The History of the NACE CORROSION Conference


The NACE CORROSION conference in 1950  images courtesy of NACE International

As NACE International celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, we look back at the origins and progression of its annual CORROSION conference. The first conference, held in Houston in 1944, was launched a year after the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) was incorporated. Throughout much of early NACE history, this annual conference was the only such event organized by the association. Founders considered it one of the best ways to achieve a key NACE objective: to facilitate the exchange of information on corrosion-related issues. Today, the conference is the world’s largest event for the prevention and mitigation of corrosion.  


The Early Years: 1944-1969

The first NACE conference was held at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas, April 1944, with 250 attendees. The registration fee was $4 — or $10 with spouse and a banquet. The next conference, scheduled for March 1945, was cancelled because of World War II travel restrictions. 

By 1948, conference attendance had grown to 753. At the end of the decade, revenues for the conference were in the $20,000 range, with costs of approximately $11,000. The annual conferences had been a financial success and were largely responsible for any association surpluses.

The NACE CORROSION conference banquet in 1953

In 1953, the full convention registration fee was $10, and the banquet cost an additional $7. The 1955 conference was held in March at the Palmer House in Chicago, Illinois. 

By the end of the 1950s, the approximate figures for the annual conference were: 

Attendance: 1,900 
Technical Papers: 50 
Exhibit Spaces: 100
Revenue: $60,000 
Expenses: $40,000 
Surplus: $20,000

Preprints of the papers being presented were offered for the first time at the 1968 conference, and the practice has continued to the present. Recently, the papers have been free to advance full-conference registrants, first available as PDF files on a CD and, lately, on memory sticks and online. 

Conference Cities (1944-1969)

1944 Houston, Texas 
1946 Kansas City, Missouri 
1947 Chicago, Illinois 
1948 St. Louis, Missouri 
1949 Cincinnati, Ohio
1950 St. Louis, Missouri 
1951 New York, New York 
1952 Galveston, Texas 
1953 Chicago, Illinois 
1954 Kansas City, Missouri 
1955 Chicago, Illinois 
1956 New York, New York 
1957 St. Louis, Missouri 
1958 San Francisco, California 
1959 Chicago, Illinois
1960 Dallas, Texas
1961 Buffalo, New York
1962 Kansas City, Missouri
1963 New York, New York
1964 Chicago, Illinois 
1965 St. Louis, Missouri 
1966 Miami, Florida 
1967 Los Angeles, California 
1968 Cleveland, Ohio 
1969 Houston, Texas


the growth years: 1970-1999

In 1976, all exhibit space was sold out five months prior to the conference, which was held in Houston that year, and the exposition was a huge success. 

The 1985 annual conference in Boston had the largest number of papers and technical presentations up to that point (334), with the highest ratings for quality papers. This number increased slightly in 1986 along with similar high ratings for quality, and a steady trend of increasing numbers of high-quality papers was established. 

The full conference registration fee was $175 (member) and $200 (nonmember) in 1986, a substantial increase from the annual conference’s very meager beginnings in the 1940s. The average annual conference figures for the last three years of the 1980s were: 

Attendance: 4,200
Technical Papers: 365
Exhibit Spaces: 304
Revenues: $698,000
Expenses: $547,000
Surplus: $151,000

In 1994, the name of the annual conference exposition was changed from “Materials Performance and Corrosion Show” to “NACEXPO.” The 1990s brought dramatic increases in all aspects of activity (papers, exhibitors and finances) at annual conferences. 

The average annual conference figures for the last three years of the 1990s were: 

Attendance: 6,138
Technical Papers: 467
Exhibit Spaces: 470
Revenues: $1,950,000
Expenses: $1,549,000
Surplus: $401,000

Recent conference attendees

international REACH: 2000 TO THE PRESENT

The first meeting of the decade ushered in a streamlined process for the receipt of technical papers. The new system allowed papers to be accepted in electronic form so they could be printed as well as transferred to CDs. 

At the 2012 Salt Lake City Conference, attendees from 58 countries registered. Thus, the annual conference, as noted in the name of the association, had become truly international. A new logo and brand for the annual conference was used for the first time at CORROSION 2014.


Keynote Sessions 

Keynote sessions are presented by noteworthy and accomplished persons outside of the world of corrosion control. These presentations have proven to be very popular and well attended — a nice “temporary escape” for attendees during a hectic conference schedule. Some recent examples are: 

2008: Buzz Aldrin, Apollo XI astronaut
2009: Mike Helton, president of NASCAR
2015: Karl Rove, political strategist, senior advisor to former President George W. Bush
2016: Steve Kroft, award-winning journalist on CBS “60 Minutes”
2017: Frank Abagnale, cybersecurity and fraud expert, subject of the film Catch Me If You Can
2018: Mike Abrashoff, former commander in the U.S. Navy and expert on leadership



  • Annual NACE Race, a fun, noncompetitive 5-km walk/run
  • Darrel D. Byerley Memorial Golf Tournament, an annual tournament held at a top golf course in the hosting conference city
  • Clays for a Cause, a shooting competition
  • Silent Auction, fundraiser for NACE Foundation programs, held in the exhibit hall
  • Foundation entertainment event, an evening of live music and dancing held on Tuesday
  • Scholarship Awards Ceremony, annual foundation scholarships presentation, held prior to the Tuesday entertainment event
  • Mini-camp for high school students, introducing them to the science of corrosion and corrosion careers


Leadership and Diversity 

A “Women In Corrosion” luncheon has been held at each conference since the mid-1990s. In 2016, the luncheon networking format was expanded to a half-day workshop and includes interactive programming led by renowned speakers from both inside and outside the NACE community.  

Planning for CORROSION 2019 has been underway for many months and will be held in Nashville, Tennessee, March 24-28, 2019. More than 200 technical and administrative meetings will be held throughout the week. The Expo will feature more than 350 companies displaying the latest in corrosion mitigation products and services. 

The 2019 keynote speaker, Jack Uldrich, is a globally influenced futurist, speaker and award-winning author of 11 books. He frequently speaks about technology, change management and leadership, and will present his topic, “Corrosion’s Crystal Ball: The future will arrive sooner than you think” at the conference.

For more information about CORROSION 2019, visit nacecorrosion.org.

Source: W.B. Holtsbaum, P. Crevolin, E. Bowman, The History of NACE International—The Worldwide Corrosion Authority, 1943-2018, 75 Years of Progress (Houston, TX: NACE International, 2018).

*Claims or positions expressed by sponsoring authors do not necessarily reflect the views of TPC, PaintSquare or its editors.




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