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The Role of the United States Military Academy at West Point in the Formation of America’s Engineering Profession (1802 to 1850)

Le rôle de l’Académie militaire américaine de West Point dans la formation de la profession d’ingénieur américain (1802 à 1850)
Sian Zelbo
p. 217-240

Résumés

L’Académie militaire des États-Unis à West Point, fondée en 1802, a produit les premiers ingénieurs formés académiquement du pays et beaucoup plus de diplômés que tout autre programme d’ingénierie en Amérique dans la première moitié du xixe siècle. Bien que ces statistiques suggèrent que l’école aurait eu un effet profond sur la communauté de l’ingénierie à cette époque, le pays avait en fait une communauté dynamique de praticiens qui opéraient entièrement indépendamment des programmes universitaires d’ingénierie. Cette étude explore la relation entre West Point et la profession d’ingénieur aux États-Unis à l’aide de données sur les carrières des diplômés de l’école. Cette étude montre que malgré le prestige de l’école et son influence dans les cercles d’élite, le rôle de l’école dans la formation de l’ensemble de la profession d’ingénieur au cours de ces années était probablement modeste.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 Today it is called the American Society of Civil Engineers.
  • 2 F. Griggs & N. Fitzsimmons, 1997, quoting the Railroad Gazette, p. 108.

1In 1852 a group of twelve prominent civil engineers, including some graduates of the United States Military Academy (West Point), gathered at the Croton Aqueduct in New York City to establish the American Society of Civil Engineers and Architects (ASCE1). This event is widely recognized as an important early milestone in the professionalization of the engineering community in the United States. The transformation, of course, did not happen overnight, and in fact the group’s role as a gatekeeper for the profession remained largely unsuccessful throughout the 19th century. An 1873 announcement for one ASCE meeting lamented that the engineering profession in the United States was still “of a somewhat indefinite character” and that the Society could at least “sift out the humbugs and raise the position of the man of real ability”.2 The founding of the ASCE may have helped establish a special status for college-educated engineers and certain other prominent figures at the top of the profession. Still, the organization was not successful initially at stripping the title of “engineer” from the thousands of men trained outside of academic programs who had been working as engineers, including many who explicitly used the credentials “C. E.” (civil engineer) in their signatures. These men were probably unaware that the ASCE even existed.

2Formal academic engineering programs in the United States date back to West Point’s first graduating class in 1802. By the late 19th century, West Point had produced thousands of graduates with a formal education in engineering who took influential positions in American society. Considering West Point’s prominent status as an institution for engineering education and its extensive societal reach, it may seem incongruous that the boundaries of the engineering profession in the United States remained porous and ill-defined even in the late 19th century.

3To understand the nature of West Point’s influence on the engineering profession, it is instructive to examine biographical data about West Point’s early 19th century graduates and analyze the specific positions they took when they entered society. While the conventional wisdom has been that West Point held an important role as an incubator of trained engineers and exercised a strong influence on the emerging engineering profession, the data present a more nuanced picture and help to explain the tension that existed throughout the 19th century between the elite, often academically trained engineers and the “humbugs” who formed the rest of the engineering community. The data show, for example, that only a small percentage of West Point’s graduates practiced engineering at all, either in or out of the Army, and that many of those who took on engineering projects after leaving the Army did so in limited ways. Many, instead, made use of their background in mathematics, science, and engineering, without doing the hands-on work of engineering. These men moved into elite, often administrative positions in industry, education, and government. The careers of West Point’s graduates show overall that the institution, far from dominating and defining the newly emerging engineering profession in these years, had a more limited and nuanced role.

1. Research questions and methodology

4This study seeks to explore the relationship between West Point and the engineering community in 19th century America. This overarching question can be broken into the following sub-questions:

  • How many West Point graduates worked as engineers in the Army, and on what types of projects?
  • How many West Point graduates did engineering work after leaving the Army, and on what kinds of projects?
  • For those West Point graduates who did engineering work after leaving the Army, did that work lead to a sustained career in the field?
  • Broadly speaking, how many West Point graduates used their mathematics, science, and engineering training in work outside of the Army, and in what kinds of work/positions?
  • 3 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 5.
  • 4 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 4. Cullum states in the dedication of the book that its purpose was (...)

