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Guide to the William H. Paine Papers
1848-1932 (bulk 1848-1895)
 MS 475

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Cassandra Brewer

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on February 23, 2012
English

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Paine, William H., 1828-1890
Title: William H. Paine Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1848-1932
Abstract : William H. Paine (1828-1890) was a civil engineer and surveyor for the Union Army during the Civil War. Post-war, Paine served as an assistant engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge. Throughout his career, Paine worked as a consulting engineer on many bridge, tunnel and railway projects, including the Hudson River Tunnel. This collection documents his early life in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, his work in California gold mines, his service for the Union Army, and his work as an independent engineer in New York City.
Quantity: 3.5 Linear feet (8 boxes, 7 volumes)
Call Phrase: MS 475

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Biographical Note

William H. Paine was born in Chester, New Hampshire on May 17, 1828 to William Babcock Paine and Susan Emory Paine. Paine completed his basic education in New Hampshire, and in 1848, at the age of twenty Paine relocated to Sheboygan, Wisconsin with his family. Once settled in Sheboygan, Paine found work as a land surveyor for the city.

In 1852 Paine traveled from Wisconsin to California in hopes of finding work in a gold mine. Once in California, Paine moved from town to town working on mining engineering projects. Paine returned to Sheboygan in 1856 and again found work surveying for the city and as a surveyor and engineer for the railroad. During this time, Paine developed his steel surveyor's measuring tape, which he officially patented in 1860. Around this time Paine married his first wife, Harriet Paine and they had one daughter, Hattie Lawrence Paine. His wife died shortly after his daughter was born.

In 1861, Paine joined the Union Army where he worked as a topographical engineer, responsible for mapping projects in Washington D.C. and Virginia. During his time in the Union Army, he received four commissions for exemplary service: Captain and Aide de Camp (1862), Major by brevet (1864), Liutenant Colonel by brevet (1865) and finally, Colonel by brevet (1865).

Post war, Paine continued his work as a surveyor and drew maps for Civil War history publications such as William Swinton's "History of the Army of the Potomac" and Horace Greeley's "American Conflict". Shortly after, Paine married his second wife Catherine Jones and had one daughter Kathreen (Kittie) Lyman Paine.

Paine settled in Brookyln in the late 1860s and worked for the Flushing Railroad before beginning work for the New York Bridge Company on the Brookyln Bridge in 1869. Paine worked as a construction engineer and later was appointed Assistant Engineer. In this position he was responsible for the engineering of a cable railway on the bridge. During his time working on the Brooklyn Bridge, Paine received 14 patents related to cable railway work, notably a cable gripping apparatus named the "Paine Grip".

In addition to his work on the Brooklyn Bridge, Paine was an independent consulting engineer for various bridge, tunnel and railway projects including the 125th Street and 10th Avenue line of the Third Avenue Railway in the mid-1880s. Most notably, Paine was a consulting engineer for the Hudson River Tunnel in 1874. He also consulted several out of state projects, many of which were in the Midwest. In 1875, Paine was elected a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Paine remained in New York City working as a civil engineer until the late 1880s when he moved to Cleveland to work for the Cleveland City Cable Railway. Paine remained in Cleveland until his death on December 31, 1889.

Derby, George and James T. White. "William H. Paine." National Cyclopedia of American Biography. J.T. White, 1930.

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Scope and Content Note

The William H. Paine papers document the personal and professional life of civil engineer William H. Paine. The collection contains diaries, correspondence, patents, architectural and engineering related documents, financial and legal papers, ephemera and photographs. The majority of the collection focuses on Paine's work as a civil engineer both as an assistant engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge and a consulting engineer on various bridge, tunnel and cable railway projects.

Paine's diaries are extensive and his early accounts focus on his travels from Wisconsin to California during the Gold Rush. The diaries and correspondence also document Paine's tenure as a topographical engineer for the Union Army. There are two diaries written during Paine's time as engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge, however, they include little specific detail about his work.

Paine's engineering and architectural documents include a large number of patents, records of patent tax, engineering reports and equipment specifications for various civil engineering projects.

A large portion of the photographs in the collection are in scrapbooks that belonged to Paine's daugther Kathreen.

Of note, Paine's collection includes one photograph album of Matthew Brady Civil War portraits. Also of interest is an 1852 map of gold regions in California.

Arrangement Note

  1. Series I: Diaries
  2. Series II: Correspondence
  3. Series III: Patents
  4. Series IV: Architecture and Engineering Documents
  5. Series V: Published Material
  6. Series VI: Financial Documents
  7. Series VII: Legal Documents
  8. Series VIII: Clippings and Notes
  9. Series IX: Ephemera
  10. Series X: Photographs

The William H. Paine Papers are arranged chronologically within each series.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Brady, Mathew B., ca. 1823-1896
  • Paine, Katherine
  • Paine, Kathreen

Document Type

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Military commissions
  • Military maps
  • Patents
  • Photograph albums
  • Photographs

Subject Topics

  • Bridges -- New York (State) -- East River
  • Brooklyn Bridge (New York, N.Y.)
  • Civil engineering
  • Gold mines and mining--California.
  • Military field engineering
  • Military topography
  • Tunnels--Hudson River (N.Y. and N.J.)

Subject Places

  • California
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Portraits
  • Wisconsin

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote to: Manuscript Curator, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as the William H. Paine Papers, MS 475, The New-York Historical Society.

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Container List

Series I: Diaries

Scope and Content Note

Series I consists of 42 diaries belonging to Paine, and one diary belonging to his wife, Catherine J. Paine.

Paine's diaries document both his professional and private life. His early diaries (1848-1860) document his travel from New Hampsire to Sheboygan, Wisconsin and from Wisconsin to California during the Gold Rush. His diaries documenting his experiences while traveling to and in California during the Gold Rush are particularly detailed. In these entries, Paine records his observances of several mining regions in California paying particular attention to sites in El Dorado, California including Placerville, Sutter's Creek and Spanish Flat. Paine documents the towns specifically as well as mining engineering and prospecting in general. Paine also documents his travel back to Sheboygan by boat with stops in Mexico, Panama, San Juan, the West Indies, Havana and New York City; completing the route by railroad through Michigan and Illinois.

Paine's 1860-1865 diaries detail his work as a topographical engineer for the Army of the Potomac. These entries are largely written during his time in Washington D.C. and Virginia. Additionally, Paine has diaries from this time period that consist of departmental orders, headquarter notes and accounts related to his military work.

Paine's later diaries (1865-1890) are largely written while he was living in Brooklyn, N.Y. and consist mostly of personal entires. There are only two diaries from Paine's time working on the Brookyln Bridge, with little mention of his specific work. Throughout his diaries, Paine talks frequently of religion, often citing sermons he attended.

The diary of Catherine J. Paine has very few entries, and appears to be largely written after William Paine's death in 1890.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Diary, Partial Transcript
1848 - 1854
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Diary
1848 - 1849
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Diary
1849
Box: 1 Diary
1850 - 1851
Box: 1 Diary
1852 March - August
Box: 1 Diary
1852 August - 1854 May
Box: 1 Diary
1854 May - 1855 November
Box: 1 Diary
1855 November - 1856 May
Box: 1 Diary
1856 May - 1857 December
Box: 1 Diary
1858 January - July
Box: 1 Diary
1858 July - September
Box: 1 Diary
1858 October - 1959 June
Box: 1 Diary
1859 July - 1860 July
Box: 1 Diary
1860 July - December
Box: 1 Diary
1860 December - May 1861
Box: 1 Diary
1861 May - October
Box: 1 Diary, Accounts
1862 - 1865
Box: 1 Diary
1861 November - 1862 May
Box: 1 Diary
1862 September - 1863 June
Box: 1 Diary
1863 June - November
Box: 1 Diary
1863 November - 1864 February
Box: 1 Diary, Religious
1863
Box: 1 Diary
1863
Box: 1 Diary, Headquarters Notes
1863
Box: 1 Diary
1863
Box: 1 Diary
1864 February - April
Box: 1 Diary
1864 May - June
Box: 1 Diary, Orders
1864 May
Box: 1 Diary, Orders
1864 May - June
Box: 1 Diary, Orders
1864 June - July
Box: 1 Diary
1864 June - 1864 August
Box: 1 Diary
1864 September - 1865 February
Box: 1 Diary
1865 March - May
Box: 1 Diary, Orders
1865 March - April
Box: 1 Diary
1865 June - September
Box: 1 Diary
1865 September - 1866 April
Box: 1 Diary
1866 April - December
Box: 1 Diary
1867 January - 1868 December
Box: 1 Diary
1869 January - July
Box: 1 Diary
1889 - 1890
Box: 1 Diary
Undated
Box: 1 Diary of Katherine Paine
1893

