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.