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1956–1970 : Get t i ng O f f the Ground
The postwar era was a time of tremendous growth and transition for the
United States. With the help of the educational and home loan benefits
provided through the GI Bill, many returning servicemen settled down
and started families. The growth of suburban communities and increasing
reliance on automobiles for commuting created a demand for more roads.
In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower enacted the Federal-Aid
Highway Act, which authorized the construction of over 40,000 miles
of roads for the interstate highway system.
In the same year that President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid
Highway Act, a young engineer named Jack Janney (upper left) was
working for the Portland Cement Association (PCA), conducting research
on prestressed concrete. Through his work at PCA, Janney was one of
only a handful of engineers in the country with a good understanding
of prestressed concrete. His expertise was recognized by the Illinois State
Toll Highway Authority, which had begun a massive construction project
using a relatively new product—precast, prestressed concrete girders.
The Tollway Authority offered Janney a consulting job that he quickly
accepted. He then established his own company, Janney and Associates,
working out of his apartment in Glenview, Illinois.
Janney’s work for the Tollway Authority included full scale load testing
and quality control services. His first major assignment was to instrument
and load test the Beverly Road Bridge. To assist in this job, Janney sought
help from numerous moonlighters, including his former PCA colleague,
Dick Elstner, (middle left) and one of his neighbors, an engineer named
Jack Wiss. By 1957, Jack Wiss (lower left) joined Janney in the business,
and the company becameWiss and Janney Associates.
The two engineers focused their attention on instrumentation and
testing, with Janney concentrating on structural behavior andWiss
working with measurements of vibrations and noise. To enhance
their ability to provide these special engineering services, Janney
andWiss pooled their resources and borrowed $4,000 from Janney’s
father-in-law to purchase testing equipment, including an oscilloscope
and a strain gage meter.
By 1959, Wiss and Janney Associates had outgrown its original
workspace in Janney’s apartment and the company moved into an
office in Des Plaines, Illinois, which was being vacated by the Tollway
Authority. After a short time, Dick Elstner joined the company.
In 1961, the three engineers formed a new partnership and officially
renamed the company Wiss, Janney, Elstner and Associates (WJE).
The firm focused primarily on problem solving for contractors, engineers,
and owners. Working in an age before computers and the types of
structural analysis programs that are routinely used today, WJE also
experimented with the use of scale models to determine the distribution
of strains and stresses within a structure. Many years later, the use of
three-dimensional scale models as design aids and research tools earned
Jack Janney national recognition as one of the modern pioneers of the
engineering field.
Jack Janney established his own
company, Janney and Associates,
in Glenview, Illinois.
Jack Wiss joined Jack Janney,
and the company became
Wiss and Janney Associates.
Wiss and Janney Associates
moved to an office in Des Plaines,
Illinois. Dick Elstner joined
the firm.
A new partnership was formed
and the company was officially
renamed Wiss, Janney, Elstner
and Associates (WJE).
The company had grown to
five employees working on fifty
projects a year with annual
billings approaching $150,000.
President Eisenhower enacted
the Federal-Aid Highway Act.
The Soviet Union launched
Sputnik, the first earth-orbiting
Alaska and Hawaii became
John F. Kennedy was elected
the thirty-fifth president of the
United States.
Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr.,
became the first American
to orbit the earth.