earlier insisted that Carl 
prepare himself for a professional education at the national 
university in Christiania; to that end, much to his disgust, he 
had been forced to study Latin instead of English. But instead 
of finishing the last three years of his preparation for the uni- 
versity, he was permitted, because of his interest in machinery, 
to enter the technical school at Horten. 

Barth completed the short course in 1877, and went to work 
the same year in a boiler shop of the navy yard at Horten; this 
was the beginning of "what was to be a five year practical ap- 
prenticeship that was offered to a limited number of civilian 
graduates of the school/' He spent nine months in the shop, first 
as a blacksmith's helper, "or until I had learned to produce 

9 It must also be borne in mind that much of the work for which Taylor, as leader, 
received credit was actually the product of Earth's genius. The latter speaks of this in 
several of his articles and Taylor intended before his death to make public his indebt- 
edness to Barth, particularly in the matter of mathematical formulas. Among Earth's 
papers is an interesting document entitled "Preliminary Notes by Taylor for *The 
Art of Cutting Metals,* which proves that most of the work was done by Carl G. 
Earth." 

10 See Norsk biografisk leksikon, 1:383-387 (Christiania, 1923). The account of 
Carl Earth is largely based on an unpublished story of his early life that he wrote 
for his children about 1927. Other general accounts of Earth's career are found in 
the publications of Horten's Technical School; Who's Who in America, 17:2*55 (Chi- 
cago, 193&-33); Who's Who in Engineering, 70 (New York, 1937); Magnus Ej0rn- 
dal, in NordM tidende, November 30, 1989. 

281 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the helper's part of that to me fascinating music on the anvil 
that the old world blacksmith . . . produced in those days." 
At this early age his mathematical skill, later the marvel of his 
engineer associates, was useful enough in performing simple 
calculations "far beiyond even the foreman's ability/' and this 
ability naturally won praise from superiors and fellow workers 
alike. 

Earth, next sent to the machine shop and detailed to run a 
small lathe, satisfied for the first time in his life his desire "to 
make the chips fly" and he enthusiastically recalls the "joy that 
was mine at the end of the days on which I turned more bolts 
than my buddy on the lathe next to mine/' Next he was trans- 
ferred to a little slotter "whose automatic feed had long been 
broken and never repaired." Earth persisted in requesting that 
the machine be repaired. One day while working on a special 
job he "set to work to experiment until I produced a tool that 
did what I was looking for/ 5 Even the oldest slotter operator 
had to admit that it worked. Earth drew the inevitable moral: 
"You will thus see that I commenced early in my career . . . 
to care but little for traditional ways." 

When Earth was about to be transferred to yet another job, 
the assistant instructor of mathematics at the technical school 
quit his position. Earth was asked to give up his apprenticeship 
work to fill the vacated position, and he accepted. His new work 
as instructor filled the morning hours only; afternoons were 
spent in the office of the superintendent of the shops. Earth 
tells us that he only reluctantly gave up his "proud career of 
chip producer, not to return to it until I twenty years later 
joined Mr. Taylor at Bethlehem and soon became the world's 
champion and only scientific chip producer of that growth- 
making period of the machine industry." 

Though apparently successful as a teacher, the headstrong 
young man was unhappy in his new position. As part of his 
work in the superintendent's office, he took the "delicate mea- 
surements connected with the boring and rifling of 1" and 8" 

282 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

guns made at the navy yard for mounting on small gun boats." 
His work brought him only the "equivalent of three cents an 
hour in American money though by a little mishap I might at 
any time have brought on losses of thousands of dollars." 11 
Elsewhere it is stated that the pay connected with the position 
was so low that Barth could not adequately clothe himself, 
and "for that reason I concluded to emigrate to this country 
to try to get a job that would enable me to earn a complete 
livelihood." 12 An experience that contributed to the young 
man's determination to migrate had to do with chain testing in 
the navy yard. For private individuals, Barth explains, this 
work had been done on overtime and the person in charge of 
the testing received half a crown an hour as pay. It fell to 
Earth's lot, however, to do the work during regular hours for 
10 0re (then about 2% cents) an hour. The superintendent's 
weak explanation was that "while he felt that I was entitled 
to the extra pay that had always gone with his private chain 
testing, and while he would be glad to give it to me personally, 
he did not dare to do so, because I might get a successor who 
would not deserve it." 13 To make matters worse, Barth ques- 
tioned the calibration of the chain-testing machine, which he 
found to be incorrect, and he refused to sign a test report. He 
was ridiculed by the director of the shops, a naval officer, for 
doubting the calibration, which had been made by the navy's 
great mathematician, Captain Geelmuyden. Barth finally 
proved the authority wrong and was asked to recalibrate the 
machine. He derived a formula and worked up a new table 
which was used by the Norwegian navy for more than half a 

11 Earth made measurements "setting calipers and gauges for the reboring of old 
cast iron cannons that were to be fitted with new Bessemer rifled steel cores, to make 
them capable of shooting more modern projectiles." Magnus Bj0rndal, "Carl G. 
Barth," an unpublished biography. 

12 Frank Barkley Copley, Frederick W. Taylor, Father of Scientific Management, 
2: 28 (New York, 1923). 

33 "Carl G. Barth on Scientific Management, Testimony before the Special Commit- 
tee of the House of Representatives January 31 and February 1, 1912," in Taylor 
Society, Bulletin, 14:206-221, 54-271 (October and December, 1929). Reprint of 
public document, Hearings before Special Committee of the House of Representatives 
to Investigate the Taylor and Other Systems of Shop Management under Authority 
of H. R. 90, 3:1538-1583 (Washington, 1912). 

283 



SAGA IN STEEL AMI CONCRETE 

century, when the old machine was replaced by a modern 
one. 14 

"Can you blame me/' he asks, "for deciding right then to 
emigrate to try my luck in America as soon as business should 
revive over here?" The instructor in drawing also decided to 
migrate; his position was offered to Barth, "and as a conse- 
quence my last year at Horten was spent as ... instructor in 
mathematics in the morning and drawing in the afternoon." At 
the end of the year as instructor, Barth, in spite of being urged 
to stay, resigned from Horten. In the spring of 1881 he left for 
America. 

The background Barth acquired in Norway was peculiarly 
important in the light of his future work with Taylor. His pas- 
sion for metal cutting and his strong aptitude for practical 
mathematics, as well as his sympathy for labor, were manifested 
early. His training, though only begun, was thorough and his 
interests strongly formed. Of even greater importance, perhaps, 
was his natural ability as a teacher of men and his contempt 
for rule-of-thumb methods. 

Not yet twenty-two years old, Barth obtained work with 
William Sellers and Company of Philadelphia, one of the great- 
est machine-tool companies in America and the one from which 
we obtained our present national standards of threads and 
tapers. Barth presented himself with his examination drawings 
from the technical school before Coleman Sellers, Jr., who was 
so interested that the drawings were taken to William Sellers. 
He called them the finest ever submitted in support of an appli- 
cation for work. As a result, Barth was offered a job in the 
drafting room at 2 dollars a day. "This was more than I could 
imagine myself worth, however, and I humbly suggested that 
they better start me off at $1.50 only, until they actually found 
out what I would be able to do for them." His pay was soon 
raised to 20 dollars a week, "after which I had to make a fight 
for every additional cent of increase I received/ 515 

"Bjjfeadal, "Carl G. Barth." 

15 "Carl G. Barth on Scientific Management," in Taylor Society, Bulletin, 14:209 

284 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

Salary apart, Barth was fortunate to obtain work with the 
Sellers firm, which in 1881 was at the very height of its career. 
Barth himself tells us that, in addition to William Sellers, he 
had "two other exceptional men for ... superiors." They 
were Dr. Coleman Sellers (later consulting engineer for the first 
hydroelectric plant at Niagara), whose inventive turn of mind 
has been recorded in a statement attributed to him, "Give me 
time and money and I will do anything'*; and his son, Coleman 
Sellers, Jr. Barth profited from contacts with two other brilliant 
men who were connected with the firm John Sellers Bancroft 
and Wilfred Lewis, Lewis was the first technically educated 
engineer to be employed by Sellers. To Lewis the young 
immigrant owed much "for inspiration to improve myself theo- 
retically. 5 ' Barth was indebted to all these men for guidance in 
his practical development as draftsman and machine designer. 

Earth's arrival in America was well timed. The year 1881 
marked "a period of business revival following the long depres- 
sion consequent on the panic of 1873, with a demand for more 
and better machine tools/' 16 The time "was ripe for furthering 
the urge for the science of management; while there was already 
much data on the art of shop management, the methods pre- 
scribed by crafts were crude; tools were but poorly fitted to 
their purpose; time required for completion of a given piece of 
work was unknown; workmen were frequently unfitted for their 
jobs; managers could not comprehend delays and vexations aris- 
ing from unstandardized conditions. . . . Industry was found 
to be working at about 50% efficiency." Later the inception of 
high-speed tool steel and its use by Taylor and White "caused 
Barth to realize the enormous influence this would have on fu- 
ture machine tool construction." 1T 

But Barth reached his goal by a circuitous route. After four- 

M Florence Myrtle Manning, "Carl G. Barth: A Sketch/* introduction; an un- 
published, master's thesis presented at the University of California in 1927. Of greatest 
value in this document are the corrections and notations made by Barth. It is in a 
very limited sense an "official" biography. See also her "Carl G. Barth, 1860-1939: 
A Sketch," in Norwegian- American Studies and Records, IS: 1X4-132 (Northfield, 
1943). 

1T Manning, Carl G. Barth," introduction. 

285 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

teen years with Sellers, lie left the firm in 1895, having by that 
time become chief machine designer. His reasons for leaving 
were several. In the evenings, for six years, he had been teach- 
ing mechanical drawing in the Franklin Institute's evening 
school. For a time he also gave private lessons in mathematics 
and later, for two years, ran an evening school of his own. As a 
result of this instructional work and his natural aptitudes, he 
dreamed of becoming a professor in an American engineering 
school. "With this in view, I gave up further night work for 
money, and set to work to utilize all my spare time to further 
improve my theoretical knowledge of engineering subjects." By 
leaving Sellers he felt he might "get practical experience in other 
lines of engineering, so that when I finally presented myself as 
a candidate for a professorship I might be a strong one." Ac- 
cordingly, "When the hard times (after 1893) came on, and the 
company wanted to cut everybody 20 per cent, including a 
countryman of mine who had worked directly under me for two 
years ... I protested that I thought the only fair thing to do 
would be first to raise everybody that would have received an 
increase of pay in normal times before the proposed cuts were 
made/ 5 Naturally this proposal was rejected. Earth's oppor- 
tunity to change came when a former student and friend, Stuart 
E. Freeman of St. Louis, helped him to obtain work with an 
engine-building concern in that city. This position, while poorly 
paid, opened a new field of work into which the young idealist 
plunged with characteristic energy. 18 

After two years as chief draftsman with the Rankin and 
Fritch Foundry and Machine Company, Barth was again with- 
out a job, his firm having liquidated. "While waiting for some- 
thing more suitable to turn up," he designed machinery for the 
water commissioner of St. Louis. But in the same year, 1897, he 
again went back to teaching, joining the staff of the International 
Correspondence Schools at Scranton, Pennsylvania. The next 
year he was instructor in mathematics and manual work at the 
Ethical Culture Day School in New York City. It was while 

18 Copley, Frederick W. Taylor> 2:30. 

286 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

Barth was employed there, not entirely satisfied with Ms lot, 
that his old friend Freeman, who understood Barth better than 
others, recommended his impetuous young Norwegian friend to 
Frederick W. Taylor. Taylor at that time was attempting to 
put metal cutting on a strictly scientific basis at the Bethlehem 
Steel Company and was unable to reduce to a formula a mass 
of data at hand. In a quandary, Taylor wrote on March 22, 
1899, asking Barth to come out to Bethlehem. The result of 
this invitation was that in June of the same year Barth became 
an employee of the Bethlehem company and began a partner- 
ship with Taylor that revolutionized shop practices in America. 19 

in 

Scientific management in its early phase might be defined as 
the use of certain scientific formulas to increase the output of 
both men and machines in the production process. It does not 
indicate arbitrary attempts to increase production regardless of 
human endurance. Frederick Taylor, while working as foreman 
for the Midvale Steel Company prior to his days at Bethlehem, 
had come to the conclusion that "the greatest obstacle to har- 
monious cooperation between the workmen and the manage- 
ment lay in the ignorance of the management as to what really 
constitutes a proper day's work for a workman/' 20 With the 
permission of the president, William Sellers, Taylor set out to 
find some rule or law that would determine how much heavy 
work a man well suited to his job should do in a day. 

Taylor and his assistants had conducted three sets of experi- 
ments. The basic problem, however, of finding a law "as to 
what constitutes a full day's work for a first-class laborer/' was 
still unsolved, despite the carefully recorded facts resulting from 
the experiments. The task of formulating the law was later 
turned over to Barth, along with the mass of data. In Taylor's 
words, he and Barth decided "to investigate the problem in a 
new way, by graphically representing each element of the work 



9 Copley, Frederick W. Taylor, 2:24, 30. 
Taylor, Principles, 31. 



287 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

through plotting curves, which should give us, as it were, a 
bird's-eye view of every element." 

In a comparatively short time Mr. Barth had discovered the law 
governing the tiring effect of heavy labor on a first-class man. . . . 
The law which was developed is as follows: 

The law is confined to that class of work in which the limit of a 
man's capacity is reached because he is tired out. It is the law of 
heavy laboring, corresponding to the work of the cart horse, rather 
than that of the trotter. Practically all such work consists of a heavy 
pull or a push on the man's arms, that is, the man's strength is exerted 
by either lifting or pushing something which he grasps in his hands. 
And the law is that for each given pull or push on the man's arms 
it is possible for the workman to be under load for only a definite 
percentage of the day. For example, when pig-iron is being handled 
(each pig weighing 9 pounds), a first-class workman can only be 
under load 43 per cent, of the day. He must be entirely free from 
load during 57 per cent, of the day. And as the load becomes lighter, 
the percentage of the day under which the man can remain under 
load increases. ... As the weight grows lighter the man can re- 
main under during a larger and larger percentage 6f the day, until 
finally a load is reached which he can carry in his hands all day 
long without being tired out. 21 

When Barth went to Bethlehem in 1899, he went to work 
on machinery to become acquainted with Taylor's method of 
tool testing and experimenting. He came to admire Taylor and 
at the same time to recognize his psychological shortcomings 
when dealing with men. Taylor was imperious, as he no doubt 
had to be to overcome the opposition or indifference with which 
his pioneering work was met by managers and workers alike. 
But Barth could work with him, though in many respects he 
was as imperious as Taylor himself. 22 

According to Copley, Taylor's biographer, one of Taylor's 
chief assistants, H. L. Gantt, "had plotted some experiments 
made to determine the relations among depth of cut, feed, and 
speed, while all other variables were held constant." Copley 
explains: 

One day while he still was helping to run the experimental lathe 
Barth happened to see the plot on Gantt's desk, and was told by 

a Taylor, Principles, SS. 

32 Copley, Frederick W. Taylor, 8: 7, 31-36. 

288 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

him that he had tried in vain for about six weeks to construct a 
mathematical formula to represent its curves. Unhesitatingly and 
abruptly, Barth declared: "I'll eat my hat if I can't work up an 
acceptable formula this evening and bring it in in the morning." 

He did not have to eat his hat. The fact was, he says, that he at 
once recognized the curves drawn for the plot as "capable of being 
more or less closely expressible mathematically by a very simple 
equation." Now what was Taylor's emotion? To borrow a saying of 
the Russian peasants, he was as proud as a cock with five hens. He 
was as proud as if the achievement had been his own. Nothing now 
was too good for Barth. Immediately he was taken from the lathe, 
and placed in charge of all the experimental work as well as all the 
mathematical. 23 

Barth was told "he must study everything that had been 
done before." 

After spending about a week skimming through the accumulated 
data, he became convinced that an attempt to make himself thor- 
oughly familiar with it would only be a hindrance to him, and over this 
he and his chief had a battle royal. To all of Taylor's insistence that 
he should make that study he opposed a sturdy no. What had been 
done before, said he, was simply a groping in the darkness. He re- 
fused to follow other people's darkness. He would seek his own 
light. 24 

The story of how Barth devised his famous slide rules for use 
in machine shops is best told by himself. 25 Capable of regarding 
his work with the same objectiveness he would apply to a 
mathematical problem, he is an unfailing guide through a laby- 
rinth of technical difficulties in the way of the student. 

Before Barth joined the group at Bethlehem, "Taylor and 
his co-workers of that period had sought to discover some rapid 
methods of applying the experimentally obtained knowledge of 
the laws underlying the cutting o steel with carbon steel tools, 
to the predetermination of the most economical feed and speed 
for any particular piece of work in connection with any particu- 

23 Copley, Frederick W. Taylor, 2:32. 

^Copley, Frederick W. Taylor, 2:33. 

25 It must be remembered that lie devised several, not just one. See, for example, 
"Earth's Gear Slide-Rule," in American Machinist, 25:1075 (July 31, 1902); "Earth's 
Lathe Speed Slide Rules," in American Machinist, 25:1684 (November 2'0, 1902); 
United States patent number 753,840; and Earth's "The Improved Belt Slide Rule," 
in Management Engineering, 2:351-354; (June, 1922). 

289 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

lar lathe or boring mill, to which two types of machines they 
very wisely confined their attention to begin with/' 26 
Barth continues: 

The mathematical problem confronting Mr. Taylor and his co- 
workers, including myself, may be stated^ as consisting in, how to 
determine that feed and speed of a machine that will at the same 
time utilize a maximum of the power the machine is capable of de- 
veloping at that speed, and the ability of the cutting tool itself to 
stand up to the work an economical length of time before giving 
out, on a piece of work of a certain degree of hardness, and of a 
certain diameter to be reduced to a certain smaller diameter. 

A crude slide rule, which did not satisfy Taylor, had already 
been worked out by BL L. Gantt and S. L. Griswold Knox in an 
attempt to solve the problem. Barth himself went to work and 
produced an equally crude instrument accompanied by dia- 
grams. Later he undertook an independent study of both slide 
rules; this study enabled him to make true logarithmic scales, 
straight and circular, of any size. Barth explains: 

As a result of this I soon produced an instrument that was a real 
logarithmic slide rule in circular form, patterned after the Sexton 
Omnimeter, and which I still have reason to believe was a decidedly 
better instrument than its "competitor," in spite of assertions to the 
contrary by my friend Mr. Gantt, who soon facetiously dubbed my 
rule "Earth's Merry-Go-Bound." Be this as it may, it at best fur- 
nished only a somewhat quicker, and at times more correct cut-and- 
try solution; and Mr. Gantt's critical attitude toward it, which, 
with Mr. Taylor for a while "sitting on th,e fence/' kept both instru- 
ments from being put in actual use, finally proved a blessing in 
disguise by spurring me on to renewed efforts. These soon resulted 
in the construction of a straight slide rule that gave a direct, and 
almost instantaneous solution of the problem, and which together 
with the necesary accessory, interchangeable slides for 13 lathes 
using roughing tools identical with Taylor's standard experimental 
tool, was ready to be put into practical use on December 1, 1899, 
just five months and a half after my arrival and first introduction 
to the whole subject. 

In Earth's eyes his "slide rule represents something more 
than an 'improvement' on the instrument that had previously 

26 This account is based on Earth's famous "Supplement to Frederick W. Taylor's 
'On the Art of Cutting Metals/" in Industrial Management, 58:169-175. 282-288, 
369-^374, 483-487 (September-December, 1919). 

290 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

been used. It represents a distinct departure from previous 
practice." On it were incorporated "the first empirical formulas 
that in a simple and straightforward manner expressed the law 
of relations between depth of cut, feed and cutting speed, as 
constructed by me from the first set of experiments made with 
high-speed tools to arrive at this law." The solution effected by 
means of Earth's compound slide rule "is neither more nor less 
than the solution of two simultaneous equations each contain- 
ing two unknown quantities; viz: the feed and the speed." 

An estimate of the complexity of Earth's problem is obtained 
when it is stated that no less than twelve variables were in- 
volved in determining the most economical way in which to do 
a certain bit of work on a machine. They were, to use Earth's 
own enumeration: 

I. The size and shape of the tools to be used. 
II. The use or not of a cooling agent on the tool. 

III. The number of tools to be used at the same time. 

IV. The length of time the tools are required to stand up to 
the work (Life of Tool). 

V. The hardness of the material to be turned (Class Number). 
VI. The diameter of this material or work. 
VII. The depth of the cut to be taken. 
VHI. The feed to be used. 
IX. The cutting speed. 
X. The cutting pressure on the tool. 

XI. The speed combination to be used to give at the same 
time the proper cutting speed and the pressure required to take the 
cut, 

XII. The stiffness of the work. 27 

All of these variables except the last were incorporated on the 
rule. 

In recounting Earth's efforts to work out his slide rule, Tay- 
lor writes: 

If a good mathematician who had these various formulae before him 
were to attempt to get the proper answer (i.e., to get the correct 
cutting speed and feed by working the ordinary way) it would 
take him from two to six hours, say, to solve a single problem; far 

37 Carl G. Earth, "Slide Rules for tlie Machine Shop as a Part of the Taylor Sys- 
tem of Management," in American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Transactions, 
25:50(1904). 

291 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

longer to solve the mathematical problem than would be taken in 
most cases by the workman in doing the whole job in his machine. 
Thus a task of considerable magnitude which faced us was that 
of finding a quick solution of this problem, and as we made progress 
in its solution, the whole problem was from time to time presented 
by the writer to one after another of the noted mathematicians in 
this country. They were offered any reasonable fee for a rapid, 
practical method to be used in its solution. Some of the men merely 
glanced at it; others, for the sake of being courteous, kept it before 
them for some two or three weeks. They all gave us practically the 
same answer: that in many cases it was possible to solve mathe- 
matical problems which contained four variables, and in some cases 
problems with five or six variables, but that it was manifestly im- 
possible to solve a problem containing twelve variables in any other 
way than by the slow process of "trial and error." 2S 

Barth, in solving the "impossible/' made it quite possible for 
any good mechanic to work out intricate mathematical prob- 
lems in less than half a minute and to hit upon the one best 
combination of speed and feed out of the many possible com- 
binations before him. He thus eliminated rule of thumb from 
the operation of cutting metals. "A magic instrument, that slide 
rule," concludes one writer. "An abolisher of guess work, opin- 
ions, arguments, debates. A determiner of the law! . . . The 
best we can hope for, in the case of any law, is that the expres- 
sion be as exact as need be in the light of practical requirements, 
and it is such an expression as this that is insured by that slide 
rale/' 29 

IV 

As late as 1919 one of the editors of Industrial Management 
stated that while high-speed tool steel had increased machine- 
shop production some two to four times, few shops knew how to 
increase it still further by the best combination of machines, 
tools, feeds, and speeds. "In fact," he wrote, "the only practical 
way in which such a solution can be found is by the use of the 
Barth slide rules/' 80 

One would be inclined to assume, in the light of the great 

28 Taylor, Principles, 57. Taylor's statement embraces more than the slide-rule op- 
eration, which applies only to the machine portion of a job. 
28 Copley, Frederick W. Taylor, 2:35. 
80 L. P. Alford, in vol. 58, p. 171 (September, 1919). 

292 



i 



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< $ ^ ^ \ ^ -4 i 

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PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

need here expressed, that the slide rules, once manufactured and 
tested, could be marketed like any other commodity and thus 
be made available to machine shops everywhere. Such, how- 
ever, is not the case. Speaking specifically of a slide rule for 
belts, Earth explains that "the principal reason why the writer 
has never cared to put tMs rule on sale in the open market is 
that considerable misuse has been made of it, even by persons 
from whom one would expect better judgment/ 5 He then illus- 
trates his point by referring to misuse of the rule at one of the 
United States arsenals. 31 

Elaborating on this theme, J. Christian Earth, who was once 
in consulting practice with his father, explained to the writer 
that the rules were handmade; three movable sticks were spe- 
cially prepared for a particular machine or a group of identical 
machines after an engineering study had been made of the driv- 
ing mechanisms revealing weaknesses, irregularity of speeds and 
feeds, lack of power, and the like. The machines were then re- 
designed and rebuilt to new requirements and the information 
indicated on the three movable sticks. The Earths required, be- 
fore installing their rules, that a certain amount of the routine 
and principles of the Taylor system be introduced and in fair 
working order in the plant. Thus it was expected that the pur- 
chase and storing of materials, the whole control of production, 
and the system of cost recording be in harmony with Taylor's 
general practice. The study of the machines with a view to re- 
speeding them, the introduction of the slide rules, and the use 
of time study and incentive wages were the last, not the first, 
consideration. Without the first steps, the rules could become 
instruments of great misuse in the hands of unscrupulous man- 
agement. 32 Commercialization would be conceivable only if all 
tools and machines were standardized, as Barth argued they 
should be. In the hands of an unskilled manager, under existing 

81 Barth, in Management Engineering, 2:351-354 (June, 1922). 

32 A short time before Barth died he was convinced that his rules were obsolete 
that is, the mathematics incorporated thereon. Improved materials and tool steels 
required, he thought, new experiments, a reworking of formulas, etc. During his work- 
ing years slide rules were made on an average of once every five years and only for 
clients. 

293 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

conditions, the rules would work havoc with machines and an 
injustice to the men. One cannot, parenthetically, help wonder- 
ing if another inventor would have been as scrupulous as Barth 
proved throughout to be. 

In capable hands, however, the slide rule worked wonders 
when used as an integral part of the Taylor system of manage- 
ment. In 1903 Barth set himself up in consulting practice, and 
was later joined by his son. He soon counted among his clients 
some of the country's leading private producers and the ar- 
senals of the United States government. Rules were made for 
machines in the plants of such firms as Yale and Towne, Link- 
Belt, Pullman, and others. The story of how Barth went into 
this work, how the Taylor system functioned in practice, and 
his procedure when once engaged is recounted in his testimony 
before a special investigating committee of the House of Repre- 
sentatives. 33 He explains: 

I had no intention on leaving -the Bethlehem Steel Co., when Mr. 
Schwab took the company over, to go into the system at all; but 
Mr. Taylor thought that I had shown special qualifications for 
undertaking the work, and so he got in touch with William Sellers 
& Co* and persuaded them to engage me to conduct further experi- 
ments in the line of the development of the art of cutting metals, 
with a view of introducing our slide-rule method of running their 
machines. Additional experiments were needed because our investi- 
gations had up to -that time covered only larger tools. 

No experiments in cast iron had yet been made. 

After fifteen months of hard work, the experiments at Wil- 
liam Sellers and Company were completed, but for reasons of 
internal policies the results of the project were never put into 
effect for that firm. Taylor then found employment for Barth 
with the famous Link-Belt Engineering Company, "to intro- 
duce the mechanical part of the Taylor system, and there to 
make use of the information for which Wm. Sellers & Co. had 
paid. . . . Other men were at the same time selected to take up 
the general administrative end of the system/* Before the job 
was completed, however, it became necessary for Barth to look 

^Taylor Society, Bulletin, 14:206-221, 254-271 (October and December, 1929). 

294 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

after the entire undertaking, "so that after a while the whole 
burden of standing between Mr. Taylor, who did not visit us 
any too often, and the company itself, in the introduction of the 
system fell on me, and during the following two years I might 
have been considered as having served the last part of my ap- 
prenticeship under Mr. Taylor.' 5 

The Link-Belt Company had long been regarded as having 
"an exceptionally well-run shop, and they particularly prided 
themselves on being able to bore holes better than anybody else 
in the world/ 5 Barth soon found, however, that the shop was 
poorly run, "For two years they had had high-speed steel in the 
works, but they neither knew how to treat nor grind it so as to 
get any benefit from it. ... The first work I did was scientifi- 
cally to investigate their machinery, and speed it according to 
our methods/' The machinery in good shape, he next "put two 
lathe hands to work on the full Taylor system, so far as the shop 
is concerned. We selected a gang boss, a speed boss, and an in- 
spector, and started in to make an object lesson, in connection 
with these two lathes, of what we meant by functional foreman- 
ship/' The gang boss was made responsible "for seeing that 
there always was work ahead for these lathes, that the proper 
tools were also secured, and he also looked after the men's 
time." The speed boss saw to it "that the men ran their ma- 
chines according to instructions issued from the embryo of a 
planning department, consisting of myself as the slide rule man 
and maker of instruction cards." The inspector "saw that the 
work produced under the supervision of the speed boss was ac- 
ceptable. At first there was no time study, but the men received 
35 per cent additional day wages for thus working under 
instructions and direct supervision/' From this humble begin- 
ning, Barth relates, "we added man after man, and in the mean- 
time appointed a man from the shop to take up the slide rules 
under my directions, and little by little we added time study and 
task work with bonus, for which, later on y Mr. Taylor's differen- 
tial piece work was substituted." On this job, as on all others 

295 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

later on, Earth had no trouble with the men working under his 
supervision. 34 

An indication of how effectively Barth could increase ma- 
chine output is given by other experiences. While introducing 
the Taylor system at Yale and Towne Manufacturing Com- 
pany, he found a man milling a key seat in a shaft. "From the 
particular manner in which the chips came off, my experience 
told me that it was a very soft shaft, and that, without know- 
ing anything about the work in any other way, it would be pos- 
sible to make a great increase in the rate of cutting that key 
seat." He discovered that the man was using a cutter with one 
broken tooth. While waiting for a new cutter to come from the 
toolroom, Barth got out his slide rule for milling work and 
"by means of this determined a suitable feed and speed for the 
cutter . . . and then picked out the nearest of these that his 
machine had. I also sent for the foreman and other witnesses 
to see what I was doing to instruct the man/' The result was 
that, while the teeth of the new cutter were longer than those of 
the old cutter and more apt to break in case of overwork, "in 
a mere fraction of the time previously taken I cut the key seat 
the full length, to the great astonishment of everybody con- 
cerned/' 35 

In the same shop, while establishing a planning department 
and improving the shop equipment, Barth showed a first-class 
machinist "how he could run his tool on a lathe 80 times faster 
than I found him running it." A concern that had been using 
high-speed steel for over two years with no appreciable benefit 
from the innovation wrote to Barth asking him to demonstrate 
in their establishment the proper method of handling high-speed 
steel. 

This I agreed to do, stating that the best way of doing it would 
be by means of a slide rule for one of their best lathes, for which 
I then requested that they make me a diagram showing all its 
speed and feed mechanism, and countershaft with pulleys and line- 
shaft speed. On receipt of this, I found the lathe entirely under- 
speeded. . . . The performance that followed was witnessed by 

84 Taylor Society, Bulletin, 1 

85 Taylor Society, Bulletin, 14:214. 

296 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

some twenty foremen, who then and there were made to realize 
that their rule-of-thumb methods counted for nothing as against 
the science of my "guessing sticks'*; for they were made to under- 
stand that I had never seen the lathe itself before then, and had 
become acquainted with its properties only by a study of the 
diagram sent me. The result was that I was immediately retained 
by the company, 36 

Frederick Taylor tells of a case where Barth went to intro- 
duce scientific management into the works of a man who, "at 
between 65 and 70 years of age, had built up his business from 
nothing to almost five thousand men." 37 Apparently this owner 
was a person with a disposition not unlike Earth's, for Taylor 
tells us that they "had a squabble, and after they got through, 
Mr. Barth made the proposition, 'I will take any machine that 
you use in your shop, and I will show you that I can double 
the output of that machine.' A very fair machine was selected. 
It was a lathe on which the workman had been working about 
twelve years." The product of the shop was a patented machine 
of many parts; there were 350 men making these parts the year 
around. Barth set out to prove his boast; with one of his slide 
rules, he "proceeded to analyze the machine. With the aid of 
this analysis . . . Mr. Barth was able to take his turn at the 
machine; his gain was from two and one-half times to three 
times the amount of work turned out by the other man. . . . 
That is not exaggeration, the gain is as great as that in many 
cases." 

These and many other Instances prove beyond any doubt the 
efficacy of Earth's slide rules as a part of the Taylor system and 
at the same time demonstrate clearly the truth of Taylor's con- 
tention that "the art of cutting metals involves a true science of 
no small magnitude, a science, in fact, so intricate that it is im- 
possible for any machinist who is suited to running a lathe year 
in and year out either to understand it or to work according to 
its laws without the help of men who have made this their 
specialty/' ss 



80 Taylor Society, Bulletm, 14:215-218. 

^Taylor Society, Bulletin, 2:21 (December, 1916). 

88 Taylor, Principles, 58. 



297 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

V 

It was inevitable that scientific management, with its separa- 
tion of brain and shop work and its preoccupation with the in- 
dividual worker, would in time clash with the trade unions, 
which stressed the group solidarity of workers and jealously 
sought to guard the craft secrets of its members. One authority 
writes: 

It is easy to see why unions could not put up much of a fight in 
shops operating under such a system. In so far as it centralizes 
skill, scientific management takes from the workmen that bond of 
common craft knowledge, which tends to make brothers of the men 
engaged in a trade. Since it pays on an individual or efficiency basis, 
and promotes the more able men to fill positions as functional fore- 
men, scientific management appeals to personal ambition, rather 
than to class solidarity. ... As it voluntarily pays higher wages 
than the men could win through force, scientific management weak- 
ens the main motive for organization. 39 

The surprising feature of labor's relation to the work of Tay- 
lor, Earth, and others is therefore not its opposition but the 
absence of trouble in plants where scientific management was 
actually introduced. Such trouble as did arise came largely as 
the result of the efforts of so-called "efficiency engineers" and 
other quacks, the "speed-up" of production, which drained the 
energies of workers, and a general failure of management to fol- 
low Taylor's major principles. When conflict came it was largely 
in the field of doctrine and it developed in some measure as a 
by-product of misunderstanding; but labor rightly sensed that 
researches in production would make the knowledge of craft 
skills the common property of management. 40 

Seeing the futility of fighting scientific management in the 
shop, organized labor turned to Congress for help. In the fall 
of 1910 the Interstate Commerce Commission conducted some 
rate case hearings that were destined to have a profound effect 
on labor's attitude. These hearings were held in response to a 

^Horace B. Drary, "Scientific Management and Progress," in Taylor Society, 
Bulletin, :5 (November, 1916). A more detailed and critical account of this subject is 
R. F. Hoxie, Scientific Management and Labor (New York, 1915). 

40 Person, in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 13:607. 

298 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

demand by certain railroads that they be permitted to increase 
their rates in order to offset a general rise in wages. The ship- 
ping interests of the Northeast argued that, instead of raising 
rates, the railroads should reduce their costs, and offered evi- 
dence that costs could be cut and savings effected by the Taylor 
system, which had already been introduced into certain in- 
dustrial plants. Out of these hearings grew the expression 
"scientific management." 41 Out of them, too, came the organized 
opposition of the American Federation of Labor to the move- 
ment, which the unions hoped could be killed by political weap- 
ons. Congress was particularly interested in labor's opposition 
because scientific management was then being introduced into 
the federal arsenals and was soon to be proposed for other depart- 
ments of the government as well. 42 In addition, Congress felt it 
could not wisely ignore the growing strength of labor at the 
polls in the dynamic years immediately preceding the outbreak 
of World War I. Labor, which ironically was helpless to prevent 
the growth of scientific management in the industrial field, 
came to exert a great influence in national political affairs. 

At a later date Barth went on record with the statement that 
"with one single and deplorable exception," no direct disciple of 
Taylor ever timed a worker without "properly preparing the 
way and obtaining the full consent and cooperation of the 
worker." 43 The exception occurred at the government's arsenal 
at Watertown, Massachusetts. During the absence of Barth, 
who had charge of introducing the Taylor system at Watertown 
from 1908 to 1912, labor trouble broke out when an unqualified 
man, under pressure from army officers, went into the foundry 
to start time-study work on molders without first preparing the 
workers psychologically. 44 The results were an illegal strike of 
foundry workers, a temporary shutdown of the arsenal, and, as 
might be expected, increased interest in scientific management. 
Labor leaders succeeded in bringing about hearings before a 

** Person, in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 13: 60S. 

^Drury, in Taylor Society, Bulletin, 2:6 (November, 1916). 

43 "A Defense of the Stop Watch," in Taylor Society, Bulletin, 6:111 (June, 1921), 

u Information given by J. Christian Barth of Philadelphia. 

299 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

special committee of the House of Representatives to investi- 
gate the Taylor and other systems of scientific management. 
Earth's testimony before this body, January 31-February 1, 
1912, an illuminating commentary by an insider, reveals better 
than any other document the almost crusading idealism which 
motivated men like Earth and Taylor. Whatever the subse- 
quent abuses by employers and pseudo-efficiency men, in the 
hands of Earth scientific management was a means toward the 
betterment of the working classes, of which Earth always con- 
sidered himself a member. 

Quoting from a report on his work at the Watertown Ar- 
senal, Earth explained: 

The main object of the Taylor System, as I am working for it 
I do not care what the other fellow is working for is to elimi- 
nate waste of time, materials, and human energy, and so to utilize 
the machinery of a plant that a greatly increased production will 
result in lower cost of production to the owners and, on the other 
hand, in increased wages to the employees. ... I am personally 
only directly interested in the latter part of this namely the in- 
creased wages of the employees and in the former merely because, 
without bringing this about, the latter can not be brought about. 

He thus agreed with the modern economist. 

Always passionately honest, Earth hastened to add, "I will 
not deny that I am also intensely interested in the introduction 
of this system, merely as an outlet for my natural energy and 
love of work for its own sake/* 

In his testimony Earth recounts case after case to prove that 
the workmen caused no trouble of their own volition in the 
shops where scientific management was introduced. To the con- 
trary, the inherent individualism of American workers asserted 
itself quickly. Speaking of his work at the Link-Belt Company, 
Earth said, "It was not very long before men commenced to 
bother us because we were not able to get around fast enough 
to put them in a position to make the extra money." Workers 
generally increased their earnings under Earth by 30 per cent 
or more. 

Answering the charge that scientific management, while it 

300 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

might eliminate loafing or "soldiering" on the job, made "auto- 
matons of the men/' Barth declared with sincerity and a bit of 
naivete: 

The fact about that is that, in my experience and judgment, we 
produce far fewer, for the reason that the management itself keeps 
so closely in touch with what is going on that they more readily 
see the inhumanity of making automatons of human beings. I do 
not recollect that in all the 13 years that I have been connected 
with Mr. Taylor's work that I have come across a single case as bad 
as one I found in the shop I told about: namely, that of an old 
man driving little bits of rivets in certain parts of platform scales, 
which had been his only work for 4 years past. I do not believe 
that this would have existed under scientific management. 

Asked about the case, Barth explained that it was at Fairbanks, 
Morse, and Company, and that under scientific management a 
machine would have been invented to do the worker's job and 
the man trained to handle the machine "instead of using his 
own hands and arms to work that hammer up and down." 
Asked what would happen if he had been unable to invent the 
matons of the men," Barth answered: 

We would probably have distributed that work, at least I should 
judge we would have had men taking turns at it, along the prin- 
ciples laid down long ago by Mr. Bellamy in his wonderful book 
"Looking Backward," in which he suggests that the time will 
come when aU disagreeable labor in this world will be divided 
equally between all able-bodied men, so that a certain number of 
days out of every man's natural life will be spent in performing 
that service to the world. 

While Earth's difficulties with personnel, such as he had, 
came from foremen and managers, he was unwilling to say that 
the conduct of business should be taken from management. He 
explained: 

The way business is conducted today there can be no other way 
than that management lays down the general policy. For instance, 
I do not think that anybody today could find exception with the 
management for either wanting to introduce a system like ours or 
for not wanting to. . . . It would be impossible at the present state, 
when the system is so absolutely misunderstood, not only by most 
workmen but even by most managers, to get an expression of 
opinion that would be worth anything whatsoever; and for this 

301 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

reason the general policy of management must still be vested in the 
management. 

Asked if he did not think it wrong that management should 
have absolute power in dealing individually with workers, Barth 
answered: 

On that score I used to feel and think a great deal, as a younger 
man. I keenly felt, and still feel, the injustice of the present order of 
society. I have suffered much because I have expressed opinions 
against it to people who are satisfied with things as they are. I have 
arrived at the conclusion, however, that whatever general conditions 
exist at any one period of the world's history is, in the main, part 
of a natural development which can not easily be changed into any- 
thing better except through further slow and painful development 
of each individual rather than of the development of society as a 
whole. 

