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Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia records


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The Centennial Exhibition of 1876 was organized in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of American independence. From May to November that year, spectators from across the nation and around the world viewed and experienced the latest American advancements in industry, technology, agriculture, science, and the arts. Counted among those visitors were local groups of engineers that came to see the newest technological innovations.

In the late nineteenth century, Philadelphia was growing politically, socially, and economically. Several large-scale projects, such as the building of city hall and the westward expansion of the city, called for dozen of city planners and engineers to work together toward their completion. Despite this, at the Centennial word spread that Philadelphia engineers did not seem to know each other and that they should be more social with one another. This notion stuck with Charles E. Billin, an engineer who lived in west Philadelphia, for many months after the exhibition. In the winter of 1877, Billin hosted a gathering of local engineers at his home; thus began a series of social events at the homes of various engineers. With just over twenty members, the Engineers' Club of Philadelphia was officially established at one of the last events of the year, at the home of Coleman Sellers Jr. on December 17, 1877. Among its founders were Charles A. Ashburner, George Burnham Jr., Lewis M. Haupt, and M. R. Muckle Jr. The club's objectives were to improve the social relations between local engineers to promote the study and practice of engineering through meetings and the circulation and discussion of professional papers.

The club's constitution and by-laws were adopted in January 1878, and Professor Lewis M. Haupt was named its first president. Haupt was born in 1844 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He studied at Harvard, was a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, and served as a topographical engineer for Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. He also taught math and engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and was awarded an honorary degree from the school in 1883.

Regular meetings were held twice a month and the club met at various locales in its formative years, including 10 North Merrick Street, 1518 Chestnut Street, and 1523 Chestnut Street. By about the mid 1880s, membership in the club had grown to over 100 and suitable meeting quarters were eventually procured at 1122 Girard Street. Here the club remained until it moved to 1317 Spruce Street in 1907; this became their home for the next several decades.

Internally, and mostly during its early years, members focused on reading and discussing each other’s unpublished and published papers. The club also published its meeting proceedings and newsletters Engineers and Engineering and the Announcer (later the Delaware Valley Announcer). In addition, the club held dinners and receptions, kept its members informed of engineering-related events and conventions, and played host to other engineering societies. The club's members also had access to their own library that included bound volumes, pamphlets, maps, and drawings on subjects ranging from architecture and buildings materials to railroads and mining. At various points during its history, the club also formed its own orchestra, glee club, and lecture circuit, and provided opportunities for field trips both locally (Reading, Pennsylvania, 1896; Hog Island, 1920) and regionally (Seammel Potteries, Trenton, New Jersey, 1928; New York World's Fair, 1940).

The Engineers' Club of Philadelphia (www. currently resides at 216 South 16th Street. It continues to provide professional development and hold special events for engineers and those interested in the field of engineering.

The Engineers' Club of Philadelphia records span from the late 19th century to the late 20th century and are housed in 59 boxes and 32 volumes. For the most part, the records document the club's history and general operations through meeting minutes, committee papers, and membership files. It would appear that much of this collection was culled for the purposes of publishing the club's history in 1970, thought there are plenty of files that date from the 1970s and 1980s. The collection has been roughly divided into three series ( Club and board minutes, House and renovation committees [historical], and Administration), and generally remains in the order found. As with most organizational records, there are many carbon copies and photocopies, so researchers may find scattered duplicate papers, esepcially between series 1 and 3. Beyond its service as club documentation, the collection could also be used to trace the engineering profession and engineering projects in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania over the course of the 20th century.

Series 1: Club and board minutes

Series 2: House and renovation committees (historical)

Series 3: Administration

Suberies 3.a.: Subject files

Subseries 3.b.: Membership

Subseries 3.c.: Miscellaneous

Gift of the Engineers' Club of Philadelphia, 1990.

Accession number 1990.3.


Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Cary Majewicz
Finding Aid Date
, 2010
Processing made possible by generous donations from David Othmer and an anonymous donor.
Use Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

Scope and Contents note

At the beginning of this series are eight volumes and one box of the club's meeting minutes dating from the first meeting held at Coleman Seller Jr.'s house in December 1877 to 1955. (See listing below.) The first two volumes contain a mix of handwritten and printed proceedings. By the mid 1880s (Volume 3), the club resorted to pasting print versions of their minutes into bound volumes and adding the occasional handwritten addendum where needed. These volumes contain minutes from regular, business, special, and annual meetings and include lists of attendees and members, reports from various committees and members, and occasional discussions of amendments to the club's by-laws. However, scattered among the entries are intriguing bits of information on technological advancements, such as a discussion on W. S. Auchinsloss's "latest forms of Averaging Machines" at the 3 February 1883 meeting, and details on local building and renovation projects, like work done on the Chestnut Street Bridge as discussed at the 25 February 1885 meeting. Up to about 1901, many of the entries are quite detailed and read like minute essays, on the rare occasion accompanied by mathematical equations, on a range of engineering-related topics, such as the manufacture of ball bearings (20 May 1893) or the aesthetics of construction (21 December 1889). What exists of the club's minutes from about 1901 to 1916, however, are mostly abstracts, and do not provide as much detail as previous entries. The minutes on Box 1 pick up in 1920 (no club minutes were found for 1917 through 1919) and date to 1955 and show a return to more detailed recordings; this is especially true of the minutes from annual meetings.

Unlike the club minutes, the minutes of the board of directors primarily concern the club's internal affairs in leadership, membership, publications, and programs and education. The records span 85 years from 1879 to 1964. Though the minutes became more extensive over the years, especially as the club gained influence, members, and affiliations, their contents remained generally constant. The list below shows that the minutes are in both volumes and boxes. Because Volumes 9 through 12 are small, they are all housed in Box 1. Volumes 13 and 14 are bound books; the remaining minutes are boxed and are either foldered (Boxes 2-7) or remain in their original binders (Boxes 8-20).

In many cases, the club placed correspondence, financial reports, plans, notices, and other documents with their minutes. In keeping with this original order, such papers remain with the minutes.

Club meeting minutes, (1877-1955). 1.5 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Volume 1: 17 December 1877-6 May 1882

Volume 2: 20 May 1882-10 June 1886

Volume 3: 2 October 1886-16 June 1888

Volume 4: 6 October 1888-20 December 1890

Volume 5: 10 January 1891-17 March 1894

Volume 6: 7 April 1894-31 December 1897

Volume 7: 1 January 1898-20 December 1902

Volume 8: 3 January 1903-11 March 1916

Box 1 (5 folders): 1920-1955

Physical Description

1.5 Linear feet

Board of Directors minutes, (1879-1964). 3.6 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Box 1: Volume 9: 18 January 1879-12 November 1884; Volume 10: 17 January 1884-20 January 1894; Volume 11: 27 January 1894-2 January 1897; Volume 12: 16 January 1897-21 January 1899;

Volume 13: 28 January 1899-11 January 1909

Volume 14: 23 January 1909-12 November 1915

Box 2: 1915-1920

Box 3: 1920-1924

Box 4: 1925-1929

Box 5: 1929-1932

Box 6: 1932-1935

Box 7: 1935-1938

Box 8: 1938-1941

Box 9: 1941-1944

Box 10: 1944-1947

Box 11: 1947-1949

Box 12: 1949-1951

Box 13: 1951-1953

Box 14: 1953-1955

Box 15: 1955-1957

Box 16: 1957-1959

Box 17: 1959-1961

Box 18: 1961-1962

Box 19: 1962-1963

Box 20: 1963-1964

Physical Description

3.6 Linear feet

Scope and Contents note

The papers in this subseries document actions taken to improve the club's headquarters both internally and externally. Because they were found separated from the other general files in the collection, they remain grouped together. Many of the files are labeled "historical," which probably denotes their age (1930s to the early 1960s) in relation to the bulk of the files in the collection, which date from the 1970s to the early 1980s.

