Case School: The Evolving History

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Historical names


The first instructor in Mechanical Engineering was Mr. George Armington, who taught the fundamentals of mechanical engineering from 1887 to 1889. The Mechanical Engineering Department was located in the south end of the basement of Case Main. The total equipment in 1889 consisted of three lathes, a band saw, and one set of small tools in the pattern shop and two lathes, a shaper, an upright drill and an emery grinder in the machine shop.In 1889, there were four students enrolled in Mechanical Engineering and the number continued to increase to twelve in 1892, and sixty in 1900.

In 1889, Staley hired Charles Benjamin as department chair for mechanical engineering. As the chair of the new department, Benjamin created the curriculum, supervised building plans for the new mechanical engineering laboratory, and acquired the necessary laboratory equipment.

The Mechanical Engineering Laboratory design effort started as the “Senior Thesis” of Comfort A. Adams (1890) and was opened in 1892. Most of the space in the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory were dedicated to teaching mechanical manufacturing. The building was located at the south end of the campus and included a wing to be used for the Metallurgy Department.

The Mechanical Engineering Laboratory was occupied by at least two drawing rooms, several machine shops, and a metals processing lab (Forming and forging) and included a central heating plant and an attached assaying room. Benjamin constructed a testing lab in the basement. Also included in the building were several machines for determining material properties, testing steam engines and generating electricity.

By 1894 there were three staff members in the department. The testing laboratory equipment had been considerably increased to include a 50-hp Corliss engine, a 20hp Porter-Allen high-speed engine, a Deana steam pump, a 10-hp Webber transmitting dynamometer, a belt testing machine, a Prony brake, a 60,000-lb testing machine, a 50 hp boiler with mechanical stoker, a surface condenser, and indicators, gauges, barometers, etc.

The laboratory was shared by Mechanical Engineering and Mining Engineering Departments until 1905, and then it was used by the Mechanical Engineering Department only until 1927.

Faculty in the Mechanical Engineering department were publishing on the strength of malleable and steel castings, the effect of punching on steel plates, the tensile strength of belting, the transverse strength of different mixtures of cast-iron.


Cleveland was fast becoming a center of the machine tool field and the need for professionally trained men increased rapidly.The beginning of the new century was a little difficult for the department due to several staff turnovers but the growing demand for trained mechanical engineers to fulfill industrial needs required course expansion and additions to the staff. The growth of the department was supported by the generous equipment gifts from the local firms.

The department shared the Mechanical Engineering laboratory building with the Mining Engineering Departments until 1905, when the Mining Department moved to their new building.  The main floor of the Mechanical Engineering laboratory was devoted to machine work exclusive and the pattern making space was located on the 2nd floor. The shop was equipped with the latest machinery of the time. In 1909, the shop added a Lucas horizontal boring machine, Brown & Sharpe Universal Milling machine, Brown & Sharpe Universal grinder, Pratt and Whitney tool room lathe, Potter and Johnson shaper and an Allen drill. In 1918 the drafting room was improved by the addition of a Wagenhorst Electric Blue Printer.

In 1903, the department added a 10,000 square foot power plant laboratory with enough capacity to heat multiple buildings. The power plant was equipped with an air compressor, the Westighouse gas engine, the De Laval steam turbine, new condenser, the boiler room  with 125 horsepower Babcock & Wilcox boiler, new feed pump, and heater. In 1905, the department installed a new engine for lighting and power. in 1906, the department accepted a donation of a five ton refrigerating plant, several automobile engines and the automobile testing floor from the Artic Ice Machine Company.Courses offered in 1920 included: Pattern Making and Foundry Practice; Machine Shop Practice; Machine Detail Drawing, Thermodynamics of Gases and Vapors; Heat Engines; Machine Design; Power Plant Engineering; Heating, Ventilation and Refrigeration; Heat Power Engineering, and Engineering Contracts and Specifications.

The WWI slowed a little the growth of the department, but the rhythm accelerated after the war. The increased enrollment in the department required larger and more modern spaces available. In 1925, Mr. Charles W. Bingham, a trustee, offered President Howe $500,000 toward the erection of a new laboratory for Mechanical Engineering, support that was continued by his son, who gave another $500,000 to endow and maintain the new building. The new building was equipped with up-to-the minute equipment and allowed for expansions. In addition to everything that was available in the old building, a Foundry and Heat Treating Laboratory was added.The new space and equipment also allowed for curricula expansion.


The Department added two new specializations in 1935 (Technical and Business), and a new air conditioning laboratory in 1938. The first M.S. was granted in 1932 and the first Ph.D. was awarded in 1945. The first M.S. in Industrial Engineering was granted in 1946. In 1939, the chair Fred H. Vose facilitated the opening of a Civilian Pilot Training Program under the Civil Aeronautics Authorities. In 1945, Vose retired and George Tuve became the new chair.

The department had a close relationship with alumni, establishing in 1936 an Advisory Committee chaired by Elmer Lindseth. The faculty had strong connections with the local professional organizations and city leadership. In 1935, Vose was elected to the Executive Board of Citizens League of Cleveland and Tuve was elected president of Cleveland Chapter of the American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineers. Students followed the professional engaged model of their faculty and hosted a regional meeting of student branches of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1939, as well as established a branch of the Society of Automotive Engineers in 1943.