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Sydney B. Williamson Papers Edit

Summary

Identifier
MS 0206

Dates

  • 1909-1939 (Creation)

Extents

  • 7 boxes (Whole)

Notes

  • 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in detail the massive task of constructing the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks; many of these photographs are unpublished.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

    1884

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

    1884-1886

    Mathematics instructor at Kings Mountain (North Carolina) military school

    1886-1887

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

    1887-1890

    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

    1892

    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

    1898

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

    1901-1903

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

    1903-1907

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

    1906-1914

    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

    1914-1916

    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

    1916-1924

    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

    1918

    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

    1919

    Discharged from army and returned to Guggenheim Brothers

    1924-1929

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

    1926-1928

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

    1928

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

    1929

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

    1931

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

    1933-1935

    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

    English

  • Online Access

Instances

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

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