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Series II: Correspondence

Scope and Content Note

Series II consists of personal correspondence both written and received by Paine and includes letters from military headquarters and correspondence with family members and colleagues. The correspondence includes information regarding Paine's work as a surveyor for the Union Army, the transfer and management of family property,family relationships, and engineering and military pensions. Included is correspondence addressed to Paine's widow, Catherine Jone Paine regarding settlement of his affairs after his death in 1890.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Correspondence
1852 - 1884
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Correspondence
1886 - 1914; undated

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Series III: Patents

Scope and Content Note

Series III consists of letters of patent held by Paine, reports of examination and promotional material. The letters of patent are offical documents issued by the government including the specification and illustrations of the patented item. The reports of examination are reports on the patentability of a product or item, conducted in response to a patent application. The promotional material is in regards to Paine's Patented Steel Measuring Tapes and includes specifications and pricing.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 3 American Letters of Patent
1876 - 1891
Box: 2 Folder : 4 American Letters of Patent
1860 - 1889
Box: 2 Folder : 5 British Letters of Patent
1883 - 1889
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Patent Reports and Examinations
1875; 1873
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Promotional Material regarding Patents
undated

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Series IV: Architectural Documents

Scope and Content Note

Series IV consists of architectural and engineering documents related to Paine's work as a civil engineer. The Hudson River Tunnel specifications consist of reports related to Paine's consulting work evaluating the progress of tunnel construction and specifications of pneumatic tunneling equipment. Included in these records is a note regarding potential safety issues encountered during tunnel construction.

The engineering notes include information regarding various civil engineering projects, topics and equipment focusing on rapid transit, suspension bridges and cable railways. It also includes calculations and one drawing of a pneumatic tunneling apparatus.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Hudson River Tunnel Specifications
1889 - 1890
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Engineering Notes
undated
Box: 9 Architectural Drawings
undated

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Series V: Published Materials

Scope and Content Note

Series V consists of engineering reports, journals, one bible, maps, and the program of the opening ceremonies of the Brooklyn Bridge. The three engineering reports consist of one report on the Niagra Railway Suspension Bridge and two on the East River (Brooklyn) Bridge. Journals consist of one issue of a circa 1869 weekly periodical, "The Volunteer". The maps in this series consist of five maps; three military maps of Virginia published by the War Deparment, one map of Philadelphia and Camden and one map of gold regions in California. Paricularly of interest is the 1852 "Gold Regions in California" map. The map is in full color and includes technical annotations by Paine.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Reports and Journals
1855, [1869], 1870
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Maps
1852 - 1865; undated
Volume: 1 East River Bridge Laws and Engineer's Reports (volume)
1868 - 1884
Volume: 2 Opening Ceremonies of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge (volume)
May 24, 1883
Box: 9 Volume : 3 Family Bible
undated

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Series VI: Financial Documents

Scope and Content Note

Series VI consists of financial records including receipts, records of patent taxes, and stock certificates.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Financial Documents
1881 - 1914; undated