I have learned to look upon myself as one of the little bricks in 
the building up of the future grand humanity, and I want to try to 
be as good a brick as I can with my limited abilities and opportuni- 
ties; and in my present work I believe that I have found a little 
niche in the world that I can fill, not only without detriment to 
anybody, but even with some beneficial influence on my immediate 
surroundings. I am a product of these surroundings; and I have to 
work in these surroundings as I find them; and I do not see how I 
can work as an engineer without accepting the proposition, the 
ordinarily accepted theory, that the manager or the owner of a busi- 
ness has a right to lay out the general policies; because, as a rule, 
he is a broader man than the men who work for him, and because 
as an individual he has more at stake, as things are now constituted. 

I am very much concerned that the statesman, as his enormous 
task in the world, shall eventually find a solution for the present 
wrong order of society, and as one part of that solution the proper 
distribution of all wealth produced. But I do not consider that it is 
given me to become a statesman and meddle with these affairs, so 
I have resigned myself to my fate of doing my share of the world's 
work as an engineer, whose business it is to do all he can to produce 
wealth without in any way oppressing any individual or class of 
individuals, but, on the other hand, to do it along so broadminded 
lines that he helps men to develop, so far as possible, into the highest 
type of normal human beings. 

While Barth and others like him understood the plight of the 
American worker, there was an unmistakable tendency among 
some employers so to utilize scientific management as "to speed 

302 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

up production but to ignore the incentive wage/' 45 Barth may 
have failed fully to grasp the significance of turning all produc- 
tion problems over to engineers and thus of encouraging 
ruthless employers but no one acquainted with his career can 
question his concern that the effects of scientific management 
should add up to positive benefits for the individual worker. 
And time alone will fully determine whether or not Barth was 
right in assuming that the laborer's position, in the long run, 
would be bettered only when his output was increased with 
the aid of scientific management. Parenthetically, it may be re- 
marked that Barth considered labor unions essential to guar- 
antee a just portion of the national income to workers; but he 
deplored the rapacity and shortsightedness that made them a 
necessity in modern society. 

, VI 

Until his death in 1915, Taylor was undisputed leader in ex- 
ploiting the new science of production. After 1915 Barth took 
his place as the leading exponent of the system that he helped 
develop during a long and intimate association with the "father 
of scientific management/* Spurning attractive offers for the 
cheap commercialization of his system and the slide rule, Barth, 
unlike many, remained faithful to Taylor's basic principles. 
His contributions after 1915 might be grouped together as a gen- 
eral refinement of the program already laid out. According to 
Miss Manning, "It was the thorny path of the pioneer that 
Barth had to follow. . . . Barth gave himself without stint in 
long, tedious hours of experimental work, sacrificing . . . refin- 
ing, revising and reducing the work wherever possible to mathe- 
matical formulae." 46 

Barth was particularly interested in the standardization of 
machine tools. In 1916 he pleaded brilliantly before the Ameri- 
can Society of Mechanical Engineers to induce members "to 
adopt certain standards for machine tools 5 ' which he considered 

45 Lois Macdonald, Labor Problems and the American Scene, 583 (New York, 
1938). 

" Manning, "Carl G. Barth," 3. 

303 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

essential to the installation of the Taylor system. 47 Two years 
earlier he had argued forcefully before the Commission on In- 
dustrial Relations for a "common standard of speeds and feeds 
so that, for instance, the drilling of a one-inch hole in a certain 
grade of material might be done with the same speed and feed 
in accordance with a standard practice, and hence, in exactly 
the same time the world over." 48 One can only imagine the 
effect on production, had Earth's policy been put into effect, as 
one day it may be. 

Barth was a pioneer, too, in the field of wage incentives to 
stimulate worker output and abolish "soldiering" on the job. 
His method, the Barth premium system, called for close co- 
operation with the worker and automatically took care "of dif- 
ferent rates of hourly pay based on the capacity of different 
men to produce varying amounts of work.' 3 49 He was perhaps 
the greatest authority in his day on the subject of the trans- 
mission of power by leather belting. 50 He was a strong advocate 
of the central planning room "that deals with each manufacturing 
department as does a local planning room in each of the several 
manufacturing departments deal with its individual machines 
and other work places." 51 Of inventive mind, Barth had a num- 
ber of American patents to his credit, individually or in co- 
operation with others. 52 Eager to apply the mathematical 
method to social and economic questions, he contributed inter- 

47 "Standardization of Machine Tools/' in Transactions, 38: 895-916 (1916) 
^Quoted in Manning, "Carl G. Barth," 36. 

48 American Machinist, vol. 32, part 1, p. 464 (March 25, 1909). See also synopsis 
of the proceedings of the twelfth annual convention of the National Metal Trades 
Association, April IB and 14, 1910, reprinted in Industrial Engineering and the En- 
gineering Digest* 8: 14 (September, 1910); Iron Age, 85:1068-1070 (May 5, 1910); 
Management and Administration, 8:71-73 (July, 1924). 

50 Carl G. Barth, "The Transmission of Power by Leather Belting," in Power 
Transmission, 9-103 (American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Papers, no. 1230 
n.d.). The paper was presented at the New York meeting in January, 1909. 

51 Taylor Society, Bulletin, 4:23-25 (April, 1919). 

62 Flanging machine (September 8, 1891), with Walter L. Clark; feed-operating de- 
vice (October 8, 1895); testing machine (January 7, 1896), with William Sellers and 
John S. Bancroft; slide rule (March 8, 1904), with Henry L. Gantt and Frederick W, 
Taylor; lathe (May 15, 1917); method and means for measuring belts under tension 
(December 25, 1917), with Frederick 0yen; method and means for re-forming wheels 
having worn threads and flanges (October 7, 1924). 

304 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

esting and original studies on the subjects of labor turnover and 
the income tax. 53 Fortunately he has left written records of most 
phases of his work. 54 

Frequent references are found in Earth's writings to a desire 
to teach others, whether fellow workers or younger students; 
and mention has been made of his experiences as a teacher at 
Horten's Technical School, the International Correspondence 
Schools, and the Ethical Culture School. In 1911 Earth went 
to Harvard as a special lecturer on scientific management, and 
continued his association with this school until 1923. He lec- 
tured in a similar capacity at the University of Chicago during 
the years 1914-16. The fact that his associations with the great 
universities of this country were restricted to a relatively few 
lectures did not indicate a lack of effort on the part of the 
schools to enlist his full-time services. During his connection 
with Taylor at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania State College offered 
Earth a professorship in machine design, as did Lehigh Univer- 
sity. Earlier he had been offered a chair at Cornell. The hand- 
somest offer, however, came during his work with Taylor. When 
Harvard was planning its graduate school of business and fi- 
nance, Professor Edwin Gay was empowered to find a man 
qualified by experience and scientific training to take charge of 
the school. Gay turned first to Taylor who, in refusing the post, 
pointed to Earth as the only other person qualified for the posi- 
tion, but added, "You can't have him, he does far more useful 
work in the industrial world than he could do at Harvard." Gay 
twice offered the position to Earth, although he was past the 
usual age limit of forty-five and had no academic degree. Recog- 

58 "Labor Turnover, a Mathematical Discussion," in Taylor Society, Bidletin, 
5:52-^58 (April, 1920); "The Income Tax, an Engineer's Analysis with Suggestions," 
revised reprint from Engineers' Club of Philadelphia, Journal, 35: 80-297, 342-345 
(June and July, 1918). 

64 Some of Earth's articles not cited above are "The Distribution of Pressure in 
Bearings," in Engineers' Club of Philadelphia, Proceedings, 10: 1-15 (January, 1893); 
"Betterment of Machine-Tool Operation by Scientific Metal Cutting," in Engineering 
Magazine, 42:586-592 (January, 1912); "A New Graphical Solution for Time Al- 
lowances in Task Setting," hi Management and Administration, 9:143 (February, 
1925); "Approximating an Ellipse by Circular Arcs," in American Machinist,, 67: 963- 
965 (December 22, 1927); and "The Making of Special Slide Bules," in Mechanical 
Engineering, 48:593 (June, 1926). 

305 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

nizing his lack of educational background, Barth declined the 
invitation but agreed to lecture on scientific management. 55 

In 1923 Barth retired from active work. Much of his time 
thereafter until his death in 1939 was devoted to his two hob- 
bies music and pure mathematics. Fond of music but no per- 
former, he was, as might be expected of one with his experience, 
vitally interested in the intricacies of rhythm. His major efforts, 
however, were made in the mathematical field. Continuing a 
project begun thirty years before his death, he worked out an 
independent interpretation of the fundamentals of differential 
and integral calculus. Though it was his ambition to see his 
simplified study published as an improvement over the conven- 
tional Newtonian approach, in this he was disappointed. 

A widespread recognition of his contribution to the American 
economic revolution, however, was given long before his death. 
Of the many tributes paid Barth by contemporaries, none bet- 
ter sums up his work than a statement made by the Taylor So- 
ciety upon conferring an honorary membership, "Because of his 
application of pure science to the uses of management, do we 
thus honor ourselves and him." 

vn 

Other Norwegian engineers contributed, though in smaller 
measure, to the growth of scientific management. Christian 
Paulsen Berg, after graduating from Horten in 1901, was em- 
ployed by the Link-Belt Company of Philadelphia and while 
there devoted his energies to time-study and shop methods. 
After 1907 he worked for the same firm in Chicago until five 
years later, when he began professional consulting practice in 
industrial management as a member of Drake and Berg, Incor- 
porated. In 1910 Berg was awarded the Chanute medal of the 
Western Society of Engineers for a paper on the "Heat Treat- 
ment of High-Speed Tools/ 5 In 1932 he returned to the Link- 
Belt Company and there devoted his remaining years to 

55 Magnus Bj0rndaJ, "Carl G. Earth." Similar information is given by the same 
writer in Nor disk tidende, November 30, 1939. 

306 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

systematizing shop and office routine. At the time of his death 
in 1936 a news release by his employers spoke of him as "a man 
who contributed a lifetime to reduce lost motion, systematize 
shop practice, and establish scientific management, with the aid 
of time-study and motion-analysis surveys." 5Q 

Two men who worked intimately with Barth were Gulow A. 
Gulowsen and Johan Martin Fredrik 0yen. Gulowsen, a gradu- 
ate of Horten's Technical School in 1878, began his work in 
scientific management in 1888, when he joined Taylor at the 
Midvale Steel Company in Philadelphia. Employed first as a 
designer and later as chief draftsman, he came under Earth's 
direction at Bethlehem. One day he displayed drawings of a belt 
bench which he had designed at home; Barth and Taylor at once 
recognized its value, since keeping proper tension on belts was 
an important feature of their equipment technique. This job 
had formerly been done by a belt fixer who carried a heavy ten- 
sion scales clamp to each machine whose belts needed tighten- 
ing, attached the clamp to the belt in its working position, and 
turned a crank until the required tension showed on the scales. 
Gulowsen's proposal was to bring the belt to a bench on which 
the clamps were permanently attached. His bench had two pul- 
leys, one fixed and the other movable; the belt was stretched 
around the pulleys, its ends pinched in the clamps, and a crank 
was turned until the scales registered the required tension, when 
the belt was cut to length and the job was completed. Later, 
0yen, working with Barth, adapted regular weighing scales to 
the bench and was granted a patent on the device. 57 Gulowsen 
was considered one of the ablest designers of his day. He devel- 
oped an eight-spindle drilling, milling, and undercutting ma- 
chine for the automatic cutting of square and oval holes in 
headers for boilers made at the Babcock and Wilcox Company 
at Bayonne, New Jersey. He was also the inventor of intricate 
automatic machinery for the production of fine dental tools at 

^American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Transactions, vol. 60, record and 
index, p. 48 (1938). 

57 Number 1,250,943 (December 25, 1917); information supplied by J. Christian 
Barth. 

307 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the S. S. White Dental Manufacturing Company in Princes 
Bay, New York. 58 

J. M. F. 0yen, as Bj^rndal has suggested, "belongs to two 
generations, to two great periods of immigration." A graduate 
of Christiania's Technical College, he left for America immedi- 
ately following the completion of his training in 1898. Joining 
Taylor and Barth at the Bethlehem Steel Company, he became 
one of the eager group of disciples who made scientific manage- 
ment possible. His association with Barth continued at Yale 
and Towne, 1905-08, at Smith and Furbush in the next year, 
and again at the Pullman Company, Chicago, in 1913-14. 0yen 
is quoted as saying that he thought of his work under Barth 
until 1909 "as the serving of an apprenticeship. Barth was both 
a model and despair to any young engineer. He was the fastest 
draftsman in existence and his work was simply perfect both in 
appearance and engineering design/' Before Barth went to 
Bethlehem, 0yen was asked by Taylor to assemble data on the 
machine tools then in use, which facilitated the preparation of 
slide rules; he was also employed in standardizing the work on 
machine-tool drives. Before returning to Norway in 1914, 0yen 
did significant designing of a drilling machine at Babcock and 
Wilcox Company; in the Old World he sought to introduce, 
without too great success, the methods he had learned in 
America. Coming to this country a second time in 1923, he has 
had varied experiences, including employment with Henry 
Kaiser in California during World War DL 59 

E. K. Wennerlund's name is identified with the introduction of 
scientific management into the automobile industry in America. 
He was born in 1875 in Porsgrund, Norway, but received his 
technical training at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 
1899. He therefore belongs in a slightly different category from 
the other men discussed in this volume. While working for the 
Atchison and Sante Fe Railroad at Newton, Kansas, during the 
early years of this century, he became interested in scientific 

58 Information provided by 0yen through the courtesy of Magnus Bj^rndal. 

59 Information from an unpublished biography of 0yen prepared and put at the 
writer's disposal by Magnus Bj^radal. 

308 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

management and from 1907 to 1910 had charge of the wage and 
shop systems of the American Locomotive Company. After a 
brief experience as assistant vice-president with Allis Chalmers 
Company in Milwaukee, Wennerlund joined the General Mo- 
tors Corporation in 1911 and remained with them until his re- 
tirement in 1932. 60 

Wennerlund had known Taylor when the latter was introduc- 
ing scientific management, and he became one of his strong 
admirers. "All that the rest of us have done/' Wennerlund once 
said, "is simply to take his basic ideas, refine them, and adapt 
them to big-scale, modern production." The young engineer 
rightly understood that what Taylor was attempting to do was 
"to get maximum production from equipment/' 61 An apt pupil 
of Taylor's methods, Wennerlund was asked by W. C. Durant 
to smooth out production for General Motors. An idea of what 
he found when he took charge of the shop system for all Gen- 
eral Motors plants may be had from a letter written many years 
later. It reads in part: 

I knew nothing about cars, had never driven one. But these were 
hard times in the automotive game, only the rich could afford them, 
some plants were closed, there had been over production. My job 
was then to line up the plants on a unified manufacturing basis. 
But the crisis was overcome. Ten years later G. M. built the largest 
office building in the world, profits became large and with better 
roads cars were more in demand. G. M. prospered and soon became 
one of the world's industrial giants. 63 

Elsewhere he is quoted as saying: 

In those days there was little thought to the proper location of 
automobile plants with respect to other plants and railroads. . . . 
I was sent to Buick once when they were demanding a new plant. 
Rearrangement of the floor space there already had enabled us to 
close four existing plants. . . . Taylor believed, as I do, that a man 
should be rewarded for producing more than a quota. Our system 
was to figure the proper output, and then subtract one-tenth, to 
allow for stoppages, breakages, and the like. 63 

60 Much of this information was obtained in conversation with Wennerlund at 
Detroit during 1940-41. 

81 Quoted by Russell Barnes, in Detroit News, November 14, 1937. 
62 WHLmar (Minnesota) Daily Tribune, January 28, 1940. 
83 Detroit News, November 14, 1937. 

309 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Wennerlimd was soon appointed director of production engi- 
neering for all General Motors plants. His work included design 
for new plants, selection of equipment, floor space arrangement, 
and the general setup essential for a smooth flow in production. 
All requests for capital expenditures came over Ms desk and a 
large group of specialists worked under his direction. The duties 
of his office expanded with the growth of General Motors itself. 
Such plants as Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Oakland, Frigi- 
daire, and Opel (in Germany) were added and many more proj- 
ects were considered but later dropped. Before each addition 
Wennerlund made a careful study of the new line, sometimes 
favoring and at other times arguing against the acquisition, 
"We laid out many plans in our department," he wrote at a 
later date, "much study was required and we had to consider so 
many suggestions of adding new lines. We grew and grew until 
at the close of the 20's there were a quarter million employes." 64 

In the hands of Wennerlund, according to his own appraisal, 
scientific management was simplified: 65 

System became a fetish in many cases, [and this] resulted in losing 
sight of the main purpose in the detail systematization itself. When 
applied to large organizations, it just got so big that it was beyond 
handling. ... It is now realized that system has its place only 
where it simplifies production routine. As a result, the systematizer- 
for-the-sake-of-system has been replaced by the practical man who 
applies system as a method of simplifying production control. 66 

One exceptional contribution toward simplification in scien- 
tific management was Wennerlund's group bonus plan, con- 
ceived as a wage incentive during 1918, when labor was scarce 
and production increase essential. This plan was adopted 
throughout the entire General Motors setup. 67 The plants were 
thus able to eliminate much of the high cost of handling wage 

w WiUmar Dally Tribune, January 22, 1940. 

65 J. Christian Earth maintains that the Taylor system only seemed cumbersome 
to those who did not fully understand it; that it actually cut down red tape, and was 
quite simple. 

66 "Simplification Is the Keynote in Production Management," in Automotive 
Industries, 61:506 (October 1, 1929). 

67 A detailed account of Wennerlund's group bonus plan is given in Wage-Incentives, 
the Group-Bonus Plan, a reprint of an address given by Wennerlund, before the 
Society of Automotive Engineers (Detroit, 1923). 

310 



PUTTING SCIENCE INTO PRODUCTION 

incentives on an individual basis. "It was found/' according to 
Wennerlund, "that some of our plants had as many as 25,000 job 
tickets a day, all of which had to be extended, audited and 
credited to individual accounts. Under the group plan we have 
been able to do away with job tickets, using only the in-and-out 
clock cards and giving credit for finished good product. This has 
been a great saving in clerical detail in our factories, it has cut 
inventories of work-in-process, and has on the whole stimulated 
production efficiency." 6S Primarily suitable for "repetitive work 
arranged in progressive production lines of sequence opera- 
tions," it had as its object the speeding up of the production 
rate per employee, and in this it was successful. 69 

Like Barth, Wennerlund saw clearly that scientific manage- 
ment, when misunderstood or abused by employers, can do in- 
finite harm to the workers. Having declared that scientific 
management increased efficiency at General Motors to the point 
where three men did the work five men had done before, he 
said: 

I still maintain that it means progress. What I believe we need is 
men in the fields of finance, marketing, transportation and govern- 
ment, just as smart as the men who have used scientific management 
to remake the world. I also admit that scientific management in the 
hands of unscrupulous employers can be a dangerous thing for hu- 
manity. But scientific management is responsible for the shorter 
work day and shorter work week. Workers generally don't have to 
work as hard today as they did under old conditions. In the last 
analysis, all the abuses labor complains of could be corrected by 
proper management. 70 

Anyone familiar with American industry, especially its metal- 
working phases, needs no further reminder of the importance of 
scientific management, and consequently of the work of men 
like Barth, Wennerlund, and others who contributed to its 
growth. The influence of the ideas set into motion by the fol- 
lowers of Taylor, however, was greater than many suspect, as a 
look at recent war production in the United States will clearly 

68 Automotive Industries, 61:506. 

89 It is only fair to state that group incentive was also used under the Taylor system. 

70 Detroit News, November 14, 1937. 

311 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

indicate. Though unevenly utilized, the dominant ideal in 
American industry is the application of science to production. 
Rejected in large measure by the French and British, scientific 
management was vital to the rationalization of German indus- 
try in the years between two world wars. The Soviet productive 
experiment, too, frankly borrowed the basic Taylor principles 
as means to a non-capitalistic end. Greatly increasing output, 
scientific management also naturally increased man's capacity 
for both good and evil. 



312 



OF POWER, 
PAPER, 

APART from metallurgy, engineers 
in Norway have recently made some AND SHIPS 
of their most notable technical ad- 
vances in electricity and the pro- 
duction of wood derivatives. It was 
natural that in such fields, on this side of the Atlantic as well as 
on the other, Norwegian engineers would assume an important 
role. Because of the part played by the sea in the life of the 
Scandinavian peoples, the same generalization also applies to 
engineering in the world of ships. One looks for concrete in- 
stances of the transfer of Norwegian techniques to the Ameri- 
can scene. The influence of the immigrant engineers proves 
to be considerable, especially in the paper industry, despite 
the relatively slight educational emphasis given everywhere 
until recently to applied chemistry; and despite the rapid 
hydroelectrical developments in Norway since about 1905, 
which have attracted many of the graduates of the engineer- 
ing colleges. The recentness of much of the work of Norwegian 
engineers in American paper production and electricity, how- 
ever, makes for extreme difficulty in viewing it in proper per- 
spective at present. 

I 

Though the early engineers who migrated to America had 
no strong tradition in the field of electricity, they nevertheless 
included one pioneer in the development of radio. Anders EL 
Bull invented a tuning system for radio signals in 1899, before 
Marconi had succeeded in developing selective transmission. 
Bull, eager to make his discovery known, described it in an 
English periodical. The young inventor declared that, if his 
system were used, "The possibility of messages being inter- 

313 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

cepted by stations for which they were not intended will be 
almost precluded, and independent signalling may be carried 
out between a considerable number of stations lying within 
the sphere of influence of each other's waves, while several des- 
patches can be transmitted simultaneously without their being 
affected the one by the other/ 5 
Bull went on to explain: 

For this purpose the signals are conveyed from the transmitters to 
their corresponding receivers exclusively by the aid of series of im- 
pulses, each series consisting of a certain number of short wave 
impulses following each other at predetermined intervals of time. 
By suitable choice of these intervals the impulses can be arranged 
in series of different form. Now it is possible to tune each transmit- 
ting and receiving pair for its own special form of series in such a 
way that the transmitter only dispatches series of this special form, 
and the corresponding receiver only responds to series of the same 
form. 

It made no difference where the various transmitters and re- 
ceivers were placed, whether they were together or separate. 
The apparatus of each was entirely independent of the others. 
"Any station is, therefore, capable of sending several different 
messages as well as of receiving some and sending others, at the 
same time/* * 

Bull, after his graduation from Christiania's Technical Col- 
lege in 1895, had gone to Germany; he found work there, and 
took a supplementary course in electrical engineering in the 
famous engineering school at Hanover. Returning to Norway, 
he had instruments prepared by the Elektrisk Byraa at Chris- 
tiania. In 1903 he set out for England to demonstrate his tuning 
system before representatives of the Marconi Wireless Tele- 
graph Company. In response to a request by the editor of 
Electrician, he described the experiments, which had been 
conducted with a view to "proving the possibility of secretly 
communicating between stations and of the further possibility 

1 Anders Bull, "A Tuning System for Wireless Telegraphy," in Electrician (Lon- 
don), 46:573-575 (February 8, 1901). In a later issue of the same journal, vol. 50, 
p. 418-422 (January 2, 1908), Bull elaborated on his "Experiments on Selective Wire- 
less Telegraphy." He describes two ways of "rendering messages unintelligible to those 
unconcerned." 

314 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

of sending messages by means of selective telegraphy to several 
independent receivers at the same time." His system was 
tested over longer distances than had been attempted up to 
that time. After some alterations, good results were obtained, 
in spite of unsatisfactory conditions and primitive equipment, 
and it "was possible to transmit telegrams quite faultlessly/' 
Messages were taken by both Bull's and the ordinary Marconi 
receiver; the speed of transmission was the same in both cases. 
Bull's conclusion, based on the experiments, was that his sys- 
tem was "applicable for all practical purposes where it is 
desirable to prevent outsiders from tapping messages/' 2 His 
conviction remains to this day unshaken. 

Bull came to America in 1904 to demonstrate his radio 
system before the United States Navy. Had he succeeded in 
exploiting the invention, in all probability he would have re- 
turned to Norway or Germany. The tests were undertaken 
between government stations at the Highlands of Navesink, 
New Jersey, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a distance of over 
30 miles, and were described by the inventor. "The field is 
considered a rather difficult one for experimental work, as the 
waves have to pass the greater part of Brooklyn; moreover, the 
stations are very much troubled by interference from several 
other wireless installations in the neighbourhood, the interfer- 
ence lasting sometimes without interruption for hours/' Regular 
service between the two points was performed by means of the 
Slaby-Arco system, which had been provisionally adopted by 
the navy. 

"It was decided to try our selective instruments in connection 
with the existing installation. . . . The voltage used ... is 80 
and 110 volts. . . . Our transmitter was only constructed for low 
voltage and small power. ... In order to get good communica- 
tion we had only one way left viz., to make the receiving 
arrangement very sensitive/ 3 As a result the receiver was more 
subject to disturbances than before. The experiments were 
conducted, however, chiefly with an eye to the secrecy of the 

2 Electrician, 51:963 (October 2, 1908). 

315 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

correspondence. A message, Bull wrote, which could not be 
read "in spite of its being repeated some four or five times with 
the Slaby instruments was easily deciphered when sent once by 



ours." 3 



The reasons for BulFs failure to exploit his ingenious device 
are suggested in the comments written by authorities on the 
wireless. J. A. Fleming, while praising the effectiveness of BulFs 
instruments, maintains that they were "exceedingly compli- 
cated and can only be understood by reference to very detailed 
diagrams." 4 Dr. J. Zenneck maintains that they gave almost 
perfect protection against the "picking up" of messages and at- 
mospheric disturbances but "their complication limits these 
apparatus to certain special work." 5 Marconi, writing to Bull 
on January 12, 1933, said, "My opinion was that the coherer 
receiver then in general use at the time of the tests was not 
capable of a sufficiently high speed of reception to allow of the 
employment of your apparatus with any advantage." 

Bull's method, as we have seen, was based upon transmitting 
each signal not as a single discharge but as a series of periodic 
discharges that came at certain fixed regular intervals. This 
system was later worked out successfully by Adam Paulsen, in 
Copenhagen, who used different wave lengths and continuous 
wave tuning. Bull himself now feels that he should have con- 
tinued with work in radio, because of its tremendous impor- 
tance today. Marconi, whom he knew well, offered him a 
position in London at the time of the first tests, but this 
offer, together with another for the invention itself, was re- 
jected. Writing much later, Marconi summed up Bull's work 
in these words, "Your apparatus was an interesting and ingen- 
ious contribution to the problem of obtaining secrecy in wire- 
less communication, and worthy of being preserved in the 
Museum/' 6 The museum referred to is the Science Museum at 

3 Bull, in Electrician, 54:14 (November 11, 1904). 

* "Telegraph," in EncydofKzdia Britannica, 36:538 (eleventh, edition, 1910-11). 

5 J. Zenneck, Wireless Telegraphy,, 332 (New York, 1915). This work was translated 
by A. E. Seelig. 

6 Marconi to Bull, January 12, 1933, a letter in the possession of Anders Bull. 

316 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

South Kensington, England, where Bull's original sender is 
now preserved. The receiver is in the Norsk Teknisk Museum 
at Oslo. 

In the several years that followed Bull's attempt to interest 
the navy in his radio, he remained in this country, working part 
of the time in the navy yard at Brooklyn. During 1907-08 he 
assisted, in Norway, Professor Kristian Birkeland, co-inventor 
of the process for producing synthetic nitrates, and consultant 
for Norsk Hydro, which exploited Birkeland's discovery. When 
Bull returned to America, he was, as we have seen, destined 
for a new career in the development of subway and tunnel 
transportation. 

Another of Bull's contributions in electricity that is worthy 
of mention was his fog signal system, invented in 1918, by 
which it is possible accurately to determine the compass direc- 
tion from which signals are coming. The direction is obtained 
from the pitch four rising and four falling pitches, for ex- 
ample, being due east. Bull's equipment was intended for small 
craft which could not afford expensive apparatus, and the one 
requirement of the listener was that he have an accurate sense 
of pitch. 

In this case, as with the wireless, Bull was his own champion. 
Writing in the London Engineer in 1921, he explained that 
usually the direction of sound is determined by comparing the 
intensity of the sensations in each of the listener's ears. Our 
sense of intensity, however, is extremely crude, while the dif- 
ferences to be judged are often very slight, and secondary effects 
are produced that may throw the balance to the wrong side. 
Bull got around this defect in aerial fog signaling by applying 
an acoustic principle, "the salient feature of which is that 
the direction of the signals is determined from their pitch, 
a quality entirely apart from their intensity, and governed only 
by the rapidity of the sound vibrations. . . . The author's device 
may be worked with any of the sound sources in use at present, 
such as whistles, horns, sirens or bells, without shortening their 
range. No receiving instrument is used, and no code has to be 

317 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

consulted for the interpretation of the signals, the rules being 
simple and easily memorized/ 5 

The signals in Bull's system were produced in groups of four 
or eight, the signals of a group following each other at equal 
time intervals and being all of the same duration. "To an ob- 
server listening to such a group, the individual signals will, as a 
rule, be partly of rising and partly of falling pitch. By counting 
the number of either kind he will be able to determine in what 
direction of the compass the signalling party is situated. This 
result is accomplished by means of what may be called a polari- 
sation of the signals, the latter being endowed with properties 
depending altogether on their direction." Tests were made in 
a suburb of Chicago during the winter of 1920-21; in the in- 
ventor's mind they were successful. 7 

Bull successfully demonstrated his system to the United 
States Coast Survey and Lighthouse Service in 1922, but it was 
not adopted. He maintains that the coastal protective system 
had no proper means to experiment satisfactorily at the time of 
the test, and he is of the opinion that directive fog signaling 
by means of polarized sound would be satisfactory today. 8 

n 

Some of the electrical and mechanical engineers who pre- 
ceded Anders Bull in America also made lasting contributions 
in the electrical field. Georg Gustavsen, a Horten graduate, 
invented special machines used in the mass production of radio 
and movie sound apparatus. 9 Charles W. Borgmann, who came 
in 1900, after graduating from Christiania's Technical College, 
has been in charge of the development of manual equipment 
with the Bell Telephone Laboratories. In 1930 he was one of 
five engineers sent to Europe to study communication as it is 

7 Anders Bull, "Fog Signalling by Means of Polarised Sound," in Engine&r (Lon- 
don), 13&505 (November 11, 1921). 

8 Interview, May 21, 1941. For more information about Anders Bull, see Who's 
Who in Engineering, 180 (New York, 1937) , and an article by Magnus Bj0rndal, 
in Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol 8, no. 1, p. 11 (November, 1935) . 

9 75 ars biografisk jubileums-festekrift, Hortens tekniske skole, 176. 

318 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

practiced there. 10 Andrew H. Bakken, another Horten graduate, 
joined the Westinghouse Company in 1902 and was responsible 
for innumerable electrical developments, recently receiving the 
Westinghouse silver medal for outstanding work. 11 

Jacob K. 0. Anthonisen had a varied career in the New 
World, but his chief work was in hydroelectric and water-power 
developments. A graduate of Trondhjem's Technical College, 
he was associated with Halfred Hoyem in the design of several 
hydroelectric stations for the Montana Power Company. From 
1922 until his death in 1938, Anthonisen was associated with 
the St. Anthony Palls Water Power Company in Minneapolis, 
a concern that furnishes power to the flour mills and the Twin 
City streetcar system. 12 

Theodor Schou, following a technical education received at 
Christiania and Dresden, left for the United States in 1903, as 
did Anthonisen. After working as engineer with several leading 
electrical concerns, he became consultant for Fairbanks, Morse, 
and Company at Beloit, Wisconsin. Schou has been a prolific 
author of technical papers and has a notable record in connec- 
tion with flywheel recommendations for direct-connected syn- 
chronous motors to compressors, flywheel recommendations for 
successful parallel operation of direct-connected alternators to 
Diesel engines, and the successful development of two-core syn- 
chronous indicator-type frequency changers. 

Several Norwegian engineers have won the Coffin award of 
the General Electric Company. Ludvig S. Walle of Schenec- 
tady, a graduate of Bergen who also studied at Dresden, was 
thus honored in 1924 after service with the company dating 
back to 1904. Of special interest among his many inventions 
were those in the field of automatic power stations. Andrew 
Halvorsen was awarded the same prize in 1936 . 1S 

Thorleif Bjerke Paulson, designing engineer with Chas. C. 

10 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, p. 21 (November, 1935). 
u Nordisk tidende, June 25, 1942. 

n Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 3, no. 2, p. 18 (August, 1930) and 
vol. 12, no. 1, p. 19 (July, 1939); Decorah-yosten, February 22, 1938. 
18 Nordmanns-forbundet, 29:156 (1936). 

319 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Moore and Company of San Francisco, won a reputation on 
the Pacific coast designing and testing steam electric power and 
pumping stations. Among his more important projects were the 
power plants of the Long Bell Lumber Company of Longview, 
Washington; the Power River Company in British Columbia; 
the Consolidated Mining Company of Trail, British Colum- 
bia; and mining companies of Arizona and New Mexico. Paul- 
son came to America a year after completing his training in 
mechanical engineering at the Christiania college in 1905. 1 * 

Torleif Sverre Norbom, an able mechanical engineer from 
Horten, did his work in the East. As chief designer with the 
S. Morgan Smith Company of York, Pennsylvania, he was re- 
sponsible for planning considerable hydroelectric equipment. 
His outstanding job, perhaps, was the water turbines used in 
the Bonneville Dam project, which was hailed as the largest of 
its kind in the world. North of the American boundary, Sven 
Svenningson, after a successful career in the States, became 
chief engineer of the Shawinigen Water and Power Company 
of Montreal in 1919. A graduate of Christiania's Technical 
College, Svenningson came to America in 1909. His premature 
death in 1934 deprived Canada of one of its leading hydro- 
electricians. 15 

The Latter-day Saints have a colorful figure in Marthinius 
A. Strand of Salt Lake City, owner and manager of the Strand 
Electric Service. Strand not only has done much of the lighting 
for Mormon buildings in Utah, but he also took out the basic 
patent on the automatic stop for phonographs, which he sold to 
the Edison Company; the invention is now widely used. He was 
the inventor of long-line and other testing equipment that has 
been adopted and used by the Bell Telephone System every- 
where, and of a remote-control switch adopted and manu- 
factured by the Cutler-Hammer Company. In the course of his 
regular work, he did the electrical engineering and installation 

^American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Transactions, vol. 54, record and 
index, p. 78 (1932); Minneapolis tidende, November 10, 1932. 

35 Skandinaven, September 7, 1934; Minneapolis tidende, August 30, 1934. 

320 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

for the naval ammunition depot at Hawthorne, Nevada, and 
at Boulder Dam; and the installation of substations and trans- 
mission lines for the Southern Nevada Electric Company, to 
mention only several of his many technical undertakings. Strand 
is interested in winter sports; he introduced skiing in Utah and 
the surrounding states. His technical education was received 
at Porsgrund, at an evening school in Christiania, and at the 
institute in Darmstadt. He came to the United States in 1910. 

Johannes Bernt, who is estimating engineer for the New York 
office of the General Electric Company, has estimated the elec- 
trical requirements of such buildings as the Radio City Theater, 
Banker's Trust, the Biltmore, the Woolworth, the Empire State, 
the Municipal, and the Metropolitan Square Theater. Bernt is 
a graduate of the Mechanical Trade School at Porsgrund and 
the Mittweida Polytechnicum in Germany; he came to America 
in 1902. Returning to Norway in 1914, he became manager of 
a factory at Skien that supplied his homeland with vital electri- 
cal equipment during the First World War. He returned to the 
United States in 1925. 16 

Among the many electrical engineers who were born and 
partially educated in Norway was Svend E. Johannesen, a pio- 
neer in the development of transformer engineering. A graduate 
of the Rose Polytechnic Institute of Terre Haute, Indiana, Jo- 
hannesen became associated in 1902 with the Westinghouse 
Electric Manufacturing Company in Pittsburgh, where he de- 
signed transformer equipment for the New York interborough 
subway and the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Rail- 
road. He joined the General Electric Company in 1906 and 
lived until his death in 1944 at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In 
1926 he was awarded General Electric's Coffin medal for his 
work in developing the distribution transformer. 17 

All of the engineers described thus far in the chapter came 
to America not later than 1910. They constitute a small stream 

18 Magnus Bj0rndal, in Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 13, no. 1, p. 12 
(December, 1940). 

17 New York Times, December 23, 1944. 

321 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

of immigrants that started about 1893. In 1923 a new group 
of engineers began to appear on the American scene. Many 
were graduates of the Institute of Technology and of the school 
at Porsgrund; some of the latter had taken advanced work 
in electricity at a German institution. Perhaps the brilliant 
young men of this recent group have not as yet made their 
larger contributions, but the record to date is impressive, 

Magnus Bj^rndal, proprietor of the Tech Laboratories at 
Jersey City, is the inventor of an automatic gear shift, an 
electric hydrometer, a new automatic indicating and controlling 
viscosity meter, an automatic direction finder, a submarine lo- 
cating device, and an automatic cap-type moisture meter; and 
he is co-inventor of an oscillating electric heater. When serving 
as chief engineer for the Daven Company of Newark, New 
Jersey, 1931-35, Bj0rndal developed a new line of test and con- 
trol instruments for broadcasting stations and designed all 
controls for the Radio City installations of NBC. In recent 
years he has invented, designed, and manufactured numerous 
scientific and technical instruments, besides serving as consult- 
ing engineer and registered patent attorney. Every ship of the 
United States Navy carries electrical equipment designed by 
Bj^mdaL 18 Bj>rndal is a graduate of the Mechanical Trade 
School at Porsgrund, 1920. He pursued further study in me- 
chanical and electrical engineering at the Hindenburg Poly- 
technicum in Oldenburg. 

Finn H. Gulliksen, a product of the Institute of Technology 
at Trondhjem, has specialized in voltage regulation and syn- 
chronizing development, design, and application. In 1934 he was 
awarded a prize by the American Institute of Electrical Engi- 
neers for one of the two best papers submitted in that year. 19 
Bj0rn Jore, a graduate of the same school and an electrical 
engineer for the Anaconda Wire and Cable Company, was 
responsible for the cable layout and design in the power distri- 
bution at Ford's River Rouge plant; he also invented a shielded 

** From materials in archives of the Norwegian-American Technical Society Chi- 
cago, and information supplied by Bjjtadal. 
^Aftenpostm (Oslo), September 12, 1934. 

322 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

terminal for rubber cables. A. E. Thomassen, of the Phoenix 
Engineering Corporation of New York City, had a significant 
part in the electrification of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and 
Western Railroad. This was the first instance of a 3,000-volt 
D-C installation with Mercury-arc rectifier substations on so 
large a scale, and the undertaking was completed in the record- 
breaking time of two years. Thomassen graduated from the 
Bergen school in 1924 but continued his formal technical edu- 
cation in America. 

Of the younger men few have shown greater promise than 
Sigurd J. Stockfleth, another graduate of the Oldenburg Poly- 
technicum, whose work with the Bell Telephone Laboratories 
in New York since 1929 has resulted in the invention of multi- 
contact switches, relays, dials, timing devices, and crossbar 
switches, on which he holds patents. According to the Norwe- 
gian-American Technical Journal, he was engaged during 1936- 
38 in the design of remote-control equipment for transport 
aviation radio and the mechanical design of airplane direction 
finders, as well as radio equipment for the navy. 20 Stockfleth 
also introduced the first multi-wound, paper-filled coil winding 
development, a method now widely used in the telephone in- 
dustry* The crossbar switch, various features of which he 
perfected, is the heart of the new and improved telephone 
system which is replacing the present panel one. He recently 
designed a less costly crossbar switch which is now being 
adopted, and a new step-by-step telephone contact bank that 
will be used in the automatic telephone systems of smaller 
communities. He was also intimately associated with the de- 
velopment of the quiet telephone calling dial used in new 
combined handsets. 

While not a few engineers have at times been engaged in 
welding work of one kind or another, the outstanding pioneer 
in this field is K. L. Hansen, consulting engineer of the Harn- 
ischfeger Corporation of Milwaukee. He came to the United 
States in 1901 and later attended the University of Illinois. 

20 Vol. 1, no. 1, p. 12 (My, 1939). 

323 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Hansen moved from the Westinghouse Manufacturing Com- 
pany to the Louis Allis Company of Milwaukee, where he de- 
signed A-C and D-C motors and generators and became chief 
engineer. In 1921 he severed this connection to become a con- 
sultant. Working independently, he invented and designed the 
Hansen arc welder, now made and marketed by the Harnisch- 
feger Corporation. He has since developed a number of arc- 
welding processes and also has patents on self-starting induc- 
tion and compensated induction motors. While working for 
Westinghouse, Hansen conceived an idea that made it possible 
to eliminate uneven work and simplify the entire welding 
process. Though his best years have been spent in improving 
the welder, Hansen feels that his important future work will 
be with the electric motor. 21 

ra 

Johannes (Jack) Andersen left his home at Sandefjord in 
1882, at the age of fifteen, and turned up in the United States 
in the next year. Later he became Swedish-Norwegian consul in 
New York City and was associated with the Norwegian Wood 
Pulp Company, importers of pulp and cellulose. In 1909 he 
founded Johannes Andersen and Company, largest importers of 
Scandinavian tree products in America. 22 Thus a Norwegian 
product vital to American production came with the immigrant 
to the New World. 

