Guide to Canal Records
State Engineer and Surveyor
Canal Construction, Maintenance, and Operation
B0730. Engineers' field books pertaining to the construction of the State's canal system, ca. 1830-1920. 238.5 cu. ft.
Arrangement: Numerical by book number within subseries.
This series consists mainly of field books. Canal engineers and employees apparently used the term "field books" to refer to various types of notes, measurements, etc. compiled in the field while surveying, constructing, or maintaining the State's canal system. The field books contain notes on numerous topics such as land ownership and property valuations; spoil bank elevations; property monuments; culvert stations; prism soundings; railroad embankments; transit points; situation surveys and topography; foundation piles; original abutments; centerlines; flowlines; preliminary surveys; river straightening lines; proposed layouts; bridge inspections; highway locations; contract prices; accidents; weather and water heights; work performance and daily progress; property deeds; bridge abutments; dry river surveys; blue and red line surveys; and town and State boundary line surveys.
Somewhat similar to these notes are measurements recording dimensions of buildings and canal structures; water gage readings; ditches; lock levels; sluices; cross banks; spoil sections; prism embankments; and vertical velocities of the Mohawk River.
In addition to the notes and measurements, many of the field books contain such information as inventories and sketches of electrical equipment used for specific canal contracts; engineers' observations; Barge Canal terminal foundation plans; structural specifications; ditch profiles; original, monthly, and final cross sections; original prism and surface cross sections; final accounts; and diagrams, sketches, profiles, and drawings of various areas and canal structures, some remarkably detailed.
Filed with these field books are records such as engineers' daily reports; monthly construction estimate notes; order and alteration books; sketch books; building measurements; property valuations; employment time books and work force accounts; bridge inspection notes; engineers' diaries; Barge Canal monthly contract estimates; canal collectors' toll and certificate books; and deed descriptions.
Finding aids: Volume list.
Indexes: Western division field books are indexed by series A4290, Card Index to Western Division Canal Maps, Plans, Estimates and Related Structures (page 19).
B0692. Final calculations regarding construction of State canals, ca. 1831-1861. 9 cu. ft. (21 volumes)
Finding aids: Volume list.
B0399. Preliminary estimates, calculations, and measurements for canal system construction and repair, ca. 1835-1912. 17 cu. ft. (49 volumes)
Arrangement: By division, then roughly chronological.
Finding aids: Volume list.
B0724. Accounts, notes on damages, and survey computations for enlargement of the Erie Canal, ca. 1839-1845. 0.3 cu. ft. (1 volume)
B0676. Engineer's formula book also containing specifications and drawings, ca. 1869-1878. 0.1 cu. ft. (1 volume)
B0739. Record of cement received and used for Barge Canal contract No. 60, 1908-1909. 0.3 cu. ft. (1 volume)
B0233. Card index to locations of Barge Canal construction records, 1917-1921. 1 cu. ft.
Arrangement: Alphabetical by subject.
These 5" x 7" and 5" x 8" index cards list locations of various Barge Canal construction records, including maps; terminal field books; final estimates for both terminal and Barge Canal contracts; Barge Canal field computation, construction, and cross section books; and unidentified "sheets." The office of State Engineer and Surveyor apparently compiled the index to account for the whereabouts of the working documents relating to construction of the Barge Canal. It is not known exactly which series are being indexed. Most of the field, computation, construction, and cross section books indexed are held by the State Archives.
Cards indexing the field, computation, construction, and cross section books provide book number, to whom given, date, purpose, and "where now filed." Cards indexing terminal and Barge Canal contract final estimates provide a brief description of what comprises the estimates, number of pages, total number of "sheets," location, and usually the date when the inventory occurred. Index cards to the maps provide a description of the map and an unidentified set of numbers.
B0292. Canal structure map and plan books, ca. 1827-1905. 135 cu. ft. (135 volumes)
Arrangement: Numerical by volume number (might have originally been arranged according to canal).
These volumes contain drawings, maps, plans, diagrams, tracings, cross sections, and profiles of much of the State's canal system and its related structures, executed in ink, charcoal, or water colors. In addition, some volumes contain field notes, correspondence, estimates, bills of quantities, and contract specifications.
The volumes deal with the enlargement of the Erie and Champlain canals; the building of the Oswego, Cayuga and Seneca, Chenango, Black River, and Genesee Valley canals; and the appropriation of lands by the State for canal use. In particular, the volumes provide detailed information concerning the location, dimensions, specification, and construction of related canal structures including weigh locks, aqueducts, locks, waste weirs, culverts, bridges, trussings, dams, gates, bulkheads, lock irons, towpaths, slope walls, proposed gun boat locks, basins, docks, abutments, reservoirs, sluices, and lock houses.
Finding aids: Partial volume list.
Indexes: Series B0293, Index to Canal Structure Map and Plan Books (page 19), indexes this series by name of individual, location, structure, or subject.
B0356. Index book to mechanical structures on canals, ca. 1850-1895. 0.3 cu. ft. (1 volume)
Arrangement: Alphabetical by type of structure, then chronological by date of construction.
A1272. Scrapbook of photographs and diagrams of canal, highway, and watershed construction, 1898-1907. 1 volume
This series contains printed maps, photographs, diagrams, and charts apparently cut from publications produced by the State Engineer and Surveyor's office. The records illustrate various construction and improvement projects done on State highways and waterways and depict proposed work and work in progress on canals, roads, and their related structures. The illustrations are typical of those found in the State Engineer and Surveyor's annual reports and Barge Canal Bulletin.
