Engineering Love

As the Archives Survey Team enters into our ninth month on the CLIR survey project, we’ve had our share of surveying interesting archival collections, be they large or small. Recently we’ve come across a surprisingly fantastic little collection, the Brooklyn Engineer’s Club publications (ARC.156). As you may have realized by now, we here at BHS love our Brooklyn architecture. But this collection reminds us that behind every great building, structure, or city infrastructure project, stands an engineer. Forever in the shadows of architects who get all the love and adoration (especially today), engineers don’t get the credit they are due. It’s not until some design malfunction or disaster (which, all in all, is pretty rare) that we take notice of the engineer. Well, today we spread the love.

Two facts about engineering and engineers:

  • New York is considered the birthplace of professional engineering in the United States.
  • The first national professional engineering society in the United States was formed in New York City in 1852; the Association of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Here’s a list of some famous engineers with ties to New York City or Brooklyn (though some may not have used their engineering skills to become famous):

1. Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1746-1817) – Polish revolutionary and engineer. Studied engineering in Poland while at University (Warsaw). Was appointed head engineer of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and lead many defense missions in New York State. The Kosciuszko Bridge, spanning Newtown Creek, connects Brooklyn and Queens and is named in honor of him.

2. Alexander Calder (1898-1976) – Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Known for his art but worked at New York Edison Company before getting to quit his day job.

3. Robert Moog (1934-2005) – Degree in Electrical Engineering. Born in New York City; electronic music pioneer and inventor of the Moog synthesizer.

4. Michael Bloomberg (b. 1942-) – Undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering. Now serving as the 108th Mayor of New York City.

5. John A. Roebling (1806-1869) – German-born Civil Engineer. Designer of aqueducts, railroad bridges, and suspension bridges–including the Brooklyn Bridge.

6. Washington A. Roebling (1837-1926) – Degree in Civil Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Oversaw the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge (with the help of his wife Emily Warren Roebling).

The Brooklyn Engineers’ Club was organized on October 6, 1896 with 50 charter members. Meetings where held at their clubhouse located at 117 Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights. The Club met eight times throughout the year, culminating with an annual meeting in December. Every January, the Club would publish its proceedings from the previous year. Included in the Brooklyn Engineer’s Club publications (ARC.156) are the proceedings.

IMG_0300

Brooklyn Engineers' Club publications. Proceedings, 1901. Brooklyn Historical Society. ARC.156.

These lovely hard bound books (spanning the years 1897 to 1916) include the usual year-in-review items such as reports from Club officers, the Club constitution and bylaws, and detailed Club membership lists (includes names, professional titles, and places of work). The best part of the published proceedings are the papers–presented in full written form–complete with images, photographs, charts, graphs, fold-out maps, and fold-out technical drawings. But there’s more! The pièce de résistance are the printed verbatim discussions that follow the presentation of the papers.

For example, the discussion following the presentation, “The Filtration of Sewage,” by  Albert S. Crane on January 6, 1898, includes this prescient remark by Club member George C. Whipple — “The subject of sewage disposal is one that never grows old.”

Now, you might consider this funny…unless you live in Greenpoint or near the Gowanus Canal. Too true!

Here are a few images from papers presented between 1897 and 1906:

An Account of the Wallabout Improvement, by Frederick E. Pierce, presented March 3, 1898.

Wallabout 1

Brooklyn Engineers' Club publications. Proceedings, 1898. Brooklyn Historical Society. ARC.156

Wallabout 2

Brooklyn Engineers' Club publications. Proceedings, 1898. Brooklyn Historical Society. ARC.156.

Wallabout 3

Brooklyn Engineers' Club publications. Proceedings, 1898. Brooklyn Historical Society. ARC.156.

The Brooklyn Anchorage of the Manhattan Bridge: Contractors’ Plant and Progress, by Gustave Kaufmann, presented May 10, 1906.

IMG_0295

Brooklyn Engineers' Club publications. Proceedings, 1906. Brooklyn Historical Society. ARC.156.

IMG_0296

Brooklyn Engineers' Club publications. Proceedings, 1906. Brooklyn Historical Society. ARC.156.

Brooklyn Tunnels, by William T. Bruorton, presented February 4, 1897.

IMG_0312

Brooklyn Engineers' Club publications. Proceedings, 1897. Brooklyn Historical Society. ARC.156.

IMG_0313

Brooklyn Engineers' Club publications. Proceedings, 1897. Brooklyn Historical Society. ARC.156.

The Atlantic Avenue Improvement, by Laurence J. Carmalt, presented November 12, 1903.

IMG_0302

Brooklyn Engineers' Club publications. Proceedings, 1903. Brooklyn Historical Society. ARC.156.

Recent Development in Gas Engineering, by Henry K. Landis, presented November 9, 1899.

IMG_0305

Brooklyn Engineers' Club publications. Proceedings, 1899. Brooklyn Historical Society. ARC.156.

About Patricia Glowinski

Trained as both a librarian and archivist (MLIS from Pratt Institute), I've had the pleasure of working at some great NYC institutions. When not working on the CLIR survey project, you'll find me hoofing it around the city, looking above store windows, gazing at the city I love.
This entry was posted in Hidden Collections, Library & Archives and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Engineering Love

  1. Matthew says:

    Loammi Baldwin 1744-1807, considered the father of civil engineering in the US (not least for his five sons who followed in his footsteps), was a patriot who fought in the Battle of Brooklyn.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Brooklyn Historical Society Blog » Blog Archive » Engineering Love -- Topsy.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>