Charles Ellet, Jr. Papers (1795-1941, bulk 1838-1863)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The papers of Charles Ellet, Jr. (1810-1862) span the years 1827-1954. The papers documents Charles Ellet, Jr.’s important contributions as a civil engineer to 19th century public works projects: building wire suspension bridges, canals, and railroads; conducting the first government funded survey of the lower Mississippi River Delta; constructing and commanding the U.S. Ram Fleet; and his contributions to economic transportation theory. The papers are arranged into seven series: Correspondence; Subject Files; Technical Drawings and Plans; Newspapers; Photographs; Notebooks; and Artifacts.

The bulk of the Charles Ellet, Jr. papers contain correspondence, dating 1838-1863. The papers also contain technical drawings and plans, newspaper clippings, legal documents, survey notebooks, scrapbooks, photographs, survey reports, publication drafts, general orders, ephemera, and building specifications for canals, locks, and railroads. The Correspondence series creates an intimate portrait of his family life and professional career; including notable correspondence with Lot Clark, Charles Davis, Edwin Stanton, Benjamin Wright, Charles B. Stuart, Joseph Cabell, and John Roebling. The Subject Files series records his professional contributions, containing organizational documents and records related to his work developing public works projects, lobbying for river improvements, the legal dispute surrounding the Niagara Falls Suspension bridge, and his command of the U.S Ram Fleet during the Civil War. The Technical Drawings and Plans series consists of survey drawings and maps for the construction of railroads and canals, with significant material from his survey of the Lower Mississippi River Delta. Missing from the Technical Drawings and Plans series are plans for the U.S. Ram Fleet. The Newspapers series contains many clippings relating to the Ellet family genealogical history, and the U.S. Ram Fleet’s service during the Civil War. The Notebooks series consists primarily of survey books from his survey of Philadelphia County, 1840-1841. The Charles Ellet, Jr. papers also contain family papers illuminating the life and military career of Charles Rivers Ellet and Alfred W. Ellet.

Through the steadfast preservation, collection, and promotion of Charles Ellet, Jr.’s life and work, Mary Virginia Ellet sold the Charles Ellet, Jr. papers to the University of Michigan’s Transportation History Collection in 1936.

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