Preserving Gear History



One of the initiatives now in progress since the close of the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA) 2014 Fall FTM was building a detailed timeline of the organization’s history since its founding in 1916. The goal is complete it in time for the 2015 FTM — and Gear Expo — in Detroit next October. Sadly, many people who could have contributed to this effort are no longer available for interviews.

I have previously commented on how rapidly I have gone from new guy at AGMA meetings in 1979 to old geezer today. So many questions I should have asked the great engineers I met at those meetings are now moot. We, as an industry, never valued our history; and so countless important papers, products and artifacts have been lost to careless archiving and the trash man.

Just one example: as an apprentice in 1971, I physically moved the huge tooth used to develop AGMA’s gear bending strength formula from storage to the foundry scrap pile. I only know it was an historic artifact because Walter Schmitter’s son Bob was my foreman that day and he gave the orders for it to be melted down. There simply was no “value” in old test pieces back then, and no repository to park them in until interest renewed.

Many of you work, or worked, with industry icons and didn’t know it. Your company may have been the first to make a particular product, or to have used a particular manufacturing technique. Perhaps you have an old cut-a-way model gathering dust in a store room or a scrapbook of company activities floating around.

Now is the ideal time to ask questions of those old-timers. Put aside false modesty and tout your firm’s contribution to our industry. It was great to see the founding of Gear Technology magazine prominently featured on the initial draft of the Timeline. We’ll be doing our part to search the archives and add milestones when we uncover them. If you uncover an interesting “gear story,” let us know and we’ll feature it here in the blog.

About Charles D. Schultz 678 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.