Far more important, however, was the link forged between 
the two countries by the skills of the Norwegian engineers who 
developed the forest products of America itself. Their work was 
essentially although not exclusively a chemical one, in which 
the methods used in Norway, when brought to this side of the 
Atlantic, either were directly applied or provided a necessary- 
background of experience for the engineer-chemists who took 
the leading roles. 

The most famous of these men was Dr. Viggo B. Drewsen, 

^Electrical Engineering, 59:518 (March, 1940); Modem, Industrial Press, April, 
1940; Nordisk tidende, June 25, 1942. 

tidende, January 26, 1922; Nordmands-forbundet, 20:116-118 (1927), 



324 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

who was educated at the national university in Christiania and 
at Wiesbaden and Munich in Germany. At the university in 
Munich he was awarded the degree of doctor of philosophy in 
chemistry. There, in 1881, Drewsen's research project, under 
the famous Professor Adolf Baeyer, was the synthesis of indi- 
go, or a method of making artificial indigo; the process was 
patented by Drewsen and Baeyer in the next year. After this, 
Drewsen's best known early work, he became a teacher of 
chemistry at Trondhjem's Technical College, where he re- 
mained until 1887 and made the transition from "pure" science 
to the applied field of chemical engineering. Disappointed over 
his failure to receive a professorship, Drewsen left the college 
and took employment with the cellulose mills in B0hnsdalen. 
There he began a vigorous study of cellulose and paper manu- 
facture, and, with his brother Aage, took out his first cellulose 
patent. 

After a brief but productive period as chemist at B^hnsdalen, 
Viggo Drewsen left, in 1894, for the United States, following 
Aage, who had gone on ahead; his purpose, in part, was to take 
out a number of American patents. Viggo at once became 
superintendent of the Glens Falls Paper Company mills at Fort 
Edward, New York, but he shortly opened a private consulting 
office, the Drewsen Company, in New York City. After having 
been a "retained chemist" for the West Virginia Pulp and 
Paper Company, he spent the last twenty years of his life, 
from 1910 to 1930, as director of the research laboratories of 
this firm. 

When Drewsen went over to industry, his name appeared 
less frequently in the learned journals, but a record of his re- 
markable work with paper is left in his many patents. In 
addition to those relating to his indigo synthesis, the total in the 
United States was 43, in Norway 9, and in Germany 5. When 
Drewsen went to B0hn he found that there, as elsewhere, the 
mills did not utilize the sulphurous acid which escaped with 
the gases produced in cooking cellulose. He devised a method 
for collecting and leading the gases into a new boiling acid, 

325 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

thereby getting a more durable product than was produced by 
earlier processes; he not only saved sulphur but also decreased 
the cooking time and improved the quality of the cellulose 
mass, making it, among other things, more susceptible to 
bleaching than the former product. Several Scandinavian firms 
bought rights to this process; in the United States it was intro- 
duced under the name "Drewsen reclaimer" and was used in 
more than thirty mills. Subsequently all sulphite cellulose mills 
in the world made use of Drewsen's innovation. 

The cooking of sulphite cellulose is based on the application 
of calcium bisulphite in the boiling acid. At B0hn Drewsen made 
a successful attempt to apply sodium bisulphite. He mixed 
sodium sulphate (glauber salt) with the boiling acid and ob- 
tained a change of base. In spite of the originality of his method, 
it proved to be not entirely practicable. In later years Drewsen 
worked with a monosulphite process, using sodium or magne- 
sium as a base; this process he regarded as his greatest accom- 
plishment. At B0hn he also made several successful attempts at 
bleaching cellulose with permanganate. 

The impure liquor used in the sodium and sulphate cellulose 
mills is gathered up (calcined) and put back into the boiling 
process again. The sulphite mills, by contrast, with few excep- 
tions let the waste cooking liquor run into the sea, thus losing 
both lime and sulphurous acid. Most important, in thus letting 
the liquor go to waste, the mills lost valuable organic constitu- 
ents. The search for a suitable method of using the sulphite 
waste therefore occupied many engineers, and among them 
was Drewsen. A patent of 1891 describes his method of recov- 
ering the sulphurous-acid excess by precipitating it with lime 
while hot and then treating the precipitate with sulphurous 
acid; in this way Drewsen got a calcium bisulphite solution that 
went back into the cooking process. A fractionated lime pre- 
cipitate is now a reality in America, a proof of Drewsen's fore- 
sight. In later patents Drewsen proposed methods for the 
recovery of the organic materials in the liquor, for the prepara- 
tion of acetone, alcohols, and other products. Two of his ideas 

326 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

were later developed by others. Drewsen, however, finally con- 
cluded that the time had not arrived for an organic chemical 
industry based on sulphite liquor. In the meantime it would 
have to be utilized as fuel. 

The steady depletion of our forests and the resulting rise 
in wood prices have caused engineers to look about for cheaper 
fiber materials. By 1903 Drewsen had devised a method for the 
production of paper from cornstalks, straw, and sugar cane. At 
the Cumberland Mills he produced his new fiber material at a 
cost 10 dollars per ton less than that of lye cellulose made 
from wood. Though the process received wide publicity, it 
has not yet been extensively used in this country, chiefly be- 
cause of the great cost involved in collecting, shipping, and 
storing the bulky raw material. But when the forests of North 
America are exhausted, cornstalks and straw may well come 
into their own in the production of paper. 

Drewsen also spent considerable time developing a penta- 
sulphide cellulose process. This was based upon the idea of 
using lime and an excess of free sulphur in the boiling of 
cellulose an interesting process that is both cheap and effec- 
tive, but which has the disadvantage of throwing off an offen- 
sive odor. As the years passed, Drewsen became increasingly 
convinced that eventually cellulose cooking would have to be 
based upon the application of monosulphites. He took out a 
series of patents dealing with the preparation of suitable mono- 
sulphite solutions with sodium and, alternately, magnesium as 
base, as well as for the regeneration of the waste liquor. In 
order to apply these relatively expensive bases for the cooking 
of cellulose, it is necessary to regenerate them. Drewsen's ac- 
complishments in this field should be of great value in the 
future. 

Several other Drewsen contributions are worthy of note. 
During the First World War he worked on sulphite and sul- 
phate cellulose to make them more useful for nitrating, as a 
substitute for cotton linters. He also proposed to collect carbon 
dioxide from the tops of acid towers in sulphite mills and to 

327 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

use it for coaling the acid, as well as to deprive the flue gases 
of their carbon dioxide, which by this method would be turned 
into "dry ice." Finally, for Norway his work is significant in 
that his experiments of 1898-99 gave impetus to the introduc- 
tion of mechanical pyrite burners, which made it possible to use 
a cheap native pyrite instead of imported sulphur. 23 

The direct application of Norwegian methods of cellulose 
and paper manufacture is even more apparent in the work of 
Olai Bache Wiig, who produced the first sulphate pulp in 
America and the first kraft paper made from domestic pulp. 
Wiig, like Drewsen born of a family associated with the paper 
industry, came to the United States in 1903, after receiving 
a technical education at the engineering school in Zwickau 
and working for two years in the Norwegian paper industry. 
He soon began improving on the processes used at the Mount 
Tom Sulphite Pulp Company, and served as consultant with 
the York Haven Paper Company in Pennsylvania and the 
Laurentide Paper Company of Quebec. While employed in a 
large pulp organization, 1907-10, controlled by George Van 
Dyke, he converted a soda mill at East Angus, Quebec, to the 
sulphate process. It was at this mill, too, that he pioneered in 
the production of kraft paper. 

Bache Wiig began a new venture in 1910, when, in response 
to urgent requests, he moved to Wisconsin and promoted the 
Wausau Sulphate Fibre Company. He built a pulp and kraft 
mill with a daily capacity of 30 tons at Mosinee and had it in 
production within one year. It was there, too, that he first put 
into operation an improved kraft machine that made paper 
at the then phenomenal speed of 1,000 feet per minute. His 
paper soon became widely known and its quality recognized 
wherever great strength in the product was desirable. Wiig, 

28 The writer is especially indebted to S. Schmidt Nielsen's memorial speech, Octo- 
ber 13, 1930, discussing Drewsen's technical career, before Det Kongelige Norske 
Videnskabers Selskab, in Forhandlinger, vol. 3, no. 25, p. 95-103 (Nidaros, 1931). 
This account includes a full list of Drewsen's patents. Also useful are an account by 
Eyvind B0dtker, Viggo Drewsen, 1858-1930 > a reprint from Tidskrift for kjemi og 
b&rgvesen, no. 10, 1930, S. T. no. 200; Minneapolis tidende, May 20, 1930; Morgen- 
bladet, May 20, 1930; and Nordmands-forbundet, 23:375 (November, 1930). 

328 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

in addition to acting as general manager of this undertaking, 
was much in demand as a consulting engineer, and he designed 
and built sulphate mills at Ocean Falls, British Columbia, and 
Bogalusa, Louisiana. His last major work was the organization 
of the Tomahawk Kraft Paper Company, which took over and 
remodeled a mill at Wisconsin Dam. S. B. Bugge, a Horten 
graduate who had also been employed by Van Dyke, acted as 
director of the new enlarged mill and Bache Wiig was its presi- 
dent at the time of his death in 1925. 24 

Frequently, too, one or another of the chemical engineers 
in Norway has traveled to these shores to interest American 
capital in his improved methods of obtaining wood derivatives. 
Such was the case with Helmer L. Bl.engsli, who lectured before 
the Norwegian Engineers' Society of New York in 1928 on 
the subject, "The Wood Distilling Industry." He had built, as 
a consulting engineer, a number of plants in Norway employing 
the techniques that he had patented. At the time of his lecture, 
Blengsli was striving to revive the hardwood distilling industry, 
which in 1925 had suffered a sharp blow in the discovery by 
Germans of a synthetic method of producing methanol (wood 
alcohol). After extensive research in the laboratories of Nor- 
way's Institute of Technology, he had succeeded in discovering 
not only new methods of distilling hardwood, but new products. 
He was unable to interest Norwegian capital in his techniques 
and equipment, and he had come to the United States, where, 
he assured his listeners, he had been well received by American 
industry. 25 

IV 

As important in the pulp industry as chemical processes is 
the preparation of logs after they have come downstream or by 
rail to the pulp and cellulose mills. Some years ago rotary 
knives were employed to remove the bark. Today practically all 
millg use the barking drum, which was invented by a graduate 

2 *Am*erican Society of Mechanical Engineers, Transactions, 47:1310 (1925); Mil- 
waukee Journal, January 25, 1925; Minneapolis tidende, February 5, 1925. 

35 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, voL 1, no. 4?, p. 7 (December, 1928). 

329 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

of Christiania's Technical College, H. W. Guettler. He designed 
and installed his first drum for the Escanaba Pulp and Paper 
Company in Michigan; this was based upon an original inven- 
tion of 1915, which he patented jointly with 0. L. Berger. The 
action of the drum is relatively simple. Logs are fed automat- 
ically into one end and the drum revolves, producing friction 
between them. The water that is present in the drum causes 
the bark to peel off easily, and instead of being washed away, 
it is reclaimed. The logs, discharged at the opposite end, are 
sent back if they are not entirely free of bark. 

Later perfected by additional improvements, the Guettler 
barking drum came into universal use in this country and else- 
where. Besides removing a serious bottleneck in the pulp in- 
dustry, it saved about 10 per cent of the wood formerly lost, 
as well as a tremendous amount of labor. The American Bark- 
ing Drum Company was formed in Chicago in 1915. A year 
later Guettler, together with Berger and others, organized Fibre 
Making Processes, Inc., which, entirely owned by Guettler since 
1919, also handles other machinery of Scandinavian and Ameri- 
can origin. But its chief product has been the TJ-Bar Barking 
Drum, now made in all sizes. 26 

One of the best known engineers in the cellulose field today 
is Dr. Carl Busch Thome, vice-president of the Canadian In- 
ternational Paper Company and head of the famous Kipawa 
Mill in Quebec. After receiving a thorough technical education 
in the Hanover and Dresden schools, Thome worked for a 
time with Drewsen, but from 1903 was engaged by the Riordon 
Pulp and Paper Company (later the Canadian International 
Paper Company) at Hawkesbury and Merritton, Ontario. At 
first chief engineer and sulphite expert, he was later made mana- 
ger of manufacturing; since 1910 he has been technical director 
of this company. At the Ontario mills he produces both paper 
and sulphite pulp, bleached and unbleached. In 1918-19, Thome 
planned and built in the wilderness of Quebec the town of 

^ * Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 1, no. ', p. 3 (May 1938)- and 
information received directly from Guettler. ' 

330 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

Temiskaming, with a population of 3,000, and the Kipawa Mill, 
with an annual capacity of 120,000 tons of rayon sulphite. 

In the paper and rayon industries few have had a greater 
all-round influence than Thome. His patents in the United 
States alone comprise a barker, a mixing machine, a fiber loss 
indicator, a fiber recovery system, and other mechanical de- 
vices; they also include a sulphite cooking process and innova- 
tions in bleaching. His chief study has been the bleaching of 
cellulose and it was he who introduced the bleaching process 
in his mills. According to Skandinaven, 1,000,000 tons of cellu- 
lose were bleached each year in the 19SO's by the Thome 
method, which is now used in Europe as well as in America. 27 
His inventions have contributed notably, too, to the improve- 
ment of cellulose quality. At the time the Kipawa Mill was set 
up, Thorne organized a research unit to discover the most satis- 
factory methods of producing cellulose; one of the most modern 
of its kind, this organization is vital in Canada's industrial life. 
Kipawa cellulose is regarded today by rayon factories as among 
the world's finest. 28 

Norwegian engineers naturally gravitated toward paper pro- 
duction centers in the New World. J..N. Bodtker, a graduate of 
Christiania's Technical College, recently became plant engi- 
neer of the Lake St. John Power and Paper Company at 
Dolbeau in Quebec. J. K. A. Henning, a product of Porsgrund 
and Horten, was engineer and chemist with the Gushing Pulp 
Company of St. John, New Brunswick. Petter J. Miirer, a 
graduate of Christiania, is superintendent of the Kipawa cellu- 
lose plant at Temiskaming; and Sigmund Wang, who studied in 
Christiania and Darmstadt, is manager of the same company's 
laboratories at Hawkesbury, having been associated with the 
development of wood cellulose for rayon, transparent paper, 
and plastics. J. B. Jensen, a graduate of the Trondhjem college, 
was chief engineer for the Riordon paper mills from 1907 to 

27 August 14, 1936. His patents totaled 29. 

28 Skandinaven, August 14, 1936; Nordmanns-forbundet, 25:127 (1932), and 29:257 
(1936). 

331 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

1910, but returned to Norway. Dr. Bjarne Johnsen has been 
in charge of a cellulose and paper factory at Erie, Pennsylvania, 
for years. Hans P. G. Norstrand, a Bergen graduate, after first 
serving as manager of a paper mill at Greenwich, New York, 
became president of the Saranac Pulp and Paper Company, 
the Saranac River Power Corporation, and the Norstrand 
Manufacturing Company, all of Plattsburg, New York. He has 
became known for the manufacture of paper dishes, pie plates, 
and similar products made of molded ground paper. Finally, 
though by no means exhausting the list, is C. Bache Wiig, a 
graduate of Christiania's Technical College. Before his death in 
1922 he directed a plant at Canton, North Carolina, that really 
made paper of wheat straw and cornstalks, in accordance with 
Drewsen's formula. 29 It would be necessary to add to these a 
small army of draftsmen and mechanical and electrical engi- 
neers to get anything like a complete picture of the work of 
Norwegians in this branch of engineering, the importance of 
which is steadily increasing. 

V 

Apart from Lysholm and the Fougners, the number of Nor- 
wegian engineers who made significant contributions in the 
world of ships is relatively small, despite a strong native tradi- 
tion in this field; and of those who must be considered, several 
acquired their technical education on the job or in American 
educational institutions. 

In shipbuilding circles the name of Haakon Norbom is a 
familiar one. A graduate of Horten's Technical School, Norbom 
came to America in 1887. Once chief engineer and superintend- 
ent of the George V. Cresson Company in Philadelphia, he 
started his own firm in 1907, the Norbom Engineering Com- 
pany. This company was soon the largest of its kind in the 
production of hydraulic dredging machines. Norbom organized 

29 75 drs biografisk jubileums-festekrift, Hortens t&kmske skole, 192; Nordmanns- 
forbundet, 26:96 (March, 1933), and 15:482 (1922); Alstad, Trondhjemstelcnikemes 
matrikel, 159; Minneapolis tidende, December 10, 1930; Norwegian- American Tech- 
nical Journal, vol. 3, no. 2, p. 10 (August, 1930) . 

332 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

the Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Company in 1915 and served 
for several years as its president; he was also managing director 
of the Pusey-Jones Shipbuilding Company at Wilmington, 
Delaware, 1916-18, while it was in the hands of Hannevig. 30 
On the Pacific coast, Nils A. Christoff, who was apparently 
self-taught, organized in 1911, with J. F. Duthie, a shipbuilding 
firm in Seattle. Beginning with simple machine shops and con- 
centrating on small boats, the company grew in size and was 
soon putting out steel ships at Harbor Island. As vice-president 
and chief engineer of machinery, Christoff was technical director 
until his death in 1920. 31 

Among naval architects a prominent figure is John Trumpy, 
president of John Trumpy and Sons at Camden, New Jersey. 
Educated at Bergen and Charlottenburg, Trumpy founded the 
Mathis Yachtbuilding Company in 1909 as part owner. Since 
then he has been busy designing and building yachts and motor- 
boats, acting as naval architect and general manager until 
recently, when he became president. The firm name Trumpy 
was adopted in 1941. Before the recent war he produced, 
among other craft, about 30 speedy pursuit and patrol boats 
for the federal government and a number of 220-foot cruisers 
specially designed for Florida waters. During the war he built 
at least 30 submarine chasers and was engaged in the construc- 
tion of many patrol boats as well as other craft. Grandson of 
a famous Bergen shipbuilder, Trumpy learned about ships, 
especially wooden ships, in his native Hansa city; and his pref- 
erence for wooden craft, such as his grandfather had produced 
at Bergen, is shown by the fact that as shipbuilder he con- 
centrated on cruising yachts, with motors, ranging in length 
from 60 to 120 feet. No less than 250 yachts, which are famous 
along the east coast, came from his plant, among these being 
the presidential yachts for Harding, Coolidge, and Roosevelt. 
It was Tmmpy's eager hope that after the war he might return 

30 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 10, no. 1, p. 5 (February, 1937); 
Minneapolis tidende, April 13, 1933. 

31 Washington posten, June 25, 1920. 

333 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

to building his favorite type of sMp. He was awarded the Navy 
E as a recognition of the efficiency of his war work. 32 

Three men among many on the west coast Toralf 0stbye, 
Axel Waerenskjold, and Jens Heyerdahl Hansen have names 
prominent among shipowners. 0stbye ? a graduate of Trond- 
hjem's Technical College, served on the engineering staff of the 
Seattle Construction and Drydock Company and the Todd Dry 
Docks, and set up his own business in Seattle, in 1916, as marine 
surveyor and consulting engineer. He was also surveyor for Det 
Norske Veritas and after 1917 average surveyor for the Norwe- 
gian and Swedish Marine Underwriters in the Washington- 
Oregon-British Columbia district. During 1919-23 he was 
engaged in the salmon canning and other fishing industries in 
Alaska and the state of Washington. 33 

Axel Waerenskjold, who is vice-president of the Norwegian- 
American Historical Association, studied machines and machine 
designing in Chicago after leaving Norway in 1883. He made a 
reputation in the San Francisco area, first as chief engineer 
with the Hercules Gas Engine Company, then as directing 
genius of his own firm the Atlas Gas Engine Company 
after 1904. When his plant burned at the time of the San Fran- 
cisco earthquake in 1906, he moved his business to Oakland 
and soon made it known the world over. In 1916 he combined 
Atlas with the Imperial Engine Company to form the Atlas 
Imperial Engine Company; in the same year he began to pro- 
duce Diesel engines for ships. Whole fleets of west coast ships 
were equipped with engines at his plants, and branch offices 
were maintained the world over. Recently he sold his business 
interests. 84 

Heyerdahl Hansen, a graduate of the Technical Institute at 
Charlottenburg, was chief engineer with the Pelton Water 

32 Wong, Norske utvandrere, 152; archives of Norwegian-American Technical So- 
ciety, Chicago; Nor disk tidende, November 25, 1943; information supplied by Trumpy. 

^Alstad, Trondhj&msteknikemes matrikd t 193; archives of Norwegian- American 
Technical Society, Chicago. 

**S0nner av Norge, 34:835 (December, 1937); Nordmands-forbundet, 24:219 
(1931); interview with Wserenskjold, August, 1940; Nordisk tidende, December 23, 
1943. 

334 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

Wheel Company of San Francisco before becoming president 
and general manager of the Pacific Diesel Engine Company of 
Oakland, a firm which he founded in 1915 and with which he 
was associated until 1927. Hansen won a gold medal at the 
Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915 for the design 
and construction of a 20,000-horsepower turbine exhibited by 
the Pelton Water Wheel Company; he further identified him- 
self with west coast shipping through the Diesel engines pro- 
duced by his own firm. 35 

VI 

Perhaps the greatest name among Norwegian-American 
naval engineers is that of Rear Admiral Peter C. Asserson. 
When he was sixteen he shipped as a cabin boy on a bark 
leaving Stavanger and sailed to the Mediterranean and Black 
seas. He soon became captain of merchant ships sailing from 
German, English, and Scandinavian ports, and in 1859, at the 
age of twenty, he arrived in America, intending to make his 
home in this country. Employed by the United States Coast 
Survey and Lighthouse Service, he was assigned to the Gulf of 
Mexico, where he participated in a hydrographic survey and 
assisted in erecting a large screw-pile lighthouse, Shoal Light, 
the first high-power lighthouse ever to be built on a shoal in 
the ocean as far as 15 miles from shore. 

Asserson apparently planned to go up the Mississippi to settle 
in the Northwest Territory sought out by the Scandinavian 
immigrants, but the Civil War prevented him from so doing. 
Faced with the alternatives of a quick escape from New Orleans 
or joining up with the Confederate forces, Asserson found him- 
self in sympathy with the North. Hoping to leave the South, 
he offered to take a merchant ship, loaded in the afterhold, to 
consignees in Spain. He safely delivered the ship and its cargo 
in spite of unequal ballast and the necessity of running the 
blockade that Union ships had already set up in southern 
waters. He returned at once to the United States and prepared 

Skandinavw, June 10, 1927; interview, August, 1940. 

335 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

for service in the navy by taking special courses in navigation, 
astronomy, and engineering at Cooper Union in New York City 
and from private tutors. Successfully passing the examinations 
in May, 1862, he was appointed master's mate and thereafter 
engaged in many of the naval campaigns of the Civil War. He 
was promoted to the rank of ensign, served as navigator, and 
was finally appointed to the civil engineer corps of the navy. 
From 1866 to 1868, Asserson was assigned to duty at the Nor- 
folk Navy Yard; from 1868 to 1869 he was on coast survey 
duty; and in 1869 he was honorably discharged from the navy. 

Asserson's first important engineering job after his Civil War 
service consisted of raising wrecked ships and clearing other 
obstructions from the Elizabeth, Potomac, Rappahannock, and 
James rivers. No less than four battleships, two frigates, and 
several river craft were brought to the surface, among them 
the "Merrimac" ("Virginia"), the "Cumberland" (the first fed- 
eral ship to be sunk by the "Merrimac") , and the "Pennsyl- 
vania/' In raising these vessels, Asserson "performed some of 
the most difficult feats known to marine engineering." An in- 
teresting detail of this work was the recovery, intact, of the 
figurehead of the Indian chief Tecumseh from the "Delaware." 
In the early 1870's Tecumseh was presented to the Naval 
Academy, where midshipmen dubbed him "The God of 2.5" 
(the passing grade in their studies) and still implore his favor 
before examinations. 

In 1873 Asserson was appointed superintendent of improve- 
ments at the Norfolk Navy Yard. He also served as assistant in 
charge of the reconstruction of the yards, which had been all 
but ruined in 1865. During the next year he was commissioned 
as civil engineer and was put in full charge of the Norfolk 
reconstruction work. In ten years he transformed the mined 
yards into an efficient station. "Long stretches of substantially 
built wharves and quays replaced the old wooden ones; the dry 
dock was rebuilt; wet docks were built to receive timber needed 
for the ships of that date; and the workshops and storehouses 
that covered many acres of ground were erected. The streets 

336 



OF POWER, PAPER, AND SHIPS 

were well paved, and up-to-date sewerage and drainage sys- 
tems were constructed." Among the many other unique features 
of his work was a salt-water fire system, which was the first of 
its kind in America and is said to have been a great success. 

Asserson was promoted to captain in 1882, partly as a result 
of a long fight by him and others for the same privileges of 
promotion and rank enjoyed by line officers; three years later 
he was sent to the naval station at New York. When he arrived, 
the yard was "practically without a dry dock or wharf at 
which a ship could be tied up. There was only 15 ft. of water in 
the Wallabout Channel, the 'cob dock 3 and ordnance docks were 
being eaten away by East River tides, many of the streets were 
unpaved, and the big granite Dry Dock No. 1 was leaking/' 
Asserson set to work to save parts of the cob dock by putting 
up sturdy sea walls in place of the existing wooden ones. The 
new wall was "2230 ft. long, built over solid cribwork of Georgia 
pine (2 by 12 in.), on which was laid a superstructure of con- 
crete the whole being capped with a coping of granite blocks. 
This piece of work was examined by experienced engineers who 
reported that there was not another like it in the United 
States/' 

He also installed a salt-water fire system and automatic 
sprinkler systems in the buildings, put up "a mammoth machine 
shop," new buildings, miles of railroad lines, an electric lift and 
power plant, and facilities for from 10,000,000 to 15,000,000 
tons of coal. Two drydocks were rebuilt of concrete; these were 
considered remarkable because they were designed, recon- 
structed, and enlarged without the assistance of outside contrac- 
tors. For the first dock he "built an underground electric pumping 
station, at that time the only one of its kind on record." 

This was constructed so as to save space and was located at the 
head of the dock, built entirely beneath the surface, encased within 
a caisson or wall of cement or stone, this insuring the machinery 
against damage by cold, heat, or moisture. Centrifugal pumps were 
installed with a capacity of throwing 30,000 gal. of water per min. 
out of the dry dock, thus enabling the dock to be completely emp- 
tied of water in one-third the time and at one-half the cost of the 

337 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

former method. This also attracted much attention in the engineer- 
ing world. Dry Dock No. 3 was built under his supervision and 
plans were made for Dry Dock No. 4, the latter, however, was not 
undertaken as his retirement from the service was then about due. 

Many other services and honors are associated with Asser- 
son's name. He was called to Washington several times in the 
1880's by the bureau of yards and docks as senior member of 
boards that were to consider navy undertakings. He was fre- 
quently sought as consultant: the stations at Mare Island, 
California; St. John's, Newfoundland; Port Eoyal and Charles- 
ton, South Carolina; Puget Sound; and Annapolis all benefited 
from his skill and experience, He retired in 1903, with the rank 
of rear admiral; at that time he was senior member of the corps 
of civil engineers and highly respected for his exceptional engi- 
neering skill the product largely of self -education and ex- 
perience. 

Colonel Hans Christian Heg, who made history during the 
American Civil War as leader of the gallant Fifteenth of Wis- 
consin, is a figure well known to Norwegian Americans and 
historians alike. Asserson's name deserves similar recognition, 
even though his life was in many respects less dramatic. His 
career was one with the progressive technical and industrial 
development that followed the Civil War and which, in spin- 
ning out its course, revolutionized the foundations of our daily 
life. More specifically, he was a pioneer like John Ericsson, the 
Swedish, inventor; he made basic contributions when our fleet 
was emerging from an assemblage of wood and sail to become 
what it is today, not only the greatest striking force in the 
world but also an intricate mechanism of steel, dependent as 
never before upon the engineering group that Asserson headed. 86 

38 Quotations are from the excellent biography of Asserson in American Society of 
Civil Engineers, Transactions, 96:1397-1403 (1932); see also Minneapolis tidende, 
December 14, 1906; and an article by the present writer in Nordisk tidende, March 
23, 1944. 



338 



ENGINEERS 

AND 

THE field of engineering is so exten- 
sive and its branchings are so many ENGINEERING 
that only part of the story of the Nor- 
wegian engineers in the New World 
has been told thus far. Something of 
the true scope of the engineer story is revealed only when the 
contributions of a large number of other Norwegian immigrants 
are considered and their careers studied against the broad back- 
ground of America's growth. 

I 

It is unnecessary to emphasize the importance of building 
materials and the industries that provide and use them. Steel 
and concrete have been and continue to be basic essentials in 
most structural lines. The activities of those engineers who 
helped develop the steel industry are particularly significant, 
and since they were also associated with bridge and other con- 
struction work, their careers have a varied aspect. 

A. B. Neumann, a graduate of Trondhjem's Technical Col- 
lege, came to America in 1893 and became chief engineer of the 
United States Steel Corporation's plant at Gary, Indiana. He 
built a city where there had been only sand in the heart of 
the famous Indiana sand dunes. He also built the plants of the 
American Rolling Mill Company at Middletown, Ohio, and of 
the Interstate Iron and Steel Company at Chicago. He became 
chief engineer of the Chattanooga Steel Company and a cham- 
pion of the industrial future of eastern Tennessee, today a 
center of steel production. Though Neumann was extremely 
versatile, he specialized in steel-rolling mills, blast furnaces, 
and coking ovens. Among his many inventions, the Baker- 
Neumann blast furnace stock distributor is particularly note- 

339 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

worthy; it is used in the furnaces of the Bethlehem Steel Com- 
pany. 1 

Among the many others who contributed to the development 
of the steel industry, mention should be made of two Trondhjem 
graduates. D. A. With was associated for many years with the 
Illinois Steel Company as civil engineer in charge of construc- 
tion. O. L. Berby migrated in 1911 and became chief engineer 
,with the Clyde Iron Works of Duluth producers of steel 
cranes, hoisting equipment, and the machinery used in lumber 
camps for hauling logs and loading them on railroad cars. 2 

A Horten man, C. B. Christophersen, was designing engineer 
with the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation of South Chicago. 
He assisted in the planning and development of various steel 
mills for the United States Steel Corporation at South Chicago, 
Gary, and Birmingham; his chief work has been that of de- 
signing and estimating blast furnaces with full equipment such 
as ore-handling machinery and power stations. 3 Carl B. Moe, 
Norwegian vice-consul at Detroit, was educated at Trondhjem; 
he became chief engineer of the Iowa Steel and Iron Works at 
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and manager of the De Croupet Iron 
Works in Detroit; at present he is part owner of the C. B. Moe 
Company, producers of metal building products. 4 Moe's part- 
ner, A. H. Nesheim from Bergen's Technical College, designed 
and promoted the Federal electric-welded solid steel window 
while he was chief engineer (and later vice-president) of the 
Federal Steel Sash Company at Waukesha, Wisconsin. This 
window was used in the Woolworth and Equitable buildings in 
New York, as well as in many industrial plants. 5 

Closely related to steel, reinforced concrete has profited in 
a singular manner from the skills of Norwegian engineers. 
Heidenreich's work discussed in an earlier chapter was 

^ a H. 0. Sundby-Hansen, in Nordisk tidende, January 25, 1917; Alstad, Trond- 
kyemsteknikemes matrikel* 82. 

2 Wong, NorsJce utvandrerej 240. 

a Femti-aars jubUceums-jestskrijt, Hortens tekniske skole 226 

4 Alstad, TiSUgg, 68. 

G Wong, NorsJce utvcmdrere, 198; Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol 1 
no. 2, p. 1 (May, 1928). ( " * 

340 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

closely rivaled by that of Herman Fougner, who graduated 
from Trondhjem's Technical College in 1897. His first expe- 
rience was in the design and erection of all types of structures 
chiefly steel and of steel freight cars. In 1900 Fougner 
became associated with Milliken Brothers, then a leading 
New York steel construction firm, and he was put in charge 
of a contract with the Russian government for the erection of 
harbor works at Port Arthur. He completed a naval basin, large 
cranes, storehouses, and magazines just in time for the Japa- 
nese to destroy most of his work during the Russo-Japanese 
War. Then followed several years in South Africa and Asia 
during which, among other things, he introduced structural 
steel buildings in South Africa. Returning to America in 1905, 
he became head of the New York office of the Trussed Con- 
crete Steel Company (later the Truscon Steel Company) of 
Youngstown, Ohio. In the next twelve years he made a thor- 
ough study of reinforced concrete and also served as a private 
consultant. 

Reinforced concrete was then still in its infancy. And few of the 
older generation of engineers and architects had any knowledge 
of the design or use of this material. Mr. Fougner saw the great 
possibilities of reinforced concrete and studied its development 
intensively. As a result he was recognized as one of the leading 
concrete engineers in the United States, and developed a large and 
profitable business for the products manufactured by the Corpora- 
tion. . . . During the years 1909 to 1911, Mr. Fougner lectured 
on reinforced concrete at Pratt Institute. 6 

Fougner's firm designed many of the leading reinforced- 
concrete structures of the period; for example, a viaduct at 
Richmond, Virginia, built on a curve then the outstanding 
work of its kind; the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel at Atlantic 
City, with the largest concrete dome then in existence; the 
Traymore Hotel, also in Atlantic City; the engineering features 
of the buildings at West Point Military Academy; and count- 
less other structures, including bridges and reservoirs. 

During the First World War, Fougner entered into partner- 
American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 96: 1480-1 48 (1932). 

341 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

ship with his younger brother Nicolay to build concrete ships. 
In 1917 Nicolay had invented and constructed the first seagoing 
concrete ship, at Moss, Norway. The Fougner Concrete Ship- 
building Company, with a contract from the United States 
Shipping Board for several ships, constructed a yard at its 
own expense and had one ship ready when the war suddenly 
ended and all contracts were canceled. 7 Herman Fougner then 
returned to his consulting business and had charge of the con- 
struction of the great plant of the Mergenthaler Linotype 
Company in Brooklyn. He was active from 1922 to 1927 as a 
contractor; in the late twenties he formed a partnership with 
Raoul C. Gautier, a French engineer and architect, and was 
chiefly engaged in designing industrial buildings, harbor im- 
provements, breakwaters, and swimming pools. During the last 
years before his death in 1932, he made a study of the engineer- 
ing aspect of handling freight motor trucks at terminals and 
warehouses; he was also granted patents on improved methods 
of floor design and layout. 8 

Nicolay Fougner, also a Trondhjem graduate, made his 
American debut with the Trussed Concrete Steel Company 
and served as inspector for the Detroit River Tunnel from 
1906 to 1908; but he returned shortly to Europe as chief 
engineer for the London branch of the same company. Trans- 
ferred to the Orient, he was put in charge of all his firm's 
undertakings east of the Suez. He planned the 156-foot dome 
of the public library in Melbourne, Australia. After the out- 
break of the first Russian revolution in 1917, he returned to 
Europe by way of Manchuria and Siberia, settling in Chris- 
tiania. 

Fougner had been studying the problem of ships for some 
years and had actually built a concrete craft, the "Buccaneer," 
at Manila in 1915. After his return to Norway he attacked the 
problem of replacing the heavy tonnage losses of the Norwe- 

T "Building a Government 3500-Ton Concrete Ship," in Engineering News- 
Record, 81:1058-1065 (December 12, 1918). 

8 Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 125; Norwegian-American Technical 
Journal, vol. 6, no. 1, p. 10 (April, 1933); Minneapolis tidende, March 31, 1932. 

342 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

gian merchant marine in the First World War. The solution, 
he felt, lay in concrete ships. In August, 1917, he produced the 
first seagoing ship of this kind in the motor-powered "Namsen- 
f jord." Despite the prevailing notion in technical and shipping 
circles that it was impossible to build ships of reinforced con- 
crete that would stand the pounding of motors and heavy seas, 
the "Namsenf jord" proved satisfactory in most respects. While 
Fougner admitted that the concrete hull was heavier than one 
of steel and that steel shells were better able to withstand light 
blows and scratches resulting from rough handling, he stated 
that the concrete ship had a greater cubic capacity and greater 
space for deck cargo. Experience also taught him that his ship 
was cheaper to build and maintain; it was less subject to 
engine vibration; and, because of its heavy hull, it required 
less ballast than the steel ship. Furthermore, its movement in 
rough seas was easier, it was more quickly repaired, was fire- 
proof, had better insulating properties for such cargoes as ice 
and fruit, and was more easily kept clean. 9 

After overcoming governmental objections to the use of 
concrete, and building additional ships in Norway, Nicolay 
entered into the American partnership with his brother Herman, 
who in the meantime had been negotiating with the shipping 
board. In October, 1917, Nicolay had conferences with a newly 
created concrete ship section of the board, organized by R. J. 
Wig; the result was that the Fougners agreed to prepare a 
shipyard before beginning actual construction. Of a total of 
twelve concrete ships actually built by all firms for the shipping 
board, one the "Polias" was constructed and launched 
late in 1918 by the Fougner company. In addition, the Foug- 
ners built the first concrete oil carriers ever ventured, for the 
Standard Oil Company of New York, in the spring of 1918. 10 In 
1923 Fougner went to Argentina as South American director 
of the Truscon Steel Company. After traveling extensively in 

N. C. Fougner, Seagoing and Other Concrete Ships, 1-6 (Oxford Technical Pub- 
lications London, 1922). 

10 Fougner, Seagoing and Other Concrete Ships, 68-85. 

343 



SAGA IN STEEL AM) CONCRETE 

South, Central, and North America, he settled permanently in 
New York City, still employed by the same company. 11 

Outstanding among the younger men who have worked 
with reinforced concrete is Inge Lyse. Before accepting a pro- 
fessorship in 1938 at the Institute of Technology in Trondhjem, 
his alma mater, Lyse was employed in research work for the 
Portland Cement Association, both in Chicago and at Lehigh 
University. During the 1930's he was professor of engineer- 
ing materials at Lehigh and director of the Fritz Engineering 
Laboratory. His publications in American and European jour- 
nals describe many tests made to determine the strength of 
concrete in various forms. His work has been amazingly bril- 
liant and his pen prolific. 12 

Closely related to the concrete story is the production of 
cement. The pioneer Norwegian engineer in the American ce- 
ment industry was Andrew Lundteigen, who studied chem- 
istry at Norway's national university in Christiania and came 
to the United States in 1887. First employed in the office of a 
Milwaukee analytical chemist, Lundteigen began his long 
career in cement in 1889, when he was made chief chemist of 
a Portland cement plant at Yankton, South Dakota. This 
project was one undertaken by a group of Milwaukee capital- 
ists and was of a frankly experimental nature. Lundteigen had 
had no previous experience with cement; in fact, little was 
known in this country about its manufacture. In 1893, while 
Heidenreich was becoming interested in reinforced concrete, 
Lundteigen journeyed to Europe and visited the cement plants 
of England, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, making 
the acquaintance of many engineers in the field. This trip was 
of the greatest value to the eager young man, who in 1900 
accepted a position as chief chemist with the Peerless Portland 

^Alstad, Trondhjemstekwkernes matrikd, 219; Alstad, Tillegg, 60. 

33 Contributions by Lyse for the period of the 1930's will be found in the Pro- 
ceedings of the American Concrete Institute, the American Ceramic Society, the 
America^ Society of Civil Engineers, and the American Society for Testing Ma- 
terials; in Tekntsk ukeblad, foment, Concrete, Beton und Eisen; in the Jownals of 
the American Concrete Institute and American Welding Society; and in Engineer- 
ing News-Record and Civil Engineering. 