Boxes 22 and 23 contain minutes of House Committee, which was primarily responsible for furniture, interior decorating, dinner service and restaurant improvements, and inspections at 1317 Spruce Street. These minutes reveal the work that was done to make sure the club catered properly to its members and visitors. There are reports on everything from fire inspections to food costs to the purchase of new silverware. Box 24 contains a run of related files of the House Committee that consist of correspondence, brochures and manuals, blueprints and plans, and accounting sheets. Box 25 contains information on House Committee projects from the 1950s, such as the purchase of a new dishwasher and the search for new chairs. This box also contains a few folders of papers related to the House Committee's work, such as liquor licenses papers dating from the 1930s to the 1950s, and two folders related to the club's artwork (photographs and paintings) that adorned its walls.

In 1945, the club created a Renovations Committee "to survey the needs of the Club in regard to upkeep of the property - and to plan for the judicious expenditure of a fund which has been made available for the purpose of correcting many items which have necessarily been neglected during the past years (January 19, 1945, Box 26, Folder 1). The papers of the renovation committee date from the 1940s to the 1950s and span 8 folders in two boxes (26 and 27) and consist of minutes (including occasional copies of House Committee minutes), correspondence, accounting reports, invoices, and receipts.

House Committee minutes, (1947-1961). 0.8 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Box 22 (9 folders): 1947-1954

Box 23 (6 folders): 1954-1961

Physical Description

0.8 Linear feet 2 boxes

House Committee (historical) files, (1934-1959). 0.8 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Box 24 (5 folders): 1939-1954

Box 25 (7 folders): 1934-1959

Physical Description

0.8 Linear feet 2 boxes

Rennovations Committee (historical), (1944-1953). 0.6 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Box 26 (5 folders): 1944-1951

Box 27 (3 folders): 1944-1953

Physical Description

0.6 Linear feet 2 boxes

Scope and Contents note

The general administrative files of the Engineers Club span 32 boxes and 19 volumes and date from 1877 to 1988. To improve access to what was a jumble of folders in boxes, this series have been divided into three groups: subject files, membership, and miscellaneous. The subject files date from about 1972 to 1982 and consist of files related to the club's member newsletter the Bulletin, files on the club's various committees, affiliated clubs, reservations and menus, and classes and events. The membership group contains registers, accounting sheets showing members dues in the mid 1908s, and several scrapbooks of club notices and members mailings. Among the miscellaneous papers in the final group are diaries of club meetings, directories from the 1920s and 1930s, papers pertaining to a seminar on Sara Title III, and materials used in the preparation of the club's published history entitled Through The Years: A Historical Outline of the Engineers' Club of Philadelphia.

Scope and Contents note

The first three boxes of the subject files contain copies of and papers used in preparation of Engineers' Club's member newsletter, the Bulletin, dating from April 1976 to April 1982. These small brochures contain information on club events and committee meetings, guest speakers, membership candidates, and occasional dedications to deceased members. Introducing each newsletter is a letter from the president that recalls past successes and new improvements within the club. The newsletters were released monthly; therefore, there are generally folders of papers for each month, though some folders are missing. There are fewer final copies of the newsletter strewn throughout the files and more papers that document how each newsletter was produced--from initial drafts of the president's letters to copies of speakers' biographies. Such drafts document not only how the newsletters were produced but also how decisions were made on what and what not to include.

Following the Bulletin files are eight boxes of papers from several of the club's committees. Mostly consisting of minutes, correspondence, and reports, as a whole, these papers detail the club's internal improvements and external relations during the 1970s and early 1980s. Among the most extensive records are those from the Board Committee, the Education Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Membership Committee. Many of the records speak to the club's response to the downturn in the engineering profession during this time and the need for new members and further education programs and events to attract people to the field. There is also a significant group of records from the club's House Committee that continue in the same manner as the records from Series 2. Additionally, there are two folders in Box 31 from the club's Bicentennial Committee, which was responsible for planning the club's participation in the national event in 1976.

