Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to Modjeski and Masters Company Records

Collection ID:
Modjeski and Masters
bulk 1900-1940
Collection is in
. Some materials in
, and
Physical Description:
60 Cubic feet
140 boxes, 23 map folders
The records document the work of consulting engineers and bridge builders, Ralph Modjeski (1861-1940) and Frank Masters (1883-1974) of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection documents the civil engineering career of Ralph Modjeski (1861-1940) and Frank masters (1883-1974). The materials include bound volumes and loose photographs of bridge work-in-progress; printed reports; articles, pamphlets; drawings, blue prints and tracings of bridges; letterpress books of correspondence; contracts; reports; studies of bridge materials; and glass plate negatives and lantern slides depicting bridges.

The collection is arranged into ten series.
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1915-1986
Series 2: Letter Press Books, 1898-1906
Series 3: Photographs, 1878-1979
Series 4: Contracts, 1895-1960
Series 5: Printed Materials, 1862-1969
Series 6: Newspaper Clippings, 1924-1941
Series 7: Lantern Slides, undated
Series 8: Glass Plate Negatives, 1906-1926
Series 9: Film Negatives, 1924, undated
Series 10: Drawings, 1901-1952

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Rudolphe Modrzejewski was born to Helena Jadwiga Opid (d.1909) and Gustav Sinnmayer Modrzejewski (d. 1901) on January 27, 1861, in Cracow, Poland. His mother was an internationally known stage actress who went by the name Helena Modrzejewska. In 1868, Helena married Count Karol Bożenta Chłapowski. In July 1876, Helena and Rudolphe emigrated to America, where, for purposes of American citizenship, the Polish form of their surname was later changed to Modjeski (feminine form Modjeska). Modjeski became a naturalized citizen in 1883 in San Francisco, California.
In 1882, Modjeski returned to Europe to study at the Ecole Des Ponts et Chaussees and graduated in 1885 with a degree in civil engineering. Modjeski worked with prominent civil engineer and "Father of American Bridge Building," George S. Morison, on the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge over the Missouri River at Omaha as an assistant engineer. He remained with Morison from 1885 to 1892. Some of his assignments included working in the shops which produced steel sections; the design office where he advanced to chief draftsman; and as an inspector of quality control in shops that fabricated steel elements. Modjeski worked with Morison on his Willamette, Nebraska City, Sioux City, Winona, Cairo, and Memphis bridges across the Mississippi River. The Memphis bridge was the longest span cantilever in the country at the time.
In 1893, Modjeski opened a civil engineering practice in Chicago with S. Nicholson. After some financial difficulties, Nicholson and Modjeski dissolved their partnership. Modjeski's first individual large commission was the bridge at Rock Island, Illinois (1895) across the Mississippi River where he designed and supervised the construction of the bridge for the federal government and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Company.
In 1902, Modjeski went into partnership with fellow civil engineer, Alfred Noble (1844-1914) forming the firm of Noble and Modjeski. He went into partnership with Walter Angier, under the name Modjeski and Angier, civil and inspecting engineers, between 1912 and 1924 with several offices around the United States. Angiers had worked with him beginning in 1902 on the bridge across the Mississippi at Thebes, Illinois. Modjeski partnered, in 1924, with Frank Masters (1883-1974), who had worked with him and Angiers between 1904 and 1914 on the Memphis and Louisville Bridges, forming Modjeski and Masters. Clement E. Chase and Montgomery B. Case later joined the firm as partners. In 1937, Masters assumed full control and ownership of the firm which specialized in the design and construction supervision of large bridges and other structures, rehabilitation and reconstruction of existing bridges, the design of highways and expressways, subways and wharves, the design of large and complex foundations, inspection of construction materials, and the creation of surveys, investigations and reports.
Modjeski built and/or consulted on over forty bridges in his lifetime. He built truss, steel arch, and suspension bridges. He introduced steel tower pylons in place of masonry towers and he used better grades of steel, such as new steel alloys with improved strength and durability. He also introduced advancements in the design of cable configurations and deck-stiffening beams. Some of his major projects included: the Columbia River and Willamette bridges, McKinley Bridge at St. Louis; the Celilo Railroad Bridge at Celilo, Ohio; the Thebes Bridge over the Mississippi; the Quebec Bridge over the St. Lawrence River; the Delaware River Bridge; the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Mid-Hudson Bridge.
On December 28, 1885, Modjeski married Felicie Benda (d. 1936) in New York and the couple had three children: Felix Bozenta Modjeski (1887); Marylka Stuart Modjeski (1894) and Charles Emmanuel John Modjeski (1896-1944). Ralph and Felicie divorced in 1931. He later married Virginia Giblyn on July 7, 1931. Modjeski died in Los Angles on June 26, 1940.

