As Time Goes By

A pictorial history of welding as seen through the pages of the Welding Journal Resources

It has been a long, long while from 1919 to 1994. Despite the wars, one of the most severe market crashes the world has ever seen, the landing of man on the moon, periods of enormous prosperity, the invention of electron and laser beam technologies, and production lines where robots help manufacture millions of automobiles, the welding industry kept rising to the occasion. The Welding Journal covered these times through the editorial leadership of such individuals as Bill Spraragen, Bonney Rossi, Ted Schoonmaker and Jeff Weber. This being the 75th birthday of the American Welding Society, what better time to show you what things looked like during the roaring twenties, the depression years, and WWII - "way back when."

The following photographs come from past issues of the Welding Journal, from 1922 to the present.

Butt welds and sleeve welds were used in the fabrication of Philadelphia Electric Co.'s 2200-ft-long steam line in 1922. Electric welding (shown left) was used on a 33 sleeve welds for the flange joints, while the 92 butt joints were made using oxy-acetylene welding. The entire line consisted of 12-in.-diameter steam line and a 3-in.-diameter water return line. The chemistry of the pipe included 0.0 percent 7 carbon, 0.30 percent manganese, 0.045 percent sulfur, and 0.100 percent phosphorus. The electrodes contained 0.011 percent carbon, 0.032 percent sulfur, and 0.025 percent oxygen.




In the early 1920's the Pressure Vessel Committee of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers evaluated numerous methods for testing tanks made in the shop. On some tanks, hand hammers were used, as specified in the Code. The blows were struck 3 in. apart and within 2 or 3 in. of the joint at the rate of 50 to 60 per minute. A 12 lb sledge, having a 24 inhandle, was used on some of the tanks. In the end result, it was found that the hammer test was only effective on tanks having exceptionally defective welds.




An early structural design, known as the Ewertz type of electric arc welded vessel, was used to compare the relative costs and strengths of welded vs. riveted shops. This picture, taken in 1924, shows a 400% overload on a Ewertz type of welded vessel. At the time, E.H. Ewertz, the inventor of the design, was president of the American Welding Society.




The sign speaks for itself in this gathering of welding people in 1924. This assemblage was about to board two buses for tours of three facilities in Cleveland. The first was the local utility where they witnessed the oxyacetylene welding of a 16-in.-diameter high-pressure steam line. The next stop was a tour of the Collingswood Shops of the New York Central Railroad. Third on the list was a visit to The Lincoln Electric Co. The editor of the November 1924 journal noted: "This plant is taking its own 'medicine' in that it is using welding wherever possible in the construction of its motors and generators."




In 1929, pipelines were welded using the oxyacetylene process. The necessary cylinders of oxygen and acetylene are shown here being delivered by what could very well have been one of our nation's earliest welding distributors.


At the annual convention of the American Institute of Steel Construction in 1930, an automatic welding machine was demonstrated which had been designed originally for "battledeck" steel construction. At the time, it was inferred that such equipment could also be used effectively in the fabrication of floors in building construction. (Left)



Welding took to the stage at the AWS 1933 national fall meeting in Detroit with the presentation of a four-act play, The Prosperity Process. Sponsored jointly by AWS and the International Acetylene Association, this industrial drama drew 1,600 attendees. One critic described the play as "stirring." In one scene, which took place in a weld shop, a complete demonstration of welding, cutting and weld testing was given on "stage right."



Back in the old days, a fierce competition developed between the manufacturers and vendors of electric arc and oxyacetylene welding equipment. Here we have welds bent to elongations of 30%. The two specimens on the left were made by oxyacetylene welding, while the specimens on the right represent electric arc welds.

Regarded as a "first" at the time, three 10,000-ton cargo ships were launched simultaneously at Todd Shipbuilding Corp., South Portland, ME, in 1942. W.H. Hobart, vice president of Hobart Brothers Co., attributed the feat to three things. First, the steels did not have to be overlapped as they are when riveting is used, thus saving a great deal of steel. Second, he said, new welders could be trained much faster than new riveters. And third, welding lends itself more readily to production line assembly.




During World War II, American industry covered numerous fronts. Here, welding is busy at work on a mass production line to make LeTourneau Carryall scrapers.








During the post-World War II years, all of the large factories had converted from defense to commercial products once again. Here two men with gun welding machines at the Fisher Body Division of General Motors in Detroit weld the component parts into a strong, shock-resisting body. 






The Nautilus, the first of the United States Navy's fleet of atomic submarines, was launched at the Electric Boat Division shipyard in Groton, Conn., in 1954. Heavily welded from stem to stern, the Nautilus is shown here being christened by first Lady Mamie Eisenhower. Standing by is John Jay Hopkins, chairman and president of General Dynamics Corporation.




In this 1962 photograph, three electron beam welds are being made simultaneously in a hard-vacuum chamber for the welding of steel and exotic metals for use on the B-70 bomber and supersonic aircraft. The picture was taken at North American Aviation in Los Angeles.







A technician, protected by a pressurized space suit, welds stainless steel pieces with an experimental electron beam gun inside a space chamber at Hamilton Standard Division, United Aircraft Corp. The same conditions one would experience at altitudes of 380,000 ft. were maintained within the chamber.









Welded stainless steel reached a high point in the early 1960's when Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Co. erected the famous St. Louis Arch on the banks of the Mississippi River. The main metal in this structure is Type 304 stainless steel.





Underwater weld repair had become an interesting business in 1977. Here a welder/diver for the British Oxygen Co. Sub-Ocean Services team, after emerging from the water depths, had to be undressed quickly and brought back to 30 ft. of pressure in a decompression chamber. He had to remain in the chamber for 35 minutes. This was done in order to avoid the crippling "bends."