344 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

Company at Union City, Michigan, and two years later became 
superintendent of the same plant. Moving to Kansas City in 
1910, he was first consulting engineer and later vice-president 
of the Ash Grove Lime and Portland Cement Company. Of 
his work it can be briefly said that he concentrated mainly on 
improved manufacture, and in 1931 he took out a patent, with 
an associate, on an improvement in the Portland cement 
process. 18 

Andrew K. Frolich, a graduate of the Ilmenau institute, was 
until recently superintendent of the Louisville (Nebraska) plant 
of the Ash Grove Lime and Portland Cement Company. He 
can pride himself on having designed and supervised one of 
the most up-to-date cement plants in the country. Following 
varied experiences in Norway and Russia, he came to America, 
largely at the urging of Lundteigen, and has been employed by 
the same company since his arrival in 1924. He was co-inventor 
of a method of returning collected cement dust to the kiln, but 
his chief pride is the fact that for many years his plant at Louis- 
ville has received the annual prize awarded by the Portland 
Cement Association for having no lost-time accidents. He is a 
brother of Per K, Frolich, the distinguished Norwegian- American 
chemist, and is now chief engineer of all plants of the Ash 
Grove Lirne and Portland Cement Company, with office in 
Kansas City. 14 

Representative of others who have contributed in one way 
or another to the cement industry is Olav S. Corneliusen, a 
graduate of the Mechanical Trade School at Porsgrund and a 
specialist in the engineering design and machinery of cement 
plants. During the first two decades of the present century, 
Corneliusen carried out important work with the mills and 
machinery of the Kent Mill Company, New York; the White- 
hall Portland Cement Company, Cementon, Pennsylvania; the 
Phoenix Portland Cement Company, Nazareth, Pennsylvania; 

18 See Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 3, no. 2, p. 10, 16 (August, 
1930); and Lundteigen*s "Notes on Portland Cement Concrete," in American So- 
ciety of Civil Engineers, Proceedings, 23:63 f. (1897). 

M Information obtained during an interview in June, 1940. 

345 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the Clinchfield Portland Cement Company, Kingsport, Ten- 
nessee; the Kentucky Portland Cement and Coal Company, 
Louisville; and the Atlas Portland Cement Company, Nor- 
thampton, Pennsylvania. After spending the years 1917 to 1922 
in Cuba, he returned to the States to become mechanical en- 
gineer for the Dexter Portland Cement Company at Nazareth, 
Pennsylvania. He died in 1925, while employed in the con- 
struction of a large cement plant in Brazil. 15 

n 

A number of the many engineers who worked on the rail- 
roads of this country had experience in surveying, but Lars 
Netland and A. M. Mosheim are peculiarly identified with this 
branch of engineering. Netland, soon after graduating from 
Trondhjem's Technical College, remodeled about 150 railway 
stations in Arkansas. In 1891 he was made office engineer of 
the Crozier Land Association at Elkhorn, West Virginia. For 
seven years he was associated with the development of coal 
land a work involving topographic mapping and the subdivi- 
sion of land into leases, the investigation of titles, considerable 
construction of power plants, railroads, coke ovens, tramways, 
roads, and the laying out of townsites and water-supply sys- 
tems. 

In 1898 Netland set out for the Klondike, where he indulged 
his love of outdoor life and engaged in a private practice of 
mine and claim surveying at Dawson. From 1900 to 1903 he 
made exploration surveys of remote parts of the Yukon Terri- 
tory as chief of a party employed by the Canadian government. 
In the years that followed, he was employed in the same work 
by the United States government during its survey of the 
Alaska-Canada boundary. Netland's party surveyed and monu- 
mented from latitude 54 to latitude 66, and a 5-mile strip along 
the entire boundary was mapped. This work completed in 
1910, Netland became resident engineer and superintendent 
for the Canadian Colleries, Limited, at Cumberland, British 

35 American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Transactions, 47:1319 (1925). 
346 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

Columbia. There he was in charge of the development of 10,000 
acres of coal land, which involved the construction of two com- 
plete towns with water-supply, light, and sewer systems; the 
erection of a hydroelectric project and a transmission line with 
substations at four mines; the creation of a standard-gauge 
railroad, the sinking of mine shafts, and the erection of coal 
tipples; and the installation of lighting systems for seven towns. 
In 1915 Netland was put in charge of the inventory and valua- 
tion of the Southern Pacific Company's coal mine at Beaver 
Hill, Oregon; in 1917-18 he was chief engineer and superin- 
tendent of the Chicaloon Coal Company in Alaska, engaged 
in driving prospect tunnels and putting up power-plant build- 
ings and transmission lines. Later going to California, he made 
surveys and engaged in various undertakings involving water- 
supply and storm sewers at Oakland, Berkeley, and San 
Francisco. 16 

Netland's rich experience was paralleled by that of A. M. 
Mosheim, who was trained as an army officer as well as an 
engineer, and was well known as a ski jumper in Norway before 
his departure for South America in 1890. He was associated 
with railroad building over the Andes between Argentina and 
Chile, and when civil war broke out in Chile in 1891 he took 
Chilean troops over the mountains by rail. Later wounded in 
the fighting, he left South America by way of Argentina and 
returned to Norway, taking employment with the state rail- 
roads. Like Netland he was attracted to the North; he arrived 
at Dawson in 1898 and spent several years in search of 
gold. He was then employed by the Canadian government as 
surveyor of gold mines and in 1904 by the United States gov- 
ernment, joining Netland in surveying the Alaska-Canada 
boundary. Each was head of a division and each had an assist- 
ant and five other men in his group. Their task was to draw 
a 650-mile line along the coastal mountains a difficult assign- 
ment carrying them through forests, glaciers, and other rough 

"Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matnkd, 75; Alstad, Tillegff, 26; American So- 
ciety of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 100:1701 (1935). 

347 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

terrain. After six years in the North, Mosheim was ordered to 
the Philippines, but, disliking the climate there, he soon left. 
He was with the American army in the First World War, and 
he later took up civil engineering on the west coast. 17 

Closely allied to surveying is map making, and in this field 
A. J. Glerum had a distinguished career. Graduating from 
Trondhjem's Technical College in 1879, he came at once to 
America and found employment with Band McNally at 
Chicago. Three years later, Glerum went to the Matthews- 
Northrup Works at Buffalo, New York, becoming superintend- 
ent of the map department. Until 1929 he was busy reproducing 
maps, his best work perhaps being the preparation of the Cen- 
tury Atlas for the Century Company of New York. The atlas 
was begun in 1895 and completed three years later; it was 
highly commended by geographic societies and explorers. He 
also made maps for various railroad companies and for school 
geographies, such as the one written by Tarr and McMurray. 
For reproducing maps he used wax engraving and copper elec- 
troplating. 18 

m 

It has already been made clear that the railroads especially 
the so-called transcontinental lines attracted large numbers 
of foreign engineers. Among the earliest Norwegians to engage 
in railroad work was a Trondhjem graduate, Jesse Didrichsen 
Koren. Koren, after his arrival in 1877, tried his hand at several 
tasks, including the development of a North Dakota homestead. 
In 1882 he became an engineer with the Soo Line, in charge 
of construction near Sault Ste. Marie. Later transferring to the 
Northern Pacific, he was shortly made responsible for all track, 
bridge, and building designs a job that later required the 
services of three men. In 1907 Koren was promoted to district 
engineer with headquarters at Spokane; his district was from 
Paradise, Montana, to EUensburg, Washington, and it included 

17 Normands-forbundets tidsskrift, 45 (February, 19&7); Normands-forbundet, 
8:27-35, 82-94 (January and February, 1915). 

"Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matriket, 37; information in Chicago archives 
of Norwegian-American Technical Society. 

348 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

many branch lines in the wheat and fruit areas of Idaho and 
Washington. For nineteen years he was in full charge of all 
engineering work in this territory. Koren was considered typical 
of the old-school engineer who migrated in the seventies and 
eighties polished, courteous, kindly, competent. 19 

Martinius Stixrud, a graduate of the Chalmers Institute at 
Gothenburg and of the Aachen Polytechnicum, spent his first 
summer in America, in 1881, with the Manitoba Railways. He 
switched to the bridge department of the Chicago, Milwaukee, 
and St. Paul Railway at Minneapolis in the fall of the same 
year. In 1883 he transferred to the Northern Pacific and was 
sent to the Pacific coast by this railroad. His experiences in- 
cluded the design of a switchback over Stampede Pass, a period 
with the Oregon Pacific Railroad, and the running of lines 
across the Cascade Mountains through Snoqualmie Pass for 
the Seattle, Lake Shore, and Eastern Railway. He designed and 
constructed the bridges of the latter railroad over the Spokane 
River. In 1890 he became city engineer of Seattle. 20 

The career of Hans Helland follows a similar pattern. Edu- 
cated at the Polytechnicum in Dresden, he emigrated in 1881 
and set his course for Texas, where railroad lines were des- 
perately needed. Helland first served as construction engineer 
for the Texas Central Railroad; in 1889 he became vice- 
president and general manager of the Central Texas and 
Northwestern and of the Fort Worth and New Orleans Rail- 
road companies. When these lines consolidated with the 
Houston and Texas Central Railroad in 1902, he became 
maintenance-of-way engineer for the entire system. Resigning 
in 1906, he located and constructed the Panhandle Short Line. 
Two years later he transferred to the San Antonio and Aransas 
Pass Railroad as maintenance-of-way engineer, remaining at 
this post until 1913, when he became city engineer of San 
Antonio. 21 

10 Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 341; Alstad, TUlegg, 103; Norwegian- 
American Technical Journal, vol. 9, no. 1, p. 5 (June, 1936). 

^American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 51:463-465 (1903)i 
21 American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 93:1824 (1929); Norwegian- 
American Technical Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 3 (May, 1928). 

349 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

The outstanding railroad pioneer in the East and for some 
time the "grand old man" of the Norwegian engineers was 
S^ren Munch Kielland, chief engineer of the Buffalo Creek 
Railroad. Kielland, a graduate of the Chalmers Institute, 
arrived in this country in 1881 and was employed by the Erie 
Railroad. His experiences in the fifty years that followed, which 
he later recorded in some detail, cover many of the tasks that 
faced an engineer in the epic period of American railroad con- 
struction. Engaged in improving and reconstructing the western 
division of the Erie Railroad, Kielland also took part in double- 
tracking and generally rebuilding the Buffalo Creek Railroad, 
designing bridges, yards, and buildings. He helped construct the 
protection along the lake shore for the Buffalo line and pre- 
pared records and maps. 

When Robert Harris, a vice-president of the Erie Railroad, 
became president of the Northern Pacific, Kielland took em- 
ployment with this line and moved to the west coast in 1885. 
He was requested to examine coal mines and start new towns 
along the Northern Pacific, chiefly in Washington. When Mon- 
tana began to develop its railroad branches near Butte and 
Helena, Kielland was transferred to that state, becoming prin- 
cipal assistant to his former superior in the East. The two 
men built several branch lines with tunnels and high trestles, 
Kielland being in charge of all field and construction work. 
The undertaking was completed in 1888, and Kielland, seeking 
rest, made a trip to the homeland. 

Upon his return to the United States, he accepted a position 
with the Lehigh Valley Railroad. His new work had to do with 
meeting the terminal requirements in and near Buffalo, the 
key link in the Great Lakes and eastern railroad transporta- 
tion. He built warehouses and docks at Buffalo, Chicago, and 
West Superior. Kielland was forced out of this company follow- 
ing a shakeup in management. He then went out to Montana 
again for the Montana Railroad Company to assist in the de- 
velopment of new lines there. Put in charge of construction, 
Kielland located several hundred miles and started construc- 

350 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

tion of the Montana Southern and Montana Midland lines, 
but the panic of 1893 and the depression that followed brought 
a halt to this work. 

Kielland returned to Buffalo in 1896 and accepted a position 
with the Buffalo Creek Railroad,, remaining with this company, 
for a long period as chief engineer, until his retirement in the 
early 1930's. He had realized early that this line held the key 
to vital expansions in and around Buffalo and he felt that it 
should be the great belt line of the Buffalo-Niagara territory. 
In the period 1897-1910, when E. F. Knibloe was general 
agent of the railroad, Kielland co-operated with him in devel- 
oping numerous projects in which the line was interested. The 
Stony Point and Terminal Junction Railroad, which later 
became the South Buffalo Railroad, was organized by Kielland 
and Stephen T. Lockwood. The two men held the charter to 
the land that was later utilized by the Lackawanna Steel Com- 
pany, the South Buffalo Railroad, and the Bethlehem Steel 
Company. Kielland, together with powerful associates, initiated 
the formation of the Niagara Transfer Railroad Company, 
which later became the property of the New York Central 
system. The establishments of the Wickwire, Dunlop, and Gen- 
eral Electric companies and other industries now occupy 
territory made available by his efforts. The Buffalo River Ex- 
tension survey was made by Kielland and C. Morse of the 
Erie line, the Buffalo Creek Railroad acquiring some of the 
most desirable right-of-way land. Thus, in the development of 
one of America's most vital transportation and industrial cen- 
ters this engineer played a leading and deeply significant role. 
He also served as Norwegian consul in Buffalo. 22 

Carl J. Printz, a graduate of Horten's Technical School, has 
devoted the major part of his career in the New World to 
mechanical engineering with large industrial firms, but for a 
time after 1906 he was superintendent of construction for the 

22 See Norden (Chicago), 2:12 (November, 1930) and 3:2-4, 23 (July, 1931); 
Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 3 (February, 1928); a 
record prepared by Kielland and made available to the present writer by Kielland's 
son, Rolf; and innumerable articles in the Norwegian-American press. 

351 



SAGA EN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company. Moving to 
Toronto, lie became Norwegian vice-consul and assumed a 
leading role in Norwegian-American activities there. 23 

Olaf Ridley Pihl, son of a distinguished railroad engineer in 
Norway, attended the Chalmers Institute in Sweden, worked 
for a time on the Norwegian railroads/ and left for Toronto 
in 1880, together with two classmates, A. L. Hertzberg, later 
a division engineer of the Canadian Pacific, and S. M. Kielland. 
Pihl moved from Toronto to Portland, Oregon, where he was 
employed by the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company 
as topographer and resident engineer on construction. Later 
he was bridge engineer for another west coast firm and in 1887 
he took employment with the federal government as assistant 
engineer in charge of constructing a canal and locks on the 
Columbia River. He planned a boat-railway scheme that over- 
came obstructions in the river between the Dalles and Celilo 
Falls. Pihl was afterwards engaged by the federal government 
at Buffalo and put in charge of reconstructing a part of the 
breakwater there. In 1900, together with Edward J. Kingston, 
he built the cofferdam, piers, foundation, and abutment for a 
movable dam and guide cribs and erected Chanoine wickets at 
Herr Island Lock and Dam in the Allegheny River, under the 
direction of the United States Engineer Office at Pittsburgh. 
In subsequent years Pihl completed numerous construction 
jobs for the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, and the Young- 
wood, Pittsburgh, and Allegheny divisions of the Pennsylvania 
Railroad. In 1906 he formed a partnership with W. B. Miller; 
as contracting engineers they completed some 300 contracts 
for railroads and steel plants before PihPs death in 1915. 24 

A complete list of the Norwegian engineers who devoted 
their best years to developing American railroads would be a 
long one indeed, but a few additional names must be men- 
tioned. One of the most important on the Pacific coast was 
Olaf Wiimingstad, trained at Zurich and Aachen, who, follow- 

** Femti-aars jubflceums-festskrift, Hortens tekniske skole, 144; Nordmands- 
forbundet,2I:$W (1928). 

^American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 80:2195-2198 (1916). 

352 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

ing his arrival in California in 1880, served for a long time with 
the Southern Pacific. 25 Joachim Sundland, who also came in 
1880, was chief engineer for the California Southern and later 
worked with the Union Pacific Railroad. 26 Lauritz N. Jenssen, 
like Sundland a graduate of the Trondhjem college, pioneered 
in Canadian railroad construction both in the East and West 
during the early years of the present century; he became 
district engineer with the Canadian Northern Ontario Rail- 
way. 27 O. J. Oien, who was educated at Christiania's Technical 
College, did noteworthy field work for the Northern Pacific 
Railway in North Dakota and Montana. Anton Wetlesen, a 
Bergen graduate employed since 1909 by the New York Cen- 
tral, is said to know every nail in his company's system. 
Frequently as many as ten or twelve Norwegians have been 
employed with him in the New York offices. Einar Weidemann, 
from the Trondhjem college, was designing engineer with the 
Pennsylvania Railroad and later structural engineer for the 
Chicago Union Station Company. 28 E. M. Tandberg, a Chris- 
tiania graduate, has served with the Northern Pacific since 
1909 and performed varied tasks for his line in the West. A 
Trondhjem man, R. A. Tanner, was assistant engineer in St. 
Paul of the water department of the same company. 29 Hugo 
Kolstad from Christiania, who has been with the Great North- 
ern Railway in St. Paul since 1907, has specialized of late in 
bridge jobs. The same is true of C. P. Berg, a Trondhjem gradu- 
ate, who is with the Chicago and North Western at Chicago. 
W. A. Gr^ndahl was for a time chief engineer of the Southern 
Pacific Railway; Haakon Christian Hauge was chief engineer 
of the Montana Midland Railroad, later holding a similar po- 
sition in the East; and T. D. B. Grjzfner has held almost every 
position, including that of chief engineer, on several American 
lines. 30 

25 Nordmands-iorbundet, 20: 128 (1927) . 

26 Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 14. 

S7 Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 80. 

28 Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel t 133. 

20 Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, p. 22 (November, 1935). 

^Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 198; Alstad, Tillegg, 56. 

353 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

IV 

Engineering extends beyond the problem of normal rail- 
roading. It includes, for example, the work of evaluation, a 
new field in which several Norwegian engineers have been 
largely engaged. Jakob Krogsti, whose preliminary technical 
education was received at Christiania, was inventory engineer 
and assistant engineer in the valuation department of the 
Northern Pacific at St. Paul until his death in 1926. 31 Haakon 
Falk, a graduate of Trondhjem's Technical College, also of 
St. Paul, is assistant valuation engineer with the same railroad 
at the present time. Others have contributed in the manufac- 
turing field; the self-trained Johan M. Andersen, for example, 
as president of the Andersen Manufacturing Company in 
Boston, pioneered in the production of overhead line material 
and molded insulation for street railways. Andersen personally 
designed much of the present-day standard equipment in this 
field, his most notable work being the design and construction 
of switches, switchboards, circuit breakers, and similar prod- 
ucts, together with purely mechanical devices, many of which 
he patented. 32 Frits Deinboll was chief bridge inspector for a 
portion of the New York Central Railroad. Erling 0yen, from 
Christiania, in the middle 1920's aroused considerable interest 
at Detroit with a patented plan for a wholly new elevated 
railway system with a single track. 33 Jens G. Schreuder, a 
graduate of Horten and Gothenburg, who was chief engineer 
and a vice-president of the Union Switch and Signal Company 
at Pittsburgh, worked out no less than 37 patented inventions 
in connection with railroad signal systems; much of this was 
done in co-operation with George Westinghouse. The electro- 
pneumatic signal apparatus now extensively used was the cul- 
mination of Schreuder's long study and application, and the 
fact that only slight changes in it have been made since his 
retirement in 1915 is a measure of his skill and efficiency. 84 

31 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 5, no. 1, p. 10 (January, 1932). 

82 American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Record and Index , 2:347 (1928). 

83 Wong, Norske utvandrere, 165. 
34 Wong, Norske utvandrere, 158, 

354 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

The technical career of one of the best-known Norwegian 
engineers in America, Frederic Schaefer, is bound up with the 
development of brake equipment for railway cars. Schaefer 
studied at the evening technical school in his native city of 
Stavanger. After being employed as chief draftsman in the 
Andersen Manufacturing Company at Boston, he arrived in 
Pittsburgh in 1902. Meeting a fellow Stavangeren, Gustav 
Benson, who was then chief engineer with the Westinghouse 
Electric Company, Schaefer took employment in this firm and 
remained there spending one year in the French affiliate 
until 1907, when he became mechanical engineer for the Sum- 
mer Steel Car Company. In 1914 he established his own firm, 
the Schaefer Equipment Company, to manufacture brake 
equipment that he had invented. Like Ruud, he was successful 
in the business field, and his equipment is now universally in- 
stalled on locomotives and passenger and freight cars. Patents 
cover at least 11 of his inventions, all of which were developed 
commercially by his company. 35 

Railroad rolling stock owes much of its development to 
Norwegian engineers, and of them none more nearly approaches 
the stature of Henrik V. von Zernikow Loss than Andrew 
Christianson. Like Loss, Christianson was a graduate of Hor- 
ten's Technical School. 

Christianson supplemented his Norwegian education with 
two years at Dresden and came to America in 1893. In Ger- 
many Christianson had prepared himself to become an engineer 
in the paper industry; his experiences in America, however, 
caused him to devote his career to the development of rolling 
stock. After shifting several times, he became draftsman in 
1900 with the Pressed Steel Car Company at Pittsburgh. Four 
months later, when the Standard Steel Car Company of Butler, 
Pennsylvania, was organized, he became their chief draftsman. 
A year later he was shop engineer. In 1902 he was given the 
additional title of chief engineer in charge of the design of 
equipment and of estimating material costs, preparing specifi- 

35 Stavanger aftvnblad, May 16, 1930; Wong, Norske utvandrere, 160. 

355 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

cations, and assembling complete data for the sales depart- 
ment. As Christiansen himself expressed it, the years after 
1902 constituted a "strenuous time, as we lived then in the 
period of transition from wood cars to all-steel cars, which in- 
volved a tremendous amount of designing." He designed the 
first all-steel passenger car about 1905 or 1906, and had it 
ready for the International Congress at Washington. Chris- 
tianson remained in this job until 1930, when the Standard 
Steel Car Company was absorbed by the Pullman Company. 

During the twenty-eight years that Christianson served in 
the key engineering position for the Standard Steel Car Com- 
pany, he also headed up a great deal of other work. He was 
in charge of the construction of the freight and passenger car 
plant at Hammond, Indiana, which was started in 1907. When 
the United States entered the First World War, he supervised 
the design of all the railroad cars used by the American army 
in France. Late in 1917 he was put in charge of the engineering 
and construction of about a thousand 9%-inch gun carriages, 
of the caterpillar type, with spare parts. For this job he had to 
enlarge the plant buildings of the Hammond passenger car 
department and also make a great many special tools. He was 
fortunate in having as an assistant L. H. Void, a Horten class- 
mate, who was considered the foremost tool designer of his day 
and had been in the employ of William Sellers for twenty- 
eight years. Void was immediately responsible for the design 
and installation of the special machinery for manufacturing 
the gun carriages. 36 Because of the excellence of Void's tools, 
his firm was able easily to outstrip its competitors. Rudolf 
Hammerstrom, a Horten graduate of 1903, was assistant chief 
engineer of ordnance and served as superintendent of manu- 
facturing. 37 

86 Void was later first chief engineer of the research bureau and first chief engi- 
neer of plant with the Standard Steel Car Company at Butler, He holds a great 
number of patents, chiefly for drills, punches, and the like, some with Rudolf Ham- 
merstrom and some with William Sellers. 

87 Hammerstrom studied the manufacture of heavy artillery in France on the 
invitation of the war department. Returning to the United States, he was named 
general superintendent in the production of 240-mm. howitzers, of which 10 were 

356 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

In the postwar period Christiansen continued to contribute 
to the evolution of the all-steel car. In 1927 he was sent to 
France to build a plant at La Rochelle which constructed sleep- 
ing and dining cars for Wagons JLits. After completing about 
180 cars, he was asked to design an all-steel sleeping and dining 
car; 120 cars of this design were built. As a result of careful 
planning, Christianson and his associates were able to reduce 
car weight some 6,000 kilograms below the old figure. When 
the Standard Steel Car Company was absorbed by Pullman, 
Christianson was assigned to special work, but in 1935 he 
became chief engineer and was assigned to the Pullman Car 
Works, Chicago. During the next five years he developed 
streamlined passenger trains and the new lightweight Pullman 
cars. In 1940, at his own request, he was appointed to the less 
strenuous position of consulting engineer for the Pullman- 
Standard Car Manufacturing Company. He died in 1942. 

It is difficult to single out particular contributions made by 
Christianson. His United States patents alone total 88 and 
they cover almost every detail of car construction. He also de- 
signed and built a forge plant and took charge of experiments 
in making forged-steel car wheels. This business was later sold 
to the American Rolling Mill Company. But he will be remem- 
bered first and last for designing and building the first all-steel 
railway passenger car in the United States. 38 

M. A. Lagreid, a graduate of Bergen's Technical College, par- 
ticipated in the construction of the first all-welded streamlined 
train and supervised the installation of the air-conditioning 
equipment on the first air-conditioned cars of the Chicago, 
Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad. Still other engineers were 
identified in one way or another with the development of roll- 
to be produced daily. He later continued to hold responsible engineering positions 
with Standard Steel Car and the United States Steel Corporation. Wong, Norske 
utvandr&re, 161. 

88 Almost nothing has appeared in print about Christianson, who was excessively 
modest and retiring. The writeup about him in Femti-aars jubil&ums-jestskrift, 
Hort^ns tekniske skole, 178, suggests none of the greatness of his work, and even the 
Chicago Tribune account (July 3, 1942) that followed his death is extremely brief. 
The record given above is the result of strenuous efforts by the writer to get in- 
formation directly from Christianson before his death. 

357 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

ing stock. Sigvald Udstad from Trondhjem was for many years 
chief engineer with a large plant in St. Charles, Missouri, that 
produced railroad cars. Carl Allme of Horten was chief drafts- 
man with the Standard Steel Car Company, where Finn Oyen, 
a graduate of Porsgrund, also served as car designer. Carl H. 
Knudsen invented in 1925 a successful new 1,000-horsepower 
locomotive of the Diesel type for the Baldwin Locomotive 
Works, where he was consultant; it was put info immediate 
use for both passenger and freight service on the Beading Rail- 
road. 39 Theodore M. Kirkby, self-taught superintendent of 
motive power and equipment for the Green Bay and Western 
Railroad Company, was associated in earlier years with the 
construction of locomotives and freight and passenger cars 
used extensively on the Milwaukee Road and the Missouri, 
Kansas, and Texas line. 

A significant contribution in the East was that of Olaf 
Garstad, assistant engineer for the New York Central Rail- 
road. During the first quarter of the present century this 
Bergen graduate had a vital part in the construction of the 
Grand Central Terminal in the heart of New York City. Gar- 
stad was assistant engineer of the division for masonry and 
foundation work for track and building structures. One of the 
novel engineering problems met in this job was that of pro- 
viding complete insulation of building foundations which 
were carried down from the street through two track levels 
in order to prevent the vibration and noise of train operation 
and street traffic from entering near-by buildings, hotels, and 
apartment houses. Construction of the terminal included the 
erection of independent structures in twenty-five city blocks, 
over two levels of tracks, and created no little interest in en- 
gineering circles. 40 

The discussion of railroads is incomplete without reference 
to J. O. Batzer, a Horten graduate who is technical superin- 

Nordmands-fprbundet,IS:5W (1925). 

40 Information in the Chicago archives of the Norwegian-American Technical So- 
ciety. 

358 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

tendent of the Chicago Union Station Company. Batzer was 
earlier chief engineer in the construction of the Burlington 
skyscraper on Jackson Boulevard. His present position, which 
he has held since 1922, involves directing the small army of 
engineers, electricians, and mechanics who are responsible for 
the perfect operation of the complex system of the Chicago 
Union Station. This, unquestionably, is the hub of passenger 
transportation in the United States. 41 

V 

It was inevitable, in the light of the expanding function of 
government, that many engineers should find their way into 
municipal, state, and federal employment. Such men as Berle 
and Aus, Pihlfeldt and Cappelen, Illstrup and Singstad were 
government employees. There are, in addition, several Nor- 
wegian engineers who, while making undeniable contributions 
in specialized technical fields, may be considered primarily 
municipal employees. 

One of the first was G. L. Clausen, a graduate of Trondhjem, 
who served as an assistant engineer in the building of Pullman, 
a suburb of Chicago, in 1880-81. Later assistant engineer for 
the federal government on the Hennepin Canal Survey, Clau- 
sen became, in 1883, village engineer of Hyde Park, a territory 
48 miles square at the northern tip of Chicago, now a part of 
the city. He held this position until 1888, when he opened an 
engineering oiEce in Chicago. Although his was a private prac- 
tice, he made a specialty of municipal work, designing and 
supervising the construction of sewer systems and waterworks 
in many cities and villages, among them Blue Island, Elmhurst, 
and other Chicago suburbs. For several years he was superin- 
tendent of the Chicago sewer department, establishing an envi- 
able reputation in this field. His firm also specialized in land 
surveying and did the field engineering for a majority of the 
city's large skyscrapers. Clausen was recognized as a sound 
authority on "loop surveying," and it is interesting to note 

41 Skandinavm, April 26, 1935; Wong, Norske utvandrere, 203. 

359 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

that he took part in the construction of a number of the build- 
ings at both the Columbian and Century of Progress exposi- 
tions. Finally, he figured in the planning of Chicago's elaborate 
underground freight tunnel system. 42 

Martinius Stixrud became city engineer of Seattle in 1890. 
He apparently "did not give satisfaction to the politicians, who 
were unable to use him and his office as they pleased. He was 
most shamefully treated, and although ousted from office, was 
completely exonerated, and came through this blackmailing 
process victorious." Before this unpleasant experience, he had 
worked with J. E. Ericson (later city engineer in Chicago) in 
preparing plans for the water and sewage systems in Seattle. 
After his ouster, Stixrud practiced as a consulting engineer in 
partnership with a C. Naesten. He carried on the most diverse 
kind of engineering. During the winter of 1892-93 he was in 
California and Mexico with a plan for irrigating 600,000 acres 
of desert land in the Colorado River basin. His proposed intake 
was on the river at Hanlon's Ferry, near Yuma. The business 
side of the project failed and Stixrud returned to the state of 
Washington, where he became engineer for the board of tide- 
land appraisers in King County. 

[He made] a very extensive survey of Seattle and Ballard Harbors, 
establishing harbor lines and waterways, and plotted the tideland 
areas at Seattle, Ballard and part of Tacoma Harbors. Especially 
for Seattle this was a work of great importance, as it dealt with the 
future plans of Seattle Harbor, railway terminals and manufactur- 
ing districts. Mr. Stixrud did not succeed in getting his general 
plan of the main part of Seattle Harbor accepted. Captain T. W. 
Symons . . . representing strong interests, had a revised plan, 
which was accepted. Mr. Stixrud's plan was one with tidal basins, 
the rise of the tide being 16 ft. Captain Symons 5 plan was for open 
waterways, which appeared to suit the immediate or near future. 

A note of frustration runs through the brilliant career of young 
Stixrud, which is climaxed by his premature death in 1901. 4a 

^Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matnkd, 21; Norwegian- American Technical 
Journal, vol. 3, no. 1, p. 15 (February, 1930), and vol. 11, no. 1, p. IS (February, 
1938); Skandinaven, April 16, 1937; and Scandia, April 7, 1938. 

48 S. T. M. B. Eaelland, in American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, 
51:463-465 (1903). 

360 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

In Texas, Hans Helland supplemented his pioneer railroad 
work by serving as city engineer of San Antonio from 1913 to 
1921, during the city's "first struggle" toward municipal im- 
provement. "It is noteworthy/ 3 we read, "that, after approxi- 
mately thirty-two years of active building and improvement 
of railroads in Texas, Mr. Helland should then take up the 
work of enlarging a pioneer city to one of metropolitan pro- 
portions." 44 After 1921 Helland engaged in private practice 
at San Antonio. 45 

The most colorful municipal figure is Anton L. Pettersen, a 
graduate of Bergen's Technical College. Following a brief 
period with the Lehigh Valley Railroad, Pettersen went to 
Passaic, New Jersey, in 1889. Interested in politics, he became 
a member of the state legislature, started an engineering firm 
of his own, and later became director of the city's communica- 
tions. He has also served in many another municipal capacity 
in the sanitary division, on the board of freeholders, and, 
for five years, as city engineer. 46 

Of the younger men, one of the most promising is Erling A. 
Normann, engineer-examiner in Chicago for the federal gov- 
ernment. A graduate of Trondhjem's Technical College, he 
came to America in the twenties and was put in charge of 
engineering in office and field for the Blue Bell Construction 
Company. In 1935 he became designing engineer with the 
sanitary district of Chicago during the construction of its 
$70,000,000 improvement project, which included the largest 
sewage treatment plant in the world. Later he was put in 
charge of the structural design of the major sections of the 
Chicago River Controlling Works. Since 1938 he has been 
employed by the United States government. 47 

In villages, towns, and counties the country over, Norwe- 
gian engineers have served in one official capacity or another, 

44 American Society of -Civil Engineers, Transactions, 93:1824 (1929). 
^Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 6; Norwegian-American Technical 
Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 3 (May, 1928). 

"Minneapolis tidende, October 3, 192$; Nordisk tidende, September 25, 1924. 
47 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, p. 9 (February, 1938) . 

361 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

and practically every city of importance has employed others 
in positions both large and small. Chicago and Minneapolis 
have drawn most heavily on the supply of available men. 48 
There have been times when the conversation in the Minne- 
apolis city drafting rooms has been an effortless Norwegian. 
Representative of the city engineer group is a Trondhjem man, 
John Stedje, structural engineer in the Chicago department 
of public works, who had a significant part in the building of 
the vast Union Station of that city, of Wacker Drive, and of 
at least a half-dozen bascule bridges. In the West, 0. S. Willum- 
sen, of Seattle, is a good example of the state employee; in 
1930 he made an early report for the federal government on 
the Grand Coulee Dam project; he has also been employed in 
the national forest service. Willumsen is a graduate of Chris- 
tiania's Technical College. 

VI 

The young engineer always carried the hope of becoming 
chief engineer; and despite the tendency of some owners to 
favor native Americans for this position, a surprising number 
of immigrants achieved their goal. Apart from the chief en- 
gineer's importance in the technical life of this country, he was 
also as we have indicated a pole of attraction in the immi- 
gration story. If he chanced to be Norwegian, it was certain 
that he would draw young countrymen by the dozen. 

Gustav Benson, who like Schaefer worked in the Stavanger 
shipyards and attended the local evening technical school, 
came to Pittsburgh in the early 1890's. He became associated 
with the Westinghouse Electric Company, and in the hard 
years after 1893 was a friendly counselor to graduates of the 
schools of his homeland, employing a considerable number of 
them. 49 Though few have enjoyed Benson's popularity, many 
have held similar posts. Otto Julius Andreason, who was 
responsible for projects in Canada, Mexico, and Cuba, as well 

48 See, for example, Carl G. 0, Hansen, in Skandinaven, September 11, 1936; this 
article is one of a series entitled "Tvillingbyernes norske saga." 
* 9 Stavanger aftenblad, September 28, 1929. 

362 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

as in the United States, was recently chief engineer for the 
famous New York firm of William Barclay Parsons. 50 Axel 
Wallem, a graduate of Bergen's Technical College, for a time 
made his living by playing the piano. He became chief engineer 
and superintendent of the Harrison Safety Boiler Works of 
Philadelphia, now the Cochrane Corporation. He was also sec- 
retary, vice-president, and general works manager of this 
company, which specializes in steam power-plant products; his 
many executive duties did not prevent him from inventing a 
number of items, among them the famous Cochrane multiport 
relief valve. 51 

In Chicago, I. H. Faleide, who was also educated at Bergen, 
is now vice-president of the McKenzie-Hauge Company. He 
was chief engineer of the Folwell Engineering Company for 
twenty-four years and thus had charge of designing and super- 
vising the construction of grain elevators, flour and feed mills, 
industrial plants, concrete bridges, and the like. 52 Thomas Pet- 
tersen, an 1896 graduate of Christiania, was a popular chief 
engineer for the Peabody Coal Company. For a time he oper- 
ated an automobile company of his own, and before his death 
he became chief engineer for the MacDonald Engineering Com- 
pany, in the last capacity supervising the construction of 
cement plants in Moscow, Russia. 53 A Trondhjem graduate, 
Ludwig Skog, was vice-president and chief engineer for Sargent 
and Lundy, Inc., before becoming a partner in this large and 
significant firm. 54 

About the country Norwegian engineers have held and still 
hold leading positions in an amazing number of industries and 
technical undertakings. Sverre Trumpy, trained at Berlin, was 
in charge of the engineering department and drafting room of 
the Gisholt Machine Company of Madison, Wisconsin. 55 Hans 

60 Skandinaven, December 10, 1926. 

61 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 10, no. 1, p. 6 (February, 1937). 

62 Wong, Norske utvandrere, 204; Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 1, 
no. 3, p. 5 (September, 1928). 

58 Skandinaven, October 19, 1934; Scandta, October 18, 1934; and Norwegian- 
American Technical Journal, vol. 10, no. 1, p. 5 (February, 1937). 

64 Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. 5, no. 1, p. 10 (January, 1932). 
56 American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Transactions, 39:1, 241 (1917). 

363 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Nickolias Halversen was mechanical head of the Kimble Glass 
Company, Vineland, New Jersey, and before 1910 had a varied 
career in the type and automobile industries. 56 Sverre Lund, 
from Trondhjem, was chief engineer of the Eastern Bridge and 
Structural Company of Worcester, Massachusetts. Finn Math- 
iesen, who studied at Horten and Christiania, held a similar 
position for a time with v the great architect, D. H. Burnham 
of Chicago. John Mosby, a Trondhjem graduate, was head of 
the mechanical engineering department and superintendent of 
the gas compressing station and the gasoline absorption plants 
of the People's National Gas Company, the Reserve Gas Com- 
pany, and the Hope Natural Gas Company in West Virginia, 
Pennsylvania, and Ohio. 

At Detroit Carl J. Oxford, who received his technical edu- 
cation at the University of Michigan, is chief engineer of the 
National Twist Drill and Tool Company and author of many 
inventions in metal-cutting tools; Einar Almdale is factory 
manager of the Midland Steel Products Company, and was 
the inventor, among other things, of a commonly used welded 
nut. Alf J^rgen Strjzfmsted, a graduate of Norway's Institute 
of Technology and co-engineer for the electrical design of the 
Wards Island sewage treatment works for New York City, is 
chief electrical engineer with George G. Sharp of the same city. 
Sigurd Neatwait, who was also trained at Norway's Institute, 
is chief engineer of the Republic Fireproofing Company in 
New York. Oscar Wilhelm Lilliedahl, representing Porsgrund, 
holds the same position with the Logan Engineering Company 
in Chicago. Einar A. Johnson was chief mechanical engineer 
for the American Gas and Electric Company. Carl Stenbol, 
inventor of a wind alarm for the protection of ore and coal 
bridges, is chief engineer of the Algoma Steel Corporation at 
Sault Ste. Marie, while Otto Holm Anderson holds a similar 
position with the National Steel Car Corporation, Limited, of 
Hamilton, Ontario. And 0. J. Skawden, a graduate of the Insti- 

58 American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Transactions, vol. 56, record and 
index, p. 20 (1934) . 

364 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

tute, is chief engineer of the Sutton Engineering Company of 
Belief onte, Pennsylvania. 

The most casual reading of the publications of the Norwe- 
gian technical schools is sufficient to demonstrate how incom- 
plete is the list given above. We find that Johannes Fredrik 
Devoid (Trondhjem) was chief engineer with the Williams 
Engine Works and the Webster Manufacturing Company of 
Chicago; Berthel Michael Krohn (Bergen) with the Phoenix 
Bridge Company of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania; Ole Oftedal 
(Horten) with the American Shipbuilding Company of Buffalo; 
Matheus Iversen Funder (Trondhjem) with the Diamond Alkali 
Company of Painesville, Ohio; Reinhardt Daae (Bergen) with 
the Marchall Foundry Company at Pittsburgh; Einar Martin 
Arentzen (Trondhjem) with the Joy Manufacturing Company 
of Franklin, Pennsylvania; Thomas Edward Kul0 (Trondhjem) 
with the Lion Manufacturing Company of Chicago; and Finn 
Berger Hudson (Trondhjem) with the Ghent Motor Company 
of Ottawa, Illinois. Our task, happily, is not to exhaust the 
list but merely to illustrate the extent to which the immigrant 
engineers of Norway's schools climbed to the top engineering 
positions in an infinite variety of American industries and thus 
figured both in the flow of immigration and in the technical 
story of production. 

vn 

It is frequently but a short step from the practice of engi- 
neering to the operation of a business. The Norwegian engineers 
as a group, however, have proved to be far less able as business- 
men than as technicians, despite several outstanding exceptions 
of the Tinius Olsen, Edwin Ruud, and Frederic Schaefer type. 
The reader will have observed that many of the men under 
consideration in this volume quit engineering positions to ex- 
ploit inventions or otherwise to assume the risks of business. 
Most of them later returned to resume former or similar engi- 
neering positions. Some of the exceptions will be discussed here. 

