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P-065: Mississippi & Illinois River Canal (Hennepin Canal) Construction Photographs

ABSTRACT: This album of cyanotype prints documents the early construction of the Mississippi and Illinois River Canal, also known as the Hennepin Canal. Each image comes with explanatory captions on the back side.

DATE: September 1892 – February 1893

SCOPE: The images document the first months of construction on the Mississippi and Illinois River Canal, commonly known as the Hennepin Canal. The construction pictured is near the Mississippi and Rock rivers while working on Lock 36 and Lock 37.

The prints cover much of the construction involved in building canals in the 19th century, and include portrayals of excavation and dredge work, extension and widening of rivers work on Carr Island (in the western portion of the Rock River), use of dynamite in lock building, pile driving, construction on concrete abutments, and other equipment and processes involved. Also included are images of the camps of workers and engineers.

Each image is captioned with a date and description of the image, often including names of identifiable workers and engineers. A PDF transcript of those captions is available for download here: P-065 Caption List (PDF)

Most of the images show actual construction, including the extension and widening of rivers, massive excavation and dredge work, work around Carr Island in the far western portion of the Rock River, the construction of embankments, and the use of dynamite to begin the lock building process. Other photographs show piling and pile driving, the camps of the workers, and completed cuts. The captions each note the month in which photographs are taken, and often name in the engineer in charge of the work and contractor.

EXTENT: Thirty-one cyanotype prints, brad-bound with metal round head fasteners on left hand side. Handwriting on verso of each image.

HISTORY: The Mississippi and Illinois River Canal, also known as the Hennepin Canal, was planned to connect the Mississippi River near Rock Island and the Illinois River near Hennepin. This canal would create a faster route from Chicago to the Mississippi River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers led the project after nearly sixty years of discussion. In 1892, construction began, and continued straight through until the canal’s opening in 1907. The Hennepin Canal became the first American Canal to be built of concrete without stone cut facings. Engineering innovations first used in the creation of this canal have been directly linked to the advancements in canal construction that later allowed the Panama Canal to be built in the early 20th century.

ACCESS: This is collection P-065. This collection is available for on-site use only in the Rare Book and Manuscripts Reading Room. Some of the collection may be photocopied, digitally scanned or photographed, depending on condition. Researchers are advised to call ahead concerning changes in hours due to University intersessions and holidays. The St. Louis Mercantile Library is located on levels one and two of the Thomas Jefferson Library building. More information about conducting research with the archival collections of the Library, including current building hours and reading room policies, can be found on our Research page.

This collection is available for viewing on the UMSL Digital Library.

Preferred Citation note: The preferred citation for this collection is "From the collections of the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.”


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