Papers pertaining to the Engineers' Club's affiliates are in Boxes 39-40. Affiliates paid dues to the club and, in turn, were entitled to reserve meeting rooms at the club free of charge and were invited to hold private luncheons or dinners as reasonable rates. Papers include affiliates and reservation forms, correspondence, and affiliates' newsletters. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers folders also contain a complete list of its members in the mid-Atlantic region in 1980.

In addition to affiliates, the Engineers' Club allowed other organizations to take advantage of its facilities. Papers in the next group, reservations and menus (Boxes 41-44) document reservations made by some of these groups, such as the Poor Richard Club and the Last Man Standing Society. There is one box of materials (Box 41) that pertain to reservations and scheduling, while the other three boxes (42-44) contain both handwritten and typed daily and weekly menus dating from 1977 to 1982. Please note that the bulk of these menus were found either loose or in large bundles; they were foldered as found, therefore dates of the papers may overlap or there may be duplicates.

The club also used and opened its facilities for educational purposes and provided engineering-related classes to both members and non-members. In Boxes 45 and 46 are a few such examples mostly from 1976 and 1977. These files generally contain registration forms, class descriptions, lists of students, and correspondence. The types of classes range from basic instruction in general fields such as writing, analysis, and statistics, to informative courses on nuclear power and solar energy, to specific instruction in areas such as elevator repair and electrical engineering. The few class files in Box 46 further detail a very specific class offered by the club: its Liberty Bell Corrosion Class. Co-sponsored by the Philadelphia Section of the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, the course began in the 1960s, though the files here date from 1976 to 1979. The multi-day event was open to those working in or interested in learning about corrosion control though classes about water treatments, protective coatings, and corrosion-related materials science.

Beyond the class files are those pertaining to events held at or sponsored by the club. Included are informal papers on Engineers' Week, the club's annual meeting, holiday gatherings (Mother's Day, Thanksgiving), and awards and dinners. There are papers in Box 46 detailing the club's George Washington Medal, which was awarded to a outstanding individual in the field as chosen by the club's members. The folder includes correspondence, nomination forms, and information on the dinner held for the event.

Rounding out the subject files is an assortment of alphabetically arranged miscellaneous files that date from the early 1970s to the early 1980s and include a sampling of financial records, bills and receipts from the post office, files on the "Thirty Year Club" that was open to club members with tenures of at least thirty years, records on member's deaths (Box 48) and resignations (Box 49), and papers pertaining to Who's Who in Engineering in the Delaware Valley (Box 49), a publication produced annually by the club. Box 49 also contains a folder of miscellaneous photographs, including those taken of the club's facilities at 1317 Spruce Street for an appraisal report.

Physical Description

8.4 Linear feet 22 boxes

Bulletin (club newsletter). 1 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Box 28 (28 folders): April 1976-December 1978

Box 29 (21 folders): February 1979-December 1980

Box 30 (13 folders): January 1981-April 1982

Physical Description

1.0 Linear feet 3 boxes

Committees. 3.2 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Box 31, folders 1-2: Admissions, 1976-1978

Box 31, folders 3-4: Bicentennial, 1975-1976

Box 31, folders 5-6: Board, 1976-1977

Box 32, folders 1-3: Board, 1977-1979

Box 32, folders 4-6: Boosters, 1974-1979

Box 33, folder 1: By-laws, 1977-1978

Box 33, folder 2: Centennial, 1977 (club's 100th anniversary)

