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Department of Civil Engineering records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-06-040

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The records of the Department of Civil Engineering date from 1923 to 1936, and from 1981 to 1987. Three series are included: (1) Course Records, 1981- 1985; (2) Seminar Meetings, 1923-1936; and (3) Departmental Records, 1982-1987. The records are very limited, both in terms of the dates covered and the types of materials included. There are no student or faculty records (except for a few curriculum vitaes) and very few records to document the activities of the Department over the years, such as correspondence, minutes of departmental meetings, or reports. The only correspondence is that attached to the accreditation board report.


  • Creation: 1923-1987


Conditions Governing Access

Administrative records in series 3 are restricted for twenty-five years from their date of creation.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.


In his first inaugural address, Daniel Coit Gilman cited the need, in well populated areas, for civic or municipal engineers. While acknowledging the importance of a preparatory program in this field, he warned: "... we must beware ... lest we make our schools technical instead of liberal.... we may have an excellent Polytechnicum, but not a University." There was criticism in the early years of the university that civil engineering did not offer a practical education, and that the great need in Baltimore was for elementary technical training and not for research carried on by the few. In 1910, the State of Maryland offered to finance the addition of a school of engineering, while the campus was being removed to Homewood. The trustees agreed, and a bill was passed in 1912, which also provided for 129 full scholarships to the school for residents of Maryland.

In 1913, Charles J. Tilden arrived from the University of Michigan to be the professor of Civil Engineering, and a laboratory for Civil Engineering was built and equipped at Homewood in 1916. Instruction in Civil Engineering began in the academic year 1913-1914. Professor Tilden taught three undergraduate courses: Engineering Drawing; Civil Engineering I: Structural Mechanics, Theory of the Strength of Materials, and Elements of Structural Design; and Surveying, a one month summer course. Tilden devoted much of his time to evaluating and procuring surveying equipment, machines for the materials testing laboratory at Homewood, and books, magazines, and photographs to form a library. By the 1916-1917 academic year, the department had developed a four-year course of classes, and had begun its first research project, an investigation of cement mortars and concretes which can be made from materials in Maryland.

In 1919, Tilden resigned to accept the chair of Engineering Mechanics at Yale. During his tenure at Hopkins, Tilden wrote an article justifying the institution of an engineering school in the university, pointing out that an engineer must possess such qualities as creativity which are best developed in the atmosphere of a university.

Beginning in 1919, students were taken on inspection trips to municipal structures, such as water filtration and purification works and bridges, and to industrial and power plants. The Second World War curtailed these visits, which were recommenced in 1949 by the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers; the department itself seems never to have resumed this activity. The war had significant consequences for the department, including heavy enrollment, emphasis on graduate education, and an increased demand for civil engineers at all levels.

The department had always prided itself on the well-rounded education it offered. Its course requirements allowed the student a good number of electives, both within the department, to develop his own emphasis, and in other departments, particularly the Humanities and Social Sciences. In his 1914 article, Tilden remarked that in the program of Civil Engineering at Johns Hopkins, 24 percent of the requirements fell into the categories of the Humanities and Social Sciences, more than at any other school in the United States. It seems that this proportion of non-engineering classes gradually declined, but the emphasis on a liberal education was renewed after World War II; in the decades of the 1950s and 1960s other universities followed Hopkins's example in this regard.

In 1960, a proposal was approved to merge the Departments of Civil Engineering, Mechanics, and Aeronautics into a single Department of Mechanics with George S. Benton as chair. From 1979 to 1983 there was a Department of Civil Engineering/Materials Science and Engineering. The Department of Civil Engineering was re-established in the fall of 1983.


2.67 Cubic Feet (8 document cases)

Language of Materials



The records of the Seminars were transferred by Brenda Lawson, Administrative Secretary of the Civil Engineering Department. The course records and the departmental records were transferred by Ross B. Corotis, Chairman of the Department.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Adam Coccaro and Aravinda Pillalamarri.

Department of Civil Engineering records
Adam Coccaro and Aravinda Pillalamarri
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA