Erastus Washington Smith Papers, 1758-1917 (bulk 1850-1881): Finding Aid
Published in June 1986
- Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
- Publisher Address:
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
- Call number: MS 213
- Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
- Title: Erastus Washington Smith Papers
- Dates: 1758-1917
- Bulk Dates: 1850-1881
- Size: 3.88 linear feet
- Container Summary: 1 manuscript box, 1 half-manuscript box, 3 flat boxes, 3 oversize folders
- Creator: Smith, Erastus Washington
- Language(s) of material: English
- Abstract: Erastus Washington Smith was an engineer noted for his work in marine steam engine manufacturing, steam water pump production, and on the Harlem River Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. The papers include correspondence and periodicals pertaining to Smith's engineering career, as well as materials related to U.S.S. Dunderberg and steamship Oregonian.
Biography of Erastus Washington Smith
Erastus Washington Smith was a native of the State of Connecticut and an eminent engineer. Raised in Ohio, he began his career in Cleveland employed in a steam-engine manufactory. Subsequently, he went to New York as an apprentice to the Allaire Works, for some years the most noted in the country. To further his education in the physical sciences, he left the firm long enough to graduate from New York University in 1844. Returning to the Allaire Works, where he remained for six more years, he became the principal in the construction of some of the best vessels of that time.
After this long and diversified experience in construction and design, Erastus Smith became a consulting engineer. At different times, many steamship companies were under his direction, either in the capacity of Engineer-in-Chief, Constructing Engineer, or Superintendent of Machinery. Many of the largest and finest engines built in the United States are from his designs and drawings.
He was a designer for the Harlem River Bridge and Consulting Engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge. In 1866, New York University conferred on Erastus W. Smith the honor degree of Doctor Physici Artibus (Doctor of Physical Arts). This was the first such degree ever conferred in the United States.
Description of Contents
The Erastus Washington Smith Papers, comprising 3.88 linear feet of documentation, span from 1758 through 1917, with a majority of the documents falling between the years 1850 and 1881. The Papers focus on Smith's life and work as an engineer, including his work on marine and hydraulic steam engines, as well as plans for Army transports and U.S.S. Dunderberg.
The papers consist of incoming and outgoing letters (mostly in the form of letterbooks), newspaper clippings, periodicals, invoices, design drawings, and engineering/mathematical implements.
The Erastus Smith Papers are organized into two series by document type. Many of the materials in Series 1: General Files focus on Smith's honorary degree from New York University, as well as several calculating tools likely used by Smith in his engineering work. The series also includes some Civil War era documentation, including materials on the ironclad U.S.S. Dunderberg, which Smith likely worked on, and plans for Army transport boats designed by Norman W. Wheeler. Series 2: Letterbooks consists entirely of bound copies of outgoing correspondence written by Smith. The letterbooks, which include some personal correspondence, are composed primarily of business correspondence pertaining to Smith's work on marine steam engines, steam engines for water pumping utilities, and the Leonard & Smith Company.
The Erastus Washington Smith Papers are organized into the following two series:
- Series 1: General Files, 1758-1917
- Series 2: Letterbooks, 1850-1874
Access and Use
Access is unrestricted.
Copyright and Permission
The Erastus Washington Smith Papers are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.
Acquisition and Appraisal
Provenance and Acquisition
Gift of Florence M. and Philip C. Morgan in September 1959.
Related Archival Material
Additional material pertaining to the career of Erastus Washington Smith may be found in the Erastus Smith Steamship Papers Collection, 1841-1883, at The Mariners' Museum Library in Newport News, Virginia.
Materials Cataloged Separately
No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.
Processing and Other Information
Erastus Washington Smith Papers, MS 213
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
This collection was processed by in June 1986. Finding aid written in June 1986 and revised by David D'Onofrio in May 2014.
These materials have been indexed in the Naval Academy Library online catalog using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.
Name and Subject Terms
- Dunderberg (Ironclad screw frigate)
- Marine engineering
- Oregonian (Cargo ship)
- Smith, Erastus Washington
- Steam engineering
- United States. Army -- Transportation
- Wheeler, Norman W.
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Design drawings
- Letter books
- Slide rules
Series 1: General Files, 1758-1917 Boxes 1-2, MSOSSeries Description
Documentation pertaining to Smith's honorary degree from New York University, Civil War era Army transports designed by Norman W. Wheeler, and the ironclad U.S.S. Dunderberg. Included in the series are letters, design drawings, newspaper clippings, periodical issues, and engineering/mathematical implements.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type or title.
Series 2: Letterbooks, 1850-1874 Boxes 3-5Series Description
Copies of outgoing business and personal correspondence sent by Smith pertaining to his work as a consulting engineer. Projects undertaken by Smith include the design of boilers and steam engines for ships, water works, and other urban public works projects. Some of the earlier letters pertain to Smith's prior work for the Allaire Works, while some of the later letters deal with Smith's real estate transactions.Series Arrangement
Arranged chronologically by starting date.