Box 33, folders 3-7: Education: 1976-1980

Box 34, folders 1-2: Education, 1981-1982

Box 34, folders 3-7: Finance, 1976-1982

Box 35, folders 1-5: House, 1972-1973, 1975-1979

Box 36, folders 1-2: House, 1981-1982

Box 36, folders 3-4: Insurance, 1977-1979

Box 36, folders 5-7: Investment, 1976-1978, 1982

Box 36, folders 8-10: Legal advisory, 1976-1979

Box 36, folders 11-13: Library, 1975-1979

Box 36, folders 14-15: Long range planning, 1976-1978

Box 36, folders 16-17: Membership, 1976-1977

Box 37, folders 1-7: Membership, 1977-1979, 1981-1982

Box 37, folders 8-9: Open house, 1976-1979

Box 38, folder 1-2: Organization of committees, 1978-1979

Box 38, folder 3: Papers and meeting, 1979, 1981

Box 38, folders 4-6: Personnel relations, 1976-1979

Box 38, folder 7: Publications, 1975-1976

Box 38, folder 8: Public relations, 1975-1977

Box 38, folders 9-11: Special events, 1968-1973

Box 38, folder 12-13: Tellers,1975-1978

Box 38, folder 14: Young engineers, 1976-1977

Physical Description

3.2 Linear feet 8 boxes

Affiliates. 0.6 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Box 39, folder 1: Affiliate charges, 1978-1981

Box 39, folder 2: American Society of Civil Engineers, 1980-1981

Box 39, folder 3: American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Airconditioning Engineers, 1980-1981

Box 39, folders 4-5: American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1979-1980

Box 39, folder 6: American Society of Women Accountants, 1980

Box 39, folder 7: Construction Specifications Institute, 1979-1980

Box 39, folder 8: National Association of Power Engineers, 1980-1981

Box 39, folder 9: National Fire Protection Association, 1973-1977

Box 39, folder 10: National Railway Historical Society, 1980

Box 40, folder 1: Pennsylvania Society for Professional Engineers, 1980-1981

Box 40, folder 2: Society of Fire Protection Engineers, 1980-1981

Box 40, folder 3: Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1980-1981

Box 40, folder 4: Society of Packaging and Handling Engineers, 1980-1981

Box 40, folder 5: Society for Technical Communication, 1979-1980

Box 40, folder 6: Standard Engineers Society, 1979

Box 40, folder 7: Western Society of Engineers [Chicago, Illinois], 1960

Box 40, folder 8: Women in Graphic Arts, 1980-1981

Physical Description

0.6 Linear feet 2 boxes

Reservations and menus. 1.6 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Box 41, folder 1-7: Reseverations and weekly schedules, 1976-1981

Box 41, folder 8: 312th Field Artillery, 1979-1980

Box 41, folder 9: Last Man Standing Society, 1981

Box 41, folder 10: Penjerdel Corporation, 1979

Box 41: folder 11: Poor Richard Club, 1979

Box 41, folder 12: Rotary Club of Philadelphia, 1980

Box 41, folder 13: Royal Arcanum, 1981

Box 41, folder 14: Sons of Saint George, 1977, 1980

Box 41, folder 15: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, 1979-1980

Boxes 42-44: Menus, 1977-1982

Physical Description

1.6 Linear feet 4 boxes

Classes and events. 1 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Box 45, folders 1-10: Classes, 1976

Box 45, folders 11-25: Classes, 1977

Box 45, folder 26: Classes, 1978

Box 45, folders 27-29: Classes, 1980-1981

Box 46, folders 1-4: Liberty Bell Corrosion Course, 1976-1979

Box 46, folders 5-19: Events, 1976-1982

Box 47, folder 1-10: Events, 1974-1982

Physical Description

1.0 Linear feet 3 boxes

Miscellaneous. 1 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Box 48 (20 folders): B-P, 1975-1981

Box 49 (14 folders): R-W, 1973-1982

Physical Description

1.0 Linear feet 3 boxes

Scope and Contents note

In this group, researchers will find records on the club's members, including member registers, dues, and mailings. There are six boxes and seventeen volumes. The volumes are all various membership registers once kept by the club. They date from the club's inception in 1877 to the late 1950s and include several different membership classes, such as active, honorary, associate, corresponding, junior, and Army & Navy. The first four categories date from the club's earliest days, while the junior category (for younger, college-age men) was created in 1897 and the Army & Navy category (for men in the armed forces) was created in 1915. Each register contains simple lists of member names, dates they joined, and any changes made to their memberships, such as being dropped, reinstated, or moved to another category.

