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88th GM Presentation Paul Brennan

Print Date: 7/24/2024 8:17:44 PM

The 88th General Meeting Speaker Presentation

“One Code, One Inspector, One Stamp, One Hundred Years:
The History of the National Board”

Paul Brennan

The following presentation was delivered at the 88th General Meeting Monday General Session, May 6, 2019. It has been edited for content and phrasing.

INTRODUCTION: Paul Brennan served as Director of Public Affairs at the National Board for 26 years before retiring in 2018. He is the author of the acclaimed engineering history book, Blowback: An Anecdotal Look at Pressure Equipment and Other Harmless Devices That Can Kill You! His second book detailing the history of the National Board, One Code. One Inspector. One Stamp. One Hundred Years, will be released later this year.

Mr. Brennan’s slide presentation can be accessed here.

MR. BRENNAN:  Before I start, I just wanted to say that I am so impressed with what I have seen graphically and editorially in preparation for this 100-year celebration. It truly has been extraordinary, and I wanted to add my compliments to those of you who have also complimented the people, the staff, in putting together this wonderful, wonderful observation. 

It's an honor to stand before you this afternoon in celebration of one hundred years of safety, and of all places, Salt Lake City. How poetic we meet here in this hotel, where 34 years ago one of the National Board's most iconic executive directors had passed. It was across the street at Little America, less than a couple hundred feet from where we are now gathered, that Sam Harrison died in his room during the 54th General Meeting in 1985. He was 70 years old.  

Well, that may be a somber note for some of you. I am sure if Sam were alive today, he would marvel at how the National Board has evolved, and he would delight in celebrating the National Board's longevity. He knew the potential and strength of organizational teamwork that began in 1919. But without the support of other organizations back then, the National Board might never have come to be. 

Suffices to say that during the 18th century, hundreds upon hundreds of lives were lost each year to explosions. As America headed into the industrial revolution in 1910, it was estimated there were 25 explosions per week killing one person every day of the year. 

Informal inspection of boilers goes back several hundred years. Back in the 1860s, inspections generally mandated only hydrostatic testing. That meant standing back and pumping the vessel full of water to 150 percent of the operating pressure and then saying a prayer. The testing was supplemented with visual inspection. With only a candle, the inspector would crawl inside the boiler, and upon exiting, he was covered head to toe with rust, soot and scale. 

To fully appreciate the National Board's origin is to understand our industry's history. Most of you know how the industry evolved. The regulatory process was spawned by the 1854 explosion at the Fales & Gray Car Works in Hartford, Connecticut. 

Hartford was home to a young group of engineers and businessmen called the Polytechnic Club. This group had a profound interest in boiler explosions and public safety. In 1866, two members of the Polytechnic Club met to explore combining the boiler inspection and insurance business. That meeting between Edward Reed and Jeremiah Merwin Allen resulted in creation of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. 

Allen became president of the HSB shortly after it started. His interest in explosions bordered on the obsessive. He was largely self-taught, widely read, insatiably curious, and seemingly endless in energy. He made a point to visit the scenes of boiler explosions whenever he could.

To learn more about the accidents, he arranged to send boiler fragments from the incidents to the Hartford office. The collection of fragments was stored in what was called a Museum of Steam Boiler Exhibits, but some Hartford employees called it the Chamber of Horrors. 

The outcome of Allen's research led to boiler construction development standards called the Hartford Standards

In 1880, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers was founded. In 1884, ASME wrote the Code for the Conduct of Trials of Steam Boilers. It was the society's first standard, and it was a good document, but it lacked comprehensive criteria for uniformity in design, construction and inspection. To establish a single set of boiler construction standards, in 1911 ASME appointed a committee. You know it today as the Boiler Code Committee.  

In 1914, ASME developed its first version of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. It was entitled Rules for the Construction of Stationary Boilers and for Allowable Working Pressures. It was the first comprehensive standard for boiler design and construction in the world. It was a single, 114 page, six-inch-by-nine-inch book. Compare that to today's document with at least twelve sections spanning thirty-one volumes and nearly seventeen thousand pages. 

There were many who made noteworthy technical contributions to the code, but there was one who played an especially significant role. The last addition to the Boiler Code Committee was an engineer hired as the committee's first official secretary. He would be credited with shouldering a great deal of the committee's administrative work. His name was Casin Watson Obert, or C. W. Obert.