Most of the modern buildings in New York and in other 

365 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

cities are supplied with brass fire-extinguishing equipment pro- 
duced by Albert E. Hansen, president of the Elkhart Brass 
Manufacturing Company of Elkhart, Indiana. Hansen's pat- 
ented fire department nozzles will be found in Radio City, the 
Minneapolis Foshay Tower and the Auditorium, the St. Paul 
post office, and 27 of the new federal buildings in Washington, 
D. C., to mention only a few modern structures. Hansen, a 
graduate of the Christiania Technical Evening School, came 
to the United States in 1889, and continued his studies at a 
Chicago evening school. For a while he served as foreman of a 
bicycle firm. In 1901 he founded his present company. 57 

A most interesting firm is an airbrush company established 
by Jens A. Paasche of Chicago. Paasche received his first tech- 
nical training under a Trondhjem gunmaker and then worked 
in the Kongsberg gun factory. Coming to Chicago in 1900, he 
was soon part owner of the Wold Airbrush Company. Realizing 
that he had found the line that interested him most, Paasche 
in 1904 sold his interests in the Wold firm and founded the 
Paasche Brothers Airbrush Company, together with a brother 
who left the firm shortly after the business was started. The 
company at first repaired old brushes and business was good. 
Paasche watched his plant grow until about 140 persons were 
employed and he had some 40 branches and offices in the United 
States and Canada. His clients were everywhere. Paasche's 
many inventions, about 60 of which are patented, are incor- 
porated in the airbrushes, the most modern of their kind, that 
he now produces in great quantities. The brush holder looks 
like a revolver; various types of brushes may be inserted into 
it. The airbrush is used to paint automobiles, airplanes, houses, 
bridges, machines, china, furniture, cheap industrial products, 
and the steel skeletons of skyscrapers. It is claimed that a 
painter can do an ordinary week's work in two days with one 
of the airbrushes. 

The full importance of the airbrush, in the development of 
which Paasche has had a major part, has been emphasized in 

w Skandinawen, February 1, 1985. 

366 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

the Journal of the Norwegian-American Technical Society. For 
example, the brush is so accurately controlled that in art work 
the veins in the human eyeball, even on a miniature portrait, 
can be easily reproduced. The brush also makes possible real- 
istic freehand air drawings; exceptionally fine detail and delicate 
light and shadow effects result. In general, according to the 
Journal, the most accurate reproduction of art works requires 
air to give life to the copy, some authorities even arguing that 
the masterpieces of the future must be "air processed" if they 
are to be realistically reproduced. 58 

Paasche had to develop many airbrushes before his present 
universal convertible, multi-head brush was perfected. It can 
be used with any material, from the lightest paints to asphalt 
and rubber cement; it will also paint anything from the finest 
line to a band 52 inches wide, and it operates on high or low 
pressure. Paasche's equipment is now standard for all finishing 
and coating operations in factories the world over. Surveys 
conducted among a hundred of the leading industrial concerns 
using his equipment show an average yearly saving of 77.83 
per cent over previous painting methods. It was found that 
many decorative effects could be achieved with the airbrush 
veiling, tinting, and stenciling, for example. In industry, the 
product to be coated may be placed on a turntable or a chain 
conveyor moving toward a coating station; here one, two, three, 
or even four colors may be applied at one time with perfect 
uniformity. The speed of the painting process is regulated only 
by the loading and unloading capacity of the conveyor opera- 
tors. Paasche also developed portable machines for use by 
master painters, contractors, and decorators for air painting 
and coating houses, hospitals, and other buildings, both ex- 
terior and interior. 59 

When one considers the prominence of Norwegian chemical 
engineers in the cellulose field, it is not surprising to find a 
New York firm, G. D. Jenssen and Company, specializing in 

58 Volume 5, no. 1, p. *, 11 (January, 1932). 

50 See also Skandinaven, November 2, 1935, and July 12, 1940; Nordmamds- 
forbundet, 21:123 (1928); and Wong, Norske utvandrere, 211. 

367 



SAGA EH STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the production of reinforced concrete acid towers and the 
special machinery used in cellulose plants. Two Norwegian 
engineers, G. D. Jenssen and 0. I. Berger, graduates respec- 
tively of Trondhjem and Christiania, co-operated in this 
project, which resulted in a wide manufacturing and consult- 
ing business. 60 

There are three Milwaukee factories that are unique in that 
they have no competitors; all of them have resulted from the 
initiative of a Norwegian engineer, Haakon T. Olsen. The first 
is the Arto Engineering Company, which turns out machines 
used in various industries, but chiefly in the production of 
automobiles and radios. His Pulp Reproduction Company 
makes cellulose articles, and the Counter and Control Com- 
pany produces control machines used in all mass production. 
Olsen studied at Christiania and Karlsruhe. 61 

vin 

An engineer might, after having acquired a technical repu- 
tation, organize a consulting office; this was a common practice, 
especially among the earlier arrivals. Thus, though engaged in 
business, the engineer remains an engineer, having merely 
decided to strike out alone in hopes of attaining greater inde- 
pendence or increased financial gain. Men like Olaf Hoff, 
Henrik von Zernikow Loss, and other Norwegians did some 
of their best work in America while serving as consulting engi- 
neers. It is also true that many, perhaps most, returned to 
the greater security and the concentration on purely technical 
problems that go with working for others. 

An outstanding example of a successful consulting engineer 
was Nathan T. Ronneberg of Chicago, a graduate of Bergen 
and Darmstadt. In 1901 Ronneberg and S. C. Anker Holth 
opened the engineering office of Holth and Ronneberg, which 
lasted only a short time before Holth was called away on special 
experimental work. Ronneberg next went into partnership 
with O. J. Westcott, who was formerly chief engineer for the 

80 Wong, Norske utvandrere, 75. 

61 Magnus Bj0rndal, in Nordmanns-forbundet, 12:397 (1939). 

368 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

Illinois Steel Company. During the nine years that they were 
together, they did the engineering work for more than 50 
theaters, numerous office and factory buildings, hotels, and 
bridges. In 1910 Ronneberg sold his interest in the firm, to 
Westcott and returned to Norway for a rest. One year later he 
was back in America, starting a new business with one of his 
former draftsmen, R, G. Pierce. They maintained offices in 
the Otis Building in Chicago for seventeen years, during which 
they planned and financed over 60 laundries and Ronneberg 
became one of the foremost authorities on modern laundry 
construction. When In 1928 Pierce left the company, Ronne- 
berg took his son, Earl F,, into the business and adopted the 
firm name of N. Ronneberg^ Inc. From then until his death 
in 1939 he was active in plasming and financing modern hotels, 
apartment hotels, and large apartment projects, as well as in 
straight industrial engineering work. 62 

Not infrequently engineers are enticed by the possibilities 
in the construction field and enter into contracting, where their 
technical knowledge naturally proves of inestimable value. 
Harold A. Boedtker, of Trondhjem's Technical College, for 
example, abandoned railroad engineering to become a railroad 
construction contractor; alter 1890 he was a partner in the 
Heidenreich Company, which specialized in grain elevator con- 
struction. This company tlien branched out into general 
construction and built, among other things, two sections of 
the Chicago sanitary district drainage canal and the govern- 
ment locks on the Hennepin Canal, the last under Boedtker ? s 
direct supervision. In 1895 he organized H. A. Boedtker and 
Company and obtained several large railroad construction con- 
tracts, finishing this work in 1903. He then contracted with 
the state of New York to build a part of the revived Erie 
Canal; he had been engaged for further construction on the 
canal when he died in 19Q5J* 3 

62 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 3, no. 1, p. 5 (February, 1930); 
Stavanger aftenblad, February 1, 1930; Festskrift ved Berg ens tekniske skoles 
85-aars jubilceum, 60. 

03 Norwegian-American Techmcal Journal, vol. , no. 1, p. 15 (March, 1929); 
Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikemes matrikel, 43. 

369 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

A leading Norwegian contractor who has an engineering 
background is J, A. Holmboe, retired, of Oklahoma City. 
Holmboe, following graduation from Christiania's Technical 
College, worked up from draftsman and, like so many others, 
did a great deal of estimating and drafting for a number of 
buildings at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. He was des- 
tined, however, to spend his best years in the South; he worked 
for the Louisville Bridge and Iron Company during a boom 
period and later branched out as a consulting engineer, under- 
taking building and bridge designs and carrying on a general 
engineering practice. While thus employed he became estima- 
tor in the field of construction for a large southern contracting 
firm. This contact, the discovery of his chief interest con- 
tracting and his financial ambitions shaped his later life. But 
before entering the contracting business independently, he 
served as vice-president and chief engineer for the Sneed Archi- 
tectural Iron Company of Louisville and was employed as 
consulting engineer in the building of the first phosphate plant 
in Florida, made entirely of reinforced concrete. In the summer 
of 1909 he moved to Oklahoma City and thereafter engaged 
continuously in building construction, chiefly in Oklahoma and 
Texas. He executed about $15,000,000 in contracts and earned 
a reputation for quality workmanship and great integrity. 64 

Mention will be made of a few others who engaged as con- 
sulting engineers or building contractors. F. C. H. Arentz, of 
Trondhjem, was engineer and contractor for steel construction 
at Joliet, Illinois, from 1908 until shortly before his death in 
1939. 65 Olaf Otto from Porsgrund and Strelitz, after serving 
in the drafting department of the Tennessee Coal and Iron 
Company, in 1911 went into business in Savannah as a civil 
engineer and general contractor. His most important work 
was the construction of the Savannah Bridge for the state high- 
way departments of Georgia and South Carolina. The bridge 

64 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 5, no. 1, p. 6 (January, 1932) . 
^Alstad, Trondhjemstelemkernes mcttrikd, 35; materials in Chicago archives of 
Norwegian-American Technical Society. 

370 



ENGINEERS AND ENGINEERING 

is about five miles long and crosses three large rivers and sev- 
eral creeks. 66 Edward M0rch Fasting, a graduate of Bergen's 
Technical College, is the owner of the E. M. Fasting Con- 
struction Company of Chicago. On the west coast Peter H. 
Hostmark, a graduate of the Institute of Technology at 
Trondhjem, has been doing engineering work on a contract 
basis in Seattle since 1931; his projects include the North 
Beach sewage and drainage system of Seattle and the Howe 
Sound Ore Mill at Chelan, Washington. Before World War II 
Hostmark was one of the most vigorous promoters of the ski 
sport in the Seattle area, and during the war he was ground 
rescue officer of the American First Arctic Search and Rescue 
Squadron in Greenland. 67 

00 Materials in Chicago archives of Norwegian-American Technical Society. 
67 Washington postm, June 23, 1944. 



371 



MACHINES: 
THEIR 

MAKERS AND THE careers of such men as Anker 

Holth, Edwin Kuud, Tinius Olsen, 
MASTERS von Zernikow Loss, and Carl Earth 

give ample evidence that in the field 
of mechanical engineering the immi- 
grant Norwegians made important contributions to modern life. 
When, as frequently happens, these men and their work are 
isolated from the larger group to which they belong, they are 
seen in false perspective; they were merely the conspicuous 
leaders of a small but constant stream of mechanical engineers 
who began their trek from the homeland in the 1860's and 
continued to arrive on American shores until very recently. It 
was natural that the graduates of Horten's Technical School 
should have been prominent particularly in the nineteenth 
century in the development of the mechanic arts and the 
machine, since they were the first of the Norwegian group to 
appear in this country; and their education, based as it was on 
theoretical fundamentals, equipped them peculiarly well for the 
many-sided developments that were a part of our national eco- 
nomic life. Their ranks, however, were soon swelled by men 
from Trondhjem, Christiania, Bergen, Porsgnmd, and else- 
where and by not a few who left Europe without benefit of 
a formal technical education. 

I 

In the mechanical engineers the dominant characteristic is 
inventiveness. In fact the interested student must discard, in 
this case, any rigid distinction between engineering and inven- 
tion as he must necessarily also erase the line that separates 
"pure" from "applied" science in the general story of engineer- 
ing. The routine application of skills is the only contribution, 

372 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

though a valuable one, of some engineers; but what is more 
frequently the case is that engineers of all types, while in the 
line of duty, are constantly inventing new processes, adding 
something to the work of their predecessors, and projecting 
new lines of investigation for those who follow. This is notable 
with the mechanical engineers, a fair number of whose contri- 
butions may properly be called inventions. 

When discussing inventions and inventors, especially in a 
volume that focuses interest on personalities, it is well to keep 
several thoughts clearly in mind. The extremely individualistic 
interpretation of invention, once so common, must definitely 
be abandoned, for as one writer has expressed it, it "obscures 
the laws of interdependence between the inventive genius and 
economic society." When viewed in historical perspective, in- 
ventions are in other words as much the product as the 
cause of the machine age; it is the collective urge of technical 
and economic life far more than conscious motive that "fur- 
nishes the background and presupposition of their [the inven- 
tors 9 ] activities" and forces the student to recognize a "duality 
of collective atmosphere and individual inspiration/' 1 Further- 
more, mechanical invention, which Americans tend to associate 
largely with their own continent, swept over western Europe 
and came to the New World with those who settled it. The 
American inventor, regardless of birth and training, is con- 
stantly drawing upon a technical heritage, and his work is 
rooted in principles that are distinctly European. Nor is there 
anything fundamental in American nature to make us more 
inventive than other peoples. Yet it is a fact that "the social 
and economic effect of invention is nowhere so apparent" as 
in the United States, and one searches in vain for "more daring 
experiments in engineering." In the words of Waldemar Kaempf- 
fert, "nowhere is the machine more in evidence; nowhere has 
the industrialization of old crafts been carried so far; and no- 
where is the future state of mechanized society so clearly f ore- 

1 Carl Brinkmann, "Invention," in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 8: 47- 
249 (New York, 1932). By permission of the Macmillan Company, publishers. 

373 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

shadowed. In the wilderness of what was destined to become the 
United States, with unlimited resources, the inventive genius 
of western European settlers, untrammeled by tradition, found 
free play/' 2 Finally, directed invention whether sponsored 
by private or public groups has come to assume a dominant 
role in our technical life. Great laboratories, experimental sta- 
tions, and the various departments of rationalized industry, in 
which many well-trained minds pool their ideas as well as the 
work of their skilled hands, are rapidly taking the place of gifted 
individuals; to a large extent they have already "exchanged 
the creative and individual for the cumulative and collective 
function/* 3 thus pulling the curtain on the heroic act of a pio- 
neer age that is passing and preparing for another great era. 

n 

What sets the immigrant engineer apart in the story of me- 
chanical engineering is the fact that in him are combined the 
actual migration of the technical heritage and the training 
needed for cultivating the almost limitless potentialities of the 
American economic scene. The Norwegian engineers, who were 
in no sense unusual and were relatively late in arriving, con- 
tributed their full share of inventors. Some of them have al- 
ready been discussed here; there are others who have received 
recognition only within limited technical circles. 

One prominent inventor among the Norwegian engineers is 
a graduate and former instructor of Trondhjem's Technical 
College, 0. G. Halvorsen, who now lives in Chicago. He became 
professor of mechanical and marine engineering at the school in 
1908 after having studied advanced mathematics at the Sor- 
bonne; he remained at this post until 1921, when he left with 
his family for America. At Trondhjem he had made an extensive 
study of ship propellers and had designed what is known, as 
the Halvorsen propeller. While investigating the flow of water 

'Kaempffert, "Invention as a Social Manifestation," in Chailes A. Beard ed, 
A Century of Progress, 22 (Chicago and New York, 1933) . 

Brinlonann, in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 8: 250. By permission of the 
MacrmHan Company, publishers, 

374 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

as it passes over an ordinary propeller blade, Halvorsen found 
that it spreads out radially, thereby reducing the diameter of 
the column of water against which the propeller thrusts. After 
making about 2,000 tests extending over a period of about seven 
years, he discovered the law for this radial movement of the 
water. The propeller that he designed eliminates the wastes 
created by ordinary blades. In Chicago Halvorsen established a 
business to manufacture a screw propeller which has been 
widely used as a brine circulator in ice plants and cooling and 
mixing devices. He is disappointed over the failure of ship- 
builders to adopt his propeller in seagoing vessels. 4 

Few men have so many inventions credited to them as does 
H. 0. Hem, consultant with the Toledo Scale Company. At the 
age of eight, he constructed an ingenious steam turbine and 
several steam engines of the slide-valve type. Two years later 
he was designing and building a sewing machine. Significantly, 
one of his many other boyhood products was a set of weighing 
scales. Hem arrived in the United States in 1882, and in 1889 
he became engineer with the H. N. Strait Manufacturing Com- 
pany of Kansas City, producers of weighing scales. Becoming 
chief engineer, superintendent, and vice-president, he designed 
a whole line of Monarch scales, cooperage machinery, hay 
baling presses, and many other devices. He later developed a 
line of Strait scales ranging in size from 16 by 24-inch platforms 
to railroad track scales with platforms 100 feet long. In 1915 he 
became consulting engineer with the Toledo Scale Company 
and in 1928 chief engineer. Again he designed a new line of 
scales, including heavy-capacity ones, and some special instru- 
ments required by the government in the First World War. 

Since then he has designed scales to determine the center of gravity 
of connecting rods, such as are used in automobile and airplane 
engines, also for standardizing the weight of reciprocating parts 
making them interchangeable, and scales to determine the wearing 
qualities of automobile tires. He also has designed many types of 
special scales used in wind tunnels in aeronautical tests, and 
machines for determining the weight of commodities passing over 

4 Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikd, 126; Alstad, Tttlegg, 36; Skandinaven, 
November 7, 1932. Halvorsen also supplied additional information. 

375 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

a conveyor belt, for integrating the power of extruding machines, 
for automatically weighing predetermined loads, for testing spring 
and water meters, for determining gas and air consumption in 
engines and turbines and for testing and automatically sorting 
compression springs such as are used in automobiles, valve springs, 
clutch springs, springs for knee action and for automatically 
counterbalancing the tare of cars moving over scales. One ^ of* his 
most noteworthy inventions is the universal testing machine, in 
which the power is applied by hydraulic means and the reaction 
counterbalanced by levers and automatic pendulum indicating 
mechanism. One of the difficult scale problems which he solved 
was the automatic weighing of loaded cars hoisted out of a mine 
and containing varying proportions of slate and coal, the cars 
themselves being of different sizes and weights. The scale he de- 
signed weighs without an attendant and records the net amount 
of coal in each car regardless of the amount of slate, the factors 
being the cubic content of the cars and the specific gravity of coal 
and slate. At present (1938) he is manufacturing a scale that will 
determine the air pressure on large tunnels under construction in 
Russia. 5 

In 1932 Hem was awarded the John Price Wetherill medal 
by the Franklin Institute, "in consideration of the ingenuity 
shown in perfecting scales of the pendulum type, improving 
their accuracy, reliability, and sensitiveness, and the application 
of these scales to specific purposes." 6 Altogether Hem has taken 
out patents on more than 100 inventions, which include steam 
and gas engines, centrifugal pumps, cranes, and machine tools, 
as well as the items mentioned above. 7 

Hem's inventive genius was applied in the field of aviation 
during World War II. Most important of his contributions to 
the war effort was the design of all-important wind tunnel 
measuring systems in the United States. The chief device in 
these tunnels is a scale that accurately measures and records 
all the forces acting on a plane in flight. His equipment, fur- 
thermore, was used in icing, pressure, and altitude tunnels. His 

B National Cydopcedia of American Biography, Current volume E, p. 487 (New 
York, 1938). 

6 Toledo System, vol. 26, no. 6, p. 2 (June, 1932) . For other items about Hem's 
honors and awards, see Toledo System, vol. 30, no. 7, p. 2 (July, 1936); vol. 32, 
no. 1, p. 8 (January, 1938); Vol. 32, no. 4, p. 3 (April, 1938). 

7 For more information, see Minneapolis tidende, September 14, 1927, and June 9, 
1932; Sjtnner af Norge, 30:110 (April, 1933). 

376 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

scales also made it possible to measure the torque of a plane's 
engine and its fuel and oil consumption. Almost all dyna- 
mometer installations in this country are the products of his 
skill. Hem also introduced devices to wqigh planes, especially 
heavy bombers, and to determine the distribution of weight, as 
well as the center of gravity, in these craft. 8 

John Graw Rock, who received his early technical education 
at Trondhjem, organized John G. Rock and Company and later 
the Volute Spring Shock Absorber Company of New Rochelle 
and Mt. Vernon, New York, to manufacture his invention, the 
Rex automobile shock absorber. Because of financial reverses, 
he abandoned the business in 1915 and thereafter worked for 
other firms. In Norway he was author of a reference book for 
engineers and mechanics. His many inventions in America in- 
clude safety doors for street and railroad cars, safety stop 
devices for railroad cars, a safety clutch for factory shaftings, 
automatic grease cups for loose pulleys, an internal combustion 
turbine, a non-explosive kerosene stove, a reversing timer for 
gasoline motors, the double volute spring, a thread and milling 
machine, a machine lap for taper holes, tool holders, a shutter 
for moving-picture machines, parts for electric batteries, gaso- 
line and kerosene motors, timers, carburetors, wire-bending and 
spring-winding machines, and various tools. 9 

Thorvald Naglestad Garson's name broke into the news in 
1917, at a time of labor shortages and high wages, in connection 
with an electric crane operated on an entirely original principle. 
Employing a single drum and one line, it did all the necessary 
hoisting and swinging and quickly proved itself in a munitions 
plant, where it was used to load ammunition onto railroad cars. 
Using this crane, one man was able to do the work that had 
required twelve. 10 Garson, a graduate of Horten's Technical 
School, has earned a reputation as a competent engineer. 

Bjarne Schieldrop, a Bergen graduate, was associated with 
the American Window Glass Company and the Libby-Owens 

8 Industrial Aviation, vol. 3, no. 6, p. 30, 58 (December, 1945). 

9 American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Record and Index,. B: 354 (1929). 
Nordisk tidende, July 12, 1917; Nordmands-forbundet, 10:444 (1917). 

377 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Sheet Glass Company as fuel engineer, and later served as di- 
rector of the glass department in the Blaw-Knox Company of 
Pittsburgh. He has taken out many patents for bettering glass 
and steel ovens. One noteworthy invention is a so-called dolomite 
machine which is reputed to have solved a problem that beset 
the steel industry for some twenty years; it is now produced by 
Blaw-Knox. 11 

Sigurd B0e saw the possibilities in slag as a building material, 
allied himself with a chemical engineer, Einar Christensen, and 
produced the bobrick stone. The usable coke in the slag is first 
removed and the residue is then mixed with cement and shaped 
into convenient building forms. Bjzte's firm, the National Build- 
ing Unit Corporation, with main office in Philadelphia, claimed 
that its bricks were fireproof and almost soundproof. 12 

The Hofgaard Remington Corporation was organized in the 
twenties to produce a calculating machine invented by Rolf 
Hofgaard. His machine, known as the "business brain," com- 
bined features of many other machines; a cash register, book- 
keeper, and adding machine, it records a full account of every 
sale, with deductions, discounts, and the like, and gives a final 
total. Hofgaard's system, which was based on original mathe- 
matical research and is incorporated in his machine, was later 
taken over by the National Cash Register Company, which has 
not marketed the product. It is interesting to note that Rolf 
is the son of Elias Hofgaard, the Norwegian educator who 
constructed a machine on which the blind can write; Helen 
Keller was reputedly trained in the principles of the Hofgaard 
method. 13 

The announcement was made in 1933 that John Selvik had 
invented a machine that would produce fiber for the manu- 
facture of sacking, thereby eliminating the need for imported 
material. Selvik, a Horten graduate, patented an economical 
method of turning hemp or flax into fiber. 14 

31 Nordisk tidende, November 5, 1925. 

13 Nordmands-forbundet, 19:286 (1926); 22:244 (1929). 

Nordmands-forbundet, 22:201 (1929). 

14 Minneapolis tidende, February 16, 1933; Nordmanns-forbundet, 2'6:128 (1933). 

378 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

Of great importance to the dairy industry are the inventions 
of A. I. Stamsvik of Pittsburgh, a Trondhjem graduate who 
came to America in 1926. His process of pasteurizing milk is 
now considered best and most efficient and is standard over 
all Canada and the United States, Stamsvik's method grew 
out of the invention of a heat exchanger that he originally used 
as a cooler for lubricating oil. Licenses under Stamsvik's patents 
have been sold to several manufacturers, for some of whom he 
has been consulting engineer. One of his latest inventions is a 
cold raw filter which he himself began to manufacture in a 
small plant in Grove City, Pennsylvania. The business grew 
so rapidly that he moved the firm to Pittsburgh in 1941. The 
filter machine, which is also used for cream and ice cream mix- 
tures, has been approved by the department of agriculture and 
the health departments of the forty-eight states as the finest 
now in use, 15 

It has been mentioned that many Norwegian engineers 
have been employed by the Great Northern Railway in St. 
Paul. One of this group, Georg B. Anthonisen, has invented 
a new kind of railroad track. He has experimented with rails, 
spikes, and tieplates. Several features of the resultant track, 
which he hopes to see adopted, are: a twisted spike, which the 
inventor claims gives up to 70 per cent more resistance to 
pulling than the present standard straight-cut spike; a rail with 
concave base; tieplates with a key arrangement; and clearance 
of the rail flange by the spikes, which reduces the forces nor- 
mally loosening the spikes. Anthonisen, a graduate of the 
Ilmenau Polytechnicum, also invented a basically new propul- 
sion method and a new tank principle, both of which have 
been carefully studied by the navy. Since the latter are allied 
with national defense, no attempt has been made to patent 
them." 

Typical of the many Norwegian machinists who have made 

1K Nordwk tidmde, April 9, 194&; Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. 11, 
no. &> p. 10 (December, 1938). 

M Information supplied by Anthonisen. See also Norwegian-American Technical 
Journal, vol. 10, no. 1, p. 8 (February, 19S7). 

379 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

lasting contributions to American industry is Oscar Onsrud, 
now proprietor of the Onsrud Machine Works of Chicago. 
He came to the Midwest in 1893, a victim of "America fever" 
who was eager to see the Columbian Exposition. Onsrud worked 
many years for the Frazer and Chalmers Machine Com- 
pany as machinist, as traveling representative in the United 
States and Mexico, as foreman, and, in 1912, as superintendent 
of the plant. Later starting out independently, he worked on 
machine improvements and produced a new type of turbine 
which he has sold by the thousands. His plant was opened in 
1924 and soon had about 75 men employed in the making of 
various products. Onsrud is also the inventor of automatic 
shaping machinery for furniture factories. A piece of wood 
inserted into one of these machines comes out a perfectly 
shaped table leg or chair arm. Many of the sofas and chairs 
in American homes today are made by his patented process, 
as are such items as clothes hangers and the wooden handles 
on kitchen utensils. 17 

m 

A considerable group of important mechanical engineers 
have not yet been introduced into our story. The list includes 
Harald F. Gade, member of a famous Bergen family, who is 
known as the "grand old man" in Philadelphia circles. He 
received his technical education at the Bergen and Charlotten- 
burg schools and came to America in 1896. Gade became vice- 
president and one of the founders of the Standard Pressed 
Steel Company in 1903, after working for such firms as the 
Baldwin Locomotive Works, William Sellers, and the New 
York Shipbuilding Company. His company employs over 2,000 
workers and produces a variety of articles in addition to 
pressed steel. Gade made a specialty of pressed steel and screw 
machinery and took out several patents. Another of his products 
was the so-called Gast system for automatic oil lubrication. 18 

Scandinavian glassworkers have an honored history at Corn- 

17 Skandinaven, March 10, 1936. 

18 Wong, Norske utvandrere, 150; archives of Norwegian-American Technical 
Society, Chicago; Nordisk tidende, November 25, 1943. 

380 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

ing (the "Crystal City"), New York. The first Norwegians 
went to this town in 1903, some time later than the Swedes 
and Danes. Alfred Vaksdal, plant engineer of the Coming Glass 
Works, is one of a small trickle of skilled immigrants to this 
region. Vaksdal, one of the most colorful of the living Nor- 
wegian engineers in America, graduated from Horten in 1907. 
While employed by the American Briquet and American Wood 
Reduction companies of Chicago and Kingsport, Tennessee, 
Vaksdal worked out processes patented by the companies: one 
for briquetting brass and iron borings, another for briquetting 
sawdust, and a third for extracting wood alcohol from wood 
refuse. He began his association with the glassworks in 1922 
and was put in charge of all plants and made responsible for 
engineering, construction, and general operation. In the years 
that followed, his firm went through a great period of expan- 
sion, building a complete new plant at Central Falls, Rhode 
Island; enlarging the plant at Wellsboro, Pennsylvania; reopen- 
ing a plant at Kingsport, Tennessee; constructing a new auto- 
matic glass tubing plant, another for the manufacture of glass 
wool and glass cloth, a third for the production of glass brick, 
and yet another for the automatic manufacture of Pyrex oven- 
ware. Vaksdal played a leading role in this growth of the 
glass industry. 

In 1931 the California Institute of Technology ordered from 
the Corning Glass Works a glass disk of low expansion and 
sufficient size to make a telescope mirror 201 inches in diame- 
ter. It was, if possible, to weigh much less than it would if the 
customary principle of a thickness of one-sixth the diameter 
were followed. The disk has been placed in the giant telescope 
on Mount Palomar. The problems involved in filling the order 
were largely engineering difficulties occasioned by the great size 
and weight of the disk; the existing glass technology was suf- 
ficient to meet the challenge, once the necessary engineering 
details were perfected. The glass was melted in a tank, trans- 
ferred to a mold in large hand-operated ladles, and annealed 
in a periodic, electrically-heated kiln. The problems arising from 

381 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

this project and the story of how they were met have been 
admirably described by Dr. G. V. McCauley, who was in charge 
of the undertaking. 19 Vaksdal and his assistants played a big 
part in building the disk; the plant engineer was co-designer 
also of the mechanical and electrical apparatus employed. All 
engineering features of the job were smoothly accomplished. 

On one occasion Vaksdal had to deal with an "act of God/' 
Early in July, 1935, cloudbursts and a dam break on one of the 
Finger Lakes caused the Chemung River, which flows past the 
Corning works, to rise 18 feet above normal, submerging 
motors and curtailing glass production. The fight to maintain 
power services and to protect the giant telescope disk, the 
"Great Eye/' is vividly described by Vaksdal in Power." 

George S. Hoell, a graduate of Trondhjein who served as 
a machine designer with the E. G. Budd Manufacturing Com- 
pany in Philadelphia, has had a varied technical experience 
and has made several noteworthy contributions: a bending ma- 
chine for reverse curvatures and a special electric welding 
machine, both of which are patented by the Budd company; 
and a special beater for hammermills, which wa>s patented by 
the Pennsylvania Crusher Company. 21 Frederik Ottesen, who 
was educated in Bergen and Munich and who is now consult- 
ing engineer with E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company at 
Wilmington, is the inventor of a gas-engine valve gear known 
as the butterfly gear and of a clear-vision sight-feed oiler, both 
of which are patented. 

Henry Karl Karlsen attended the Porsgrund and Horten 
schools and in 1919 designed for the Hanneborg Company 
of Christiania a well-known tile-trenching machine. For the 

10 "The 200-Inch. Telescope Disc," in Society of Glass Technology, Transactions, 
19:156 (1935); "Making the Glass Disc for a 200-Inch Reflecting Telescope," in 
Scientific Monthly, 39:79-86 (July, 1934?); "Preparing to Look Farther into the 
Universe of Stars," in Telescope, 1:34-44 (June, 1934); and "Some Engineering 
Problems Encountered in Making a 200-Inch Telescope Disk/' in American Ceramic 
Society, Bvttetin* 14: 300-322 (September, 1935). 

20 Vol. 79, p. 422, 454 (August, 1935). The present writer is indebted to Vaks- 
dal for considerable information. 

^Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matnkd, 169; and information furnished by 
Hoell. 

382 



MACHINES s THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

French government he devised a digging machine that could 
be attached to unused war tanks. In 1929 he came to America; 
he was employed by the Mergenthaler Linotype Company and 
later by the International Business Machines Corporation. One 
of his many inventions is a so-called diff-system for differential 
gearing. 22 

Among other recent arrivals, several mechanical engineers 
have already done outstanding work. A Horten man, Georg 
J. Langmyhr, mechanical development engineer with the Im- 
perial Oil Company of Sarnia, Ontario, has been active in the 
development of oil-well drilling machinery at Corsicana, Texas, 
and oil refining apparatus in Ontario. At least 5 of his inven- 
tions in the latter field have been patented in Canada and the 
United States. Ole I. Stangeland is designing engineer for the 
Foote Brothers Gear and Machine Corporation in Chicago; 
he has been in charge of standard power transmission, designs, 
special designs for bridges, steel mills, dams, and all types of 
gearing and power transmission machinery used in modern 
industry. With Arne Faroy he patented, in 1929, a piston and 
cylinder cooler for internal combustion engines, and in 1934 he 
patented a free-wheel and backstop device now being marketed. 

In recent years a number of graduates of Norway's Institute 
of Technology have assumed prominent positions as me- 
chanical engineers. Among them is Alf Kolflat of Sargent and 
Lundy in Chicago. Completing his course at the institute in 
1919, Kolflat spent two and a half years in, the special labora- 
tory study of heat and steam, enjoyed a stipend for travel in 
Germany (another grant from the institute), and made tests 
of houses for the Norwegian government. Finally in 1923 he 
left for America on a grant from the American-Scandinavian 
Foundation, spent a short time at the Massachusetts Institute 
of Technology, and then took employment in industry. In 1925 
he joined Sargent and Lundy r a Chicago firm specializing in 
the design of steam power plants, and eventually became a 

m N. E> S. Bulletin (a publication of the Norwegian Engineers' Society), no, $, 
p. 5 (Brooklyn, December, 1939). 

383 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

partner in the company. Active in the social and technical life 
of the Norwegians, Kolflat has co-operated on a number of 
industrial and central-station power plants throughout the 
Middle West and has invented an apparatus that determines 
heat losses through building walls. He has also served as presi- 
dent of both the Norske Klub and the Norwegian-American 
Technical Society of Chicago. 

Illustrative of the many other mechanical engineers doing 
significant work in America are Harold M. Mikkelsen, who is 
in charge of the car dumper department of the Roberts and 
Schaeffer Company of Chicago; Reidar A. Tollefsen, assistant 
chief engineer of the United States Gauge Company at Sellers- 
ville, Pennsylvania; and Knut E. Grand vig, who occupies a 
position similar to Tollefsen's at the Bucyrus-Monigham Com- 
pany of Chicago and has participated in the development of 
the modern dragline excavator. The Olsen Testing Machine 
Company has always employed many Norwegian engineers; one 
of these, Jens Sivertsen, is a research and development special- 
ist who has invented among other things a method and 
an apparatus to determine unbalance in rotating bodies, and an 
automatic balancing machine. Frederick W. Guilford, me- 
chanical engineer in the Flint, Michigan, office of the Trane 
Company, has installed air conditioning in no less than 150 
theater buildings. Mikkelsen, Grundvig, Sivertsen, and Guild- 
ford are all graduates of Norway's Institute of Technology; Tol- 
lefsen is a graduate of Horten. 

IV 

The Norwegian engineer's part in the development of the 
Diesel engine in America has been relatively small, yet it is 
worthy of record. Henrik Greger, a Trondhjem graduate, was 
a marine engineer for the United States Shipping Board during 
the First World War and since then has served as chief en- 
gineer of the General Machinery Corporation at Hamilton, 
Ohio; in both capacities he has been closely associated with 
Diesel developments. Olaf L. A. Riegels, a Horten man, spent 

384 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

a good part of his technical life in Christiania, Norway, before 
coming to America in 1924; after 1934 he was engaged in re- 
search and experimental work at the Yoder Company in Cleve- 
land, where he specialized in the hydraulic wave balance of 
pressure fluctuations in injection systems of direct-injection 
Diesel engines. Riegels' contributions include a lubricator 
which was sold to a Hamburg firm; a direct reversing arrange- 
ment for internal-combustion engines, patented in the United 
States; and fuel injection means for motors, which have been 
patented in various countries. The last invention is believed 
to be of far-reaching character in that it will provide for a 
constant pressure combustion cycle with direct injection a 
feature termed impossible by Dr. Diesel. 23 Bernhard Haave 
Andersen, a graduate of Norway's Institute of Technology, has 
also been a development engineer and calculator of Diesel en- 
gines; in 1936 he became research engineer in the Diesel division 
of the Baldwin Southwark Corporation of Philadelphia. Ander- 
sen's specialty is torsional vibration problems and he has served 
as a member of the technical committee of the Diesel Engine 
Manufacturers' Association, which was appointed to simplify 
and standardize the methods of calculating parallel operation, 
torsional vibrations, and the like, for the successful operation 
performance of Diesel-generator installations. 24 

V 

The work of Mauritz Indahl in the field of printing has al- 
ready been discussed. Considerably earlier than Indahl, Hans 
Christian Hansen migrated to America, shortly after com- 
pleting his studies at Horten in 1867, and took employment 
with the Dickenson Type Foundry in Boston, Four years later 
he established the BL C, Hansen Type Foundry. A branch of 
the firm was opened in New York under the direction of his 
son, Alfred, and offices were maintained in several cities. Han- 
sen designed and built all the special machines and tools for 

23 Information supplied by Biegels* 

^Information from the Chicago archives of the Norwegian-American Technical 
Society. 

385 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the production of his well-known type and other printing ma- 
terials, taking out patents on many inventions. 25 

Several other Norwegian engineers figured in the develop- 
ment of American printing. Hans Jordh^i, a graduate of the 
Porsgrund school, was long employed by the Wood Printing 
Press Company at Plainfield, New Jersey, and his work with 
printing presses resulted in a long list of patents on machines 
of this type. Severin Halvorsen, another Porsgrund graduate, 
invented the inserting machine that is used by large daily 
newspapers in putting out special Saturday and Sunday edi- 
tions. This actually consists of six successive mechanisms, and 
its function is to feed the special edition with such supple- 
ments as the pictorial, comics, style, and sports sections. 26 

Gustav Olsen, chief engineer with the Western Printing Com- 
pany of Chicago, was widely sought by publishers and printers 
alike because of his skill with printing machinery. At the time 
of his death, in 1934, he had just completed an advisory job in 
Alabama. 27 

VI 

In 1928 there appeared in the Norwegian press an unusual 
story. According to it, the once popular Overland automobile 
was created by one Johan 0verland, who also built the first 
factory to adopt the principle of mass production. 0verland, 
the son of a smith in Christiansund, was, we are told, of the 
Peer Gynt type. He migrated to America on an impulse, spent 
ten years at various jobs, and then returned to his home in 
Norway, where he became a reputable craftsman specializing 
in iron stairway railings. The young dreamer was dissatisfied 
with his lot in Europe, however, and left again for the New 
World, going this time first to Canada. When 0verland arrived 
in America the automobile was only just coming into practical 
being and his imagination was captured by its possibilities. He 
designed the Overland car and started a factory at Toledo 
which set as its goal the production of cars at popular prices. 

25 Femti-aars jubil<zum&-iG$t$krift> Hortens tekmske skole, 99. 
* Skandinaven, October 25, 1932. 
27 Scandia, November 1, 1934. 

386 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

His company, later known as Willys-Overland, by 1928 had 
plants in Toledo, Pontiac, Toronto, and Stockport, England; 
the daily production at Toledo alone was 3,000. The sons of 
Johan 0verland later became technical directors of the fac- 
tories, while the business management passed into the hands 
of the president, J. N. Willys. 28 

This legend is repeated here because it illustrates the diffi- 
culty of tracing origins and also the caution with which one 
must use the newspaper as a source. Frank H. Canaday, who 
has done considerable research in the early history of the Willys- 
Overland Company, states that his investigations, "insofar as 
they touched on Willys-Overland's predecessor, the old Over- 
land Company in Indianapolis, indicated that the Overland 
name came from the old pioneer Fargo line of stages called the 
Overland Express." 

I have never heard of anyone of this name being connected with 
the Willys-Overland Company organized by Mr. John North Willys 
after his purchase of the original Overland Company of Indianapo- 
lis in 1908, nor in the present Willys-Overland Motors, Incorpo- 
rated, as reorganized in 1936. I can say with reasonable certainty 
that there has been no one of the Overland name associated with 
the organization since it became a factor of importance in the 
industry after 1908. 29 

Delmar G. Roos, vice-president in charge of engineering at 
Willys-Overland, supports Canaday's remarks about the nam- 
ing of "the automobile, using the phrase "Overland Mail"; he 
speaks, too, of the Overland Limited, a train operated by the 
Union Pacific between Chicago and San Francisco and running 
on schedule as a crack flyer before the Overland car went into 
production. His conclusion, like Canaday's, is that "if there 
was a Johan Overland connected with the Company, it was a 
coincidence." 80 

Norman G. Schidle, executive editor of the S. A. E. Journal 
published by the Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., of New 
York City, confirms the views of Canaday and Roos. From 



sa Norduk tidende, August 2, 1928; Nordmands-forbundet, 1:348 (19$e8). 
20 Letter to the writer, November 15, 1945. 
^Letter to the writer, November 19, 1945. 



