Steele was a ceramic engineer and the primary inventor of the Ram press in 1948, which revolutionized the ceramic industry. He attended classes at Ohio State Univ. after working during the war years at the Curtiss Wright Corp. as an engineer on planes. While working at the Research Foundation of the University, he and another engineer, A.R. Blackburn (called "Blackie" by Mr. Steele in the collection), developed the Ram process in 1948.
The jigger method, and slip casting were used up until this time to produce ceramics. The jigger method was a manual process which required great strength of the operator. A large amount of time was then required for shrinkage to occur. Shrinkage was used as a releasing mechanism. Due to this a lot of space was required to let the pieces dry.
The Ram process is an automated machine process whereby dies made of special reinforced gypsum cement (as opposed to plastic ones used in the jigger method) are pressurized on a hydraulic press and come together to mold the top member. The top member then separates from the bottom. Air is fed into the bottom member which acts as a releasing mechanism. The process enables one person to operate the press easily and produces approximately five times more ceramic objects as using the jigger method. The machine is capable of pressing with sixty tons of force up to 6,000 cycles per day.
Chris Steele selected from his father's files the records in the collection. The collection is sporadic, but the journals are extremely rich because Mr. Steele was a conscientious record keeper. These notebooks, journals, photographs, correspondence, memos, brochures, and technical drawings and plans comprise a good illlustration of Steele's development of the Ram Process. Within the papers are results of tests for water release problems, stress tests, plaster permeability, designs for different kinds of applications for the process, and designs for dies.
Sketches, drawings, journals and tests, Ram Company (financial and business-related materials), photographs, and a list of photographs verbally captioned by Mr. Richard Steele's son, Chris.
Richard Steele Papers, 1948-1963, Archives Center, National Museum of American History