In 1911, C. W. was performing research for McGraw Publishing at ASME headquarters. He caught the attention of ASME Assistant Secretary L. G. French who asked Mr. Obert to handle editing of the proposed new ASME Boiler Code. C. W. began his work on the code in May of 1911. His fascination with the assignment prompted him to attend every Boiler Code committee meeting. 

In 1914, when preparation of the first edition was underway, he worked seven weeks with the ASME committee officials ten a.m. to eleven p.m. every day except Sundays. Some say C. W.'s ASME efforts were legendary. 

His name may be recognizable to some National Board veterans. Mr. Obert originated the idea of the National Board BULLETIN. He served as editor of the BULLETIN from the summer of 1943 until his death in 1954 at the age of 78. 

The time following introduction of the ASME Code was critical to establishment of the National Board. In December 1916, a Uniform Boiler Congress was held in Washington, D.C.  It sought to establish interchangeability of boilers from one jurisdiction to another, but this would require standards beyond the ASME code. 

The congress also recognized another need. That was ensuring competence of the inspectors examining boilers during construction. 

There was only one problem. The ASME Code Committee was not an administrative body and didn't have legal authority. In 1919, the committee agreed an organization was needed to enforce uniform qualifications of inspectors. 

Created in 1911, the Ohio Boiler Inspection Division was one of only a handful of states having an organized boiler inspection program and laws. And in 1915, 28-year-old C. O. Myers became an Ohio inspector. Two years later, he was named the state's chief boiler inspector. 

So who was this C. O. Myers person? 

Carl, as he was known by friends, was born in 1886 in Tiffin, Ohio.  At a young age, C. O. had developed an interest in the installation and operation of steam plants. People who knew him said he had a refined, practical mind. This was the kind of guy who had little tolerance for a mishmash of local and state laws. As a result, he was one of the very earliest supporters of the ASME Boiler Code. 

In June 1919, Mr. Myers attended a meeting of the American Boiler Manufacturers Association. He presented a paper recommending appointment of an executive committee with full authority to formulate uniform inspector qualification and examination requirements.

And this is what he told the association: 

"Generally speaking, the National Board is the states consolidated into one body, which may be termed the enforcement body of the ASME Boiler Code Committee, and we have three primary objects in view, which are:  One code, one inspector, and one stamp."

In September of 1919, the ASME Boiler Code Committee called for preparation of a model law and rules of inspection. It was at this meeting that four chief inspectors met to form an organization consistent with the Myers proposal. 

The chief inspectors convened again at the next Code Committee meeting on December 2 in New York.  Its purpose was to finalize formation of their new organization. At this December Code Committee meeting, fifteen code jurisdictions agreed the new organization would be named The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors. 

Preliminary Constitution and Bylaws were also adopted. A document was created authorizing an executive committee to act on all matters referred by National Board members. The executive committee was directed to review and approve specific designs, devices and methods. It authorized the secretary-treasurer to act as the executive officer and carry out National Board objectives. 

Inspector Joseph Scott of New Jersey was elected as the Board's first chairman. Inspector James Neil of Pennsylvania was elected vice chairman. C. O. Myers served as secretary-treasurer.

Objectives of the new organization were to promote greater safety to life and property by securing concerted action; maintain uniformity in construction, installation and inspection; and secure interchangeability between political subdivisions. 

One of the most important actions evolving from the December meeting provided for manufacturers to register their products with the secretary-treasurer. 

The National Board's first formal organizational meeting took place in Detroit on February 2 and 3, 1921. The ASME Boiler Code Committee also met on those dates, making this meeting the first joint conference of the two organizations. 

As secretary-treasurer, Myers faced several challenging decisions. Where would the organization be permanently headquartered, and, more important, who is going to pay for all of this? National Board expenses for this historic first meeting with ASME were covered by public donations as well as funds from boiler manufacturers and insurance companies.

But the generosity of these groups presented a special problem for C. O. Myers. Accepting money from industry groups, especially manufacturers, could represent a conflict of interest. To avoid the appearance of impropriety, Myers cleverly arranged to have the association money channeled through a third party. That way neither he nor the delegates would know where the money came from, especially from companies. 

Fortunately, National Board registration is nearly as old as the institution itself. Registration involved assessing a modest fee for filing data reports and a charge for copies. We don't know if the forefathers intended registration to be a major source of income, but in 1924 Myers told manufacturers the National Board was financially “over the top.” This was thanks largely to boiler registration and data filing fees. 

