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Robert Woolston Hunt

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Robert Woolston Hunt (1838-1923)

1923 Obituary [1]

ROBERT WOOLSTON HUNT died at his home in Chicago on July 11, 1923. His death marks the passing of one of the early American steel-making pioneers whose mechanical and metallurgical contributions provided the foundation for the present American iron and steel industry.

He was born in 1838, and received his education in the public schools of Covington, Kentucky. He spent several years learning the practical side of iron-making in the plant of John Burnish & Co., at Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Later he took a course in analytical chemistry in the laboratory of Booth, Garrett & Reese, Philadelphia, and in 1860 he entered the service of the Cambria Iron Co., establishing and taking charge of a chemical laboratory at its works at Johnstown, Pennsylvania. This was the first analytical laboratory to be operated as a department of any iron and steel works in America.

Shortly after this he left the service of the Cambria Company and assisted his cousin, T. W. Yardley, in starting an iron rail mill at Elmira, New York.

In 1861 he entered the United States military service, serving as mustering officer for the State of Pennsylvania, with the rank of captain.

He returned to Johnstown in 1865, and was sent by the Cambria Company to represent it at the experimental Bessemer steel plant at Wyandotte, Michigan. Here he assumed charge and remained for a year, when he returned to Johnstown to take charge of the steel plant, intending to begin the erection of a Bessemer steel plant. The plant, however, was not built for several years, and in the meantime the Cambria Company began the rolling of steel rails for the Pennsylvania Railroad, using Bessemer ingots produced at the Steelton plant of the Pennyslvania Steel Co. He had charge of these operations, and in August 1867 the first steel rails made in America on a commercial order were rolled.

Later he assisted George Fritz in designing and building the Bessemer plant for the Cambria works, and on its completion in 1871 he assumed charge of it until 1873, when he resigned.

He then became connected with John A. Griswold & Co., Troy, New York, taking charge of that company's steel-making plant. Later he was general superintendent of the Albany and Reusselaer Steel and Iron Co., and later of that company's successor, the Troy Iron and Steel Co., remaining in charge of it until 1888.

Upon leaving the Troy works he established the Bureau of Inspection Tests and Consultation, now known as the R. W. Hunt Company, of Chicago. During the years of his active connection with steel rail manufacture at Troy, he almost completely rebuilt the various works and also erected a large blast-furnace plant of the most complete character.

He took out several letters patent on iron and steel metallurgical processes and machinery, both individually and in conjunction with others, the most important of which were the first automatic rail mill tables, which are used by the majority of the rail mills in the United States. He took an active interest in the various technical and scientific Associations, and was a contributor of numerous papers and discussions.

He was honoured by being twice elected President of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, and it was during his presidency that the members of that Institute visited Great Britain, in 1906, as guests of the Iron and Steel Institute. He was also a Past-President of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Western Society of Engineers, the American Society for Testing Materials, American Society of Civil Engineers, and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, American Iron and Steel Institute, and the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers.

In 1912 he was awarded the John Fritz Medal for his contribution to the early development of the Bessemer process. Almost his last public appearance was at the meeting of the Western Society of Engineers in June of this year, when he was presented with the Washing- ton award for his services in the development of the American iron and steel industry. In recent years he has devoted much of his time to the study of problems in connection with the production of sound rails. He served as Secretary of the Committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers for the design of rail sections, and later contributed largely to the redesign of various sections.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1899.

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