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Series VII: Legal Documents

Scope and Content Note

Series VII consists of personal legal documents including contracts and documents related to real estate and family property. Also included are documents related to the settlement of Paine's affairs after his death in 1890, handled by his widow Catherine J. Paine. These documents contain information about personal affairs as well as settlement of Paine's business affairs and sale of patents.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 6 Legal Documents
1856 - 1894

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Series VIII: Clippings and Notes

Scope and Content Note

Series VIII consists of clippings and notes related to Paine's work and interests as a civil engineer, both independently and for the Union Army. Included are clippings about Paine's civil engineering projects as well as other general projects and technologies.

The notes consist of general notes likely taken by Paine on various subjects including his work and religion. Also included are notes documenting the genealogy of the Paine family.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 7 General Clippings
circa 1860 - 1885
Box: 3 Folder : 8 General Clippings
circa 1883 - 1890
Box: 4 Folder : 1 General Notes
undated
Box: 4 Folder : 2 Notes regarding Paine Family Genealogy
undated

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Series IX: Ephemera

Scope and Content Note

Series IX consists of ephemera largely related to Paine's work as a civil engineer. The general ephemera consists of programs, tickets, business cards, stationery and various other materials. This includes a small book of photographs of the East River (Brooklyn) Bridge. Also of note is an 1865 anti-slavery poster - a graphic representation of politicians who supported the abolition of slavery. General ephemera also includes promotional material, maps and programs from the 1893 World's Fair, belonging to Paine's daughter Kathreen. The memorial and commemorative ephemera consists of memorial service programs, obituaries, and other articles in commemoration of Paine's work, written after his death.

Two locks of hair are also included in ephemera, one belonging to Colonel Dalgren, and one unlabled.

Commisions and certificates consists of four Civil War commissions, one certificate honoring Paine from the American Society of Civil Engineers and one certificate from the Packer Collegiate Institute regarding the education of Kathreen Paine. Two of the Civil War commissions are signed by Abraham Lincoln and two by Andrew Johnson.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 3 General Ephemera
1864 - 1897; undated
Box: 4 Folder : 4 Memorial and Commemorative Ephemera
1874 - 1891
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Hair
undated
Box: 4 Folder : 6 Civil War Commissions
1862 - 1866
Box: 9 Certificate
1875
Box: 9 Certificate of Kathreen Paine
1889

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Series X: Photographs

Scope and Content Note

Series X consists of photographs of the Paine family, as well as Civil War era military photographs. One album of Civil War military portraits included several photographs attributed to notable Civil War photographer Mathew B. Brady. Also included in this series are three albums of undated Paine family photographs as well as loose photographs. Additionally, there are six albums of photographs that belonged to Paine's daughter Kathreen Paine, dating from 1915 to the mid 1930s.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 7 Photographs, Paine Family
undated
Box: 4 Folder : 8 Photographs, Paine Family
undated
Box: 4 Folder : 9 Photographs, Paine Family
undated
Box: 5 Photo Album of Kathreen Paine
circa 1915 - 1929
Box: 6 Photo Album of Kathreen Paine
circa 1928 - 1933
Box: 6 Photo Album of Kathreen Paine
circa 1928 - 1933
Box: 7 Photo Album of Kathreen Paine
circa 1930
Box: 8 Photo Album of Kathreen Paine
circa 1932
Box: 8 Photo Album of Kathreen Paine
undated
Box: 9 Folder : 1 Photographs
undated
Box: 9 Folder : 2 Photographs
undated
Box: 9 Folder : 3 Photographs
undated
Box: 9 Folder : 4 Photographs
undated
Box: 9 Folder : 5 Photographs
undated
Box: 9 Photo Album, Paine Family
undated
Volume: 4 Photograph Album, Civil War Portraits (volume)
undated
Volume: 5 Photo Album (volume)
undated
Volume: 6 Photo Album (volume)
undated
Volume: 7 Photo Album (volume)
undated

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