Statistics for that time period were rather astounding. Approximately 20,000 boilers had been stamped with the National Board designation, 75 boiler manufacturers were authorized to register, and 338 inspectors held National Board commissions.

Inspectors holding commissions were to be known as authorized inspectors. 

This slide shows the very first commission issued to C. O. Myers, number one on August 1 of 1921. What is interesting is the stylized foil cloverleaf at the bottom left. This is the first application of what would become the National Board logo with the NBBI acronym. What is more fascinating is how early this cloverleaf appeared. This seal has been featured on every commission certificate since 1921. 

So C. O. Myers helps found the National Board. What score did he achieve on his commission examination? An impressive 94 percent! 

Okay. The National Board is finally up and running. The only thing needed was a place to do business. Since Ohio Chief C. O. Myers served as secretary-treasurer, it was logical any headquarters would be initially located in the state capital of Columbus. 

In 1921, the Board established a small office in the Comstock Building. It would be the first of four locations that would house National Board operations during its 100-year history. 

C. O. Myers' first hire was a secretary. Helen Smithhisler was the first National Board employee hired.  She would eventually become Mrs. C. O. Myers following the death of his first wife. 

The economic depression of the 1930s limited National Board's income and activities. General meetings were held only in 1933, '35, '37 and '39. Thereafter funds again became available to permit regular annual meetings.

This is a 1930 photo of the general meeting of chief inspectors in Chattanooga, Tennessee. If you look carefully at this photo, you will see a woman in the back row. It is believed, but never confirmed, the woman was Helen Smithhisler, the only National Board employee at the time. 

Despite economic adversity, the Board's work to modernize industry standards moved forward. Rules for Welding was incorporated in the 1931 edition of ASME Code Section VIII, Unfired Pressure Vessels

From 1931 to 1933, a number of code changes affected inspectors. Data reports were now to be certified by authorized inspectors. Pressure vessels were now to be registered. 1933 was a watershed year in that inspectors were now authorized to inspect both installed boilers and those under construction. 

And now with the registration of pressure vessels, National Board members faced a challenge of learning how to inspect welded construction and repairs. To reinforce competency, the National Board issued educational materials to inspectors. 

The organization learned in 1935 of several disasters resulting from mismarked relief capacities on safety valve stampings. The industry reasoned these catastrophes were brought about by increased equipment pressures. 

There is only one tiny complication. There were no safety valve standards during the mid-1930s. 

The Mechanical Engineering Department at The Ohio State University conducted safety valve capacity tests to determine the validity of the safety valve issue. They found wide discrepancies, ranging from 16 to 100 percent of the stamped capacity. Test results were sent to the ASME Boiler Code Committee. The committee appointed a special panel to prepare code revisions with the National Board. 

The 1937 Power Boiler Code included rules requiring manufacturer verification of stamp-relieving capacity. However, the most important rule required a capacity test to be performed in the presence of and verified by an authorized inspector. 

The 1920s and 1930s had witnessed increased usage of new materials and construction techniques. The goal was to accommodate higher pressures. 

Interestingly, boiler explosions greatly declined during this period. Introduction of new codes and standards were beginning to achieve intended goals. 

Those achievements were complimented by National Board inspectors who shared techniques at their annual meetings and through correspondence. They taught one another effective ways of nondestructive testing and dissected data on explosions. 

In 1939, Carl Myers left his job as Ohio chief inspector to become full-time secretary-treasurer. The National Board was now a flourishing organization, and uniformity had finally been achieved. 

But the harmony was short-lived. When Carl Myers addressed the general meeting in New York in 1941, much of the world was at war. 

In an effort to make important information available to its membership, the organization in 1943 launched publication of the quarterly National Board BULLETIN. The first BULLETIN was published in July, and immediately became an important addition to the pressure equipment industry. Wartime labor and material shortages caused the first editions to be typewritten and stapled on preprinted forms. 

Wartime travel restrictions were a reality for all Americans in the 1940s. These limitations affected National Board matters and were reported in the BULLETIN

In 1945, the first National Board Inspection Code was published. It contained rules for repair of boilers and vessels after installation and use. 

By 1951, National Board events had grown to the point additional staff was required. Up until this point, some National Board activities had been conducted by members on a volunteer basis. 

While day-to-day business progressed smoothly, an explosion in the number of data reports prompted the organization to build larger headquarters. 

