IEEE Schenectady Section History
History of the Schenectady Section of the AIEE from 1915
The text below is adapted from a 1915 publication of AIEE Section Histories
The Schenectady Section of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers grew from a small engineering club fostered by the General Electric Company and limited to its employees. Thus was the General Electric Engineering Society organized in the summer of 1898 at a meeting of engineers at which Mr. W. J. Clark, presided.
Mr. W.H. Buck was elected President of the new society and Mr. J. H. Jenkins as Secretary. Succeeding Mr. Buck two years later, Mr. Jenkins held the office of President for the next two years, and during his term of office the Society had grown to such size that it was necessary to secure new quarters for its monthly lectures.
A constitution and set of by-laws were adopted on June 1, 1898. A copy to those is still extant.
The Club’s activities were not limited to the electrical field but embraced subjects of general interest. Electrical subjects, however, were naturally given most attention, and the following list of speakers and subjects may be taken as representative: Mr. E. W. Rice, Jr., Problems of Modern Central Station Design; Prof. Elihu Thompson, Lightning and Lightning Arresters; Dr. W. R. Whitney, Electrical Chemistry; Mr. W.J. Foster, Design of Alternators; Mr. A. H. Armstrong, Current Railway Problems.
The General Electric Engineering Club soon recognized the advantages to be derived by merging with the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and on January 26, 1903 it became known as the Schenectady Section of the AIEE. Dr. C.P. Steinmetz officiated for three successive years and was followed by Mr. D.B. Rushmore who held the office for two years. The following members in the order named have held the Chairmanship for one year: Mr. E.J. Berg, Mr. M.O. Troy, Mr. E.A. Baldwin, Mr. E.B. Merriam, Mr. J.B. Taylor, Mr. G.H. Hill, Mr. H.M. Hobart.
In the season of 1913-14 the Section was fortunate to be able to establish permanent and commodious headquarters in the building just then completed for the Edison Club. The auditorium of this building has a seating capacity of 500. The Eidson Club has also placed at the disposal of the Section an office in the building for the purpose of committee meetings. This also serves as the Secretary’s office.
The Schenectady Section was the ninth to be recognized by the Institute. In 1915, the Schenectady Section had 791 members and held 18 meetings. At the time, it was the largest and most active of the AIEE’s section groups.
The Schenectady Section has been exceptionally fortunate in being able to secure for its meetings speackers of authority in their respective spheres. That this has been the rule from the inception of the organization is in some measure an indication of the influential position which the Section occupies. The frequency of the meetings has varied somewhat in different years but even during the 1915 season, when an unprecedentedly large number of meeting were held, no difficulty was experienced in securing the desired speaker for each of the eighteen meetings. The season’s activities are varied by occasional meetings of a purely social nature, two of these in the form of smokers have been held last year. The season is usually ended by a dinner.
History of the Schenectady Section of the AIEE from 1945
The text below is adapted from the "A History of the Schenectady Section of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers" pamphlet, printed in 1945. A link to a pdf of the entire document is in the Further Reading Section below.
In the beginning – “The General Electric Engineering Society”
The first spark of an organized engineering society in Schenectady, New York, was kindled in the parlor of the old Edison Hotel, Monday evening, May 23, 1898. It was here that Mr. N. A. Thompson swung the gavel for the first time, calling to order the group of twenty-seven men assembled. Mr. Thompson proposed the names of Mr. H. W. Buck and Mr. J. H. Jenkins as temporary chairman and secretary respectively. No objections were raised and Mr. Buck took the chair.
The object and purpose of the proposed society were explained by the chairman and it was decided that the society be strictly engineering in nature, as opposed to a social club. Membership was limited to technical men employed by the General Electric Company.
A committee was appointed to draw up a constitution and bylaws and report its findings at the next meeting. In all three were three preliminary meetings during which time a room in the Arcade Building was fitted with furniture and stocked with the latest publications for member’s use. The room was lighted by electricity, heated by a stove, and equipped with janitor service. A running budget of $350 per year was set up which covered the expenses of rent, light, heat, janitor, and stenographic service, which was to be paid by the annual dues of $5 per member. The furniture, including desks, chairs, reading tables, and bookcase, were to be written off by an initiation fee of $2 per member. Thus the General Electric Engineering Society was born.
On June 7, 1898, Mr. Buck was officially elected president of the society, with M. Oudin, Vice President, J.H. Jenkins, Secretary; and R.D. McCarter, Treasurer. President Buck called the first regular meeting to order in Yates Boat House on June 14, 1898. It was here announced that the reading room in the Arcade Building had been given up for a similar room in Room 9 of the Fuller Building, which had been fitted up with magazines and other engineering publications. As there was no business, Mr. Buck introduced the first speaker to appear before the newly organized society. Mr. C. P. Steinmetz lectured on “The Rotary Converter.”
For the remainder of the year 1898, meetings were held in Yates Boat House. An average attendance of 80 persons per meeting was attained and the discussion was centered around the central station, a subject of prime interest in that day.
Mr. Buck was again elected president at the first annual meeting, February 6 1899, and he remained president until the end of the year 1900. During the year 1900 the first “Smoke Talk” was inaugurated. These were informal “smokers” held in the clubroom at the Fuller Building. The first “Smoke Talk” was held March 28, 1900, and the subject discussed was “The Switch-board of the Metropolitan Station recently developed for New York City.” The “Smoke Talks” became very popular and were held once a month.
At the third annual meeting, held January 29, 1901. J.H. Jenkins was elected chairman of the General Electric Engineering Society. In April of this year, it was proposed that the members of the Lynn Engineering Society be extended the privileges of the Schenectady Society without paying dues both societies, if they transferred in the middle of the year. A reciprocity agreement also stood forth, in that Schenectady people be extended the privileges of the Lynn facilities. This was brought about due to the fact that both societies had the same aims and objectives. A change in the by-laws was proposed and passed in June of 1901.
Mr. C.L. prince took the gavel January 21, 1902, at the fourth annual meeting. The General Electric Engineering Society operated successfully this year, holding a total of seven meetings during which papers of technical nature were presented and discussed.
In 1903, Mr. W.I. Slitcher was elected chairman of the local group. The meeting place of the Society was moved from Yates Boat house to the Chapel of the Union College Campus. It was during Mr. Slitcher’s administration, that action was taken to coordinate the general Electric Engineering Society with the American Institute for Electrical Engineers. The Institute had recently installed a Chapter in Schenectady and the G.E.E.S. thought that one society under the name of AIEE would be much more effective that two societies with similar ideas in one community. The Executive Committee of the General Electric Society first began negotiations by meeting with Charles P. Steinmetz, then chairman of the AIEE. After several meetings between committees chosen by both societies, the GEES at the 41st regular meetings held at Union College Chapel, October 27, 1903, resolved to combine with the AIEE.
At a combined meeting of the GEES and the AIEE, December 15, 1903, the merger was concluded. Hence the GEES went out of existence.