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Barth (William) Papers

(Mss. 4421)


Biographical/Historical Note

Scope and Content Note

Series Descriptions

Container List





Size: 1.5 linear feet

Geographic Locations: Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, and West Virgina.

Inclusive Dates: 1917-1959

Bulk Dates: 1917-1941

Languages: English

Summary: Personal and professional photographs of Mississippi and Atchafalaya River operations, professionalcorrespondence, copies of a commendation, diplomas, and a calculating device (along with accompanying brochures and instructions).

Sources: Donated in 1991.

Copyright: Physical rights and copyrights are retained by the LSU Libraries.

Citation: William Barth Papers, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries.

Stack location: E: 109-111

Biographical/Historical Note

William Barth was born in New York City on December 22, 1898 to German immigrants. In 1913, he completed 8th grade at P.S. 77. Since his father died and there were five other children in the family to support, he began work as a runner for a real-estate firm around this time period.

He received his first permanent job from the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). During his time with this organization, he traveled from Maine to Florida while surveying railroad tracks. Barth took most of the personal photographs in this collection during his tenure with the ICC.

In 1928, he left the ICC for a position with the US Army Corps of Engineers in Natchez, Mississippi. There he worked on flood control of both the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. In fact, he was one of the people responsible for the placement of the Bonnet Carre Spillway. He also did much work in supervising the laying out of revetments on the levees in this region. Barth retired from the New Orleans office of the Corps of Engineers in 1958.

While working for the ICC and the Corps of Engineers, he continued his education. He received his high school diploma from the International Correspondence School and even earned his civil engineering degree from this institution in 1933.

Over the course of several years, Barth received various honors. During World War II, he received a commendation for meritorious civilian service since he helped control flood waters that could have damaged crops and held back war production. On May 30, 1959, William Barth was elected a member of the River Rats, a fraternal organizaton for river engineers generally affiliated with the Corps of Engineers.

Barth died on February 17, 1982.

Scope and Content Note

Personal and professional photographs covering the period 1917 to 1944, professional correspondence, copies of a commendation and diplomas, and a calculating device (along with accompanying brochures and instructions)all give insight into the business and private affairs of William Barth. The personal materials consist primarily of photographs of his friends and various locations he visited while traveling up and down the east coast during his stint working on a survey crew for the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) from 1917 until 1928. The professional photographs document the work being done on the Mississippi and Atchafayla Rivers when he worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers from 1928 to 1958. The correspondence deals solely with Barth's affiliation with a fraternal organization called the Ancient and Honorable Order of River Rats. Also included are copies of his diplomas from elementary and International Correspondence schools and a commendation from the War Department for his work during World War II. Finally, the Ross Precision Computer included was used by Barth in his work as a surveyor and engineer.

Series Descriptions


I. Engineering and Levee Revetment Documents, ca. 1920-1959

Subseries 1. Photographs of Levee Work (ca. 1920-1945)

These photographs depict various stages and types of work on the levees of the lower Mississippi River and Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin. Most of the larger photographs (9.5x6.5 inches) inbolbe revetment of the levees on the Mississippi River from around Natchez down to the New Orleans area. Various revetment types (including those using wood, concrete, and asphalt) appear in this series. Also depicted are the procurement of loess and sand for various construction projects on the river. The smaller photographs show levees in the Atchafalaya Basin being built; many of these include photographs of heavy machinery such as excavation towers, elevating graders, and Caterpillar tractors.

Subseries 2. River Rats Material (ca. 1959)

River Rats materials consist of eleven letters and a certificate. Two letters are addressed to Barth from V.S. Hanks, the president of the River Rats. The nine other letters are photocopies, all of which contain notification of membership to the organization addressed to various men. Also included is the official seal of the "Ancient and Honorable Order of River Rats."

Subseries 3. Ross Precision Computer ca. 1925 Box 3

The actual device and its mounting bracket are held in the collection, along with a query letter from the Computer Manufacturing Company, a brochure explaining how the machine works, and a 1925 sun-diary sent by the manufacturer.

Series II. Personal Photographs and Documents ,1913-ca. 1945

Subseries 1. Personal Photographs 1917-ca. 1940 Box 1,4

These photographs generally depict Barth, co-workers, and his work locations while employed by the Interstate Commerce Commission from 1917 to 1928 and the US Army Corps of Engineers from 1928 to 1945.

Subseries 2. Copies of Various Certificates
1913-ca. 1945 Box 1

This subseries consists of Barth's diploma from a New York City elementary school in 1913, his 1933 diploma in Civil Engineering from International Correspondence Schools, and a commendation for meritorious civilian service during World War II from the War Department.

Container List

Box 1: Copies of commendation and diplomas, two of three albums worth of personal photographs.
Box 2: Seal of the Ancient and Honorable Order of River Rats, correspondence concerning this order, photographs concerning levee and related work on the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers.
Box 3: Ross Precision Computer and mounting bracket.
Box 4: Loose personal photographs and negatives, including those formerly in the third album.
Box 5: Loose photographs of revetment and heavy levee-building machinery.
Box 6: Loose photographs of levee construction, various boats, and miscellaneous work-related images.
Box 7: Prints of miscellaneous duplicate photographs. Duplicate prints, 42 items (the following have been identified):

#4 W. Barth
#5 Lillian
#7 Dennick at Natchez
#9 Alex Broussard
#12 W. Barth
#13 W. Barth
#14 W. Barth
#19 W. Barth
#20 W. Barth and Kitty at Natchez Fleet
#23 Natchez
#24 Natchez Fleet
#25 Lake St. John
#26 W. Barth
#29 W. Barth catching crawfish
#30 Ed McEvoy
#37 Q 16 at Morville, 1925
#42 Natchez