In April of 1955, the National Board moved its newly erected building at 1155 North High Street -- they moved into that particular facility, and the expansion of business, responsibilities, and membership prompted Myers to rethink the Board's staff structure. 

In 1959, the position of director of inspections was created. It was filled by Elmer O. Peterson, Chief Boiler Inspector for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

The 1950s generated more responsibilities for the National Board. Nuclear fuel was emerging as a new source of reliable energy, and nuclear power generated steam, and that legally made nuclear power plants boilers under the laws of most regulating states. Once again, the Board found itself having to develop standards, this time for nuclear power reactors and related equipment. 

The 1960s brought new opportunity for the National Board growth, and some sadness. Executive officer for more than forty years, C. O. Myers died suddenly on May 9, 1963, while attending the General Meeting in Baltimore. At the time of his death, Carl Myers was the senior member in years of service on the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Committee. His sudden death shocked the entire boiler and pressure vessel industry. 

Director of Inspections E. O. Peterson was subsequently appointed acting executive director. He was confirmed as executive director in 1964. As one of his first functions, Peterson hired North Carolina Chief Boiler Inspector Sam Harrison for the director of inspections position. 

And then the feds came a knockin'.  In 1967, the Department of State opined some U.S. laws precluded importation of foreign-made pressure equipment. It was thought this resulted from foreign manufacturers being prohibited from using code symbol stamps and National Board registration. 

This issue was resolved five years later when it was established ASME certificates of authorization could be issued to foreign manufacturers, but not for boilers and pressure vessels. Those constructed and stamped with the applicable ASME stamp would have to be registered with the National Board to maintain proper monitoring. The significance of this action in effect made the National Board a worldwide organization, and that meant increased responsibilities and additional staff. 

The 1960s saw a demand for larger-capacity industry boilers. At about this time, the nuclear code was expanded to include pressure vessels and other components such as pumps, valves, and piping systems. 

Once again, the National Board took action to ensure inspectors had the expertise to inspect highly sophisticated equipment and systems, and so in 1968 the first National Board training course was made available. It was conducted by The Ohio State University welding engineering professors. It included nondestructive examination, welding, and metallurgy. 

And then the unpredictable.  After five years at the helm of the National Board, Executive Director Peterson suffered a fatal heart attack on June 7, 1968. He would be succeeded one year later by the National Board director of inspections, S. F. Harrison. 

And thus began a new era, and unprecedented growth and responsibility. Both Peterson and Harrison had a great love for the National Board and a passion for its mission, but all parallels ended there.

C. O. Myers was a quiet, serious man, who ran a quiet, serious office. Those who worked for him called him “Mr. Myers.” Harrison on the other hand was extremely personable. When Harrison became executive director, headquarters became a livelier place. 

An explosion in the volume of manufacturer data reports during the early 1970s forced the National Board to incorporate a backup microfilming process. One set of current reports were kept on file, and a duplicate set was forwarded to an underground storage facility in Pennsylvania.

Rapid increase in National Board activities prompted the organization to construct new office facilities north of Columbus. In May of 1975, the National Board moved into its new 11,000-square-foot modern office building at 1055 Crupper Avenue. 

Also in 1975, the R symbol stamp was first employed, and Babcock & Wilcox was awarded the National Board's first R certificate of authorization. 

In 1976, the Board introduced the VR certificate of authorization for repair of safety relief valves. 

The 1980s were a productive era, despite a background of death and destruction:  The downing of Pan Am Flight 103, a chemical plant gas leak in Bhopal, explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, the 1982 water heater explosion at the Star Elementary School. 

The 1980s marked expansion of National Board training courses. Among these was the first course on repair of ASME/National Board stamped safety and safety relief valves. 

In 1981, the National Board announced the number of inspectors it commissioned since the program's inception had exceeded ten thousand. Also that year, the Executive Committee was subsequently renamed the Board of Trustees. 

June 17, 1982, marked the day the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accepted the National Board Inspection Code as a national standard. 

Twenty-three years to the month after Carl Myers had suffered a heart attack at the General Meeting in Baltimore, Sam Harrison died of a heart attack right here in Salt Lake City. Harrison was the third executive director of three in the National Board's then 66-year history to die while in office.  

Three months following Harrison's passing, the organization's director of inspections was unanimously elected the new executive director. Donald "Mac" McDonald was Kentucky's first chief boiler inspector who joined the National Board in 1970 as director of inspections.  

