Birkinbine Engineering Company Records, Collection II
This collection thoroughly documents the range of mining and water works projects performed by the Birkinbine Engineering Company. It also highlights the processes of raw mineral extraction while conveying a sense of the industry’s vale and growth. This collection chronicles the Birkinbine Engineering Company’s development and influence in the engineering industry through nearly a century of company records and publications. Additionally, the collection offers a limited sample of the Birkinbines’ personal interests through assorted periodicals and graphic materials.
This collection documents the evolution of a major engineering company while capturing the state of the mining and water works industries during the 19th and 20th centuries. This collection caters to researchers interested in mining and water works projects congruent with the public works and sanitation initiatives of the late 19th century. While the Birkinbine Engineering Company records elucidates a variety of civil and mechanical engineering processes and projects, it concentrates on the production of iron ore and water works projects in Pennsylvania. Researchers interested in the Birkinbine Engineering Company’s mining involvement, its contributions to Philadelphia’s urban development, and the state of the mining and water works industries during the 19th and 20th centuries will find this collection to be a valuable resource.
Conditions Governing Access note
75.0 Linear Feet (75 linear feet (79 box of records + photographs + maps and drawings + pamphlets + patents and realia))
Biographical / Historical Note
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.
This collection was minimally processed in 2013-2014, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections," the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages in 16 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 4 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections or complete any preservation work.
- Finding aid prepared by Chase Markee and Evan Peugh
- 2014 September 24
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.
Part of the Lehigh University Grant Projects Repository
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18015 USA