James Gayley

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James Gayley
James Gayley.png
Born(1855-10-11)October 11, 1855
Lock Haven, Pennsylvania
DiedFebruary 25, 1920(1920-02-25) (aged 64)
New York City, New York
EducationLafayette College
OccupationSteel director, metallurgist
Known forDirector of the Carnegie Steel Company, first vice-president of U.S. Steel

James Gayley (October 11, 1855 – February 25, 1920) was an American steel metallurgist, a managing director of the Carnegie Steel Company, and the first vice president of U.S. Steel from 1901–1909. He was awarded the Perkin Medal in 1913 for his dry-blast process as one of the "greatest achievements in modern metallurgical chemistry."[1] Gayley's influence in shaping modern metallurgy is why is he known as the "father of modern American blast-furnace practice."[2]

Early life[edit]

Gayley was born on October 11, 1855 in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania but soon thereafter was moved with his parents to West Nottingham, Maryland.[3] There he attended West Nottingham Academy before attending Lafayette College to graduate with a degree in mining engineering in 1876.[2][4]


Gayley spent much of his early career working at various iron and steel companies throughout the northern United States. He began his career working for the Crane Iron Company as a chemist, a position he held for three years with an annual salary of $500.[5] After leaving he spent two and a half years as a superintendent at the Missouri Furnace Company. Gayley left this job to assume a management position at the E&G Brooke Iron Company in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, where he worked for another three years.[2][3]

In 1885 Gayley again changed positions when he went to work for Andrew Carnegie at the Edgar Thomson Steel Works in Braddock, Pennsylvania. While at Edgar Thomson, Gayley incorporated many changes that made a large impact on the future of steel making. Part of his changes to the steel making process were to incorporate fuel saving strategies and introduce new appliances to the mills. He was the first to install charging bins for raw materials at the blast furnaces, and was also the first to use a compound condensing engine to supply air to a blast furnace. Additionally, he installed the first mechanical ore unloader and the vessels necessary for the utilization of these unloaders.[3] These changes were described as "bringing American blast-furnace practice up to a plane never before attained."[2] Because of these improvements Gayley was soon given the post of General Superintendent to the entire Edger Thomson plant,[6] and by 1897 became the managing director of the Carnegie Steel Company.[3][5]

Most important of Gayley's inventions was his device which prevented water vapor in the air from entering the furnace. When air pushed in from the air blast entered the furnace it would contain a certain amount of vapor along with it, which was detrimental to the overall quality of the pig iron produced. Gayley was the first to invent a device which removed the moisture from the air, and coined his invention the "dry-air blast". By utilizing the dry-air blast, gains from production increased by as much as 20%.[1][3]

Due to his inventions and techniques developed in iron and steel Gayley was regarded as one of the "most highly qualified technical experts in the steel industry,"[3] and the "pig iron king."[5] He was closely connected with Carnegie for much of his professional life, and was part of Carnegie's board of managers during the later years of Carnegie Steel.[6] Due to his prolific involvement with the industry, when Carnegie Steel merged to form the United States Steel Corporation in 1901, he was made the first vice-president in recognition of his services. As vice-president he oversaw the shipping and transportation of ore, in upwards of 30,000,000 tons annually.[7] Gayley served in this capacity until his resignation in 1908 due to illness.[8][9]


Gayley became a member of the American Institute of Mining Engineers in 1880 and later took on many roles in its leadership. He was a manager from 1896-1898, vice-president from 1902-1903, and president from 1904-1905. He then assumed the role as president of the Board of Directors from 1905-1911. Gayley stayed on the board as a director until 1913.[2]

Gayley was a member of the American Iron and Steel Institute and the British Iron and Steel Institute.[2]

He was also a member of the Lafayette College Board of Trustees from 1892 until his death in 1920.[10]

Contributions to science[edit]

Gayley made many contributions to the technical literature of metallurgy and other sciences, which were published three times per year in "transactions" by the American Institute of Mining Engineers.

  • A Chilled Blast-furnace Hearth, James Gayley[11]
  • Development of American Blast Furnaces, with Special Reference to Large Yields, James Gayley[12]
  • The Preservation of the Heart and Bosh Walls of the Blast Furnace, James Gayley[13]
  • Application of Dry-air Blast to the Manufacture of Iron, James Gayley[14]


Gayley Hall on the campus of Lafayette College

Because of Gayley's large impact in the field of metallurgy he was the recipient of many awards and honors after his tenure with U.S. Steel.