Born and raised in Kentucky, he attended the University of Louisville before joining the Merchant Marines, and he later served in the Marine Corps during the Korean conflict. McDonald gave his predecessor great credit for achieving many of his objectives, including the desire to take the National Board brand to a world stage. 

The 1990s was an era of invigoration for the National Board and a period when its identity achieved greater prominence. This was due in large part to new developments in electronic communications. 

As soon as the decade began, the organization faced another international challenge. In 1991, Minnesota Chief Boiler Inspector Albert Justin alerted the National Board of potentially dangerous flanges manufactured in China. Distribution included North as well as Central and South America. 

An extensive National Board investigation resulted in a spring 1992 special report of the BULLETIN sent to subscribers worldwide. These flanges were questionable in meeting the ANSI standard or ASTM specification. The inquiry prompted China's State Council to issue an order requiring all Chinese flanges, fittings, and tubes to be inspected and tested. Fortunately, reported failures were found during hydrostatic tests or during in-process inspections. No instances of inservice equipment failure had been reported. 

On Saturday, June 20, 1992, D. J. McDonald boarded a plane for Hungary in response to an invitation to meet with Hungarian President Árpád Göncz. During his visits to both Hungary and Czechoslovakia, he committed the National Board to assist in the drafting and adoption of rules and regulations. 

Mac was exhausted when he returned to Columbus on Friday, June 26. On Saturday evening, he prepared dinner for himself and his wife. He quietly passed away at age 64 early the next morning. 

A year later, in March of 1993, retired Minnesota Chief Boiler Inspector Albert J. Justin was elected executive director. A native of St. Stephen, Minnesota and a veteran of the U. S. Navy, Justin began his career in the boiler and pressure vessel industry as a boiler operator. He served as the Chairman of the Board from 1989 to 1991, and was no stranger to the Board's administrative issues. Justin lost no time hiring new administrators to improve the professional culture. Under his leadership, National Board redoubled its commitment to the basics of boiler and pressure vessel safety and the ongoing education of inspectors. 

The mid 1990s brought a variation to the membership in the form of a government/private sector partnership.  This was accomplished when Alberta's Labour Department turned over its boiler and pressure vessel inspection duties and programs to the newly created Alberta Boilers Safety Association (ABSA). Since Alberta's transition, three additional provinces have converted to privatization:  Saskatchewan, Ontario, and British Columbia. All have remained members of the National Board. 

Al Justin retired in spring of 2001. In 82 years, he was the only executive director to retire from the position. He passed away on April 16, 2015, at the age of 88. 

On April 1, 2001, Donald E. Tanner became the organization's sixth executive director. Retired as chief inspector for the State of Tennessee, Mr. Tanner grew up on his family's farm in Erin, Tennessee. At 17, he enlisted in the Navy, where he would serve 22 years. He consequently embarked on a 25-year career as a civil servant. As a National Board member, he served five years as Chairman of the Board of Trustees.  

Don Tanner brought to the position a discipline that evolved from his military background. This was evidenced in 2005 by the hiring of retired Texas Chief Inspector George Bynog as assistant executive director. Bynog was also ex-military who brought a no-nonsense approach to his work. Bynog accepted the position with the understanding he would leave the National Board when Tanner did. 

Donald Tanner passed away suddenly on October 25, 2008, less than a week from his planned retirement.

As promised, George Bynog packed his pickup truck and headed back to his home in Texas. At 2:30 in the afternoon on November 1, George Bynog was killed when his truck struck a tree near his Texas home. His death occurred one week after Don Tanner's passing and one day into his own retirement from the National Board. 

That same November, retired Illinois Superintendent David Douin was elected the organization's seventh executive director.  He assumed his duties in January of 2009. Mr. Douin had served more than ten years on the Board of Trustees, seven of which as chairman. He also brought with him 35 years' experience in the pressure equipment industry. He also brought with him a commitment to bring the National Board and ASME into a closer working relationship. 

The first decade of the new century greeted the National Board with a sense of prosperity and promises of improved efficiency. 

Old symbols used to stamp newly manufactured pressure equipment were eliminated in 2000. A stylized NB stamp was created and trademarked to serve as a single identification mark for all authorized manufacturers. 

The new century also brought significant changes to the National Board Inspection Code. A document called the Inspector's Code from the first National Board meeting in February of 1921 provided early guidelines for inspectors, and it would eventually be known as the National Board Inspection Code.  As mentioned earlier, it was first published by the National Board in 1945. 

