Introduction to 55 Years of ASHRAE Hamilton Chapter History

The following written history has been prepared by George Menzies, Hamilton Chapter Historian for the past 15 years and ASHRAE member since 1965.


ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc.,incorporated in 1894, is celebrating its 119th Anniversary this year (2013).  As you may imagine, the main interest a hundred years ago was HEATING, then VENTILATION, REFRIGERATION and with AIR CONITIONING as dead last since there was no air conditioning at that point in time in the 1800’s , except for ventilating breezes through open windows in rooms with high ceilings..  Heating was done by wood burning fireplaces which were replaced with cast iron radiant stoves burning wood and/or coal. As man became more and more concentrated into cities the need to control fire became ever more important, so steam boilers came into vogue for heating buildings. Steam boilers are typically large massive arrangements that require skilled operators so the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Class Operating Stationary Engineers licenses were brought into being to keep large boiler installations under safe control and operation.  Refrigeration was primarily a northern industry from frozen ponds and rivers in the more northern states, being harvested, stored and sold during warmer weather. River locations were used to provide rotating power from water wheel type of mills to machine shops in order to get the required motive power for rotating mechanisms prior to steam and electricity.


As steam engine machines developed as a reliable means of rotating shaft power and heat sources, they began to be used as the power source for refrigeration and ventilation systems. Of all of the steam engines used for this purpose in 1914 over 90% of them exceeded 15,000,000 calories/hour. By 1925 the electric motor was the preferred method of drive providing 62% versus 32% for steam engine drives while diesel and gas engines were used 4% and 2% of the time respectively.


At that time ventilation was almost non-existent and controlled by the building orientation and placement of windows to catch the prevailing breezes. High ceilings and large open central staircases with ventilated domes provided some feeble assistance to gravity and Mother Nature. Ventilation did not really take off until later the mid-1880’s development and spread of electricity, although there was a kerosene powered fan sold by The Whirlwind Fan Company with the sales slogan “It will give you greater efficiency and enable you to do more and better work.”

So much for the industries beginnings. You will notice that in on our Airways title page [the chapter’s newsletter], it states “in our 54rd, year”.  I will briefly summarize our first 54 years. (’59 to ‘July 8th, 2013)