There is a significant gap between the last date of the volumes (1957) and the beginning of the member dues accounting sheets from the 1980s in Boxes 50 and 51. In addition to listing other minor account information, these sheets contain lists of members' account balances in 1984 and 1985, showing those who had paid or were overdue or overdrawn.

Following the members' dues sheets, Boxes 52 to 55 contain disbound scrapbooks on club notices and member mailings dating from 1953 to 1971. Arranged by the club's fiscal year (roughly May to April), each scrapbook contains a compendium of all notices, letters, invitations, cards, and other mailings that were sent out to members. There are invitations to locally sponsored events (baseball games, the opera), the club's annual meeting, and to regularly scheduled luncheons. There are also notices on new members and new membership candidates, committee meeting notices, RSVP cards, and other general mailings.

Physical Description

3.4 Linear feet 6 boxes, 17 volumes

Membership registers. 1 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Volume 15: Active, corresponding, and honorary members, 1877-1885

Volume 16: Active members, 1885-1907

Volume 17: Associate and junior members, 1885-1910

Volume 18: Active members, 1907-1915

Volume 19: Junior and Army & Navy members, 1910-1922

Volume 20: Active members, 1915-1916

Volume 21: Active members, 1916-1921

Volume 22: Active members, 1921-1930

Volume 23: Junior and Army & Navy members, 1923-1940

Volume 24: Active members, 1930-1943

Volume 25: Junior and Army & Navy members, 1940-1954

Volume 26: Active members, 1943-1954

Volume 27: All members, 1944-1948

Volume 28: All members, 1948-1953

Volume 29: All members, 1953-1956

Volume 30: All members, 1956-1957

Volume 31: Newly qualified members, 1946-1954

Physical Description

1.0 Linear feet

Members dues. 0.8 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Boxes 50-51: Accounting sheets, circa 1980s.

Physical Description

0.8 Linear feet

Club notices and member mailings. 1.6 Linear feet.
Arrangement note

Box 52: 1953-1958

Box 53: 1958-1964

Box 54: 1964-1968

Box 55: 1963-1971

Physical Description

1.6 Linear feet

Scope and Contents note

This assortment of records that span from the late 1800s to the 1980s consist oftwo volumes (Volume 32: Visitors register, 1891-1971; Volume 33: Datebook, 1972) and four boxes (Boxes 56-59). Box 56 contains two small, bound club directories from 1927 and 1937; diaries of club meetings from 1924 to 1951; and a 1950s scrapbook for the club's bulletin, leaflets, and flyers that has been disbound and placed into two folders. Making up most of the material in Boxes 57 and 58 are source materials, drafts, and final versions of Through The Years: A Historical Outline of the Engineers' Club of Philadelphia, which was published in 1970. The papers in Box 59 pertain to a seminar on Sara Title III (The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act) held by the Engineer's Club in 1988. Subtitled "Priorities and Pitfalls," the seminar focused on reporting hazardous chemicals, toxic emissions, and emergency notifications.

Physical Description

1.5 Linear feet

Miscellaneous files.
Arrangement note

Volume 32: Visitors' register, 1891-1971

Volume 33: Date book, 1972

Box 56, folder 1: Directories, 1927, 1937

Box 56, folders 2-5: Club meeting diaries, 1924-1951

Box 56, folders 6-7: Scrapbook, 1954-1956

Box 57, folder 1: Christmas Fund file, 1955-1966

Box 57, folders 2-3: Mixed administrative and financial papers, 1968-1980

Box 57, folder 4: Form letters; blank forms, letterhead, envelopes, undated

Box 57, folders 5-8: Through The Years source material, circa 1970

Box 58: Through The Years drafts and final copies, circa 1970

Box 59: Sara Title III program papers, 1988

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