Remembering where we came from

IHEA’s 1959 board of directors and officers.

In this fast-paced world, it gets harder and harder to remember the past. It seems like the only thing that matters is this quarter. But without occasionally taking the time to stop and reflect on the past and where we came from, we tend to lose perspective.

It was January 19, 1929, when a group of furnace manufacturers met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to form an organization. It was initially called the Industrial Furnace Manufacturer’s Association (IFMA), and there were seven founding members of the association:

  • Chapman Stein Company.
  • Costello Engineering Co.
  • George J. Hagan Company.
  • Holcroft & Company.
  • Rust Engineering Company.
  • Surface Combustion Co.
  • William Swindell & Bros.

F.W. Manker of Surface Combustion was the association’s first president. Total receipts of the association in 1929 were $800. Expenses for 1929 were $75.75. 1929 was a really tough time to start anything, yet these companies had the vision to work together and form an association that would serve the industrial heating marketplace in the U.S.

In 1933, a meeting was held to study and discuss a proposed code under the National Recovery Act of 1933. In 1934, there was a hearing on the proposed code that was approved by the industry. The purpose of the code was to promote cooperative action among businesses to achieve fair competition and provide for national planning and a second section establishing a national public works program, which was ultimately signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 16, 1933.

At that point, 52 companies were reporting sales data to the IFMA Code Authority. However, between 1933 and 1936, membership and activities were at a low when Stewart Clarkson donated his time to rejuvenate IFMA.

IHEA members celebrate at an annual meeting in the 1950s.

In the ensuing years, IFMA served as a mediator for potential patent suits among members, and the Army Ordnance specifications for furnaces were reviewed by IFMA committee members. When World War II began, IFMA represented the industry in Washington, and membership doubled during that time. They also compiled a list of labor contract clauses that could be used by member companies.

By the late ’40s, the association was promoting articles to appear in the trade press, getting 105 articles published in one year between 1947 and 1948. This was also the time frame that the association permitted Associate memberships.

In November of 1954, an official name change was made to the Industrial Heating Equipment Association. In the years since, IHEA has served the industry by providing a wide variety of educational opportunities, being an unbiased industry representative to NFPA codes, and influencing governmental agencies on behalf of the IHEA membership. 2019 also marks the 50th IHEA Annual Combustion Seminar, which has led the industry in combustion education since 1970.

Times have certainly changed in the 90 years since IHEA was founded. Communication is now instantaneous; responses are expected almost as quickly. Mobile devices are now almost an appendage for most people, and many individuals find it difficult to disconnect. As we looked back through 90 years of IFMA/IHEA history, we were reminded of letters that were typed with carbon paper and snail-mailed that could take days or weeks to reach their recipients. Everything happened at a much slower pace; 90 years of history, meetings, minutes, photos, committees, and people have gone into making IHEA the resource for the thermal processing industry that it is today.

As IHEA celebrates these milestone anniversaries, we hope that we aren’t too busy to stop and reflect on where we came from and allow that to guide us to where we want to go as an industry. IHEA believes, by bringing together key executives that share our sense of responsibility, we will improve our industry and enjoy ourselves while doing it. We hope everyone will celebrate with IHEA as we turn 90 and work with us to further the mission of the industry started by our founding members on that long-ago January day.

IHEA 2019 calendar of events

May 14

NFPA 86 Updates Seminar

This new 1-day seminar which will highlight the recent changes to NFPA 86. If you already have a good knowledge of NFPA 86, then this seminar will be a great overview of the recent changes to the standard and how they affect you.

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA)  |  Elgin, Illinois

August 28–29

The Powder Coating & Curing Processes Seminar

The day and a half Introduction to Powder Coating & Curing Processes Seminar will include classroom instruction and hands-on lab demonstrations.

Alabama Power Technology Center  |  Calera, Alabama

September 24–25

IHEA 2019 Safety Standards & Codes Seminar

This seminar is intended to help the attendee become better acquainted with the newly updated NFPA 86 – Standard for Ovens & Furnaces.

InterContinental Hotel Cleveland  |  Cleveland, Ohio

For details on IHEA events, go to