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Alexander, Archie Alphonso (14 May 1888–04 January 1958), engineer, was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, the son of Price Alexander, a janitor and coachman, and Mary Hamilton. The Alexanders were members of a tiny African-American minority both in the town of Archie’s birth and in Des Moines, Iowa, where they moved when he was eleven years old. In Ottumwa the Alexanders lived in the section of town inhabited by the poor, both black and white; in Des Moines they lived on a small farm on the outskirts of town. Since Iowa’s public schools were not segregated, young Alexander attended school with whites, graduating from Des Moines’s Oak Park High School in 1905. Then, uncommon for the son of a janitor, whether black or white, he went on to further study. By working hard at part-time jobs, and with some help from his parents, Alexander attended Highland Park College and the Cummins Art School, both in Des Moines, before enrolling in the College of Engineering at the University of Iowa in Iowa City (1908). He was the College of Engineering’s only black student and, upon entering, allegedly was warned, bluntly but not unkindly, by one official that in the society of that day a Negro could not hope to succeed as an engineer. Continuing to support himself through a variety of part-time jobs, Alexander did well academically and also starred as the first black member of the varsity football team. It was on the gridiron as a tackle that he earned the title “Alexander the Great.” He even managed to pledge a fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi....

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Allen, Horatio (10 May 1802–31 December 1889), civil engineer, was born in Schenectady, New York, the son of Benjamin Allen, a professor of mathematics, and Mary Benedict. Allen entered Columbia College, where he studied with James Renwick, a professor of natural and experimental philosophy, and graduated in 1823 with an A.B., attaining high honors in mathematics. Allen then began to study the law, but after almost one and a half years he decided he was more interested in engineering as a profession....

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Ammann, Othmar Hermann (26 March 1879–22 September 1965), civil engineer, was born in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, the son of Emanuel C. Ammann, a manufacturer, and Emilie R. Labhardt. He attended the Swiss Federal Polytechnic Institute and graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1902....

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Andrews, George Leonard (31 August 1828–04 April 1899), soldier, engineer, and educator, was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the son of Manasseh Andrews and Harriet Leonard. After attending the state normal school at Bridgewater, he was accepted as a candidate at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated at the head of the class of 1851 and was appointed second lieutenant of engineers. His first duty after graduation was in his home state, participating in the construction of Fort Warren in Boston Harbor. He then returned to the academy as an assistant professor....

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Baldwin, Loammi (21 January 1745–20 October 1807), civil engineer, was born in Woburn, Massachusetts, the son of James Baldwin, a carpenter and shopkeeper, and Ruth Richardson. (Some sources give his birthdate as 10 Jan. 1744.) After attending the local grammar school, Loammi was apprenticed in the carpentry trade. As a teenager Baldwin worked in the family’s stores in Woburn and Boston. By 1767 Baldwin was engaged as a pump maker and cabinetmaker, in addition to helping in the family stores. In 1771 he and his friend ...

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Baldwin, Loammi, Jr. (16 May 1780–30 June 1838), civil engineer, was born in North Woburn, Massachusetts, the son of Loammi Baldwin, a renowned civil engineer, and Mary Fowle. After attending Westford Academy, Baldwin matriculated at Harvard College, graduating in 1800. As a youth he had assisted his father on the Middlesex Canal. After college, his first position was in the law office of Timothy Bigelow at Groton, Massachusetts. While at Groton he designed a fire engine for the town, which was built in 1802 and operated for more than eighty years....

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Bates, Onward (24 February 1850–04 April 1936), civil engineer, was born in Saint Charles County, Missouri, the eldest son of Judge Barton Bates and Caroline Matilda Hatcher. Bates attended local schools in St. Charles County until the age of fifteen. He then began an apprenticeship at the Fulton Iron Works in Saint Louis, where he planned to learn the machinist trade. Instead he was soon hired as a draftsman by C. Shaler Smith, a prominent engineer, who made Bates an inspector of the bridge he was building over the Missouri River at St. Charles. Bates also took advantage of an opportunity to work on the Eads Bridge, one of the first to span the Mississippi and the first major steel bridge in America. The three arch spans, measuring 502, 520, and 505 feet respectively, shattered all engineering precedents, the center being by far the longest span in the world. Smith became Bates’s mentor and encouraged him to pursue an engineering education at the foremost institution in the field, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York. After only two years, Bates returned to St. Louis in 1873 to continue working on the Eads Bridge. He worked for a contractor and then as steel inspector for Eads’s St. Louis Bridge Company....

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Burr, William Hubert (14 July 1851–13 December 1934), engineer, was born in Watertown, Connecticut, the son of George William Burr, a railroad employee, and Marion Foote Scoville. Burr was educated by private tutor before attending Watertown Academy and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), from which he graduated with a degree of civil engineer in 1872....

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Cass, George Washington (12 March 1810–21 March 1888), engineer and business leader, was born near Dresden, Muskingum County, Ohio, the son of George W. Cass and Sophia Lord, farmers.

