AISC TURNS 100: A Century of Steel

Early History

Where did AISC come from?

19th century:

Many small, family-owned companies were already fabricating iron and steel. There was, however, a distinct lack of universally accepted codes, standards, and practices. Although many steel manuals were available, each contained proprietary information.


Two independent associations, the Bridge Builders Society and the Structural Steel Society, set about trying to establish broad codes of ethics and practices. 


The two organizations came together to establish the War Service Committee, which helped procure fabricated structural steel and coordinate industry efforts.

November 1919:

When the leaders of the two trade groups met to disband the War Service Committee, some of the steel fabricators present insisted on organizing a new association to promote the structural steel industry nationally. The National Steel Fabricators Association was born.


The National Steel Fabricators Association becomes the American Institute of Steel Construction.


So why is 1921 AISC's foundation year?

That’s when its work to unite and promote the industry began.

AISC's early objectives should sound very familiar to the industry of today--we've worked toward these goals for 100 years now! Virtually from the beginning, the Institute embarked on determined and aggressive programs of promotion, publicity, public relations, salesmanship, engineering, and research, as it set out to:

  • Eliminate confusion by establishing a single code authority to be recognized by building code authors and designers. The first Steel Construction Manual was published in 1927 and is now in its 15th edition.

  • Improve the economical and efficient use of steel by establishing a single authority intended to support mills, engineers, architects, building commissioners, and steel purchasers. The AISC 360 Specification for Structural Steel Buildings is now the law of the land and is incorporated into all national and local building codes. And today's Steel Solutions Center answers more than 150 questions each week to ensure that it's easy to design and build with structural steel.

  • Establish a set of loading tables for all sections rolled by the various mills. AISC asked the mills to adopt this standard in future editions of their own handbooks before approaching engineers, architects, building commissioners, and the public with specific evidence that mills had accepted these universal standards to build confidence in the industry. The first edition of the loading tables, published in 1926, included a note of congratulations and gratitude from future president Herbert Hoover! Today's Steel Construction Manual has 669 pages of dimensions, properties, and member design tables for standard shapes, and AISC's steel dimensioning tool is the single most-visited page on

  • Through education, make steel construction more prominent in both the design community and college classrooms. Today, AISC has expert Structural Steel Specialists in major markets throughout the country. They offer both professional education and other resources to make it easy for local AEC professionals to choose structural steel.

    And AISC's education department also has a team dedicated to university programs. They work with professors nationwide, host the Student Steel Bridge Competition, and, through the AISC Education Foundation, distribute hundreds of scholarships annually.

  • Establish a uniform telegraphic code for the entire industry to use. That’s right--as far back as 1921, AISC was thinking about how design and construction professionals could use technology to work together more efficiently. The telegraphic code laid the groundwork for future industry standards like Industry Foundations Classes (IFC). Have you visited lately? It contains thousands of pages of reference and educational material for the whole AEC industry.


Next: 1920s Timeline

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