In 1909 he was awarded the Elliott Cresson Medal by the Franklin Institute in engineering for his dry-air blast in furnace operation.[3][15]

In 1906 the University of Pennsylvania awarded Gayley with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science.[3][16] In 1912 Lehigh University also presented Gayley with the same degree.[17]

In 1913 he was awarded the Perkin Medal by the Society of Chemical Industry (American Section).[1][18]

Gayley also made a donation of a building, Gayley Laboratory of Chemistry and Metallurgy, to his alma mater Lafayette College on April 5, 1902.[19][20] His father gave the dedication prayer at the ceremony. Known commonly as Gayley Hall, it was razed in 1960 to make room for a new campus library building.[21]

Personal life[edit]

In 1884 Gayley married Julia Thurston, a descendant of Myles Standish. They had two children together, Mary Thurston, and Agnes Malcolm. The couple divorced in 1908.[22]

Gayley was an active Presbyterian his entire life.[23] He died in 1920 in New York City following complications from heart trouble.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Roeber, Eugene Franz; Parmelee, Howard Coon (1913). Metallurgical & Chemical Engineering. Electrochemical Publishing Company. pp. 71–74. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Transactions of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (Incorporated). The Institute. 1922. p. 641. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Engineering and Mining Journal. McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. 1920. p. 613. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  4. ^ "Prominent Alumnus Passes Away - College Loses Great Benefactor in James Gayley". The Lafayette (Vol. 46, No. 16). March 3, 1920. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d "James Gayley of Steel Fame Dies". The New York Herald. February 26, 1920. Retrieved 16 November 2017 – via Newspapers.com.Free to read
  6. ^ a b Nasaw, David (2007). Andrew Carnegie. Penguin. pp. 490, 516. ISBN 9780143112440.
  7. ^ "James Gayley Quits Steel Corporation; Trust's Vice President Resigns Owing to His Health and a Desire for Rest" (PDF). New York Times (Vol. LVIII, No. 18, 562). November 19, 1908. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  8. ^ "James Gayley Tenders Resignation to Mr. Corey". The Pittsburgh Post. November 19, 1908. Retrieved 15 November 2017 – via Newspapers.com.Free to read
  9. ^ "Steel Trust Officer Ill, Gives up Post". The Altoona Times (Vol. 25, No. 157). November 19, 1908. Retrieved 16 November 2017 – via Newspapers.com.Free to read
  10. ^ Hatch, Arthur D. (1948). Biographical Record of the Men of Lafayette: 1832-1948. Easton, PA: Lafayette College. p. 48.
  11. ^ Engineers, American Institute of Mining (1886). Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers. The Institute. pp. 779–784. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  12. ^ Engineers, American Institute of Mining (1891). Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers. The Institute. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  13. ^ Engineers, American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum (1893). Transactions of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers. pp. 102–121. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  14. ^ Engineers, American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum; AIME, Society of Mining Engineers of; Engineers, American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical; AIME, Society of Petroleum Engineers of; AIME, Metallurgical Society of (1906). Transactions. pp. 315–324. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  15. ^ Iron Trade Review. 1909. p. 823. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  16. ^ "Penn: Office of the University Secretary: Chronological Listing of Honorary Degrees". www.upenn.edu. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  17. ^ The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry. American Chemical Society. 1913. p. 241. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  18. ^ Iron Age. Chilton Company. 1913. pp. 300–301. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  19. ^ Skillman, David Bishop (1932). The Biography of a College: Being the History of the First Century of the Life of Lafayette College. Easton, Pennsylvania: Lafayette College.
  20. ^ "Prominent Alumnus Passes Away". The Lafayette. 46 (16): 1–3. March 3, 1920. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  21. ^ Brekus, Pete (May 4, 2012). "Lafayette College's Gayley Hall was razed 50 years ago - Almanac May 4, 2012". lehighvalleylive.com. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  22. ^ "Steel Magnate Asks Decree of Divorce". The Salt-Lake Herald Republican (Vol. 16, No. 71). February 5, 1910. Retrieved 16 November 2017 – via Newspapers.com.Free to read
  23. ^ Cushing, Thomas (1889). A Genealogical and Biographical History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 521. ISBN 9780806306865. Retrieved 15 November 2017.