- Collection ID:
- Physical Description:
The collection consists of cyanotype and silver gelatin photographs, print negatives, publications, stamps, and a glass plate negative, documenting the Metropolitan Water Works during its construction.
Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of four series. Series 1,Cyanotype photographs and Series 2,Cyanotype photographs contain a total 877 cyanotype photographs.
Series 3, contains 128 silver gelatin photographs, 14 print negatives.
Series 4, contains one glass plate negative, two stamps and two publications.
The material's from 1895 to 1919. The material is arranged by number.
Overall the cyanotype photographs are in good condition while some show signs of water damage. Images depict different installations of the Boston Waterworks system, views of pumping stations being installed and in operation as well as views of water mains. The first publication relates to the Metropolitan District Water supply tunnel from the Ware River to the Wachusett Reservoir and the second publication relates to the Boston Society of Civil Engineers excursion to water supply from the Metropolitan District, October 22, 1932. The stamps were used to label the cyanotype photographs with the name of the collection, date it was received, and the museum division name.
The Collection is organized into three series.
Series 1: Cyanotype Photographs, 1897-1919
Series 2: Silver Gelatin Photographs, 1896-1921
Series 3: Glass Plate Negative, Stamps, and Publications, 1932
In 1846, the city of Boston established the first municipal water utility in order to maintain and operate the Cochituate Water Works, known as the Boston Water Commissioners. In 1850, the Cochituate Water Board is established.In 1865, the Mystic Water Board was established. In 1875 the Cochituate Water Board and Mystic Water Board merge to create the Boston Water Board. Later in 1895, the Boston Water Board was abolished, which lead to the establishment of the Metropolitan Water Board, resulting in the transfer of maintenances and operations of the Boston Water Board to the Metropolitan Water Board as well as the Spot Pond Water Works of the towns of Melrose, Malden and Medford. The Boston Water Board then became known as the Boston Water Department. In 1901, the Metropolitan Water Board merged with the Board of Metropolitan Sewerage Commissioners to form the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board. In 1919, the Metropolitan Park Commission merges with the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board to form the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC).
Historical note was provided courtesy of: Sean M. Fisher, Archivist, DCR Archives, Office of Cultural Resources, Bureau of Planning and Resource Protection, MA Department of Conservation and Recreation, 251 Causeway St., Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114-2119
Processed by William John Callahan Jr., (Intern), March, 2011; Supervised by Vannessa Bouchard Simmons, archivist.
Existence and Location of Originals
Massachusetts State Archives holds the original glass plate negatives.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was acquired by Curator Robert Vogel, Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History, 1964-1965.
In April 1964, Harry H. Catching of Louisville Kentucky contacted the MDC Water Division asking for permission to build an operating scale model of the Chestnut Hill Leavitt Engine. During his visit to Boston to photograph the Leavitt Engine in October 1964, he was given a tour of both the High and Low Service Pumping Stations. It was on this tour that he saw dry plate negatives.
Catching notified Robert M. Vogel, Curator of Heavy Machinery for the Division of Mechanical and Civil Engineering of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. On October 16, 1964, Harold J. Toole, the director of the Water Division received a letter from Vogel requesting permission of the transfer of the collection of negatives to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. In a letter dated November 4, 1964, from Toole to MDC Commissioner Robert F. Murphy, Vogel asked the Commission to loan this collection to the Smithsonian Institution. On November 5th the Commission voted in favor of the Smithsonian Institution's request of the negatives. On November 6th Toole informed Vogel that the negatives of real estate photographs pertaining to the Waschusett Reservoir and Aqueduct may not be of interest to the Institution. Soon after Vogel recommended that the entire collection be shipped to the Institution where they would go through and select and set aside negatives documenting real estate value and return them to MDC. Toole agreed to this but William J. Cooke, Superintendent of Pumping Stations, was instructed to inspect the collection for any real estate negatives and to remove them before shipment; this decision contributed to the poor condition of those plates were removed from the Institution shipment.
In early December two-thirds of the collection of dry plate negatives was transported to the Smithsonian Institution. When the Institution received the collection arrived, Vogel was astonished at how significant and important in the collection was. In July 1965, the remainder of the dry plate negatives was shipped to the the Institution.
The original images were created by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts between 1895 and 1921, and the cyanotype and silver gelatin photographs were contact-printed by the Smithsonian Institution Office of Imaging and Printing Services between 1965 and 1990. During the time this collection was loaned to the Smithsonian Institution at the request of curator Robert M. Vogel. The prints were transferred to the Archives Center in 2007 by the Division of Work and Industry.
Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research use. Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves.
Boston Water Works Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
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.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Archives
Metropolitan Water Works photograph collection, 1876-1930 (bulk 1895-1921)
Series includes photographic documentation of the Boston Water Board's construction between 1890 and 1895, representing the Hopkinton Reservoir and Dam, and Sudbury Reservoir and Dam; and the photographic documentation of the Metropolitan Water Works system through three successive state agencies between 1895 and 1926.
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012