Cass received a good education. His parents sent him to Detroit at the age of fourteen, and from 1824 to 1827 he attended the highly regarded Detroit Academy while living with his uncle, ...

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Octave Chanute. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106858).

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Chanute, Octave (18 February 1832–23 November 1910), engineer and aeronautical experimenter, was born in Paris, France, the son of Joseph Chanut, an educator and historian, and Elise Sohpie de Bonnaire. His parents separated in 1838, when six-year-old Octave moved to New Orleans with his father, who was appointed vice president of Jefferson College. In 1844 father and son resettled in New York, where Octave was educated in a private school. He added a final “e” to his patronym during this period as a mark of Americanization and a means of suggesting the proper pronunciation of his name....

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Cone, Russell Glenn (22 March 1896–21 January 1961), engineer, was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, the son of Frank Cone, a railroad superintendent, and Alice Haddon. The boy attended public schools in Beardstown, Illinois, and when he was eighteen worked for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad near Beardstown for a year. In 1915–1916 he was a rodman on a bridge construction project at Metropolis, Illinois. He then entered the University of Illinois, but his college years were interrupted during World War I, from 1917 to 1919, when he served in France and Germany with the U.S. Army 149th Field Artillery, eventually advancing to the rank of sergeant. He returned to the university, where he took courses in civil engineering from Charles Alton Ellis and received his B.S. in that field in 1922. He married Izetta Lucas in 1922; they had one son....

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Hugh L. Cooper. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94411).

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Cooper, Hugh Lincoln (28 April 1865–24 June 1937), civil engineer, was born in Sheldon, Minnesota, the son of George Washington Cooper, a miller, and Nancy Marion Parshall. He early developed an interest in engineering, and at age seventeen, during a school vacation, he built a timber bridge across Moon Creek for his farmer employer. This bridge, with a span of forty feet, lasted forty years....

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Crowe, Francis Trenholm (12 October 1882–26 February 1946), civil engineer, was born in Trenholmville, Quebec, Canada, the son of John Crowe, a woolen mill operator, and Emma Jane Wilkinson. Because of his father’s career, he grew up in a succession of mill towns—Trenholmville; Fairfield, Iowa; Kezar Falls, Maine; Picton, New Jersey; and Byfield, Massachusetts—and his own career proved to be equally peripatetic. After graduating from Governor Dummer Academy in South Byfield in 1901, he matriculated at the University of Maine to study civil engineering. During his junior year he was so impressed by a lecture about the Wild West and the efforts of the U.S. Reclamation Service to tame it that he obtained a summer job with the service as a surveyor along the lower Yellowstone River in Montana. The rugged outdoor life and the scope and importance of the work to be done in the West captivated him, and upon receiving his B.S. degree in civil engineering in 1905 he went to work full time for the service....

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Samuel R. Curtis. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-2075).

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Curtis, Samuel Ryan (03 February 1805–26 December 1866), soldier and engineer, was born near Champlain, New York, the son of Zarah Curtis and Phalley Yale, farmers. In 1809 the family moved to Licking County, Ohio. Curtis obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy and graduated in 1831. Later that year he married Belinda Buckingham; the couple had six children. Curtis served briefly with the Seventh Infantry at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), but resigned his commission in 1832 and returned to Ohio. During the next decade he worked as an engineer on the National Road and was the chief engineer of the Muskingum River improvement project. He also studied law and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1841. Curtis was active in the Ohio militia and was named adjutant general of the state when the Mexican War began, but he resigned in order to command the Third Ohio Infantry in the field. Much to his disappointment, he saw no action in Mexico but served as military governor of Matamoras, Camargo, Monterrey, and Saltillo....

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Davies, John Vipond (13 October 1862–04 October 1939), civil engineer, was born in Swansea, Wales, the son of Andrew Davies, a physician, and Emily Vipond. He attended classes at the Wesleyan College, Taunton, England, and the University of London, but he received no degree. In 1880 he began as an apprentice to contracting engineers Parfitt & Jenkins in Cardiff, Wales. Although their specialty was structural work, they also built drydocks and engines. He next worked for several years as an assistant engineer engaged in construction at the Monmouthshire coal mines. To gain broader experience, in 1888 he served as a marine engineer on a voyage to Australia....

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Davis, Arthur Powell (09 February 1861–07 August 1933), hydrographer and engineer, was born near Decatur, Illinois, the son of John Davis, a livestock farmer, nurseryman, newspaper owner, and congressman, and Martha Ann Powell. When he was eleven years old, his family relocated to a farm close to Junction City, Kansas, where he graduated from high school. Davis entered the Kansas State Normal School (now Emporia State University) in Emporia, Kansas. After graduating, he moved to Washington, D.C., in 1882. He also joined the U.S. Geological Survey, then directed by his uncle ...

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Grenville M. Dodge. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1672).