387 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

records in the possession of the society he finds that the original 
Overland car was made in 1903 by the Parry Buggy Company 
of Indianapolis and that its name "was taken from the Over- 
land Stage Coaches/' Nothing is known of an engineer named 
0verland. 31 Data contained in the automotive history collec- 
tion of the Detroit Library "seem to indicate that it [the Over- 
land] was built by the Standard Wheel Company of Terre 
Haute, Indiana, about 1902. D. M. Parry was the head of the 
Company and the chief engineer was Claude E. Fox. In 1913 
the vice-president of the Willys-Overland Company, G. W. 
Bennett, could not say why the directors of the Company had 
chosen the name Overland but surmised it was because of the 
car's ability to go 'over land/ " 32 Neither these nor other rec- 
ords make any mention of Johan 0verland, and one is there- 
fore forced to conclude that he was fabricated of whole cloth 
by some journalistic prankster. 

The men who built the first automobiles were engineers only 
by courtesy; they were craftsmen or mechanics of a highly 
gifted sort. The same is true of Ole Evinrude, who went to 
Wisconsin with his parents at an early age, grew up on a farm, 
and made his technical start in a farm machinery shop at 
Madison. Through experience and study he became an excellent 
machinist. At Milwaukee, during the early years of this cen- 
tury, Evinrude became interested in internal combustion en- 
gines and entered into a partnership with a man named Clemick, 
to produce engines and parts to order. He later went into a 
second partnership which aimed at manufacturing a stand- 
ardized motor that could be installed in any carriage. Ole left 
this firm, the Motor Car Power Equipment Company, when 
his partner balked at marketing an entire automobile built by 
Evinrude. One year later Evinrude put together a second car 
which he called the Eclipse; with the help of two men who con- 
sented to finance the production of complete automobiles, he 

81 Shidle to Boos, November 26, 1945; a copy of the letter was forwarded to the 
present writer. 

83 Carl E. Pray, Jr., tothe writer, February 7, 1945. 

388 




An Evinrude Motor in Action 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

began a third business venture, which proved unsuccessful. 
Evinrude later turned his abundant energies and skill to per- 
fecting, in 1910, the first practical outboard motor bearing his 
name, and won both fame and fortune in this new field. 83 

One of the best-known Norwegian engineers in Detroit be- 
fore his death in 1929 was Trygve Jolstad, assistant general 
manager of the Briggs Manufacturing Company. Jolstad, a 
graduate of Horten, arrived in Detroit in 1915 and soon became 
factory manager of the Michigan Stamping Company; he held 
this position until the company was absorbed by the Briggs 
concern four years later. As assistant general manager of all 
the Briggs plants, Jolstad had an important part in the devel- 
opment of automobile bodies. Like the automobile itself, his 
industry underwent rapid growth from 1915 to 1930. 84 

Another colorful Detroit engineer, N. H. F. Olsen, a Pors- 
grund graduate, was associated with Henry Ford from 1915 to 
1940. Starting in the production department, he was transferred 
in 1918 to the engine division, where he worked at designing 
gasoline tanks. Continuing as a layout man, checker, and de- 
signer, he was sent from division to division Ford chassis, 
body, experiment, tractor, truck, aircraft, Lincoln chassis, and 
so forth. About 1930 Olsen organized the experimental depart- 
ment and had charge of following the experimental work 
through, from designs to the ordering of parts and the con- 
struction of experimental cars. In 1936 he organized the sound- 
test division and worked with engineers at the University of 
Michigan on noise problems. Olsen patented a number of proc- 
esses, several of which are still being used by Ford. They in- 
clude an alemite system for greasing springs, a drive shaft 
construction with center bearing, and a stabilizer which im- 
proves the riding qualities of a car. The last was a feature 
discussed in the advertising of 1940 and 1941 Ford and Mercury 
models. Olsen also cut down car noise considerably, helped 
plan the Ford proving grounds in 1938, and invented the drop- 

38 See the present writer's article, "Ole Evinrude and the Outboard Motor," in 
Norwegian-American Studies and Records, IS: 107-1 77 (1941). 

u Norwegian-American Technical Journal* vol. 3, no. 1, p. 11 (February, 1930). 

389 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

center wheel and rim used on Ford cars from 1926 to 1932 and 
adopted by the Tire and Rim Association of America. 35 During 
the war years Olsen operated the Hexagon Tool and Engineer- 
ing Corporation in Dearborn; for the excellence of his work 
in producing artillery items, he was twice presented army-navy 
production awards. 

Mention is made elsewhere of the work of E. K. Wennerlund, 
who served as director of production engineering in all plants 
of the General Motors Corporation. His association with this 
firm began in 1911, shortly before William C. Durant became 
president and at a time when the company was in the hands 
of the bankers; it ended with his retirement in 1932. Wenner- 
lund's objective, as he expresses it, was "to make production 
flow like a river." In this he was successful. 

The automobile, like any complicated industrial product, 
represents the contributions of many individuals, engineers and 
others. Typical of the many Norwegian engineers who have 
added improvements is Trygve Vigmostad, body engineer at 
the Briggs Manufacturing Company. After several years' ex- 
perience in Germany and Norway, Vigmostad came to America 
and held various engineering jobs before assuming his present 
position. While employed by the Murray Corporation of 
America, he patented the curved-edge window design. Vigmo- 
stad studied at the Christiansand Technical Evening School, at 
a trade school in the same city, and at the Hamburg Technical 
Institute. 36 

Of a piece with the automobile is the tractor, to which de- 
velopment John A. Riise made a lasting contribution. Riise, a 
born inventor, devised a new-type musket while still in Nor- 
way; some of his early ideas in this field were later adopted by 
others in the Browning machine gun. After coming to America 
in 1902 Riise became a draftsman in an automobile factory 
on Long Island. He turned to various tasks, producing, among 
other things, a boat. His chief interest, however, was the new 

35 Materials in archives of Norwegian-American Technical Society, Chicago; in- 
formation received from Olsen. 

80 Information supplied by Vigmostad, 

390 



MACHINES 2 THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

gasoline motor, and his inventions in this field proved profit- 
able to several firms, including Palmer Singer in New York; 
the Waltham Manufacturing Company in Massachusetts; Gen- 
eral Electric; the Pope Manufacturing Company at Hartford, 
Connecticut; and the International Harvester Company at Chi- 
cago. His most productive period was with the Wellman, Seaver, 
Morgan Company, an engineering firm at Cleveland. This com- 
pany was greatly interested in a tractor that Riise had invented, 
and gave him free use of machines, tools, and men to enable 
him to put it into concrete form. As a result he turned out what 
was considered in its day one of the country's finest tractors; 
it created wide interest when it was demonstrated at the Kansas 
City Exposition of 1920. Riise and his firm, convinced that the 
tractor was ready for mass production, organized a separate 
company, the W. S. M. Tractor Corporation, and began manu- 
facturing at Akron. Riise, a man of tremendous energy, also 
invented features that were incorporated into airplane motors, 
gears, transmissions, and axles of various kinds. 87 

VII 

Several of the Norwegian engineers gave special service to 
this country through the production of munitions and other 
implements of war. The earliest of the group was perhaps Alfred 
Christiansen. After putting in a hard period at sea and in the 
machine shop, Christiansen went through Christiania's Tech- 
nical College. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1880 and, like many 
others, worked for the Baldwin Locomotive Works and for 
William Sellers. Later he was employed by Brown and Sharpe 
at Providence and by the Hinckley Locomotive Company in 
Boston, and in 1883 he transferred to the Watertown Arsenal. 
Ordered to the Watervliet Arsenal, Christiansen became mas- 
ter mechanic of the newly completed gun factory. His last proj- 
ect, before his death in 1903, was the completion of the largest 
coast defense gun in the world. 88 Among others who have 

ST Wong, Norske utvandrere, 170; Nor disk tidende, October 1, 1920; materials in 
archives of Norwegian-American Technical Society, Chicago , 

88 American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Transactions, 24:1542 (1980). 

391 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

worked in government arsenals are F. M. Brauer, a graduate 
of Horten and an engineer at Watertown; and John Crossen, 
a 1922 graduate of Christiania's Technical College, who is serv- 
ing at the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. 

The airplane has become one of the deadliest of war weapons, 
and in its development European-trained Norwegians have had 
some part. Knut Henricksen, for example, was responsible in 
1937 for the construction of a four-motored navy bomber at 
the Sikorsky plant; this plane, an amphibian, weighed 27 tons 
and was labeled the largest of its kind. John Christian Hanson, 
a graduate of the technical institute at Ilmenau, is a designer 
at the Republic Aviation Corporation, Farmingdale, Long 
Island. He was project leader in charge of the 18 men who re- 
designed the Sikorsky S-41 amphibian in 1940. 

Of the Norwegian engineers who participated directly in the 
American attack against the Japanese, none had a more brilliant 
military career than Leif J. Sverdrup. Though he was born 
and partially educated in Norway, Sverdrup attended Augs- 
burg College in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota. 
Completing the course in civil engineering at the latter school 
in 1921, he served with the state highway departments of Min- 
nesota and Missouri. In 1928 he formed the partnership of 
Sverdrup and Parcel, consulting engineers, at St. Louis* 

In 1941, while still a civilian, Sverdrup was chosen by the 
army to select a ferry route for American airplanes to the 
Philippines and another to Australia. At the time of Pearl Har- 
bor, he was in the Fiji Islands; almost at once B-17 bombers 
began to make use of the route he had chosen. He laid out a 
highway from Melbourne to Darwin, and many airfields in Aus- 
tralia. The speed of the Japanese advance forced him to find an 
alternate airplane route. In May, 1942, Sverdrup became a 
colonel in the engineer corps; two years later he was promoted 
to brigadier general; and in 1945 he received the rank of major 
general. He became commanding general of the Engineer Con- 
struction Command under General MacArthur. 

Though best known today for his important military work 

392 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

in the Pacific, Sverdrup also directed the designing and con- 
struction of the Jefferson Barracks Bridge near St. Louis, and 
the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge in Hannibal, over the Missis- 
sippi; the Weldon Springs Bridge near St. Charles, Missouri, and 
the McDaniel Memorial Bridge near Miami, Missouri, over 
the Missouri River; and the Miraflores Locks Bridge over the 
Panama Canal. Before and during the recent war his firm also 
undertook such projects as aircraft factories, repair depots, 
wind tunnels, steel plants, shipbuilding plants, airdromes, and 
auxiliary installations in the Pacific islands and Australia, as 
well as pipe lines and refineries in Canada. 39 

VIH 

The number of Norwegian engineers employed in the gas 
and coke industries is relatively small, but several have had a 
notable influence. John Samuel Unger, a graduate of Trond- 
hjena's Technical College, came to America in 1879. In 1905, 
after several positions with gas companies, he became city en- 
gineer at Manitowoc, Wisconsin; and in 1907 he opened a firm 
in Chicago to manufacture the patented linger ammonia stills, 
now used by various gas works and coke ovens in Canada and 
the United States. 40 

Olaf N. Guldlin, who emigrated to the United States one 
year later than Unger, was a graduate of Bergen's Technical 
College and a student at the Munich Polytechnicum. He lived 
in Fort Wayne, Indiana, from 1884 until his death in 1932. In 
1888 he formed with two othfcr men a partnership of consulting 
gas engineers; two years later it was incorporated, after changes 
in partners, under the name Western Gas Construction Com- 
pany, with Guldlin as president and general manager. In 1917 
the Koppers Company of Pittsburgh took a five-year lease on 
the firm; they purchased it in 1922 and Guldlin retired as presi- 
dent but continued as a member of the board of directors. 

89 Information supplied by Sverdrup; Nordmanns-farbundet, 38:882 (1945), See, 
too, Sverdrup's article, "Nakne fakta fra Ny Guinea/* in Nordmanns-jorbundet, 
Men WlfS, p. 15-&6. 

** Alstad, Trmdhjemstehni'kernes matrikel, 19; Scandia, March 10, 1938; materials 
in the archives of the Norwegian-American Technical Society, Chicago. 

393 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Despite his business and managerial experience, Guldlin's chief 
work was technical. He designed and patented about 50 devices, 
including a gas condenser, a coal-treating apparatus, an am- 
monia washer, and numerous governors and valves for use in 
the gas industry. He won a grand prize at the Louisiana Pur- 
chase Exposition in St. Louis, 1904, in recognition of his inven- 
tions and developments. At the San Francisco Panama-Pacific 
Exposition in 1917, Guldlin was honored with a gold medal 
on the recommendation of the American Gas Institute. He re- 
tired in 1922. 41 

Half dan Lee (Lie), well-known president of the Eastern 
Gas and Fuel Associates of Boston, has also been an important 
factor in the gas and coke industry. A graduate of the technical 
schools at Porsgrund and Ilmenau, Germany, Lee came to the 
United States in 1908. Until 1916 he was chiefly engaged in 
plant expansion in the steel industry. From 1916 until the late 
1920's he was with the Koppers Company, serving in varying 
engineering capacities, and eventually he became vice-president 
in charge of sales. These were transition years in the coke indus- 
try, when by-product ovens built by the firm were replacing 
the old-style ovens. The Eastern Gas and Fuel Associates, 
which Lee now heads, operates coal mines, coke plants, blast 
furnaces for the production of pig iron, and a steamship com- 
pany operating a large fleet composed mostly of colliers. 42 

IX 

Another group of engineers has had an influence, largely 
mechanical, in mining and its related activities. Nils Cornelius 
Bonnevie, a former student of Trondhjem's Technical College, 
began his American career by helping Viggo Drewsen introduce 
his patents on this side of the Atlantic. In 1896 Bonnevie was 
employed by the Metallic Extraction Company of Florence, 
Colorado, and later he took an important technical position 
with the Doreas Mining, Milling, and Development Company 

tt American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Transactions, vol. 54. record and 
index, p. 62 (1932) . 

42 Norwegian- American Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, p. 12 (March, 1929); 
Nordmands-forbundet, 24:384 

394 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

of the same city. Finally, in 1900, he became director of the 
Denver Ore Testing and Sampling Company of Denver, and 
there supervised the testing chemical and mechanical of 
all kinds of minerals on a scale unmatched elsewhere. 43 

Another Trondhjem graduate, Christian Str0m Holth, left 
the Chicago engineering office of the federal government to 
serve, in 1905, as chief engineer of the Brazilian Diamond, Gold, 
and Development Company. His work consisted of surveying 
concessions, determining values, and making preparations for 
later mining activity. Returning to federal employment in the 
States, he later worked on such Mississippi River projects as 
the Keokuk Dam, and gained a reputation as a prominent 
mechanical engineer. It is interesting to note that while in 
Brazil Holth was known among the natives of fever-ravished 
districts as Dr. Christiano, because of his kindly interest in 
the sick and the remedies that he was able to provide. 44 

Charles C. Hansen had been mechanical engineer with the 
Ingersoll-Rand Company of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, for 
thirty-five years when he died in 1938. He is credited with over 
100 patents on compressed-air tools and other drilling equip- 
ment, Hansen studied at the Norwegian university and at the 
technical schools of Berlin and Zurich, becoming a specialist 
in marine engineering. After spending several years in the early 
1890 ? s along the Canadian side of the Great Lakes, he was 
employed on the New York Barge Canal. Later he was associ- 
ated with a firm manufacturing Corliss steam engines used to 
drive air compressors, and he went to Ingersoll-Rand in 1903 
and assisted in the construction of their Phillipsburg plant. 
When transferred to the rock drill engineering department, 
Hansen was put to work perfecting tools used extensively in 
mining and canal construction. He designed, among others, 
most of the drills used on the Panama and New York Barge 
canals/ 5 

^Alstad, Trondkjem$te1mikeme$ matrikel, 85. ' 

**Alstad, Trondhjwrbsteknikernes matrikel, 17; Norwegian-American Technical 
Journal, vol. > no* 1, p. 15 (March, 1929); Minneapolis tidende, November 2, 1911. 

* Decorah-postm, July 5, 1988; and information supplied by Hansen's associates 
at Ingersoll-Eand. 

395 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Mention of a few of the others engaged in mining activities 
will suffice to indicate the scope of their work. Nils A, Bodahl, 
a graduate of the Trondhjem college, was once chief engineer 
at the copper mines in Butte, Montana, and later an employee 
in the Carnegie steel mills near Pittsburgh. 40 Bj0rn Rudolf 
Storsand, a graduate of the technical school at Mittweida, in 
Germany, is chief designing engineer of the Placer firm of San 
Francisco; he holds a number of patents in connection with 
dredges and mining processes. His dredges, for both tin and 
gold, have been used in various countries. Einar Martin Ar- 
entzen, president of the Lee-Norse Company of Charleroi, 
Pennsylvania, and a 1915 graduate of Trondhjem's Technical 
College, was responsible for numerous improvements in me- 
chanical coal-loading machines while chief mechanical engineer 
for the Joy Manufacturing Company of Pittsburgh, 1924-40; 
he has been closely identified with all important developments 
in the mechanical loading of bituminous coal underground. His 
own company, founded in 1940, engages in the manufacture 
and sale of all kinds of coal-mining machinery, particularly the 
type which, mounted on pneumatic rubber tires, is used in 
mining bituminous coal. And, finally, Halvor Hansen Hanto, a 
structural engineer in the mining department of the Bethlehem 
Steel Company, has figured prominently in the design of raining 
plants in Chile and Venezuela as well as of ore-crushing plants 
in the United States. Hanto is a graduate of Norway's Institute 
of Technology. 

X 

How limitless the engineering story has been and how nu- 
merous are its associations is perhaps best revealed by reference 
to a few more individuals, who deserve better than the passing 
comment reserved to them in this volume. 

Heitman J. Altern, a graduate of Horten, while employed 
by the Raymond Lead Company of Chicago early in the pres- 
ent century, designed a tower for the manufacture of lead shot 
to be used in shotgun shells. The tower, erected at Port Amboy, 

"Minneapolis tidende, December 8, 1932. 

396 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

New York, could produce 150 tons of shot in twenty-four hours* 
Hans Hammeren, who attended Christiania's Technical College 
and later served as structural designer for the Bethlehem Steel 
Company, holds patents on floating roofs for gasoline and pres- 
sure tanks. Theodore Laws, now part owner of a Chicago firm, 
had an important part, as an employee of the Burrell Engineer- 
ing and Construction Company, in the design and construction 
of some of the largest stone-crushing plants in America, not to 
mention grain elevators, cement plants, flour mills, and other 
industrial buildings. Laws is a graduate of the technical schools 
at Bergen and Dresden. Alf Selrod, of Trondhjem's Technical 
College, patented an ice machine when such a product was 
new on the market; more recently he has been active in de- 
signing heating and ventilating systems for numerous buildings 
erected by Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White in the Chi- 
cago loop district. Earlier, with the sanitary district, he de- 
signed the ventilating systems used in pumping stations, as 
well as a sewage disposal plant. Selrod has been a most active 
leader in the social life of the Chicago Norwegian engineers. 

The work of such men has been, of course, more or less 
routine. Somewhat more colorful were the professional activi- 
ties of several others belonging to our story. Thorleif Bjarne 
J^rgensen, another graduate of Trondhjem's Technical College, 
was in charge of the erection of an automobile factory at Nizhnii 
Novgorod, about 350 miles east of Moscow; this plant, finished 
in 1932, was able to produce some 100,000 cars per year. While 
J^rgensen was in Russia, he also assisted in the construction of 
dwellings and other facilities for workers. Upon his return to 
the States, he constructed a factory at La Grange, Illinois, where 
modern streamlined locomotives are built. 47 The varied experi- 
ences of Henrik Naglestad Garson, a Horten man, include the 
construction of an automatic mechanical electric traffic control 
apparatus introduced in Buenos Aires, and direction of the 
plant of Mineral El Teniente, Braden Copper Company, in 
Chile. Another Horten graduate, Christofer Braathen, repre- 

* 7 Skandmaven, December 9, 1988. 

397 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

sented the engineer group during the first Byrd expedition to 
the Antarctic as ski expert, mustwr, and machinist, and was 
cited for his services. More adventurous still, Glaus Jeldnes, a 
self-taught mining engineer and geologist, was sent to Svalbard 
(Spitzbergen) by the Arctiq Cod Company of Boston, and 
while there, is said to haye hoisted the American flag and 
claimed the territory for the United States. Earlier, he was con- 
sidered one of Canada's leading sM lumpers. 48 

XI 

It is both interesting and protfft&ble to look more closely 
into the life of a representative mechanical engineer, to dis- 
cover how his work has influenced industrial development, and 
how, after retirement, he judges the activities of a busy life 
devoted to technical pursuits, 

Jonas Lien was born at Lesjask<vg, Gudbrandsdalen, in 1877. 
He graduated from Christiania's technical College in 1901, 
with the degree of civil engineer, ID. 1902, disappointed over 
the meager prospects for advancement within the Norwegian 
state railway system, with which he liad been briefly associated, 
he left for America. Lien first found employment as a drafts- 
man with an engineering and contracting firm in New York, 
then worked for relatively short periods with several steel and 
bridge companies before beginning & long association, from 1920 
to 1942, with the American Gas amd Electric Company. He 
now lives in retirement at Port Washington, New York. 

Lien, at the request of the present writer, has reluctantly 
prepared a lengthy statement of bis experiences in America. 
Because they are typical of many Me engineers, they are of 
uncommon historical value. "The Localities in which I was em- 
ployed during the first two decades of my practice-in America," 
he writes, "had no institutions giring technical courses, so 
what otherwise might have been convenient years for post- 
graduate studies went without opportunities for me to accumu- 
late academic credits/* But for forty years he studied technical 

^Reform (Eau Claire, Wisconsin), May 801, M35. 

398 



MACHINES s THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

literature and applied these studies to his varied practice; at 
the same time he closely observed the operations of American 
industry, and came to understand "their needs for better 
methods and equipment in order to introduce practical im- 
provements." His employers derived material benefits from 
his successes, and Lien "gained knowledge and benefited indi- 
rectly, both professionally and financially, through an occa- 
sional promotion." 

Of inventive mind, he prepared a number of novel designs 
for the companies that employed him. These were significant 
because they made it possible for his firms to win contracts in 
highly competitive fields. Lien's satisfaction came from the fact 
that he was "invariably called on to work out or give advice 
in solving new problems with which no one in particular had 
had any previous experience, as well as to find more practical 
applications of and improvements on existing devices not pre- 
viously perfected." 

Lien, partly because of the demands of his position and 
partly because of interest, made specialties of certain branches 
of electrical and mechanical engineering, "These branches," he 
recalls, "more and more overlapped my original specialty, 
which was in the structural field," He was soon designing "erec- 
tion equipment for heavy structures and operating machinery 
for swing and lift bridges"; later it was "heavy material-hand- 
ling equipment for big industries in general, when the fabri- 
cating concerns with which I was associated branched out from 
the more specialized building of bridges to serve the growing 
demand for industrial plant structures in such fields as that of 
the automobile." 

His early studies and experiences while employed by steel 
and bridge firms stood Lien in good stead when, in 1920, he 
was called to the New York office of the American Gas and 
Electric Company, He was assigned to plan a new coal-hand- 
ling system for their largest power plant "the first up-to- 
date large-capacity (600 tons per hour) coal-handling system 
in this country conveying the coal by belts directly from the 

399 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

mine to the overhead bunkers in the power house; the system 
was linked with rail and barge unloading facilities as well as 
with facilities for discharging surplus coal into a 120,000-ton 
reserve storage and for reclaiming it as needed, and also with 
equipment for crushing and screening the coal into suitable 
sizes for stokers." Until then power plants had been dependent 
on cumbersome and costly methods of handling their fuel; these 
had required "much manual labor operating with multiple sys- 
tems of small-capacity units of light commercial equipment. 
The tonnage cost of handling the coal even from nearby mines 
into the bunkers would therefore at times exceed the cost of 
the coal itself, a situation further aggravated by too frequent 
breakdowns of the poorly designed and crudely built equip- 
ment involving delays endangering continuous operation of the 
boilers/' The new system reduced the cost of handling coal 
by one dollar per ton. The plant burned as much as 1,000 tons 
per day. 

Lien not only had to prepare the plan of the general system, 
but was also charged with the more difficult task of developing 
detailed designs of the special equipment that was involved. 
"What the market had to offer," he relates, "was mainly suit- 
able for limited use in small-capacity installations." Belts of 
the required width and length were at first unobtainable, but 
a progressive rubber manufacturer finally co-operated in pro- 
ducing them. "Suitable cranes and hoists were not to be found; 
manufacturers of such equipment would not even co-operate 
if their old patterns did not suffice." Lien's immediate superior 
said, "To hell with such policies; go ahead and design your 
own equipment!" Lien obeyed the injunction. "A former em- 
ployer of mine fabricated the structures; other independent 
companies supplied the equipment, all from my detail designs; 
our own construction men erected the structures and installed 
the equipment." The completed system proved not only suc- 
cessful but served as a model for subsequent and even more 
extensive ones. 

Lien was now entrusted with organizing and heading the 

400 



MACHINES: THEIR MAKERS AND MASTERS 

structural branch of his company's engineering department; 
he was given the responsibility of designing all new structures 
for the firm's vast organization. One of his special sidelines in- 
volved everything relating to mechanical handling equipment. 
"Few industries, if any, involve such a variety of requirements 
for structures, equipment, facilities, and specialties as the power 
industry does, and the demands made of the planning engineers 
are of a corresponding nature." The expanding American Gas 
and Electric Company added many subsidiary units; these fre- 
quently had out-of-date steam and hydroelectric generat- 
ing plants that needed to be converted. Several new super 
power plants also had to be located and built to serve large 
united lighting systems. "The various, mostly hidden, engineer- 
ing problems related to power plant designs must be considered 
in repeated conferences with other groups of men in the home 
office and in the field, and they must be coordinated in the de- 
signs of the main, more visible structures/' 

This required considerable travel and afforded broad oppor- 
tunity for the application of varied skills. It also called for a 
large staff . Lien states that he "had the opportunity during a 
period of over ten years (up to the unfortunate depression of 
the early thirties) to employ many experienced as well as 
younger Norwegian engineers; in fact, the force consisted 
mostly of Norwegians ," During the depression, when his staff 
was reduced to two men, he continued to supervise and pass 
on all designs pertaining to coal and ash handling systems and 
to contract for all necessary equipment. 

Lien, like many another inventive engineer, introduced in 
rapid succession new ideas and designs that were patentable, 
but he was unable to exploit most of them. "Most hampering/' 
he writes, "have been the hesitations caused by the cost of 
patents and the arbitrary, disputable claim or scare that inven- 
tions made by an employee belong to the employer whether 
or not any contract agreement to that effect enters in." Very 
frequently "the outcome of a good idea is that the manufac- 
turers getting the contracts to furnish equipment according to 

401 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

certain original designs will 1 use pictures and descriptions of 
the product as advertising matter and boldly publish the idea 
as their own, and with slight modifications in some minor detail 
continue so to use it." 

Nevertheless, he did manage to obtain patents on several 
of his many original ideas. These include three pertaining to 
screening equipment for coal, ore, gravel, and the like; one for 
a one-unit automatic coal sampling machine; another for a so- 
called material accelerator, used to unload solidified granular 
materials such as coal from railroad cars; and a device to indi- 
cate the flow of granular materials, liquids, or gases transported 
through chutes, pipes or ducts. These and many other devices, 
together with the dozens of bridges and other structures that 
he designed for steel, foundry, automobile, chemical, and other 
industries, and the vast projects undertaken for the American 
Gas and Electric Company illustrate in an unusual manner the 
significance of a mechanical engineer in the story of American 
industrial growth. 



402 



ARCHITECTS, 
SCHOLARS, 

CLOSELY associated, both lechni- AND 

cally and socially, with the engineers 
from Norway are the architects, CHEMISTS 

though a much smaller group. It 
would be a mistake to regard them 
primarily as artists or stylists; often products of one of the 
Old World technical schools, they might as properly be termed 
engineers as architects. An able spokesman belonging to their 
profession has said: "Surely modern architecture should not be 
the deplorable creation of the would-be style inventors. . . . 
Since the mound-builders and cave-dwellers, no people, until 
modern times, ever attempted to adapt a style of a past epoch 
to the solution of a modern problem. In such attempts is the 
root of all modern evils." 1 Norwegian architects as a whole 
would agree with this. In practice they have done honest work 
along sound structural lines, and their names, generally speak- 
ing, are not associated with the eclectic tendencies once so com- 
mon among their prof essional colleagues. 

I 

Perhaps the first Norwegian, architect to migrate was Carl 
Michael Eger, who, says one source, was the son of a royal 
chamberlain. Eger received his technical education at Diissel- 
dorf in Germany, and obtained his early experience under the 
then famous Norwegian architect, Nordan, in Christiania. In 
1869 he was awarded a government stipend for study abroad. 
Coming to America, he apparently found life in the New 
World congenial, for here he remained. His first position in this 
country was with the Architectural Iron Works of New York, 

1 Thomas Hastings, "Modem Architecture," 98, in Ralph Adams, Thomas Hast- 
ings, and Claude Bragdon, Six Lectures on Architecture (Art Institute of Chicago, 
The Scammon Lectures for 1915 Chicago, 1917). 

403 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

and there he made the acquaintance of Niels Poulsen, a far- 
sighted Dane whose memory is perpetuated in the present 
American-Scandinavian Foundation. In 1876 Poulsen and Eger 
founded the Hecla Iron Works, a firm that soon became known 
for its excellent ornamental iron and bronze products. Eger is 
credited with the design of the bronze group, "Lioness and Her 
Young/' which was sent to Christiania and placed atop St. 
Hans's Hill near the city. Throughout Eger's career he displayed 
energy, shrewd business sense, and a generous nature. When he 
died in 1916 he left considerable sums of money for an old 
people's home on Staten Island, and for Our Saviour's Church, 
the Norwegian Turn Society, and the Norwegian Society, all of 
Brooklyn. 2 

The early 1880's marked the arrival in America of an archi- 
tect whose early life in Norway had been somewhat stormy. 
He was Joakim Mathisen, a native of Trondhjem and a gradu- 
ate of the Hanover Polytechnicum. At Hanover he had studied 
under Professor von Haase, an authority on Gothic churches; 
and upon his return to Norway he took employment with the 
architect Eilert C. B. Christie. Norway was experiencing at the 
time what has been termed a "national romantic" movement. 
In architecture this took the form of a keen interest in the 
Middle Ages and a movement to restore the national monu- 
ments of that period. Christie, himself profoundly influenced by 
men of the von Haase type, had been charged in 1872 with the 
stupendous task of restoring the ruins of the cathedral at 
Trondhjem, succeeding H. E. Schirmer, who had begun the 
project in 1869. 

Mathisen, according to Magnus Bj0rndal, became convinced 
that the restorations of Schirmer and Christie, which were based 
on German models, were wrong, since the prototype of the 
Trondhjem structure was the famous Lincoln Cathedral in 
England. A bitter controversy grew out of the differences be- 
tween employer and assistant. When Mathisen boldly appealed 
to the Storting, about twenty of Christiania's architects signed 

*Nordisk tidende, May 18 and 25, 1916; Nordmands-forbundet, 9:414 (1916); 
Rygg, Norwegians in New York, 91. 

404 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

a resolution defending Christie's designs; as a consequence, 
parliament ignored the appeal of the earnest young architect. 
Further, we are told, "At least two of the architects, and prob- 
ably others, of the twenty who signed the resolution had done 
so under political pressure, in spite of convictions to the con- 
trary, and it is a black page both for the architects and archae- 
ologists of Norway, and not the only one by any means, in 
connection with the restoration of the Cathedral/' 

Whatever the merits of Mathisen's case, he was thoroughly 
discredited in the eyes of his professional brethrem and he mi- 
grated to America in 1883. In New York he entered the archi- 
tectural offices of R. H. Robertson and quickly proved himself 
by designing, during the 1880's, a number of prominent build- 
ings in the East. Later he moved to San Francisco as manager 
of an office for a New York firm; in 1890 he opened an office 
of his own there. Known for careful, scholarly work rather than 
great originality, he enjoyed a wide practice which included 
several commissions from Japan. 3 

No less interesting and at least equally independent in his 
ideas was Arne Dehli, who, like Mathisen, received his archi- 
tectural training in Germany, at the technical schools of Dres- 
den and Stuttgart. While at Stuttgart Dehli came under the 
influence of such renowned professors and architects as von 
Leins, Dollinger, and Reinhardt; a group, Magnus Bj^mdal 
informs us, who then rivaled the Vienna school of architects. 
Returning to Norway, Dehli entered the office of Adolf Schir- 
mer, later state architect, in Christiania; he left for the New 
World In 1882. In 1885 he, too, entered the office of R. H. 
Robertson and was later put in charge there. 

During his student days, Dehli had studied for some time 
in Italy. In 1889, with an assistant named G. Howard Cham- 
berlin, he set out on a year's study trip to England, France, and 
Italy; in 1890 he published the result of his observations in a 

"Magnus Bjjtadal, "Joakim Mathisen," in Norwegian- American Technical Jour- 
nal, vol. 5, no. 1, p, 9 (January, 1982). A more sympathetic picture of Christie and 
his work is given in the biography of him by Olaf Nordhagen in Norsk biografisk 
leksikon, 3:8-7 (Oslo, 1926). 

405 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

book entitled Details of Byzantine Ornament. In 1894 he pub- 
lished a second work, Norman Architecture of Palermo and 
Environs, which was issued at Boston, London, and Leipzig. 

On his return to New York, Dehli opened an office with his 
friend Chamberlin and quickly built up an extensive architec- 
tural practice. From time to time he also published articles on 
such subjects as fireplace design and various systems of con- 
tracting. His professional activity included decorative work with 
wood, wallpaper, silver, pedestals, furniture, and the like. He 
also designed, among other structures, St. Jerome's Roman 
Catholic Church in the Bronx, the Emory Methodist Episcopal 
Church in Jersey City, the nurses 5 home for the Norwegian 
Hospital, and Christ Church in Brooklyn, besides a considerable 
number of residences. He designed business structures for 
Glackner's, P. W. Engh's, and the Borden Condensed Milk 
Company in Manhattan. For the Brooklyn parks department 
he planned the zoological building in Prospect Park. At first 
associated with Chamberlin and later with a man named How- 
ard, Dehli practiced alone after 1908. During the First World 
War he was architect for an export company in New York that 
did business with the Scandinavian countries. Active in his 
profession until he died in 1942, he retained throughout his 
life a keen interest in a variety of subjects, but his greatest 
enthusiasm was for his own field of work. 4 

Dehli's attitudes may be briefly stated: do good work along 
conservative lines according to the rules, remembering always 
that no form is finished, but is in a state of continuous develop- 
ment. He spoke harshly of the eclectics and of those who hold 
that the Gothic style grew out of certain features found in the 
Romanesque. 5 

Another early immigrant architect was Kristian Schneider, 
who came to the United States about 1885 and worked and 

* The writer was fortunate in having a lengthy interview with Dehli in New York 
City in May, 1941, and also received considerable information from him through 
correspondence. 

m 5 For more information, see Magnus Bj0rndal, "Arne Dehli," in Norwegian- 
American Technical Journal, vol. 4*, no. 1, p. 1 (April, 1931). 

406 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

studied under the great Louis Sullivan. Schneider won recog- 
nition with his design of the golden arch in the Transport Build- 
ing at the Columbian Exposition. He was also known for the 
bronze embellishments on the Carson, Pirie, Scott Building 
and the decorative work on the Auditorium and the old Schiller 
and McVicker theaters all in Chicago. During most of his 
professional career, which continued until 1935, he was em- 
ployed by the American Terra Cotta Company. 

Olaf M. Topp, a graduate of Trondhjem's Technical College, 
left for America in 1887. Working at first as an engineer, he soon 
moved over to the related field of architecture and settled in 
Pittsburgh. It is as a designer of churches that he is best known. 
Among the 35 church structures that he planned are the Asbury 
Methodist Episcopal, Christ's Lutheran, and the Darmont 
Presbyterian. Ijle also took a keen interest in office and indus- 
trial buildings, designing, for example, the Jenkins and Empire 
buildings and the Jenkins Arcade of the Press Building all 
in Pittsburgh. 7 

II 

Meanwhile, farther west, Olaf Thorshov was designing many 
of the best-known structures in Minneapolis. These include the 
Dayton Company Store and garage, Emmanuel Lutheran 
Church, Northwestern Hospital, the Walker Art Center, the 
Yeates Medical Arts Building, the central Y.M.C.A., Minne- 
apolis General Hospital, the Plymouth and Palace buildings, the 
State Theater, the Radisson, Dyckman, and Curtis hotels, 
the Strutwear Knitting Company's building, Norway Hall, and 
the Lavoris Chemical Company's building. He also planned the 
Concordia College group in St. Paul. Thorshov was born in 
Norway and was eighteen years old when he migrated in 1901; 
he began the study of architecture in Minneapolis in 1906. Sev- 
eral years later he entered the architectural firm of Long and 
Long, which was reincorporated in 1925 under the name Long 
and Thorshov, with the latter as head of the company. One of 
the finest examples of Thorshov's work is the Walker Art Center 

6 SJcandinav&fo, August 16, 1985. 

7 Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 66; Wong, Norske utvandrere, 156. 

407 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

on the side of Lowry Hill; it is built in the Venetian-Byzantine 
style. 8 

Christian Ucherman Bagge was an architect of definitely 
artistic temperament and inclination; he specialized in making 
perspective drawings of the many buildings erected during his 
long association with the D. H. Burnham (later Graham, Ander- 
son, Probst, and White) firm of Chicago. A graduate of the 
Royal Arts and Handicrafts School, Bagge arrived in Chicago 
in 1903. It was some time, however, before he discovered the 
field of his greatest interest an event that occurred while he 
was employed by Burnham to make drawings of the famous 
Chicago Plan. This plan incorporated a number of ideas, com- 
mercial and aesthetic, and included arrangements for cutting 
through Ogden Avenue to Lincoln Park and widening such 
streets as Roosevelt Road and a part of Michigan Avenue, 
as well as double-decking Michigan Avenue from Randolph 
Street north across the Chicago River. Bagge worked almost 
exclusively with perspective drawings, most of them colored, 
making sketches of such structures as the Field Museum, the 
Shedd Aquarium, the Civic Opera House, the Wrigley Building, 
the Merchandise Mart, and the Union Station. Before his death 
in 1932 he had acquired a distinguished reputation in his spe- 
cialized line; he was also locally known for his dislike of our 
machine civilization. 9 

Erling Owre, whose work has been discussed in connection 
with the tunnel story, occupies a position similar to Badge's as 
architect with the New York City Tunnel Authority. Together 
with Ole Singstad, 0wre made his start in tunnel work during 
the construction of the Holland Tunnel. 10 

Ivar Viehe Naess, like Thorshov, received his first technical 
training in the New World. Coming to Chicago in 1890 at the 
age of twenty, he attended an evening high school, the local 

8 Norwegians-American Technical Journal, vol. 1, no. 3, p. 9 (September, 19&8); 
Nordmands-forbundet, 19:518 (1926); Minnesota Federation of Architectural and 
Engineering Societies, Bulletin, 13:29 (July, 1928); Wong, Norske utvandrere, 218. 

9 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 6, no. 1, p. 10 (April, 1938); Skandi- 
naven, March 1, 1935. 

10 Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikerneg matrikel, 165; Alstad, Tillegg, 46. 

408 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

art institute, and Armour Institute before returning to Europe 
in 1897 to study architecture at I/Ecole Nationale des Beaux 
Arts in Paris. D. H. Burnham had seen evidences of some of 
Viehe Naess's work in the Chicago Trust and Savings Bank, 
done no doubt when he had designed interiors and furniture for 
the A. H. Andrews Company; and in 1900 he asked Viehe Naess 
to join his company. Burnham at that time was beginning to 
work on bank buildings. Viehe Naess remained with Burnham 
until 1912; during the last six years he served as chief draftsman 
and had an important part in planning many of the principal 
banks and office buildings in the country. In 1913 he began his 
own practice in Chicago and thus continued to figure in one 
of the greatest building epidemics in American history. Banks, 
office buildings, churches, hospitals, and other institutional 
structures followed close on one another. Among the buildings 
that he designed were the Home National Bank in Arkansas 
City, Kansas; the Norwegian-Lutheran Deaconess Hospital in 
Chicago; the Elmhurst Hospital; and the South Chicago Sav- 
ings Bank Building. In 1924 he won a gold medal for designing 
and constructing the best Chicago building of the year an 
office structure for the Standard Corporation on East Superior 
Street. 11 

Viehe Naess also had charge of the architectural planning, 
under the direction of Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White, 
of the Chicago Civic Opera House; he thus helped to transform 
a site along Wacker Drive covered by old buildings and docks 
into a beauty spot supporting a modern French Renaissance 
structure of 45 stories. 12 

m 

It may be true, as one writer has said, that "the mission of 
the moving-picture theatre is to vulgarize America"; certainly 
it is a fact that in the development of the movie house "Archi- 
tecture was seized upon and dragged into the arena to make the 

11 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, p. 11 (March, 1929); ma- 
terials in the archives of the Norwegian-American Technical Society, Chicago. 