Edited in April of that year by BULLETIN editor C. W. Obert, the first book was more of a pamphlet. It measured five and half inches wide and eight and a quarter inches long. The first chapter was distributed with the October issue of the BULLETIN. All 24 pages were humbly secured by two metal staples. 

The preliminary printing established the framework for what would become one of the world's most significant inspection documents. As I said earlier, that was reinforced in the early 1980s when the NBIC became an American National Standard. That meant development through procedures requiring consensus approval. 

Fast forward forty years, and we see the single-volume 2007 NBIC divided into three books covering installation, inspection, and repairs and alterations.

In 2009, the National Board accomplished what had been discussed for years:  Signing of an agreement to translate the NBIC into Chinese. 

The year 2011 would see major physical revisions to the NBIC, and it marked the beginning of a two-year distribution schedule to replace the previous three-year schedule. 

The 2015 edition of the NBIC focused on adding uniformity and standardizing the format. To accomplish this, almost every table and figure was recreated. 

In keeping with technology improvements, the new format was made available on the National Board website, and for the first time, the 2015 edition was made available in both a bound version and a downloadable e-Book PDF format. 

Several minutes ago, we talked about registration and its early impact on the organization's formative stages. 

When registration was put forth in the first Constitution in 1921, officials surmised it would promote organization growth. But as I mentioned, registration fees also helped cultivate a firm financial foundation. 

The first National Board Manufacturers Directory was printed in the mid1920s. It listed 125 authorized boiler manufacturers from East Boston to Los Angeles. 

Since the inception of registration, there has been a total of over 59 million data reports filed. Through 2018, electronic data transfer has recorded over 15 million data report registrations. Currently, over 1.8 million items are registered each year. The National Board order department sends out an average of 34,000 reports annually. The organization also annually accommodates nearly 1,300 manufacturing locations and 880 repair firms. Suffices to say the National Board has been a very busy place since the turn of the century. 

Built in 1991, the state-of-the-art National Board Testing Laboratory has processed more than 45,000 pressure relief devices. In 2011, an increase in laboratory activity prompted the organization to break ground for a 2,900-square-foot expansion. 

Safety valves have a rather curious history. Safety valve testing is thought to have been going on as early as 1875. However, ASME's first edition of the ASME code in 1914 did not thoroughly address safety valve testing. 

Since opening in 1991, the lab has performed an average of 1,700 tests each year. During the 2009-2010 fiscal year, nearly 1,900 tests were completed for clients from the U. S. and thirteen countries. In January of 2011, the lab hit a milestone, completing 30,000 tests. 

One of the most critical and visible services offered by the National Board is training. As stated earlier, 1968 was the year the first instructional program was created. National Board arranged for The Ohio State University professors to conduct sessions relating to metallurgy and welding. The two-week course was held in a downtown Columbus hotel and included nighttime and Saturday instruction. 

Initial words of the first training manual were written by E. O. Peterson, National Board's second executive director, but the bulk of the chapter would be completed by Peterson's successor, Sam Harrison. 

Some of you here today may recall the old training facilities. Students in the early '80s shared two small classrooms, restrooms, and a kitchen on the second floor of the Crupper headquarters building. The organization opened the National Board Training and Conference Center in 1998. Continued growth prompted the training department to construct the Inspection Training Center in the summer of 2008. 

The department's reputation was significantly enhanced in 2012 when the program became accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training. 

One of the training department's major advancements in its 30-year history involved introduction of a new computer testing process. This new process permits students to take the commission exam at any time of the year at 170 testing locations worldwide. 

How many in this group remember carbon paper? Typewriters? Sending telegraphs? Landlines? Can you imagine what our industry would be like today if we had to rely on old technology to conduct important business? 

Remember filing cabinets stuffed with files and endless reams of paper? It would be sometimes several days before a phone call would be returned. I want each of you to grasp that notion, because that is how the National Board forefathers conducted business. It was slow and methodic. One must really salute their outstanding accomplishments given the limitations on their tools to communicate. 

If there was one event responsible for expanding the National Board brand around the world, it was the website. The site was launched on May 13, 1996, at the opening session of the 65th General Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. With little fanfare, over 90 countries began visiting the home page within weeks. Within three years of its introduction, the home page began to deliver real dividends. The National Board made much of its statistical and editorial content available at no charge. Perhaps the most important achievement of the website was reinforcing the National Board brand. 

