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Birkinbine Engineering Company Records, Collection I

 Collection
Identifier: SC MS 0084.1
This collection includes books, bound pamphlets and offprints, maps and drawings, letter books, ore samples, photographs, and manuscript material regarding the Birkinbine Engineering Company.

Dates

  • ca. 1860 to ca. 1940

Conditions Governing Access

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research.

Extent

25 Linear Feet (42 boxes and 25 letter books)

Overview

This collection includes books, bound pamphlets and offprints, maps and drawings, letter books, ore samples, photographs, and manuscript material regarding the Birkinbine Engineering Company.

Biographical / Historical

The Birkinbine Engineering Company got its start through Henry P. M. Birkinbine. His son, John, was born in 1844 when Henry was operating a forge and auger works near Reading, Pennsylvania. Later, Henry served for 10 years as chief engineer of the Philadelphia Water Department. John gained early engineering experience through various water supply projects in and around Philadelphia; this experience later helped direct the Birkinbine Engineering Company’s involvement in many water-related projects around the country in the late 19th century as part of the improved public sanitation initiatives.

The Birkinbine firm also specialized in mining engineering, both in the United States and Mexico. In the 1870s, John Birkinbine was reportedly the first American to critically examine the iron deposits of the Cerro de Mercado in Durango, Mexico. He also was one of the first engineers to suggest the practicability of making iron on the Great Lakes from coke made from Pennsylvania coal. He also experimented with the use of various fuels, from charcoal to coke to smelt iron. Additionally, he had a firm grounding in mechanical engineering through his work in the Weimer Machine Works in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. He eventually married the owner’s daughter and was later a stockholder.

John Birkinkbine’s interest in manufacturing pig iron from charcoal, combined with his knowledge of hydraulics, catalyzed his concern for the condition of forests in Pennsylvania and he became one of the founders of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association. He also was president of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, founding member and secretary of the United States Association of Charcoal Iron Workers (as well as long-time editor of its journal), and served as an iron ore expert with the United States Geological Survey. After John Birkinbine’s death, the company continued under the leadership of his sons, but the business became defunct by World War II.

Arrangement

The manuscript material has been sorted by topic and date.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

After the closing of the offices, material was stored in a private residence owned by the family until 1994, when the last surviving relative died, and the house was sold. All the material was then boxed and delivered to Lehigh University.

Related Materials

SC MS 0084.2 Birkinbine Engineering Company Records Collection II
Title
Birkinbine Engineering Company Records, Collection I
Status
completed
Author
Special Collections Staff
Date
1999
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
eng

Revision Statements

  • 2012-04-11: Finding aid information revised by Arielle Willett
  • 2018-03-13: Added to ArchivesSpace

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-4506
610-758-6091 (Fax)