M See Viehe Naess's able analysis of this building in Norwegian-American Tech- 
nical Journal, vol. 3, no. 1, p. 1, 12-14 (February, 1930). 

409 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Roman holiday complete." 13 But the movie is now a recognized 
part of American life and the movie house an architectural 
feature of loop district, suburb, and village everywhere. In the 
growth of this machine-age theater a more than incidental part 
was played by S. E. Sonnichsen. Sonnichsen attended the Royal 
Arts and Handicrafts School in Christiania and the Baugewerk 
School at Eckernf0rde in Schleswig-Holstein, graduating as an 
architect in 1902. Leaving in the same year for America, he 
drifted from job to job in New York, Chicago, Denver, Chey- 
enne, and Seattle. It was in Seattle, serving as chief draftsman 
for W. M. Somerwell and Company, that Sonnichsen began 
to work as an architect. When the company moved to Van- 
couver in 1911, he accompanied it and took part in designing 
churches, schools, hospitals, libraries, and private homes. Re- 
turning to Seattle in 1918, he opened his own architectural firm, 
and did an extensive business. 

In Seattle Sonnichsen was architect of beautiful Norway Hall. 
This building, it might be remarked, contains several paintings 
by Sonnichsen's brother, Yngvar, that depict scenes from the 
Viking age. The structure itself was built of wood in the Norwe- 
gian bonde tradition. 14 Sonnichsen also designed and built 
plants for machinery companies and foundries, fish canneries 
in Alaska, smokeries for the Pacific Alaska Cannery Company, 
railroad piers for the Canadian Pacific Railway, warehouses for 
the Pacific Fruit and Vegetable Corporation, wharves and piers 
of all kinds, a hospital, a power plant, and a baseball grand- 
stand. He was ready not only for a rest but also for a specialized 
line of work when he went to California in 1923. 

When he arrived there he became acquainted with B. Marcus 
Pretica, a well-known theater architect of Los Angeles, and 
formed a partnership with him.; Since then Sonnichsen's work 
has been the design and construction of movie palaces. Sonnich- 
sen was superintendent of construction for the Pantages Thea- 
ter and office building in San Francisco and had charge of plans 

18 Tallmadge, Architecture in America, 283. 

Norway Hall in Seattle," in American-Scandinavian Review, 10:430 (July 

J * 

410 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

and specifications, supervision, contracts, and general office 
management for the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles during 
1925-26. Then he built the Pantages theaters at Hollywood and 
Fresno and the Warner Brothers theaters in San Pedro, Hunt- 
ington Park, and Beverly Hills. While Pretica and Sonnichsen 
have been hailed as leaders in west coast theatrical architecture, 
their work has included industrial plants, office buildings, and 
apartments. During Sonnichsen's association with Pretica, the 
firm's Los Angeles office was entirely under Sonnichsen's per- 
sonal direction, and he was responsible not only for office man- 
agement but also for plans and designs. 

Sonnichsen, asked to discuss the architecture of the movie 
house, replied that he has always been a "firm believer in the 
theory that form follows function" and that he has "endeavored 
to adhere to this principle as diligently as possible, avoiding 
false fronts and the misuse of materials, observing the duty 
of an architect with due respect to his client and the public at 
large." He has tried "to produce a proper functional plan 
correlating therewith all requirements for proper seating, acous- 
tics, ventilation, etc., and careful observance of public safety 
regulations as well as thought for the patron's comfort. The 
decorations have been incorporated as an integral part of the 
building to form a suitable frame or setting for the presenta- 
tions; in the motion picture house this should be kept simple, 
leaving the screen to tell its story without distraction from sur- 
rounding sources." 15 

IV 

Amund Fj^rtoft, architect with Shaw, Naess, and Murphy 
of Chicago, is known for his work in the design and construction 
of hospitals. For some time he was chief designer in the Cook 
County architect's office and there supervised all designs of the 
large Cook County Hospital. He was recently chief designer 
in the construction of our army and air base in Bermuda. The 

w Letter to the present writer, March 29, 1941; for sketches of Sonnichsen, see 
Johan Seines, "En telemarksgutt i California/' in Nordmaims-forhundet, 25:146-148 
(May, 198$); and Jarlsb&rg og Lwrviks Amtstid&nde (Norway), January 21, 1932. 
Sonnichsen furnished considerable additional material. 

411 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

contracts called for barracks, hospitals, schools, officers' houses, 
and recreational and sports facilities. 16 

On the roster of Norwegian architects in America are also 
the names of D. C. Ottesen, a graduate of Trondhjem's Techni- 
cal College, who designed many of Milwaukee's largest build- 
ings and served as superintendent of school buildings and 
grounds in the same city; Ole Aga, who spent only a part of his 
interesting life in America but played a leading role in planning 
the Cook County Hospital; and John A. Gade born in 
America, brought up in Norway, and educated at Harvard 
who designed, among other buildings, the Rochester (New 
York) Memorial Art Gallery and several Norwegian Lutheran 
churches. 17 

The list includes, too, such men as 0. I. Tolaas, graduate of 
Trondhjem's Technical College, who became chief architect for 
the Northern Pacific Railway Company at St. Paul in 1909; 
and 0. M. Rognan, largely self-taught, who succeeded Tolaas 
in 1917 and continued the designing of shops, stations, and 
roundhouses. William L. Finne, a graduate of the Royal Arts 
and Handicrafts School of Christiania, designed a number of 
skyscrapers in New Jersey, including the N. J. Levy Building 
in Newark, and gained a reputation for general architectural 
work in and about Elizabeth, New Jersey, where his firm has its 
office. 18 Harold Hals, a product of the institutes at Charlotten- 
burg and Stockholm, had a part in the planning of the La Salle 
Hotel, the Brandeis Theater, and the county courthouse in 
Chicago before returning to Norway in 1911. 

Our account is incomplete without mention of Carl Volkman 
of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a graduate of the Royal Arts and 
Handicrafts School. He was the designer of numerous buildings 
in North Dakota, Saskatchewan, and Wisconsin, including the 
Scandinavian-American Fraternity Building in Eau Claire. Si- 

18 H. Sundby-HaJisen, in Nordisk tid&nde, October 23, 1941. 

1T Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 8; Alstad, Tittegg, 14; Nordisk tidmde, 
March 14, 1929; Nordmands-forbundet, 5:357-366 (1912), 9:544-549 (1916), and 
22:325 (1929). See Gade's All My Born Days; Experiences of a Naval Intelligence 
Officer in Europe (New York, 1942). 

Nordisk tidende, August 27, 1925. 

412 








Chicago Opera House: Twenty Wacker Drive 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

gurd Rognstad of Chicago put up the city hall in Chinatown 
and a large building in Garfield Park. Brynjulf Revenes of 
Glendive and Miles City, Montana, planned many of the lead- 
ing structures in that state. Odd Nansen, son of the famous 
explorer-humanitarian, recently won recognition in connection 
with the design of an airport. 10 Engebret Sund built a number 
of Twin City structures, including Central Lutheran Church in 
Minneapolis. 

It is reasonable, when one considers the close relationship be- 
tween Norwegian immigration and Mormonism, to find that 
one of the leading architects among the Latter-day Saints is of 
Norwegian birth and training. Ramm Hansen, a student of the 
Royal Arts and Handicrafts School, was converted to the Mor- 
mon faith during his school years and went to Salt Lake City in 
1901. After working for other architects there, he entered into 
a partnership in 1916 with a descendant of Brigham Young. 
The firm Young and Hansen designed and built the Mormon 
Church Offices Building and the Federal Reserve Bank Build- 
ing in Salt Lake City, the temple at Mesa, Arizona, and the 
Mormon Church constructed of Utah marble in Washing- 
ton, D.C. Recently the firm was engaged in building two new 
temples one at Idaho Falls, Idaho, and the other at West- 
wood, in Los Angeles. Young and Hansen also planned the Cen- 
tral Building at the University of Utah. 20 

V 

Many of the architects who have been mentioned turned at 
one time or another to designing residences. Birger Kvenild of 
Omaha has specialized in this field. After his graduation from 
Trondhjem's Technical College in 1901, travel and study in 
Germany, France, and England provided Kvenild with a back- 
ground peculiarly well suited to his work for monied clients in 
Nebraska. A meat packer, upon returning from a vacation trip 

10 Materials in the archives of the Norwegian- American Technical Society, Chi- 
cago; Skandinaven, November 19, 1987; Yellowstone Journal (Miles City, Montana), 
December 6, 1919; Nordmands-forbundet, 28:58 (1930). 

^Interview with Hansen, August, 1940. 

413 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

in Europe, might call upon Kvenild for a Norman chateau or a 
Sussex country house, and see his wish fulfilled. Omaha is dotted 
with superb examples of Kvenild's art. Frankly eclectic, he re- 
gards the architect as an artist-craftsman who should supervise 
every detail of construction, including the engineering and con- 
tracting aspects. Though he has given his time almost exclu- 
sively to dwellings since 1918, Kvenild was also secretary and 
architect for the Omaha Planning Commission and thus was 
largely responsible for the city's present new streets, boule- 
vards, and other developments that were an outgrowth of the 
commission's proposals. Maintaining offices in his own home, 
Kvenild, in his attitude toward both his work and the people 
he works for, resembles no one so much as an artist of the 
Italian Renaissance, and no one is more contemptuous than he 
of men posing as architects whose training and abilities fall 
short of his ideal of versatility. 21 

Elias Wessel Klausen, who in several respects resembles Bir- 
ger Kvenild, belongs to a younger generation of architects. 
A graduate of the Institute of Technology at Trondhjem, Klau- 
sen was once associated with the M.G.M. Studios in Hollywood 
and with Wallace Neft of Pasadena, a prominent residential 
architect of southern California. Klausen later won national 
recognition for his designs while working for Virgil Westbrook 
in San Clemente, and in 1930 he established a firm of his own 
which specializes in residences. He has built many houses in 
San Clemente, Westwood, and Brentwood Heights, all of them 
characterized by honesty, simplicity, and good taste in design. 22 

VI 

The dividing line between architect and artist is no more dis- 
tinct than that between architect and engineer. A number of 
engineers or architects have in fact devoted their major efforts 
to the fine arts. Yngvar Sonnichsen, representative of this group, 
graduated as a civil engineer from Trondhjem's Technical Col- 

^Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 170; Alstad, Tittegg, 47; interviews 
with Kvenild in June, 1940. 

22 Pacific Coast Viking (Los Angeles), May, 1939; information supplied by Klausen. 

414 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

lege, then took instruction in the fine arts at the Royal Arts and 
Handicrafts School in Christiania, the royal academies of Ant- 
werp and Brussels, and the Academic Julian at Paris. He was 
particularly interested in the craftsmanship of the early Flem- 
ish painters. Sonnichsen practiced his painting art for a time in 
Norway and exhibited at Christianiaj then moved to Canada 
in 1904 and opened a studio in St. John, New Brunswick. There 
he specialized in art glass windows for churches and did a por- 
trait of Thorwald Christensen, former chamberlain to King 
Oscar I of Sweden. Sonnichsen moved to Seattle a few years 
later and there did a number of portraits and some landscapes 
depicting the orchards and farmlands of eastern Washington. 
Traveling to Alaska, he painted scenes from the rugged south- 
eastern portion of the territory. Mention has been made of his 
work, together with that of his architect brother, in Seattle's 
Norway Hall, where the murals were done by Sonnichsen and 
Sverre Mack, a Norwegian artist. These murals depict mytho- 
logical and historical scenes in harmony with the bonde style 
of wooden building. Some of Sonnichsen's principal portraits 
are those of Ole Bull, Edvard Grieg, and Roald Amundsen. In 
1933-84 he was engaged by the Civil Works Administration 
to paint landscapes for the Seattle public schools. 28 

E. 0. Drogseth, too, studied architecture and painting in 
Christiania, Paris, and London before leaving for America in 
1907. Though he practiced architecture for a time, he was 
soon at work making paintings of skyscrapers in Cleveland 
and Detroit, and ultimately he devoted his energies exclu- 
sively to painting, in which field he won a fair reputation. His 
paintings may be found in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine 
Arts and in a number of private collections. For many years 
he maintained a studio at Bear Lodge, Bearsville, New York, 
living there during the greater part of each year. 241 

The Norwegian engineers and architects also claim as one 
of their group Henry 0, Jaastad; but while he was born in 

28 Johan Seines, in Nordma,nd$~jorbwndet f 22: 287-289 (1929); Who's Who in Amer- 
ica, 20:2827 (Chicago, 1938-39). 
24 Wong, Norske utvandrere, 81. 

415 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Norway, Jaastad has spent most of his life in America and he 
received his architectural training at the University of Arizona. 
Now a leading architect in Tucson, he is chiefly interested in 
Spanish missions and the native Indian architecture. Jaastad 
has been called the leading authority on the missions of Ari- 
zona, having made exhaustive studies of this subject both in his 
own state and in Sonora, Mexico. Among the buildings that 
he has designed are churches, schoolhouses, and Y.M.C.A. 
structures; the schools include the Navajo Indian School at 
Ganado, Arizona, and the Menaul School for Mexican boys 
at Albuquerque, New Mexico. According to one writer, among 
Jaastad's best creations are "the small churches which one 
comes across in several of the southern Arizona towns; all are 
charming and usually follow the Spanish mission style/' The 
Safford School, at Tucson, is one of his most ambitious works; 
it gave him "an opportunity to create on a large scale some- 
thing absolutely true to Arizona and based on its historic 
monuments." The commentator continues: "It should be known 
that the Spanish Missions of Arizona are of a style quite their 
own in that they seem to partake more of the Moorish influ- 
ence than is usual in mission architecture. It was this individual 
character which Mr. Jaastad kept in mind when developing 
the design for the Safford School. . . . [He] is to be commended 
upon his breaking away from the commonplace and recogniz- 
ing the architectural traditions of his field." 25 

VII 

Some of the Norwegian engineers were drawn into the aca- 
demic fields, both in America and Norway; they were attracted 
as much by the opportunity to engage in research as by the 
impulse to impart knowledge. 

One of the earliest of the group to teach in an American 
institution was Storm Bull, a graduate of the Polytechnic In- 
stitute at Zurich, who became an instructor in mechanical 
engineering at the University of Wisconsin in 1879. Rapidly 

^Prentice Duell, in Western* Architect, quoted in Norwegian- American Technical 
Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 5 (May, 1928). 

416 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

promoted, he was professor of steam engineering in 1886. Be- 
sides engaging in research and writing many scientific papers, 
Bull was on the jury of awards at the Paris Exposition in 1900, 
served as vice-president of the Society for the Promotion of 
Engineering Education, 1901-02, and was winner in 1903 of 
the Chanute medal of the Western Society of Engineers. He 
was also consulting engineer for the Wisconsin state capitol 
commission and the university board of regents, to mention 
only two of his varied services. 26 

One of the most prolific writers among the engineers was 
Peder Lobben, who began his technical career as an apprentice 
in the Kongsberg gun factory and left for America in 1879 to 
take employment in the gun factory of Johnson, Bye, and Com- 
pany at Worcester, Massachusetts. Lobben returned shortly to 
Norway, studied for a time at Horten, and again set out for 
Worcester. He completed a correspondence course in engineer- 
ing offered by the International Correspondence Schools of 
Scranton, Pennsylvania, and became director of plants for his 
firm. Again returning to Norway, he summed up some of his 
technical experiences and theoretical studies in such books as 
Lommebog for mekanikere (Focketbook for Mechanics) and 
Elektricitet og magnetisme (Electricity and Magnetism). In 
1900 he also published, in America, the first edition of his Ma- 
chinists 9 \and Draftsmen's Handbook. These books were exten- 
sively used because of their helpful tables, detailed accounts of 
machines, and clear discussion of common problems. 

Back in America in 1902, Lobben became director of Dr. 
Thaddeus CahilFs electric laboratory at Holyoke, Massachu- 
setts. Cahill, an inventor, was at the time working on elec- 
trically-produced music. Lobben remained with him until 
1911, when he became technical head of the Andersen Manu- 
facturing Company in Boston. In 1913 he returned to Norway 
to remain, and several years later opened a correspondence 
school in Christiania which offered courses in mathematics, 
mechanics, and electrotechnology; he himself wrote the neces- 

m American Society of Mechanical Engineers, TraMMetions, 29:1173 (1907). 

417 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

sary texts. During this period in the homeland he put out 
new editions of the Lommebog, Elektricitet og magnetisme; 
in addition he published, in 1915, Elektriske vekselstrfimme 
(Electric Alternating Currents) and then, in 1917, Induktions- 
motorer og transformatorer (Induction Motors and Transform- 
ers) . Many machinists and electricians as well as students and 
engineers, both in Europe and America, have benefited by 
Lobben's writings. 27 

Dr. Magnus C. Ihlseng is generally regarded as one of the 
Norwegian engineer group, despite the fact that he received 
all his technical training at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Prepara- 
tory School and Columbia University; at the latter institution 
he was awarded the Ph.D. degree in 1878. Before and after 
receiving the advanced degree he served as instructor in physics 
at Columbia, leaving in 1881 to become professor of mining 
engineering at the Colorado State School of Mines at Golden. 
In 1893 he was appointed dean of the school of mines in Penn- 
sylvania State College, and in 1889 he became professor of 
mechanical engineering at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. 
He held the latter position only until 1906, but continued his 
association with the school until his death in 1930. In 1906 
he became examining engineer for the New York municipal 
civil service, a position that he held until his death. For half 
a century he was consulting engineer for location, examination, 
and the development of mining properties in the American 
West, Mexico, South America, and Cuba, and in the coal fields 
of Illinois, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. He was the author 
of a standard Manual of Mining (1896) and of numerous 
articles published in technical journals, including "A New 
Method of Determining the Velocity of Sound and Modulous 
of Electricity/' read before the National Academy of Sciences. 
He is also credited with the invention of a widely used slide 
rule for chemical computations .and with notable contributions 
in such fields of investigation as the coefficient of elasticity in 

27 Nordmands-forbundet, 14:384-888 (1921); 75 drs biogtafisk jMeums-jestskrijt, 
Hortens tekniske skole, 138. 

418 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

metals, the velocity of sound through woods, and the treatment 
of ores. 28 

While it is not the intention of this study to enumerate all 
of the engineers in the teaching field, mention may be made of 
A. S. Riddervold, a graduate of Christiania's Technical Col- 
lege, who was associate professor of civil engineering at the 
University of Nebraska, 1911-18; Aksel Andersen, who re- 
turned to Norway in the late 1930's to become professor of 
statics and bridge engineering at the Institute of Technology 
in Trondhjem; and Inge M. Lyse, who also recently became 
a professor at Trondhjem following a brilliant career with 
building materials in America. 

Several Norwegians have established schools in this country 
for navigators, machinists, and the like. Typical of this group 
was Ingvald Tonning, who organized a school of marine engi- 
neering in New York in 1914 after an unsuccessful attempt at 
founding an American-Scandinavian technical school. By 1922 
he was credited with having turned out between 1,400 and 1,500 
marine machinists of all national origins, most of them Scan- 
dinavian. After 1920 he had as a partner in his school J. C. 
Reid, a mechanical engineer. Tonning continued his association 
with the school until his death in 1932. 29 

vni 

In the field of theology P. G. Zwilgmeyer, a graduate of 
Bergen's Technical College and an engineer in the right-of-way 
department of the Northern Pacific's western headquarters, has 
been a prominent writer for the Norwegian-American church 
press. His "Bibelkritik" (Biblical Criticism), which was printed 
in eight installments of Luthemneren in 1911 and 1912, is of 
more than casual interest, as is also his study of "Luther som 
menneske og reformator" (Luther as Man and Reformer), 
which appeared in twenty parts in the same periodical, 1914-15. 
Zwilgmeyer has also written articles on theological and scien- 

m NordM tidend.e t December 8, 1921; Norwegian- American Technical Journal, 
vol. 4, no. 1, p. 14 (April, 1981); Who's Who in America, 4:916 (Chicago, 1906-07). 
30 Nordisk tidende, April 20, 1922. 

419 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

tific subjects for Teologisk tidsskrift (Minneapolis) and on 
engineering subjects for such journals as Professional Engineer 
and Pacific Engineer These writings consistently reveal the 
mind of a keen and patient scholar. 

Not all the engineers who have interest in theology have 
remained within the Lutheran fold; some, in fact, have strayed 
far afield. Olaf Bastesen, structural designer and draftsman for 
the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation at Gary, was first a 
member of the American Theosophical Society and for a time 
president of the Annie Besant lodge in Chicago. Then he joined 
the Liberal Catholic church and eventually became absorbed 
in theological studies. He accepted orders in the Liberal Catho- 
lic church and is now an ordained priest. For four years he 
was in charge of St. Alban's Church and is now an associate 
priest at the Church of St. Francis in Chicago. 81 

Nor is the group without a gospel singer. Eivin Bj^rnstad, 
one of the foremost gospel singers of the country, originally 
studied engineering in Munich and during that time discovered 
his unusual voice. Trained by such teachers as Elf ret Florio 
and Oscar Saenger, he made his opera debut in New York but 
returned to sing in the cities of Europe. While performing in 
opera he became deeply religious, and has since devoted his 
considerable talent to interpreting the simple gospel songs. Fre- 
quently he sings to full houses in Chicago's new Civic Opera 
House or the enormous Moody Memorial; nor is it unusual for 
him to sing before packed audiences in the Moore Theater in 
Seattle for a solid week. 82 

IX 

One is strongly impressed by the assurances of many Nor- 
wegian engineers in executive positions that they have never 
had labor trouble in their plants. These men are usually quick 

80 Nordmands-forbundet, 18: 275 (192'5); archives of the Norwegian-American Tech- 
nical Society, Chicago; information supplied by Zwilgmeyer. See Zwilgmcyer's able 
study of Blaise Pascal," in Teologisk tidsskrift (Minneapolis), 6:241-268 (July, 
1923). 

^ Information obtained from Bastesen. 

XT 'I^r 11 ^ ter f ting artide about Basted appeared in the July 28, 1938, issue of 
Nordwk tidende. 

420 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

to add, sometimes knocking on wood, that of course they might 
not be so fortunate in the future. With some exceptions, the 
Norwegian engineer is peculiarly qualified for leadership be- 
cause of his ability to comprehend another's point of view, and 
he possesses what is equally important, a sympathetic under- 
standing of poverty and insecurity. These characteristics are 
due in part to his alliance with an immigrant group that has 
itself experienced insecurity; the engineer himself is very likely 
to have worked as a common laborer, and he knows the mind 
of the working class. No attempt will be made at this point to 
deal specifically with the social philosophy of the engineers, 
but the conduct and views of two men are presented as illus- 
trating in a peculiarly effective way the outlook of many of the 
group. 

Hans 0. Egeberg took the artium examination in Norway in 
1895, and studied at the Dresden Polytechnicum for two years. 
He came to America in 1897, and completed his technical edu- 
cation at Cornell University. From the time of his graduation 
in 1900 until his death Egeberg was employed in the steel 
industry, first in Chicago, then at Gary. Though his technical 
career included the supervision of construction, in Pittsburgh, 
of the machinery destined for the Gary steel mills, his real life 
work began when he was made superintendent of labor. Ege- 
berg's knowledge of the immigrant and his problems and his 
kindly interest in the men under his direction soon made him 
both friend and adviser to some sixty or seventy thousand em- 
ployees mostly South Europeans and Mexicans. His problems 
multiplied in the early 1930's, when lowered wages and unem- 
ployment caused great unrest, but his helpfulness and gener- 
osity were unfailing. According to Nordmanns-farbundet, "He 
had the rare faculty of being able to mingle with people of all 
classes. He was just as often on the workers* side as on the side 
of the steel trust, and because he was incorruptible and just, 
the workers looked up to him as to Providence itself." When 
Egeberg died in September, 1933, the steel company arranged 
a public funeral. His body lay for two days in the city's largest 

421 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

church and thousands passed by his coffin for a last look at 
their friend and benefactor. 38 

The other man who distinguished himself in labor relations 
is Alfred Vaksdal, plant engineer of the Corning Glass Works, 
where he is in charge of the powerhouse, machine shops, and 
other mechanical service divisions. Vaksdal has expressed him- 
self clearly and vigorously on the subject of dealing with 
workers a task, incidentally, that he considers the most 
difficult of all problems. Human engineering, as he calls it, de- 
mands of the leader kindness, truthfulness, competence, and 
above all a keen sense of justice. The best way to maintain 
a healthy relationship is to be thoroughly human, to mingle 
with the men. "The manager who thinks he can lead his men 
from his office by charts and curves, pushbuttons, telephones 
and autocalls, like the engineer who is synchronizing machines 
he does not see, is badly mistaken." In summing up his com- 
ments on the subject of maintenance, Vaksdal shrewdly ob- 
serves, "When everybody is planning for better service and 
effort is wisely directed with justice and kindness, men will be 
happy and will give you their best with the greatest possible 
safety/' 34 

X 

Chemical engineering has promise of a particularly bright 
future, and the material side of the engineer story should con- 
clude with a brief discussion of some of the chemists who in 
the past have contributed to America's growth. Their work in 
the fields of metallurgy and wood derivatives has already been 
discussed; what remains to be told is no less significant. 

In the field of chemical dyeing, we come upon the name of 
Olav Berg, a product of the Bergen and Dresden schools. Berg 
came to America in 1906, became associated with Dr. Max Im- 
hoff in 1912, and with him founded the Imhoff-Berg Silk Dyeing 
Company. This firm stion occupied a prominent position in the 

^Nordmanns-jorbundet, 6:357 (1933); Skandinaven, September 29, 1983. 

84 Vaksdal, "Keep Human!" in Power, 83:79 (March, 1939); Vaksdal, "The Suc- 
cess of Production Is Tied to Maintenance," in Factory Management and Mainte- 
nance, 97:88 (June, 1939). 

422 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

industrial life of Paterson, New Jersey; and Berg became a 
well-known chemical authority as well as an inventor of appara- 
tus used in silk production. Before his death in 1934 his com- 
pany had progressed to become the Phoenix Piece Dye works 
and the Berg Silk Dyeing Company. 35 

In the chemical line as in other branches of engineering there 
are self-taught leaders. William N. D. Rohde was a specialist 
in ink. His long and productive association with the Sanford 
Ink Company began in 1880. Becoming interested in the com- 
position of his firm's product, he began the study of chemistry; 
thereafter he climbed rapidly until he became head of the 
chemistry department. In 1935 Rohde could look back on fifty- 
five years of service, during which time 10,000,000 gallons of 
ink was produced by Sanford, most of it under his technical 
direction. 86 

The recent death of Dr. Fin Sparre, a director and for a 
quarter-century head of the development department of E. I. 
Du Pont de Nemours and Company, brought to a close the 
career of the leading Norwegian engineer in the field of ex- 
plosives. A graduate of Christiania's Technical College, Sparre 
also studied at Dresden and for a short time worked in Ger- 
many. Returning to Norway, he was employed at Gj^vik in 
the manufacture of ammunition for the Norwegian army. In 
1903 he accepted a position as chemist with the Du Pont Com- 
pany at Wilmington. 

At that time, Du Po;nt was exclusively interested in the 
production of explosives, but in the years that followed the firm 
branched out into other activities. In this expansion Sparre 
figured prominently, becoming chief chemist and in 1912 
director of the experimental station at Wilmington. During the 
First World War he traveled to England, France, and Norway 
on a mission undertaken jointly by the army ordnance depart- 
ment and the Du Pont firm, to study the chemical aspects of 
war production. In 1918 he was named assistant director of 

18 Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, p. 21 (November, 19S5); 
Norditk tidende, April 14, 1921; Scandw, December 20, 1934. 
** Skandwaven, August 23, 1935. 

423 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Du Font's development department and in the following year 
became its director. Sparre was elected a director of the firm 
in 1930 and three years later he achieved a similar position with 
Remington Arms Company at Bridgeport, Connecticut. He 
served on the National Inventors Council and on an advisory 
committee on patents named by the Secretary of Commerce. 
After 1942 he was also a member of a committee advisory to 
Major General L. H. Campbell, Jr., chief of ordnance. 

Though it was Sparre's interest in explosives that brought 
him to America, he was entirely connected with industrial ex- 
pansions during his forty-one-year period of service with Du 
Pont. He lists no inventions or new processes, but the wide 
scope of his technical activity is shown in the fact that he not 
only headed the development department but also served as 
director of the Du Pont Cellophane Company, the Du Pont 
Rayon Company, the Du Pont Ammonia Corporation, and the 
Rossler and Haslacher Chemical Company. 

A merciless spotlight is now focused on the exchange of 
technical secrets by international cartels. In 1934, when discus- 
sion centered about the exchange of military information be- 
tween the United States and Great Britain with particular 
reference to TNT and the manufacture of "tetrol" and Du 
Pont officials announced that their company had never given 
a military secret to a foreign country except during the Pirst 
World War, Sparre chided the investigating committee of the 
Senate by saying that all formulas patented by Du Pont people 
could be purchased for ten cents by securing a copy of the 
patent office Official Gazette. He also revealed that Americans 
first learned how to produce TNT through information which 
was seized from the Germans during World War I and passed 
on to us by the British. 87 

The application of chemistry to war is usually a positive or 
destructive one, A recent news item, however, announces a new 

"I.N.S. news item from Washington, D. C., December 7, 1934. Information about 
Sparre's career was found in an article by Magnus Bj0rndal in Norwegian- American 
Technical Journal, vol. 5, no. 1, p. 6, 9 (January, 1932); Nordisk tidende, October 12, 
1944; New York Herald Tribune, October 8, 1944; material supplied by Dr, Sparre. 

424 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

substance, deoxolin, which "may rob the incendiary bomb of 
its menace by flameproofing buildings and clothing." This 
liquid, which was made available to the United Nations, is 
the discovery of Dr. 0. T. Hodenfield, a Norwegian-born chem- 
ist, and it is, we are told, being manufactured in large quanti- 
ties. 88 

With the growth of motor transportation in the present 
century, petroleum has assumed an obvious importance, and 
quite naturally a number of Norwegian engineers have given 
their time and energy to research connected with it. Several, 
all of them graduates of the Norwegian Institute of Technology, 
have made lasting contributions in the chemistry of oil. 

Johannes H. Bruun, manager of the experimental division of 
the Sun Oil Company at Norwood, Pennsylvania, received his 
early education in Finland, where his father served as consul; 
after a year's technical training at the Finnish Institute of Tech- 
nology, he completed the chemical course at Trondhjem in 
1923. Bruun left for the New World in 1924, intending to 
acquire experience as a laborer in the American pulp and paper 
industry, preparatory to a technical career in the same field in 
Norway. He found employment with the American Aniline 
Products, Inc., at Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, and became su- 
perintendent of manufacture in several plants. Switching to 
the national bureau of standards in 1927, he became senior 
research associate of the American Petroleum Institute within 
the bureau. In 1933 Bruun transferred to the Sun Oil Company 
of Philadelphia and two years later was made manager of its 
experimental division. Author of numerous articles in the 
Journal of Research issued by the bureau of standards, and in 
Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (1929-39), he was also 
the inventor of the "Bruun column," a laboratory distillation 
device. He began, among other research programs, Project 
Number 6 of the American Petroleum Institute, developing, 
with others, new methods of separating the constituents of 
petroleum. This project still continues as America's most impor- 

*Nu> York Herald Tribune, April 19, 1042. 

425 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

tarit research undertaking in petroleum. Bruun found it pos- 
sible during a busy career to earn a PhD. in chemistry at Johns 
Hopkins University (1929); and in the years between 1928 and 
1936 he visited many universities and research laboratories in 
Germany, France, England, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, and 
Belgium. 89 

One of the leading industrial chemists of America is Dr. Per K. 
Frolich, director since 1936 of the Esso Laboratories, chemi- 
cal division, of the Standard Oil Development Company, and 
president, in 1943, of the American Chemical Society. Frolich 
completed his course in electrochemistry at the Norwegian In- 
stitute of Technology in 1921 and served for two years as an 
assistant in chemistry. Accepting a fellowship from the Ameri- 
can-Scandinavian Foundation, he enrolled for postgraduate 
work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he 
received the degrees of master of science and doctor of science in 
1923 and 1925. At MJ.T. he was also a research assistant, 
research associate, and, from 1927 to 1929, associate professor 
of chemical engineering, as well as assistant director of the 
research laboratory of applied chemistry. During what might be 
called his academic period, from 1922 to 1930, Frolich pub- 
lished no less than thirty research papers dealing with such 
subjects as high-pressure synthesis and the part played by 
catalysts in high-pressure reactions, and covering the general 
field of electrochemistry. In 1930 his work on gas reactions 
under high pressure earned for him the Grasselli medal of the 
Society of Chemical Industry. 

Transferring in 1929 to the industrial field, toward which his 
interests naturally led him, Frolich joined the research staff of 
the Standard Oil Development Company. In 1931 he was pro- 
moted to assistant director of the research laboratories, and 
by 1933 he had become director. Because of the widening scope 
of the work of the development company, its chemical and oil 
research activities were brought under a separate division in 

89 Archives of the Norwegian-American Technical Society, Chicago; and informa- 
tion received from Dr. Bruun. 

426 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

1935, and Frolich was named chief chemist. One year later he 
was director of the newly created chemical division of the Esso 
Laboratories. Since 1930 he has published extensively the results 
of research in which he has been engaged, bringing the total of 
his scientific papers to well over fifty. In addition, he holds as 
many patents dealing with petroleum processes and products. 
Frolich may thus be said to occupy a position in the very heart 
and nerve center of research in the all-important petroleum 
industry. 

No one is better qualified than Frolich to discuss the impor- 
tant question of "Petroleum, Past, Present, and Future," which 
was the subject of his presidential address delivered before the 
106th general meeting of the American Chemical Society at 
Pittsburgh in \943. Frolich optimistically stated that not only 
are there large undiscovered reserves of petroleum in the United 
States and elsewhere, but also a considerable unused volume is 
known to be in the ground. He did not attempt to predict how 
soon the total supply would be exhausted, but he assured his 
listeners that there was little reason to look for a sudden change 
in the availability or use of such products as gasoline. Progress 
is being made steadily in the efficiency of processing methods 
and the quality of petroleum derivatives, and improved engines 
are resulting in improved utilization of both fuels and lubri- 
cants. At the same time increased drilling is adding to the 
available supply of petroleum. Sooner or later, of course, a 
shortage of natural oil will occur, but synthetic products will ap- 
pear on the market so gradually that the consumer will hardly 
be conscious of the transition that has been made possible by 
science. 40 

The chemical work of the development company under Fro- 
lich's direction has expanded greatly; and research has focused 
on lube oil additives, the chemical utilization of refinery gases, 
high-pressure oxidation, and the synthesis of low and high 
molecular weight polymers from petroleum gases. But of more 

* Per K Prolich, "Petroleum, Past, Present, and Future," in Industrial and En- 
gineering Chemistry, 85:1181-1138 (November, 1948). 

427 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

interest is the work in the field of synthetic rubber. Research 
on synthetic rubber raw materials and synthetic rubber derived 
from petroleum by-products had proceeded leisurely before 
1941. It was America's entrance into World War II that drama- 
tized the struggle to provide substitutes for the natural rubber 
supplies which were cut off by the Japanese. Even before the 
disaster at Pearl Harbor, Frolich predicted that because of 
the extensive work already done in applying synthetics to spe- 
cial uses and the familiarity thus acquired with methods of 
processing rubbers, wise planning would enable American 
chemists to expand the output of synthetic rubber to meet do- 
mestic needs as well as military in time of emergency. The great 
contribution of the chemical division, headed by Frolich, lay in 
the development of butyl rubber, which was extensively used in 
the war effort; improvement in the methods of producing buta- 
diene and other synthetic rubber raw materials; and in making 
available to other industries the information necessary in the 
production of buna rubber. Dr. Frolich, like many good scien- 
tists, is as modest as he is energetic and he insists that credit 
for the work with which he is associated "should go to the or- 
ganization of which I am the head, rather than to me as an 
individual." 41 

Hans Gudbrand Vesterdal, also a graduate of the Norwegian 
Institute of Technology, is a research chemist with the Stand- 
ard Oil Development Company, and a long list of patents in his 
name attests to significant research in the improvement of 
petroleum products. Thorleif Ellison, who completed his techni- 
cal education at Christiania's Technical College in 1924, served 
for a time with Standard Oil and more recently as designing 
engineer with the Solvay Process Company of Hopewell, Vir- 
ginia. In charge of mosquito extermination with the board of 
health in Brooklyn, 1934-35, he was able to effect a great 

41 Chicago Tribune, December 13, 1940; report of an address delivered by Frolich 
before the opening session of the National Industrial Chemical Conference at Chi- 
cago. The writer is indebted to Frolich for considerable information and for many 
items appearing in the Chemical and Engineering News and Industrial and Engineer* 
ing Chemistry. 

428 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

reduction in the insect nuisance. Karl Theodor Nilsson is a 
chemical engineer for the Solvay Process Company at Syracuse, 
New York; he is a graduate of the Norwegian Institute of 
Technology and also holds an M.S. degree from the Massa- 
chusetts Institute of Technology. These and many others are 
demonstrating that in the relatively new field of chemical engi- 
neering the record of the graduates of Norway's schools will 
one day look as impressive as that of the earlier engineers in 
mechanical, structural, and other lines. 

Our story of engineering is primarily a masculine one. A com- 
pilation of some 1,300 graduates of Trondhjem's Technical 
College includes only 7 women, and apparently none of them 
came to America. Lucie Wennermark Nielsen, a graduate of 
Christiania's Technical College, is one woman, however, who 
enters the story. She came to New York in 1927 and took em- 
ployment with Nestle's Food Company; after 1930 she served 
as research chemist for the Bristol Meyer Drug Company at 
Hillside, New Jersey/ 2 

The number of chemical engineers who were born in Norway 
but received their technical education in this country is fairly 
large. Since this volume is not primarily concerned with these 
men, one of the group, Magnus Swenson, will suffice to illustrate 
the nature and extent of their influence. Swenson left Norway 
with his parents when he was only thirteen. The family went 
to Wisconsin and settled at Janesville; the son enrolled at the 
state university, from which he graduated in 1880. In preparing 
for his engineering career, Swenson wrote a thesis on "The 
Chemical Analysis of Madison Well Waters" at a time when 
the city was suffering from diphtheria and typhoid fever. Since 
the germ theory of disease had been recognized by only a few, 
Swenson's efforts as an employee of the city health department 
to study the sources of drinking water met with a determined 
opposition on the part of local citizens but he succeeded and 
the epidemics were brought to an end. 

Transferring to the newly created college of agriculture, 

49 Norwegicm~American Technical Journal, vol. , no, , p, 11 (July, 1929). 

429 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

Swenson experimented with sugar production from sorghum 
and in 1883 he was awarded a prize by the federal department 
of agriculture for a paper, 'The Chemistry and Manufacture of 
Sugar." His studies brought him a position as manager of the 
largest sugar plant in the country, at Sugarland, Texas. Swen- 
son has himself told what followed. Making changes in the 
factory and adding inventions of his own, he "had the very 
great satisfaction of nearly doubling the yield from the sugar 
cane. This led to my becoming consulting engineer to many of 
the sugar planters in both Texas and Louisiana." At about the 
same time he invented the Swenson multiple effect evaporator. 

[This] made it possible to remove the water from solutions very 
economically, and I received so many orders for this apparatus that 
I bought a half interest in the Fort Scott Foundry and Machine 
Company, Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1889, where I continued to manu- 
facture until 1893, when we moved our plant to Chicago under the 
name of the American Foundry and Machine Company. . . . My 
work was principally the saving of waste. . . . [It] also extended 
into the manufacture of caustic soda, paper and pulp, licorice, to- 
bacco products, glue, glucose, sugar of milk, tannin, and many 
others; but the manufacture of sugar machinery was my principal 
vocation. 