During early years of organizing, the National Board desired one yet very important thing: Recognition.  Without recognition, you can't sell a product, nor can you obtain financing. Back in the early 1920s, the brand was essentially the reputation and credibility of an organization. Brands are more than just logos. But the National Board logo has been around in one form or another since issuance of that very first commission. 

This logo is described as a stylized four-leaf clover adorned with the initials “N-B-B-I.”  It was first used in 1921 on the gold foil stamps affixed to National Board commission certificates. I mentioned that a bit earlier. This quatrefoil symbol has been attached on every certificate for one hundred years. 

It may be obvious to most of you why Ohio became central to establishment of the National Board. Created in 1911, the Ohio Boiler Inspection Division was one of only a handful of states having laws and an organized boiler inspection program. 

Inspiration behind the General Meeting may have started in August of 1916. That's when C.O. Myers convened a meeting of Ohio boiler inspectors in Columbus. It took place on Thursday and Friday, August 17 and 18, at the Ohio State House of Representatives. It was called the First Ohio Boiler Inspectors Convention. Attendance included approximately fifty inspectors and their spouses. 

Like today's General Meeting, the format consisted of an opening session, technical presentations, banquet, and a tour. The highlight of that 1916 meeting took place on Friday morning when a presentation featured "Moving Pictures:  From Ore to Finished Pipe." The afternoon tour for attendees consisted of a car caravan for a visit to the Ohio State Penitentiary.

The first national General Meeting in 1921 was a three-day event, which convened at the Hotel Statler in Detroit. Fifty-six people in attendance included members of the upstart National Board and the ASME Boiler Code Committee. 

The first words spoken at the Wednesday opening session came from Chairman Scott: 

"This meeting has been called with two objectives in view. First, that those of us who are charged with the safety of boilers may become better acquainted, and, secondly, for educational purposes." 

Following a day of technical presentations, Wednesday evening was devoted to informal discussion on the future direction of the National Board. Thursday saw the group taking part in deliberations with the ASME Boiler Code Committee. That evening, the National Board entertained guests with a banquet. 

Another memorable quote from that first meeting came from American Uniform Boiler Law Society Chairman C. E. Gorton on the need for a standard stamp:

"I had the pleasure of seeing a boiler with 22 stamps, had every state standard wherever there is a boiler law, and if it was necessary to put on two more, they would have had to build an extension on the boiler in order to hold the stamps." 

Many are surprised the first joint ASME and National Board general meeting did not occur until 1947 at the 17th General Meeting. 

Over its history, the General Meeting has been hosted in over 45 cities. And despite numerous wartime restrictions in 1945, the 15th General Meeting took place in New York. This was partially a result of the tragic and untimely death of Arkansas Chief and Executive Committee Chairman James T. Newcomb.  Mr. Newcomb was murdered in the course of his boiler inspection duties. 

Before concluding, I would like to explain that the last forty minutes or so represents only a very brief overview of National Board history. Specific details will be found in the book One Code. One Inspector. One Stamp. One Hundred Years.  It will be released this fall, and only five hundred copies will be printed. 

It is a compendium of significant passages from copyrighted National Board publications and outside reference materials. These numerous excerpts have been woven together to create a seamless, accurate narrative for the years 1919 to 2019. 

In conclusion, I call your attention to the dates on this slide. 1919-2019. The numbers are insignificant.  1919 is the beginning. 2019 represents a milestone. The most important part of this graphic is the dash. That dash is one hundred years of extraordinary public service. When one considers all it took to get where we are today, each of us should reflect on what we did to advance the cause of public safety. 

I say this, and this is my personal opinion. There are few who fully understand the critical importance of what they do each day. There is no industry or group of professionals who have saved more lives over the past one hundred years. 

Now, I am going to repeat that. 

There is no industry or group of professionals who have saved more lives over the past one hundred years in the world. 

Each of you should be personally commended for the extraordinary job you do. I want each of you to assume and feel the pride you have well deserved. I say this because some of us don't.

Safety is not just a job or a job title. You are not merely inspectors. Think about this:  You are the first line in protecting the public from a catastrophic incident. That is how your family and friends should see you, as real heroes. 

The next time you see 1919-2019, think about the extraordinary history that dash represents, and think about the six words that have made that dash possible:  One Code, One Inspector, One Stamp.

I thank you for your indulgence, and God bless each and every one of you.