Sprinkler Irrigation Association Formation in 1949
Courtesy of IA's book:
Water and the Land
by Bob Morgan
The potential of portable sprinkler irrigation in crop production was clearly
recognized following World War II. The catalyst was the growing availability of
aluminum. The lightweight metal began to replace heavy steel tubing and fittings
made of cast iron or steel.
The proponents of sprinkler irrigation saw an urgent need to form a trade
association representing the irrigation industry. In 1948, they seized the
opportunity to discuss the idea during the National Reclamation Congress in
Oklahoma City. They realized that to represent the industry adequately, the
membership would have to include distributors and suppliers, in addition to
The following year at the Palmer House in Chicago, a group of eight industry
leaders cast their votes to create an association to represent a cross-section
of the sprinkler irrigation industry. They were: Fred Boyton of Reynolds Metals
Company, Ken Cadigan of Gorman-Rupp Pump Company, Ray Foss of R.M. Wade &
Company, A.R.J. "Bud" Friedmann of Skinner Irrigation Company, Ellsworth Gage of
Shur-Rane Company, Marion Miller of Anderson-Miller Company, Charles Race of
Race and Race Manufacturing Company and John Seitzinger of Oaks Irrigation
Company. They named the new organization the Association of Sprinkler Irrigation
Equipment Manufacturers (ASIEM) for the purpose of, "combining the mutual
interests of all who are concerned with developing and increasing the use of
sprinkler irrigation systems."
The first slate of officers to lead the association included Everett H.
Davis; Bud Friedmann, vice president; and A.S. Marlow, Jr., president of Marlow
Pumps, Ridgewood, New Jersey, secretary-treasurer. After just three months as
president, Davis relinquished the office to Friedmann due to company
responsibilities. In addition to the officers, there were four committee
members. They were Ken Cadigan of Gorman-Rupp, Larry Johnson of Champion
Manufacturing, Marion Miller of Anderson-Miller Company and Ross B. Whidden with
Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA).
The need for an association with ASIEM's objectives was quickly demonstrated
in 1950 when the country plunged into the Korean War. The War Production Board,
established during World War II, again went into immediate allocations of
strategic materials. The officers and board of the association recognized that
representation in Washington, D.C., was critical to ensure and adequate supply
of raw materials for their industry.
They retained Joseph King, and attorney well oriented to the Capitol, as
local counsel. His duties were to inform the federal government in general, the
War Production Board in particular, of the irrigation industry's needs for
aluminum and brass as they related to the production of food and fiber. King was
successful in obtaining allocations of these materials for industry
In addition to legal representation, the ASIEM believed it was important to
have a full-time industry representative in Washington. R.M. Wade & Company
offered to loan the services of Robert C. Mueller to the association for the
duration of the conflict in Korea. Mueller went to work for the National
Production Administration, a part of the Works Progress Administration.
The efforts of King and Mueller, combined with the support of Wade Newbegin
of R.M. Wade & Company, Crawford Reid of Rain Bird and Marion Miller of
Anderson-Miller, carried the industry through the Korean War years.
The sprinkler irrigation industry emerged as an established member of the
U.S. business community. Overhead sprinkler irrigation was heralded as the
greatest U.S. agricultural achievement since the mold-board plow.
In 1953, the association was officially incorporated as the Sprinkler
Irrigation Association (SIA). Its next challenge was to seek relief from
repressive freight rates. Because aluminum tubing was bulky, even though it was
light, freight carriers increased rates on the irrigation hardware by as much as
100 percent. A committee consisting of King, Newbegin, Alfred S. Gray and J.F.
Newby was successful in holding the rate increases to tolerable levels through
the 1950s and into the 1960s. Their tenacious efforts saved members thousands of
dollars as portable sprinkler irrigation gained importance in agriculture.
The significance of aluminum is evident in the statistics for the period.
U.S. Government figures reveal that 1,250,000 pounds of tubing were installed in
the U.S. in 1946. By 1955, the figure had risen to an astounding 50,000,000
The objectives of the Sprinkler Irrigation Association were to increase
farmer acceptance of sprinkler irrigation, promote it as a supplement to rain,
advocate water conservation throughout the country and to strengthen and broaden
the scope of the association.
Over the next three decades it reached the following mileposts that have
contributed to its rapid prominence as an irrigation trade association.
- An educational program that eliminated prejudice and misunderstanding
about sprinkler irrigation.
- Entry of the SIA in the American Society of Agricultural Engineers
- Launching of the development of "Minimum Performance Standards".
- Publication of an Engineering Textbook on Sprinkler Irrigation by Allan
W. McCulloch and John F. Schrunk.
- Conducting of educational clinics and workshops, forerunners of today's
widely heralded IA "Certified Irrigation Design Programs".
- An early educational irrigation film, "Weather or Not", jointly
sponsored by the National Fertilizer Association and the SIA. It was awarded
Blue Ribbon status by the ASAE as a classroom aid.
The association's accomplishments grew as the years passed. In 1976, when the
interests of the industry were no longer confined to sprinkler irrigation, the
organization assumed the name the Irrigation Association (IA). Nor is the
association's influence confined to the borders of the United States. Today,
through its annual exposition, seminars, committees and certification programs,
the impact of the IA is felt throughout the world.