Virginia Military Institute
HomeDigital Collections

Sydney B. Williamson Papers Edit


MS 0206


  • 1909-1939 (Creation)


  • 7 boxes (Whole)


  • Abstract

    Sydney B. Williamson was a civil engineer whose most notable achievement was his service as Division Engineer of the Pacific Division of the Panama Canal construction project (1907- 1914). The collection contains project files, photographs, and drawings documenting Williamson's work in Panama, with particular emphasis on the construction of the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks.

  • Scope and Contents

    The bulk of the collection documents Williamson's engineering assignments in Panama, South America, and the United States, and his service on the Interoceanic Canal Board. The collection consists of the following series: Biographical and historical materials; Correspondence; Project and Planning Files; Engineering Drawings and Specifications; Reports, Papers and Speeches; Photographs; Printed Materials and Miscellaneous. The sizable group of drawings and specifications for the Panama Canal construction is of particular importance. Also of interest in the Photographs series is a Panama Album which includes photos of President William H. Taft's tour of the Panama Canal construction site, as well as photos recording in detail the massive task of constructing the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks; many of these photographs are unpublished.

  • Chronology

    1865 April 15

    Sydney Bacon Williamson born at Lexington, Virginia


    Graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a degree in Civil Engineering


    Mathematics instructor at Kings Mountain (North Carolina) military school


    Served in the engineering departments of St. Paul and Duluth Railway and the Northern Pacific Railway; designed and constructed railroad terminals and bridges


    In general engineering practice with Williamson and Earl in Montgomery, Alabama; street paving, sanitary sewers for Montgomery and Columbus, Ga.

    1890 May 20

    Married Helen Cecilia Davis


    Assistant Engineer to Gen. George W. Goethals; in charge of improvements on the Tennessee River; included a canal lock at Riverton, Ala., and Muscle Shoals Canal


    Served as Captain, Third Vol. Engineers under Gen. John R. Brooke in Puerto Rico


    Engineer of fortifications at Newport, R. I. under Goethals


    Consulting engineer in Baltimore and for Jamestown (N.Y.) Exposition


    Division Engineer of Pacific Division of Panama Canal under Goethals; responsible for wet and dry excavation of Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks; also designed and constructed Pacific Terminal docks, water supply, sewers, road and streets for the towns of the division including the city of Panama


    Became Chief of Construction for J.G. White and Co., Ltd. of London; worked on power station and street railway for Brazil, water supply for Genoa, Italy, additions to street railway in Buenos Aires; Chief of Construction of U.S. Reclamation Service; supervised work of Central Office in Denver involving dams, reservoirs, power plants, canals


    Consulting Engineer for Guggenheim Brothers in New York; worked on Chile Copper Co."s plant and Braden Copper Co.'s plant; increased mining, milling, leaching, smelting, and power plants; also constructed houses for employees; water and sewer systems


    World War I service. Leave of absence to serve as Lt. Col. of Engineers in France; Section Engineer of Intermediate Section West; built barracks, hospitals, warehouses, remount stations, ammunition dumps, water supplies; Nov. 4, promoted to Colonel


    Discharged from army and returned to Guggenheim Brothers


    Civil engineering practice at Birmingham, Alabama, and Charlottesville, Virginia


    Consulting Engineer with Goethals at Port of Palm Beach, Florida; also consulted on water supplies for several towns in Virginia and Hollywood, FL


    Employed by U.S. District Engineer at Philadelphia; worked on dikes to control Delaware River


    Principal Engineer, U.S. Engineering Dept.; investigated feasibility of Nicaragua Canal


    Appointed member of Interoceanic Canal Board by President Herbert Hoover; served until retirement in 1935


    Engaged by U.S. Army corps of engineers to determine damages done by Mississippi flood control program and to testify before courts

    1939 January 13

    Died at Lexington, Virginia

  • Biographical / Historical

    Sydney Bacon Williamson was born on April 15, 1865 in Lexington, Virginia, the son of VMI Professor Thomas H. Williamson. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1884 and shortly thereafter began a distinguished career in Civil Engineering. Most notably, he served as Division Engineer of the Pacific Division of Panama Canal from 1907-1914. Williamson was responsible for wet and dry excavation of the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks; he also helped design and oversaw construction of the Pacific Terminal docks; and the water supply, sewers, roads and streets for the towns of the division including the city of Panama. During World War I he served as Col. of Engineers in France. He died at Lexington, Virginia in 1939

  • Access

    There are no restrictions

  • Use Restrictions

    Manuscript collections in the VMI Archives are made available for educational and research use. The VMI Archives should be cited as the source. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright holders. Materials from our collections may not be redistributed, published or reproduced without permission from the VMI Archives. Contact the VMI Archives for additional information.

  • Preferred Citation

    Sydney B. Williamson Papers, MS 0206, Virginia Military Institute Archives, Lexington, Virginia.

  • Physical Description

    7 boxes

  • Language of Materials


  • Online Access


  • Type
    Mixed Materials
    Container 1 Type
    Container 1 Indicator
    MS 0206