Scrapbook items include printed copies of black and white captioned photographs of natural features, damaged or repaired structures, work sites, examples of specific work conditions or situations, work equipment, and worker portraits; printed maps showing work progress, surveyed areas, lines of levels and catchment areas, locations of gaging stations, benchmarks and population areas, and possible locations for improved roads; hydrographs dating from 1891 to 1901 of the monthly discharge levels of various bodies of water; and plans, sketches, sectional drawings, and general designs for structures and details (e.g. dams, bridges, gates, weirs, gages), and sketches of soil depth and composition.
B0727. Glass plate negatives depicting construction of the western division of the Barge Canal, ca. 1907-1921. 92 cu. ft. (ca. 6,000 negatives)
Negatives show detailed views of the construction of the western section of the Barge Canal. The negatives are approximately 6" x 8" and are enclosed in envelopes providing plate number, subject, locality, contract number, and date taken.
Indexes: Series B0728, Index to Glass Plate Negatives Depicting Construction of the Western Division of the Barge Canal (page 40), indexes this series.
B0728. Index to glass plate negatives depicting construction of the western division of the Barge Canal, ca. 1907-1921. 2 cu. ft.
11833. Barge Canal construction photographs, 1905-1921. 21.3 cu. ft.
These photographs appear to have been submitted to the State Engineer and Surveyor by the Board of Consulting Engineers, a board of five civil engineers appointed to follow the progress of work on the canal system and to report on it to the State Engineer and Surveyor. Photographs were taken at the end of each month just before monthly cost estimates of work to be done were made.
Photographs show canals; locks; dams; bridges; piers; nearby buildings; damages needing repair; and dredging, excavation, repairs, and construction work in progress. Included are photographs of Barge Canal terminal structures in Buffalo. Captions typed or written on most photographs provide date of photograph; negative number; contract number; and location. Series B0727 (page 39) contains related glass plate negatives of western division Barge Canal construction.
B0361. Bridge survey registers, 1877. 0.6 cu. ft.
Arrangement: By division, the numerical by bridge number.
Finding aids: Volume list.
A3259. Canal bridge reference lists, ca. 1917. 0.2 cu. ft.
Legislation of 1903 (Chapter 147, Section 3) directed the State Engineer and Surveyor and the Superintendent of Public Works to improve the Erie, Oswego, and Champlain canals. Where required, new bridges were to be built either to replace old ones or to accommodate new canal locations.
The State Engineer and Surveyor kept these records of bridges over the Erie Canal and the Barge Canal in connection with his responsibilities for improvement of the State's canal system. The lists vary in format and content but may provide such information as contract number; name of bridge; location; measurements such as lowest point on structure, normal pool elevation, and clearance; by whom maintained (State, county, or railroad); and costs.
B0678. Time book pertaining to locking procedures in the western division of the Erie Canal, 1879. 0.1 cu. ft. (1 volume)
B0707. Gage descriptions from various locations on State canals, 1905-1910. 0.2 cu. ft. (1 volume)
B0389. Copies of hydrographs and flow data of the Canaseraga and Keshequa Creeks and the Genesee River, ca. 1910-1919 (bulk 1918-1919). 0.3 cu. ft. (1 volume containing 93 hydrographs)
This series consists of blueprint copies of hydrographs of the Canaseraga and Keshequa Creeks and of the Genesee River showing gage heights and discharge at various points and stations along those waterways in 1918 and 1919. The volume also includes several sheets of hydrographs dated July 1916 showing water surface elevation at gaging stations maintained in connection with the Canaseraga Creek improvement. A section of "Flood Hydrographs" dating from 1910 to 1918 includes some penciled annotations. It is possible that these hydrographs are part of the data used for the Report on Stream Gaging section of the Report on Hydraulic Data routinely found in the annual reports of the State Engineer and Surveyor.
State funds were frequently appropriated for hydrographic work connected with measurements of volumes of streams and flow of water in the State for the purpose of determining water supply available for canals, for potable and domestic purposes, and for the development of water power. The Barge Canal area was especially important (and difficult to monitor) for flood prevention and related navigation and damage control problems. Data was accumulated for many canal improvement projects related to problems of drainage and water run off and supply.
B0388. Record books of watersheds and related improvements in the western division of the Barge Canal, 1919-1920. 0.5 cu. ft. (9 volumes containing 11 maps)
Arrangement: By watershed.
The series consists of copies of data, reports, maps, and related records on work done as improvements to the State's infrastructure. They were gathered into volumes by the office of the State Engineer and Surveyor according to the watershed areas found in western New York. The data accumulated for many improvement projects related to how waterways were used or improved for navigation purposes, for flood prevention, or for health protection. The records logically relate to problems of drainage and protection associated with the canal system.
According to the filing scheme, streams were classified into eight watersheds; a reference index and filing systems were devised, and information on each watershed was assembled separately. Volumes contain an index page listing specific file contents. These contents are divided into the following sections: an outline of the classification of streams in the watershed; data on rivers and tributaries arranged according to the classification scheme and then within certain subject areas (e.g. drainage area [figures], rain and stream gages); miscellaneous plans (those not listed with the particular statute with which they are identified); and a list of related records (such as reports, notes from reports, newspaper clippings, and correspondence).
Examples of records grouped in the volumes include investigation reports on flood damage, proposed improvements, or navigation conditions; data on discharges, river slopes, elevations, and water levels and flow; and narratives on legal rights, pertinent statutes, and engineering issues relating to dams, bridges, and waterway access.
Indexes: Specific reference indices are present for contents of various subdivisions.
Finding aids: Volume list.