Alison Oswald
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated by Modejeski and Masters Consulting Engineers, through Joseph J. Scherrer, October 2, 1990.
Processing Information
Collection processed by NMAH staff.
Processing Information
Collection processed by Alison Oswald, 2015-2016.
Custodial History
Transferred from Division of Work and Industry to the Archives Center in 2006.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.
Preferred Citation
Modjeski and Masters Company Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Related Materials
Materials in the Archives Center
Bollman Truss Bridge Collection, 1852-1986 (AC1064)
Canadian Bridges Photograph Albums, 1873-1911 (AC1025)
Victor C. Darnell Bridge Construction Photographs, 1911-1913 and undated (AC1018)
Beata Drake Covered Bridge Collection, 1954-1981 (AC0998)
Ben Franklin Bridge Photograph Album, 1922-1926 (AC1029)
Hartford, Connecticut Bridge Collection, 1903-1905 (AC1066)
Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad Bridge Profiles, 1877-1896 (AC1073)
Richard H. Miller Bridge Collection : postcards and slides, circa 1950-1988 and undated, #950
George S. Morison Collection, 1846-1903 (AC0978)
Niagara Falls Bridge Commission Records, 1848-1946 (bulk 1890-1929) (AC1060)
Northern Pacific Railroad Bridge Construction Photograph Album, 1883-1884 (AC1030)
David Plowden North American Bridge Photographs, 1970-1976 (AC1019)
Quebec Bridge Photograph Collection, 1905-1986 (bulk 1905-1916) (AC1026)
Railroad Bridges Construction Photograph Album, circa 1905-1914 (AC1024)
Samuel Reed Bridge Collection, 1947-1964 (AC1001)
Rip Van Winkle Bridge Photographs, 1933-1935 (AC1027)
John A. Roebling Collection,1836-1975 (bulk 1930-1950) (AC0981)
Holton Duncan Robinson Papers, 1889-1938 (AC0963)
Lucinda Rudell Covered Bridges Collection, 1942-1979 (AC1028)
Lester Shanks Collection of Covered Bridge Photographs and Ephemera, 1876-2010 (bulk 1973-2008) (AC1244)
Washington, D.C. Bridges Collection, 1900-1905 (AC01095)
Raymond E. Wilson Covered Bridge Collection, 1958-1974 (AC0999)
Materials at Other Organizations
Southern Illinois University, Morris Library Special Collections
Michigan Historical Collections, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

More Information
Barghouti, Kim, comp. Nevada State Journal, 1870-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000.
Duran, W.F. Biographical Memoir of Ralph Modjeski, 1861-1940. National Academy of Science, 1944.
Głomb, Józef. Translation by Peter J. Obst; edited by Halka Chronic. A man who spanned two eras : the story of bridge engineer Ralph Modjeski Philadelphia, Pa. : Kosciuszko Foundation, Philadelphia Chap, c 2002, 1988.
Griggs, Frank. "Ralph Modjeski," Structure, January 2013. (last accessed on January 12, 2016,
"Modjeski Dies, 79; Famous Engineer," New York Times, June 28, 1940.
Journal of the Franklin Institute, Vol. 194, July-December 1922, pages 372-374.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Oral history -- 1950-1970 Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lantern slides Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- Black-and-white negatives -- Glass Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Harrisburg (Penn.) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pennsylvania Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Civil engineering Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bridge failures Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bridges Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Contracts Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Letterpress books Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- 19th century Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Modjeski, Ralph, 1861-1940 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of American History (U.S.). Division of Mechanical and Civil Engineering Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of American History (U.S.). Division of History of Technology Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Vogel, Robert M. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Masters, Frank, 1883-1974 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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