In 1891 Swenson invented a quadruple multiple effect evapo- 
rator for Hawaii, "which I guaranteed to evaporate water from 
cane juice at the continuous rate of a ton of water a minute." 
Some years later he sold his Chicago plant; he returned to 
Madison, took a leading part in the development of hydro- 
electric plants on the Wisconsin River, and served as director 
of several business and financial firms. His fascinating career, 
discussed elsewhere in some detail, 48 included extensive serv- 
ice to state and nation; during 1917-19, he writes, "practically 
all my time was devoted to war work, as chairman of the Coun- 
cil of Defense for the State of Wisconsin, as United States Food 
Administrator for the State of Wisconsin, and finally in Europe 
as Chief of Mission of the American Relief Administration for 
Northern Europe, under Herbert Hoover." Among the many 

43 See Olaf Hougen, "Magnus Swenson, Inventor and Chemical Engineer," in Nor- 
wegian-American Studies and Records, 10:152-175 (Nortkfield, 1938). 

430 



ARCHITECTS, SCHOLARS, AND CHEMISTS 

administrative and executive positions that he held in his clos- 
ing years was the presidency of the Norwegian-American His- 
torical Association. 

A note of nostalgia frequently appears in the lives of the im- 
migrant engineers. Swenson, in writing of his home in Madison, 
on the west shore of Lake Mendota, says that he planted his 
fifty-acre plot of land with trees and shrubs "such as I remem- 
bered as growing where I lived in Norway. . . . This place I 
named 'Thorstrand/ after that part of Larvik where I lived as 
a boy. . . . On the window sill of my library there is fixed an 
arrow which points across Lake Mendota directly towards my 
old home. . . . Often when the lake is covered with mist I 
imagine that I see the old 'Thor strand' on the opposite shore; 
and no Mohammedan turns his face towards Mecca more rev- 
erently than do I towards my childhood home/' 44 

u Quotations are from a reply to a questionnaire sent to Swenson by the Norwe- 
gian-American Technical Society and published in its Journal, vol. 9, no. 1, p. 3, 6 
(June, 1986). Other accounts of Swenson's career may be found in Norwegian-Ameri- 
can Technical Journal, vol. 3, no. 2, p. 9 (August, 1930); George Edward V. Riis, 
"Magnus Swenson, a Doer of Deeds," in AmericanrScandinawian R&view, 7: 288 (July- 
August, 1919); Scandia, May 13, 1927; Nordisk tidende, August 9, 1928; Minneapolis 
tidende, February 11, 1932; Skandinaven, August 5, 1932, March 31, 1936, and April 
7, 1936. 



431 



THE 

ENGINEERS 

THE educated Norwegian who ar- 
ORGANIZE rived in America late in the nineteenth 

or early in the twentieth century 
could if he had the time and the 
inclination step right into a well- 
organized Norwegian life in any of the major northern cities. 
Naturally, many engineers availed themselves of this oppor- 
tunity to relax with old friends, speak their native tongue, and 
forge new social links. 

Many engineers have remarked that they took little or no 
part in such activities, but the records reveal that their partici- 
pation was considerable. Here and there in the Norwegian papers 
appear names belonging unmistakably to the engineer group, 
linking them with this or that cultural, athletic, or social body. 
The simple fact is that the organized Norwegian life of the Ameri- 
can city was there to be accepted or rejected; in either case it 
affected the engineer and formed a large part of the social and 
cultural pattern that was his in the New World. 

I 

Apart from the technical societies, the two organizations 
which were supported most warmly by the engineers were Det 
Norske Selskap of New York and the Chicago Norske Klub. 

The Norske Selskap of New York grew out of the local 
Society of Norwegian Engineers and Architects, which had been 
formed in 1902 under the presidency of Carl Busch Thome. De- 
siring a less restricted membership, the society reorganized two 
years later as the Norwegian Club, under the able presidency 
of Dr. Peter Groth. The dissolution of the Swedish-Norwegian 
union in 1905 spurred the new club into active life. For two 
years it maintained a reading room at the Hotel Imperial; then, 

432 



THE ENGINEERS ORGANIZE 

with a doubled membership, it took quarters on Clinton Street, 
and in 1913 it purchased a house at 7 St. Mark's Avenue in 
Brooklyn. The influx of young professional and business men 
from Norway during the First World War called for reorganiza- 
tion and larger quarters. Thanks to the efforts of the members 
and the generosity of Christoffer Hannevig, the Norwegian 
shipbuilder, a new clubhouse was acquired in 1918 at 117 
Columbia Heights, overlooking New York across the East 
River. The four-story building in which the club is now housed 
was remodeled according to the plans of the architect Thor- 
bj0rn Bass0, and it includes, among other things, a dining room, 
clubrooms, a library, a ballroom, and living quarters for mem- 
bers and guests. From 40 members in 1904, the club grew to 
88 in 1913 and over 200 in 1919. Especially active in the build- 
ing project were such engineers as Anton P. Jaeger, Gunnar 
Hartman, Johan Borge, Dag Sandberg, and the architect Bass0. 
Despite national depressions and frequent drops in membership, 
the club has survived as a vigorous organization to the present 
time. 

While the Norske Selskap exists primarily for social activi- 
ties, formal and informal, it also serves as a link between Nor- 
wegians on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Distinguished country- 
men visiting New York men like Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof 
Nansen, Worm Muller, C. J. Hambro, and others have been 
entertained and in turn have lectured and frequently have lived 
at the clubhouse. Newcomers young professional and business- 
men immediately feel at home in the New World in the 
company of club members, many of whom have themselves 
been in America but a short time. And through lectures, books, 
newspapers, and conversation, the organization has made pos- 
sible a sustained interest in things Norwegian within a group 
that is constantly enlarged by fresh but small infiltrations of 
immigrants; these inject new life into the club at critical times. 1 

The Chicago Norske Klub, though formally organized in 

x See Norden 1:19 (November, 19&9); Nordisk tidende, October 8, 1925; and anni- 
versary publications of the organization, especially Klubnytt, October, 199. 

433 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

1911, was the product of an amalgamation of two earlier clubs 
the Norwegian Club in Chicago (Den Norske Klub i Chi- 
cago) and the Norwegian Quartet Club (Den Norske Kvartet 
Klub). The latter was twenty-one years old at the time of the 
union, and the other, six. The fusion was actually one of two 
generations the older, in the prominent Quartet Club, and the 
younger, representing technical men for the most part, in the 
Norwegian Club. Wanting essentially the same thing an or- 
ganization of high social and cultural standards and finding 
their membership somewhat interlocking, the two groups de- 
cided upon a union that would permit the chorus of the Quartet 
Club to continue as the singing society of the new club and to 
retain its affiliations with the Norwegian Singers' League of 
America. In the lists of Norske Klub officers the names of engi- 
neers have been numerous; of the 29 presidents since 1911, 11 
have been engineers. 

While the club building was being planned, the members 
met in other halls, and the directors at the Norwegian consulate. 
Lack of proper facilities apparently did not lessen the club's zeal 
in "the advancement of Norwegian cultural interests," but "the 
promotion of social intercourse among its members" was fur- 
thered by the acquisition, in 1911, of quarters at Kedzie and 
Milwaukee avenues. A story was added to the existing structure 
under Joachim Giaver's direction, and clubroom plans were 
drawn by Christian U. Bagge and Halfdan Strom. The new 
quarters included a lounge, a library, a small kitchen, and a hall 
seating 150 to 175 people; these improvements facilitated din- 
ners, balls, lectures by prominent local leaders and visiting 
Norwegians, musical evenings, and general entertainment. 

The attractive structure which now houses the Norske Klub 
at 2350 North Kedzie Boulevard is the realization of a long- 
felt need. Construction began in 1916. The financial problems 
involved in erecting such a clubhouse were overcome largely 
as the result of the energy and initiative of Birger Osland, a 
Chicago investment banker. 2 A total of about $26,000 was ex- 

2 For Osland's part in this project and for an account of club activities in Chicago, 
see his A Long Pull from Stavanger, 83-55 (Northfield, 1945). 

434 



THE ENGINEERS ORGANIZE 

pended for a lot and for the erection of the building, exclusive 
of the furnishings. When one considers that the membership was 
made up of lawyers, doctors, architects, engineers, journalists, 
bankers, contractors, and manufacturers, as well as of actors, 
musicians, and the like, it is not surprising that the necessary 
funds were forthcoming. Giaver donated his engineering services 
and Bagge designed the Norwegian fireplace; others contributed 
ornamental iron, carved wood trim, kitchen equipment, and a 
desk; and the wives decorated the interior with considerable 
skill. 

The two-story brick clubhouse, when completed, was ade- 
quate to meet the varied needs of the members. The auditorium 
or hall on the first floor, with stage and dressing rooms; the 
clubroom, library, and bar on the second floor; and the dining 
room and kitchen in the basement offered ample facilities for 
the events that were to make the Norske Klub a real force in 
the life of the Chicago Norwegian element. The giant fireplace 
in the clubroom resembles a Norwegian pels; the lighting fix- 
tures hanging from the ceiling are in the style of the old stab- 
bur; and the general atmosphere of the clubroom interior 
derived in part from pilasters, ceiling beams, and decorations 
reveals at once the influence of Old Norway. 

In scope of interest the Chicago Norske Klub has no rival 
outside of Norway. Singing, dramatics, art exhibits, meetings of 
various auxiliary groups, conventions, royal visits, and many 
another activity have added color and significance to the in- 
stitution, which continues to function despite the drying up 
of the immigration stream and the consequent drop in mem- 
bership. Of the total membership of 276 in 1917, 57 were engi- 
neers, and of the total of 196 in 1945, 54 were engineers these 
figures revealing at a glance what the Chicago Norske Klub 
has been in the life of this technical group. A young engineer 
arriving in Chicago would go straight to the club, meet old 
friends from the technical school, and establish at once the 
necessary contacts for employment as well as for social life. 
There, too, he could read papers and books from the homeland 

435 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

and join with the members in the sentimental club song. It was 
written by Olaf Schroeder in 1906 for Den Norske Klub i Chi- 
cago, whose members, almost all of them then new arrivals, 
were stimulated by the events that led in 1905 to the severence 
of Norway's union with Sweden: 3 

KLTJBSANG 

Leiret i et enigt fylke 
Staar vor klub for Norges sag. 
Og vi lifter h^it vort merke 
Her i norskhets vennelag. 
Vi vil mindes hav og fjorde, 
Mindes skoge, dal og fjeld, 
Og hvis du os kraever Norge, 
Slaar vi skjoldborg for dit vel. 

CLUB SONG 

[Translation] 

Gathered now in common purpose, 
Hearts aglow with warm emotion, 
In Norway's cause our banner's hoisted, 
Here in friendly Norse devotion. 
Yes, we cherish sea and forest, 
Well remember fjord and height, 
If you need us, dear old Norway, 
For your honor we will fight. 

II 

In the Twin City area not a little of the engineers' early social 
activity centered in the person of Carl Illstrup, who entered the 
Minneapolis city engineer's office in 1882. Short, stocky, and 
cheerful, the "Little Napoleon," as he was sometimes called, 
plunged with terrific energy into the life of the Norwegian com- 
munity and justified his actions in these words, "For many 

3 The best sources of information about the Chicago Norske Klub are two book- 
lets, one published when the clubhouse was dedicated in 1017, the other in 1980 in 
observance of the organization's fortieth anniversary: Chicago Norske Klub, His- 
torical Sketch Published on the Occasion of the Dedication oj Its New Club Home, 
2350 North Kedzie Blvd. (Chicago, 1917), and Chicago Norske Klub, 1890-19$0 
(Chicago, 1930). Also valuable is Norden, 1:11, 28 (March, 1930). 

436 



THE ENGINEERS ORGANIZE 

years [immigrants] experience a feeling of having left something 
behind, a sense of being in a strange environment, and we never 
feel so good as when we are able to meet with our countrymen 
and hear and talk our native language." 4 

Illstrup organized the Minneapolis Ski Club in 1882 and 
served as its first president, at a time when skis were not only 
unobtainable but also locally unknown. "We used to ski over 
the spots on which are now located some of Minneapolis' finest 
residences," Illstrup wrote later, "but the ideal skiing places 
were where the Washburn home now stands, and on Lowry 
Hill. . . . Ordinarily, we took our girls with us, and with a 
bit of practice we could take them on our skis, in our laps or 
on our backs, when we went down a hill." Clubs were estab- 
lished in St. Paul, Stillwater, Eau Claire, Albert Lea, Hudson 
(Wisconsin), Red Wing, Duluth,- and Ishpeming (Michigan), 
and in 1886 the Ski Association of the Northwest, with Illstrup 
as president, was formed of all these groups. 

Even earlier, in 1885, a ski meet was scheduled by the clubs. 
The Minneapolis members "went out among the wealthy citi- 
zens , . . to stir up enthusiasm, and incidentally some money, 
for the project. We had quite good success, and secured a few 
hundred dollars for uniforms and other expenses. The uniforms 
selected were blue woolen with grey trimmings all over them, 
and were made on the order of the lumberjack's suit." At the 
tourney Mikkel Hemmestvedt, then the leading skier in Nor- 
way, "carried off all our first prizes. He made what was con- 
sidered then a magnificent jump of 90 feet." Subsequently 
there were two years without snow; the members "grew dis- 
heartened, and gradually the organization broke up. After that 
everybody became too busy to revive the old ski runs, and they 
have not been organized since." 5 

In 1888 Budstikken appealed to the Norwegian community in 
Minneapolis to organize a gymnastic society. It was founded 

4 From one of many Norwegian speeches found in Blstrup's papers; this quotation 
is from an address delivered at a Christmas gathering about 1900, The Illstrup papers 
consulted by the present writer are in the possession of Mrs. Walter Fuchs of Douglas, 
Minnesota, 

5 From an account prepared by Illstrup's hand and found in his papers. 

437 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

in December, 1885, as Den Norske Turnforening, with Illstrup 
as president. The turners met first at Peterson's Hall, then at 
Rifleklubbens Lokale on Third Street, and in 1886 they moved 
to Minnehaha Avenue near Cedar Avenue. When the first in- 
structor left, Illstrup took his place, and the turners partici- 
pated in meets at Minneapolis and elsewhere, notably Chicago. 
In June, 1893, the Northwestern Athletic Club, an "interna- 
tional" organization, was started by a handful of gymnasts, 
among them Illstrup. With headquarters in Normanna Hall, 
a great center of Norwegian activities, the club had a well- 
equipped gymnasium that was the product as much of enthusi- 
asm as of the financial resources of the members. Illstrup served 
not only as president but also as instructor in the "building 
of muscle and manhood." 

As the size and reputation of the club grew, it added many 
"passive memberships/* from business and professional men 
wanting good will and patronage. A series of public exhibitions 
culminated in a grand three-night performance at the Lake 
Harriet pavilion in the fall of 1896. 6 The greatest success came 
in the years 1893-96 when, among other things, the organization 
promoted skating and helped to produce such famous per- 
formers as Axel Paulson, Harold Hagen, and "Speed" McCor- 
mick. The club died in 1900 but the officers and some of the 
members continued to get together for years thereafter. 7 

Worth noting in connection with Illstrup's athletic activities 
was a tug of war tournament held in 1888; the "Little Napo- 
leon" organized the Norwegian team of ten men that won the 
contest, and the Minneapolis papers were full of praise for the 
way he led his men on to one victory after another. 8 

Despite Illstrup's many muscle-building activities, he had 
time to give to the Scandinavian Dramatic Society (Skandi- 
naviske Dramatiske Selskab) in the 1880's. His were comic 

e KJaud Holen, "A Bit of History," in the N. W. A. C. Sexa, an undated sheet pub- 
lished by the Northwestern Athletic Club of Minneapolis. A copy was found in the 
Illstrup papers. Helen's article carries the date March 24, 1900. 

7 Minneapolis Daily Star, December 31, 1932. 

8 Norsk sportsblad t 1: 1 (January, 1916). A copy of this number is in the Illstrup 
papers. 

438 



THE ENGINEERS ORGANIZE 

roles such as Departements-Lars in Fetter og Inger and Per 
in Til Sceters and we can believe that he put much of him- 
self into the performances that were given in Minneapolis and 
near-by towns. 9 He was also a member and at one time presi- 
dent of the Odin Club, at whose meetings he expressed senti- 
ments in favor of the common Scandinavian tradition with 
almost as much intensity as he spoke for the Norwegian 
heritage before purely Norwegian societies. 

Though none of the other Twin City engineers shared 111- 
strup's enthusiasm for the glow that follows physical exercise 
a biological phenomenon that he discussed frequently and in 
detail others there were who took willingly to the ski sport 
and to other activities that he loved so much. Hugo Kolstad and 
Martin S. Grytbak, for example, were members of the St. Paul 
Ski Club, which used a hill at Red Rock before moving to West 
Seventh Street near Otto Avenue (Highland Park). 10 Kris 
Oustad and F. W. Cappelen in Minneapolis were, like Illstrup, 
members of the Odin Club in the days when it maintained a 
chef and served lunches, besides putting on parties in hired 
halls. And others like 0. M. Rognan belonged to musical so- 
cieties such as Fram and Orpheus. 

Characteristic of the informal gatherings common among 
engineers was a "Boston" club organized by Hugo Kolstad, Alf 
Munthe, Adolph Andersen, and Martin S. Grytbak, with Haa- 
kon Falk as a substitute. Later a similar group, including Jacob 
Anthoriisen, R. A. Tanner, and 0. M. Rognan, was started. At 
first these men met every Saturday evening, later every two 
weeks, and finally once a month, to play Boston, a card game 
that was popular among people of their class in Norway; some- 

Carl G. 0. Hansen, in Skandinaven, September 11, 1986. 

10 It was not only in the Twin Cities that engineers pioneered in the ski sport. 
Marthinius A, Strand of Salt Lake City is credited with introducing skiing on the 
sports level to the people of Utah and surrounding states; he has served as president 
of the International Ski Association and as vice-president and director of the Na- 
tional Ski Association. In British Columbia Robert Lepsoe, in 1928, was the prime 
mover in organizing the Trail-Rossland Ski Club, which he served as president. "Many 
of the places where once my family and I used to ski in seclusion," he writes, "have 
become ordinary play grounds and even the highest mountain ridges are now overrun 
with tracks." Sigurd 0. Rogde, a Bergen graduate, has been sports director for the 
Norsemen Ski Club in New York City; in 1941 he was elected president of the club. 

439 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

what resembling auction bridge and requiring special chips, 
the game supposedly originated among French naval officers 
stationed at Boston during the American Revolution. Appar- 
ently it served well for a stag evening of drinks, smokes, and 
Norwegian conversation. 

The engineers who arrived in St. Paul after 1904 many of 
them to work in the railroad offices could establish immediate 
contacts in the local Norske Klub, which had engaged a room 
in Central Hall (now the Fisher Building) for its programs and 
dances. Here they might meet such men as Johannes Lie, the 
first president, Hugo Kolstad, Martin Grytbak, their wives, 
and others. As was also the case in other cities, this club came 
into being simply because its members felt not entirely at ease 
in the older Norwegian organizations of St. Paul. Active until 
1912, the Norske Klub of St. Paul enjoyed a brief revival there- 
after but soon ceased to be a strong force in the lives of the 
engineers. 

in 

Though engineers came to America in fairly large numbers 
after the 1880's and though they frequently met together at 
a common table, perhaps, in a room over some saloon, or at 
the home of one of their group, and sometimes even organized 
clubs of technical men like the Society of Norwegian Engineers 
and Architects in New York it was not until the prosperous 
1920's that the present influential technical societies were 
started. 

The graduates of Trondhjem's Technical College living in 
Chicago established the custom, in 1912, of celebrating, each 
November, the anniversary of the founding of their alma 
mater. The Novemberfest, as their gathering was called, was not 
unlike similar alumni meetings held everywhere in the United 
States. About twenty engineers and architects were regularly 
in attendance at the get-together, renewing acquaintances and 
carrying away pleasant memories of a thoroughly good time. At 
the Novemberfest in 1922, however, a significant step was 
taken; those present decided to invite all Norwegian engineers 

440 



THE ENGINEERS ORGANIZE 

in Chicago, regardless of which school they had attended, to 
participate in the annual gathering. At this meeting, too, the 
Chicago Norwegian Technical Society was organized; it had a 
charter membership of $9, and Joachim Giaver was the first 
president. Monthly meetings were scheduled, with programs of 
lectures and informal entertainment, and around November 1 
of each year a formal banquet and dance took place. 

A glance through the minutes of the society reveals some 
interesting programs and activities. At the meeting of February 
3, 1923, when the formal organization of the enlarged group 
was effected, "Our final act was to eat and drink in modern 
style, without wine and beer." Lectures on technical and non- 
technical subjects were delivered by members and distinguished 
guests; it was decided to publish a yearbook; the status of the 
engineering profession was discussed; and considerable horse- 
play centered about the admission of knights to the order of 
Den Halvt^mte Flaske (The Half -emptied Bottle). Several 
noteworthy decisions were made during the early years of the 
Chicago society. One was the plan, inaugurated in 1925, of 
gathering records of the work of Norwegian engineers in Illinois; 
the resulting program, later expanded to cover the entire coun- 
try, took on the nature of a major contribution. Certainly, as 
the new president, I. H. Faleide, suggested, a study would one 
day be made of the careers of the Norwegian technical men in 
America. In the spring of 1927 preparations were made for a 
national congress, in Chicago, of Norwegian engineers in the 
United States and Canada, and in connection with this gather- 
ing it was agreed that it would be desirable to organize a na- 
tional technical society. In 1926 the Chicago society also set 
up a service bureau to assist young engineers in finding em- 
ployment, a project that was later expanded to assist experi- 
enced men in obtaining new positions commensurate with their 
abilities. 

Lectures were a worth-while feature of the regular monthly 
meetings of the Chicago engineers. Among others, during the 
years 1928-33 Thomas Pihlfeldt discussed "The Straightening 

441 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

of the Chicago River"; Alfred Alsaker analyzed "The Economic 
Equation"; Sigurd E. Naess described "Chicago's New Post 
Office"; and a guest speaker from the University of Chicago 
lectured on "Technocracy." In the dark years after 1929 there 
was a growing demand for lectures on economic and social prob- 
lems; technical subjects, however, never ceased to dominate 
the program. As for social life, two events crowned the season 
the November jest and the annual dinner dance in the spring. 
A novel and significant educational feature was introduced 
during the winter months of 1928-29, consisting of courses 
in plan reading and estimating for craftsmen in the building 
and construction field. The educational program, like the em- 
ployment service, was supervised by Thomas Pettersen, and 
the classes, which were free, were held in the rooms of the Crane 
Technical Evening School. 

During the years 1923-29 the Chicago society grew in num- 
bers and organic strength. From 39 the membership jumped to 
150, the work of collecting biographical data progressed slowly, 
and before the financial crash of 1929 the members were dream- 
ing of building a Norway House; Viehe Naess and Bagge were 
drawing plans for a 20-story structure that would house all 
Norwegian organizations in Chicago. Needless to say, the clos- 
ing months of 1929 drew a curtain on such optimism, and 
membership rapidly declined. For a time the society held 
meetings at the Masonic Building in Logan Square; later the 
headquarters were moved back to the club, which is still the 
center of activities. 11 

IV 

Elsewhere, similar groups had taken form. At Schenectady, 
where the General Electric Company and the metal industry 
offered excellent opportunities for employment and practical 
experience, a Norwegian Technical Society flourished in the 
days before and after World War I. Schenectady lies on the 

11 A good brief history of the Chicago Norwegian Technical Society appeared in 
Scandia, April 7, 1938; Thorleif B. Jorgensen has reviewed its early years in Nor- 
wegian-American Technical Journal, voL 1, no. 1, p. 6 (February, 1928); other accounts 
may be found in subsequent issues of the same periodical, and such papers as Scandia 
and Skandinaven faithfully reported all meetings. 

442 



THE ENGINEERS ORGANIZE 

route of the immigrant journey (New York-Albany-Buffalo- 
Chicago), and as a result the membership of its society has 
fluctuated with the ups and downs of immigration. 12 

The success of the Chicago society served as an inspiration 
to the young engineers of the New York area to organize a new 
club. A small group of men, accustomed to gathering of an 
evening in the apartment of John Litell and Sv. Steen Sandal, 
decided to effect a more formal organization; this was done on 
January 26, 1925. The Norwegian Engineers' Society of New 
York was started at the clubhouse of the Bergen Association; 
about 40 engineers became members and Ola Sater was chosen 
as the first president. Early meetings were held in the rooms of 
the Norske Selskap on Columbia Heights, and the programs 
did not differ materially from those of the Chicago engineers. 

In 1926 two rooms were rented as headquarters at 418 Fifty- 
fourth Street, in Bay Ridge, within easy distance of the homes 
of most of the members. During the second year of its life the 
organization, in co-operation with the Swedish Engineers' Club, 
began a vigorous effort to secure suitable positions for young 
technicians and, under the presidency of O. L. Riegels, took 
a stronger interest than before in social life. More adequate 
quarters were then found at 561 Fifty-second Street; these 
rooms were open to members every evening and the evidence 
points to an enlarged membership and a generally increased 
interest in the activities of the society. In December of 1927 
the group joined the Norwegian- American Technical Society. 
Regular meetings drew an average attendance of 30, and the 
bachelors, in particular, were happy to use the club's rooms as 
a substitute for ordinary home life. Interesting, too, was the 
society's determination to support all worthy Norwegian- 
American movements and at the same time to foster its own 
professional and social needs. 18 

It is significant that by 1928, if not earlier, the interests of 

ls See Nordmands-forbundvt, 6:144 (1913) and 11:471-478 (1918). 

18 See an article by John Litell, corresponding secretary, in Norwegian-Aynerican 
Technical Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 9 (February, 1928); an able ten-year review of the 
society's history was written by John Litell and Sv. Steen Sandal and published in 
the Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, p. 5, 20 (November, 1935). 

443 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

the New York society were extending beyond the purely techni- 
cal and social fields. Lectures on such subjects as "F. W. Taylor, 
His System and Its Influence on World Industry/' "Our City 
Government/ 5 and similar topics of a political and economic 
nature must have left their impress on the members. In 1931 
a forum for the discussion of social problems was inaugurated 
under the sponsorship of S. J. Stockfleth. Frequent references 
in the programs to readings, such as excerpts from the Norse 
sagas recited by Dr. Frithjof Zwilgmeyer, indicate that litera- 
ture was not ignored; and music, much of it of Norwegian origin, 
was a constant feature of the meetings. 

Of special interest was the establishment, in the spring of 1928, 
of a free evening trade school for carpenters, bricklayers, and 
the like, similar to the one in Chicago. The idea originated with 
E. J. Oland and the purpose was to give complete courses in 
blueprint reading, estimating, and construction. Such was the 
enthusiasm of the tradesmen that almost overnight 120 men 
had applied for admission. Of this group only two classes of 25 
members in each could be accommodated in the clubrooms. 
Nothing daunted, the teachers consulted with the local board 
of education and secured the use of classrooms in a public- 
school building. 

Three classes were taught during the fall of 1928 and the 
spring of 1929. Ola Sater, who had had teaching experience in 
Norway, was the principal instructor; he was assisted by 0. 
Lowzow, B. Paulsen, F. Oyen, and S. S. Sandal. In 1928-29 two 
special courses in structural design for engineers were also 
conducted by the society. The school was unable to continue 
its program in the fall of 1929 and the depression that followed 
no doubt discouraged further educational ventures. 

The need for larger quarters became so great by the spring 
of 1929 that new rooms were rented at 515 Ovington Avenue, 
in Bay Ridge. The location was not ideal, but many bachelors 
moved nearer to the clubrooms and the doors were open every 
day. Regular meetings were held on Friday nights and informal 
dances were usually scheduled for Saturdays. A capable steward 

444 



THE ENGINEERS ORGANIZE 

served excellent four-course Norwegian dinners every evening 
as well as sandwiches and beverages. The building was in an 
unfinished condition, so the clubrooms were partitioned off and 
decorated at the expense of the society, with the understanding 
that the financial outlay thus involved would be deducted from 
the rent. Unfortunately the owner of the building was soon de- 
clared bankrupt, the members lost their personal investment, 
and a painful interval followed. The society was forced to sublet 
its rooms and in 1931 it wisely incorporated. During the same 
year less expensive headquarters were rented at 530 Eighty- 
sixth Street, where the society still meets. After the worst of 
the depression, during which engineers in considerable numbers 
resigned and some even returned to Norway, there was renewed 
interest and an increase in membership, which in 1935 totaled 
more than 80. 

The Norwegian Engineers' Society possesses excellent club- 
rooms. In them are held the annual hfistfest (fall party) in 
September, a social gathering each month, a herrefest (men's 
banquet) in December, a children's Christmas party, a New 
Year's party, and a Seventeenth of May celebration. There is 
talk of a new clubhouse, and a fund was started in 1938 toward 
the realization of this objective. Corporate feeling was enhanced 
in the same year with the publication of the first issue of the 
N. E. 8. Bulletin, which like the Journal of the national engi- 
neers' organization contains biographical material, in addition 
to news of local interest. After the invasion of Norway in 1940, 
the engineers in the East took a special interest in Norwegian 
fliers and seamen, raised funds for the benefit of the Seamen's 
Church in Brooklyn and the engineers on Norwegian ships, and, 
like Norwegian-American groups in other places, gave assist- 
ance wherever possible to the cause of freedom and recon- 
struction in the homeland. 

v 

The idea of a national organization had gestated for years 
in the minds of some of the engineers. Consequently when 
the Chicago Norske Klub, under the presidency of Birger Os- 

445 



SAGA IN STEEL AND CONCRETE 

land, sponsored a convention of Norwegian engineers and archi- 
tects in 1917, the gathering that followed was a notable success, 
despite the clouds of World War I. A committee appointed by 
the Norske Klub and composed of Giaver, Pihlfeldt, and Viehe 
Naess in Chicago had sent out invitations before America's 
entry into the war; having done this, they were determined that 
the convention should be held. During the last three days of 
September about 80 technical men from outside Chicago 
mingled with approximately the same number of local members. 
Among those who attended were F. W. Cappelen of Minne- 
apolis, S0ren Munch Kielland of Buffalo, Magnus Swenson of 
Madison, Hans Helland of San Antonio, Olaf Hoff of New York, 
and many others who have figured prominently in this story. 
A strong patriotic spirit, which was expressed in a resolution 
of loyalty to the government of the United States, naturally 
pervaded this first gathering of Norwegian engineers in America. 
On the last day of the convention a formal organization was 
effected, with Joachim Giaver as president. 14 

Almost exactly ten years later a second convention was 
held at the Norske Klub. Jointly sponsored by the club and 
the Chicago Norwegian Technical Society, this gathering was 
planned by a committee under the chairmanship of Thomas G. 
Pihlfeldt. About 125 men responded to the invitation and the 
convention sat from September 22 to 24, 1927. Judged by 
the official report, the social side of the meeting as well as the 
technical was a complete success. From the historical point of 
view, however, the most significant result was the formation 
of the Norwegian-American Technical Society, A constitution, 
with bylaws, was prepared by C. F, Berg and A. H. Nesheim; 
it was submitted on the closing day of the convention and 
approved. The scheme proposed was one of direct member- 
ships for technical men residing in cities where no branch 
group could be formed, and for branch organizations in the 
more important engineering centers. 15 

u See Osland, A Long Pull jrom Stavanger, 45; F. S. H, Sartss, "Det norske tek~ 
nikermjzfte i Chicago," in Nordmands-forbundet, 10:468-467 (1917). 

15 See G. A. Viker's account of the convention in Norwegian-American Technical 

446 




n i^^?S^ D 




NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR 



1939 



CONVENTION ISSUE 



^ 



Vol. 12 July, 193f) No, 1 

Published by The Nonveffian-American Technical Society 



Convention Issue, Norwegian-American Teo/inical Journal 



THE ENGINEERS ORGANIZE 

A major purpose of the new organization, we read in the 
constitution, was "to keep records of their [the engineers' and 
architects*] progress and achievements"; the bylaws list as 
one of the duties of the board of directors the publication of 
a journal to appear at least four times a year. It was also de- 
cided at the Chicago convention that one of the two branch 
societies should be named to carry on the work of the national 
organization between conventions* This task has been assumed 
by the Chicago group. 

The next convention was likewise held at Chicago during 
the Century of Progress Exposition, from June 22 to 24, 1933 
and again the Norske Klub was the scene of activities. The 
exposition naturally offered a variety of exhibits of interest 
to engineers; among them was one displaying the Tinius Olsen 
testing machines. At a business meeting it was disclosed that, 
despite the depression, the national organization had a total 
membership of 330. Otto Clausen, secretary of the organization, 
announced that twelve issues of the society's Journal, which he 
had edited, had been mailed to members, libraries, and educa- 
tional centers. 10 

The fourth convention was held in New York, September 
2-5, 1939, during the World's Fair in that city. This time the 
eastern society sponsored the gathering; a committee headed 
by S. J. Stockfleth made it a notable one. At the opening ses- 
sion the present writer explained to the members of the society 
the tentative plan of the Norwegian-American Historical Asso- 
ciation to study the engineer group and in due course to pub- 
lish in book form an analysis of its contributions to American 
life and growth. The plan as outlined was wholeheartedly 
endorsed. 17 

The task of publishing such a book has been made immeasur- 
ably easier by the material appearing regularly in the Norwe- 

Jourtid* vol. 1, no. 1, p. 4-0 (February, 19$8). The constitution and bylaws are 
printed in vol 1, no, > p. 14 (May, 1928). 

10 See Supplement to Norwegian- American Technical Journal, August, 1933, p. 3. 

17 See N. E, & Bulletin, no* fc, p. 5 (December, 1939). An article by H. Sundby- 
Hansen in Nordwk tidende t September 7, 1939, and another by Carl Matre in Skan- 
dinavm, September 15, 1939, give detailed records of this convention. 

447 



SAGA IN STEEL AND .CONCRETE 

gian-American Technical Journal. No less than twenty issues 
in all have been published and these contain, in addition to 
news of the society and its branches, invaluable biographies of 
outstanding engineers and articles dealing with specific tech- 
nical projects. That much information has thus been saved 
for the historian is the result of the combined efforts of the 
members of the society, but a special word of praise is due the 
men who edited the beautifully illustrated Journal. Otto Clau- 
sen, who is a musician, not an engineer, has nevertheless edited 
fifteen numbers; 18 S. J. Stockfleth, Fetter Moinichen, and C. F. 
Berg each was responsible for one issue; and Magnus Bj0rndal 
was editor of two successive Journals. C. F. Berg in Chicago 
and Magnus Bjjzfrndal in New York have been particularly 
active in collecting biographical material. 

In another closely related way the national organization of 
engineers and architects has added to historical knowledge. 
The leaders had in mind the collection of data pertaining to 
their own group, and the first issues of the Journal, beginning 
in February, 1928, contained valuable information. But it was 
not until the spring of 1934 that the branch societies in New 
York, Chicago, and the Twin Cities were asked to designate 
committees specifically charged with the duty of gathering 
source materials. The committees compiled lists of engineers 
and architects, and prepared questionnaires, asking the usual 
questions about one's life and work, that were sent to these 
men. The results were at first disappointing, but gradually, in 
response to various pressures, an impressive collection of data 
was accumulated from both sides of the Atlantic. 19 Some, but 
far from all of the information thus obtained was utilized in 
preparing the interesting biographies published in the Journal. 
The archives of the Norwegian-American Technical Society 
are kept at the headquarters of the Chicago branch. 

Branches of the national society were soon to be organized 

18 For an account of this interesting singer and choral director, see Skandinaven* 
July 13, 1934. 

19 See "Wanted: The Records of Our Engineers aad Architects," by C, F, Berg, in 
Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, p. 7 (November, 1985). 

448 



THE ENGINEERS ORGANIZE 

in the Twin City and Philadelphia areas. M. S. Grytbak, a 
member and director of the national organization, gathered 
old associates at his home early in 1929, and the outcome of 
the discussion that followed was the Northwest Branch. In 
February of the same year some twelve men became members 
and Grytbak,, city bridge engineer of St. Paul, was elected presi- 
dent. There have been regular meetings, largely social in nature, 
with "Boston" and bridge games, occasionally interrupted by 
lectures on technocracy and specific engineering projects. 

At the New York convention of the national society, in 1939, 
the question of additional branches was discussed. Philadelphia 
was the first city to act. Dr. Haakon Styri, of ball-bearing fame, 
aroused enthusiasm among local engineers late in 1941 for a 
Norwegian-American Technical Society of Philadelphia. The 
organization was realized in May, 1942; the 34 members chose 
Styri as their first president. 

One example of another type of local technical organization, 
to which many Norwegian engineers belonged, will be men- 
tioned. This is the Swedish Engineers' Society, a member of 
the Associated Technical Societies of Detroit. It was common, 
especially in the nineteenth century, for Americans of Scan- 
dinavian birth to gather in organizations of all kinds, and 
engineers were no exception. The number of Scandinavian en- 
gineering societies, informal and formal combined, that sprang 
up in the cities and industrial sections of this country must 
have been considerable, since reference to this or that group, 
usually long since extinct, appears in many biographical ac- 
counts of the Norwegian engineers. But in the twentieth cen- 
tury the trend in such cities as Chicago and New York was 
distinctly toward separate Swedish and Norwegian societies. 
Together with a friendly rivalry between the national groups 
went considerable co-operation and an occasional exchange of 
visits a practice that extended also to the German societies. 

In Detroit, however, the Swedish Engineers' Society was the 
common Scandinavian technical organization of the 1920's, 
and it prided itself on being the u yimg est and liveliest of the 

449 



SAGA IN STEEL AMI CONCRETE 

Scandinavian engineering societies in the world." Its monthly 
Bulletins for 1924 show that the directors were chosen to repre- 
sent not only the Swedes but also Finns, Danes, and Norwe- 
gians; acting for the Norwegians were Sigmund Janson and 
N. H. F. Olsen. Olsen also served as chairman of the editorial 
committee. In its most ambitious period the society planned 
a convention of Scandinavian engineers at Detroit; this, how- 
ever, was never realized. 

VI 

Speaking in 199 at the twenty-fifth anniversary dinner of 
the Norske Selskap in Brooklyn, B. B. Furre, charter member 
and loyal supporter of the club, set out to answer a question 
that has frequently risen in the American mind. The topic of 
his address, which was delivered and published in Norwegian, 
was this, "Is the Norwegian Club Justified?" 20 Some of Furre 's 
statements are of more than usual interest in determining the 
attitudes of the members of this and similar immigrant organi- 
zations. The club, he maintained, rendered a distinct service 
and the members received satisfactions beyond definition when 
distinguished Norwegians were entertained during visits to 
America. "Norway is a country with an old culture. America 
is an immigrant land." Consequently, in Furre's words, a per- 
son "reared in a Norwegian home, educated in Norwegian 
schools, surrounded by old traditions and culture, wants and 
has the right in this country to the social and fraternal life that he 
can find in a Norwegian club like ours, and I maintain that even- 
tually he is a better American for it." He continued: "And 
here we arrive at a truth that has been so often stated a man 
who is not a good Norwegian cannot be a good American. I 
think one can say no, I am positive that one can say that 
the quicker the immigrant sheds his Norwegian character, the 
smaller the loss to Norway and the smaller the gain to America 
which accepts him as a citizen; and the less he becomes, as an 
American, the power that is needed to elevate the national life, 
political and cultural, of the United States." Furre made it 

^Klubnytt, October, 1929. 

450 



THE ENGINEERS ORGANIZE 

abundantly clear, however, that it was the duty of every im- 
migrant to become an American, to assume the duties of citi- 
zenship, and to be associated in every way with the best in 
the adopted land. But it was his considered opinion that the 
more cultured and educated the person, the greater the tragedy 
and failure when the transplanted Norwegian lost his 
heritage and identity. 

Addressing the engineers more directly and brutally, Magnus 
Bj^rndal went on record in 1930 in defense of the increased 
social activities of the Norwegian Engineers' Society of New 
York. "Most of the members/ 9 he wrote, "may have a large 
number of friends, but these are often spread over the large city 
and suburbs, and therefore social intercourse is limited ex- 
cept among a little clique of friends in the immediate neigh- 
borhood." Because of this, "most engineers shun the clubs, 
churches and societies which are entirely of a social nature/* 
The engineers, it should be remembered, are Europeans in train- 
ing and mentality. "For all who as yet have life in the old 
country freshly in mind there is a certain natural craving for 
social entertainments which, to be really 'stilig* [stylish], must 
find everybody in evening dress, w