Certainly the most publicized welding event since World War II had to be the construction of the 798-mile-long Alyeska pipeline, stretching from Prudhoe Bay in the north of Valdez in the south. Already concerned about the effect this pipeline might have on Alaska's wildlife, the environmentalists were also worried about stories of "thousands of defective welds" in the 48-inch-diameter Alaska pipeline. The welds in question were not defective; they had just not been inspected properly. All told, 2700 tons of weld consumables were required to make the 100,000 welds in this massive project. The shielded manual arc electrode of choice was an E-8010-G filler metal from Thyssen in Germany. The main line pipe was produced in Japanese steel mills.

Austenitic stainless steel was the metal of choice as the membrane material for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanks Newport News Shipbuilding welded in 1979. These "waffle" membranes were called for in the Technigaz design from France. Some 30 miles of gas tungsten arc welding was used for the membranes of each of the three tankers build by Newport News. The filler metal was Type 308L stainless steel. Some 150 Cyber-Tig power sources from Hobart Brothers Co. were used on this project.





In 1922, a pipe laying crew sets out for a day's work. Pipeline activity had undoubtedly been triggered by the discovery in 1918 and 1919 of the Panhandle natural gas field in Potters County, TX and the Hugoton field in southwest Kansas. The Panhandle field contained 1.6 million acre. By 1920, the first commercially produced pipe having electric welded longitudinal seams made its debut in the marketplace.




In the 1920's, electric arc welding was starting to be used in the field to make repairs on costly equipment. In this picture a welder used bare wire steel electrodes to make a repair in a steam shovel dragline bucket. The bare electrode remained the main tool for electric welding until the early 1930s when it started to be replaced by the covered or shielded manual arc electrode.




By 1984, the self-shielded version of flux cored arc welding was becoming more evident in the erection of high-rise buildings throughout the country. In the field, it was proving to be very competitive with gas-shielded welding processes. Perched high atop the Georgia-Pacific headquarters in Atlanta, a welder is shown depositing a critical structural joint. The process was the Innershield method from The Lincoln Electric Co.







By 1988, robots had become familiar sights on automobile manufacturing lines all over the world. The squadron of robots seen here is used to assist in the resistance spot welding of car bodies. What had started out as a tool-handling contraption was now a precise instrument capable of vision, touch sensing, and coordinated motion. Robotics is also being used more and more in arc welding, both in large and small manufacturing plants.









An important step in this country's attempt to curb acid rain took place on November 15, 1990, when President Bush signed new amendments into the Clean Air Act that would force the owners of 110 coal-burning power plants using high-sulfur coal to generate electricity to reduce the emission of sulfur dioxide from their plants. Shown here is the flue gas desulfurization outlet duct at Lower Colorado Authority Fayette Power Project 3. The size of a gymnasium, the interiors of this structure were lined with 50,000 sq. ft. of Hastelloy Alloy C-22 sheet panels. In a technique known as "wall papering," gas metal arc welding is often used in the short-circuiting transfer mode to attach the panels to the walls of the ductwork.


In 1984, Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya of the Soviet Union used a hand-held electron beam gun to conduct welding, brazing and spraying experiments in space. To perform these experiments, she spent three hours "extravehicular" from Salyut 7, her spaceship. General Vladimir Dzhanibekov, a fellow cosmonaut, followed her. The EB gun used for this particular job by engineers at the EO. Paton Electric Welding Institute in Kiev, ukraine. In 1991, interviews with Boris Paton, the president of the institute, and Gen. Dzhanibekov were published in the Welding Journal.






In 1976, an unusual facility was set up outside of Charleston, SC to weld the 5083 aluminum liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanks for a fleet of ships being constructed by General Dynamics Corp. in Quincy, Mass. The storage tanks were fabricated according to the Kvaerner-Moss design out of Norway. The plate for this project was rolled at Alcoa's Davenport, Iowa, Works. At the time, it was considered the largest aluminum plate order in Alcoa's history. The main process of construction was as metal arc welding. After each tank was completed, it was moved out of its individual fabrication bay and hoisted onto an awaiting barge for shipment up the coast to Quincy. 





Space Shuttle Endeavor lifts off on mission STS-57. On this mission, pilot Brian Duffy soldered 46 connections on a printed circuit board. Welding's biggest role in the fabrication of the Space Shuttle was in the welding of the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel tanks. The welds were performed using the variable polarity plasma process from Hobart Brothers co. Each external tank of 2219 aluminum required 36,000 linear inches of weld in order to join the 138 separate sections of metal together.






Hortonsphere was the name give to the storage vessels weld fabricated by the Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. These Hortonspheres at the Gulf Oil Corp. in Port Arthur, TX, completed in 1938, came in two sizes. One is 35 ft, 3 in., and the other 22 ft, 3 in., in diameter. Their respective storage capacities are 4000 and 1000 barrels.




Without warning and with a report that was heard for at least a mile, the deck and sides of the S.S. Schenectady, a World War II tanker, fractured just aft of the bridge superstructure on January 16, 1943, while tied up at pier on Swan Island in Oregon. The shop had been launched from a kaiser shopyard two weeks before in Portland, Ore. The vessel was repaired and returned to service.



In this photograph taken from the September 1959 issure of the Welding Journal, a plasma gun is shown spraying aluminum oxide to form a thick coating on a shape simulating a missle nose cone. The article describing this technology was authored by James A. Browning who was the president of Thermal Dynamics Corp., Hanover, NH. 

AWS Member Network

AWS Member Network

Read More >

AWS Merchandise

Lands' End

Purchase Merchandise through our Lands’ End Store

AWS Members who wish to order AWS merchandise in quantity (12 or more) receive special pricing through our partnership with Staples. For more information, please contact 800.990.5431

Read More >