“Where Professionals Connect”
The city could have withered. Local industries could have abandoned Dayton and sought higher ground. Instead something extraordinary happened. The collective brain power behind those thousand competing factories banded together to rebuild their city and tame the river for good. Dayton became a technocracy, led by its most capable scientific problem solvers.
National Cash Register (NCR) was instrumental in flood rescue and later recovery efforts, raising $2.15 million. Assistant General Manager (and engineer) Edward A. Deeds was put in charge of the flood prevention program and saw completion of the innovative dams of the Miami Conservancy District.
While at NCR Deeds had hired an exceptional young engineer, Charles F. Kettering, to help electrify the cash register. The two struck it rich, assembling a “Barn Gang” of moonlighting engineers into the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company, or Delco.
Thirty years prior, Thomas Edison had created the first industrial research lab. The idea spread like electricity. As Deeds put it, “men ought to hunt together,” and he and Kettering replicated this group concept in many forms. Deeds helped create McCook Field, which grew into the Air Force’s main R&D lab, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Delco was sold to GM, founding the General Motors Research Corporation with Kettering in charge.
After their initial Delco success, Deeds and Kettering organized another group, a forum for engineers from across Dayton. On Feb. 20, they proposed an Engineers Club to the local technical community so that Dayton’s engineers and scientists could have the “educational advantages and fellowship facilities they had so greatly missed in their earlier days.” Members and potential employers (like Deeds and Kettering) could also evaluate one another more freely.
Initially the club met in a house owned by Delco a few blocks away at 2nd and Madison. But both club and Delco quickly outgrew the arrangement. Within five years a new club building rose at 110 E. Monument, funded by Deeds and Kettering.
The site was near “ground zero” of the flood, and may have been available due to the resulting damage. Deeds’ involvement with The Miami Conservancy District, which built right across Jefferson St., may also have factored into the site selection.