5To answer these questions, this study surveys the careers of West Point students who graduated from 1802 to 1850, giving an overall sense of the 19th century contributions of the school while it was still the country’s dominant engineering program. The source of information about the graduates was the Biographical Register of Officers and Graduates, a 2,380-page document first published in 1868 with subsequent updates in 1871 and 1891. The information was gathered and compiled by George Washington Cullum, a West Point graduate and former superintendent of the school. Cullum wrote thousands of letters to solicit information and made use of the archives of West Point and the United States War Department to assemble a catalog of the biographies of every graduate.3 The Biographical Register describes in great detail the careers in and out of the military of each graduate from 1802 through 1890. Each one was given a unique number, starting with graduates #1 and #2 in 1802, and the Biographical Register is also organized in this way, so it provides a complete list of all graduates. It may have errors and omissions, of course, and given the source and purpose4 of the document, there is likely some bias in exaggerating the roles and importance of West Point’s graduates. Yet, given the direction of bias, it makes sense to view the numbers of graduates engaged in engineering careers as a ceiling and not a floor.

6For this study, entries for graduates in the years 1802 through 1850 were coded to indicate whether they did engineering work in the Army and/or out of the Army and what kind of work they did. Graduates were classified as “engineers” when the Biographical Register used that specific term. For those who practiced engineering in the Army, their individual projects fell into three broad categories: defense-related work, infrastructure work, and surveying work to establish boundaries and make maps. For each graduate who worked as an Army engineer, their categories of work were noted. For those who practiced engineering as civilians, it was noted whether they worked for railroad companies, as many of them did. Additionally, for those who practiced engineering outside the Army, it was noted whether that work was part of a sustained career in the field, defined for purposes of this study as practicing for more than five years. For those graduates who never held a position as an engineer (the majority), it was indicated whether each did work that, while not technically in engineering, made use of the mathematical and technical training acquired at West Point, such as mathematics professors or executives in a railroad or manufacturing company. While nearly all graduates who practiced engineering were civil engineers (which also encompassed what today we would call “architecture”), there were some exceptions, and these were also noted. Once the entries were coded, patterns were analyzed to help determine West Point’s role in contributing engineers to the United States economy and in professionalizing the field.

2. Literature

7The academic program at West Point is a well-researched subject in the history of education, in part because the school was inspired by the École polytechnique in France and in part because, for many years, West Point was among the United States’ top schools of mathematics, science, and engineering, producing many prominent American figures in all fields. Those who write about West Point, many of whom are West Point graduates, sometimes mythologize the school and its influence on American industrial progress. Yet, at the same time, other scholars describe the culture of the 19th century United States as being oriented towards the empirical and the practical, with distrust and even disdain for abstract academic theories. If these two strands of thought are both true, then how can they be reconciled, and what was West Point’s true place in society?

  • 5 F. Wayland, 1850, p. 18.
  • 6 H. Barnard, 1872, pp. 748-749.
  • 7 G. S. Emmerson, 1973, p. 138.
  • 8 T. Crackel, 2002, p. 3.
  • 9 S. E. Ambrose, 1999 [1966], p. 97.

8The view that West Point had a large role in building the country’s infrastructure has been the conventional wisdom ever since the 19th century. In an 1850 speech, for example, the president of Brown University argued that American universities were teaching too many subjects too superficially and did not prepare their graduates for careers. He remarked that West Point, by contrast, with its focus on mathematics and engineering, “has done more towards the construction of railroads than all our one hundred and twenty colleges united”.5 In an 1872 book about military schools, author Henry Barnard remarked that “the railroads and canals have been built by engineers ready furnished by the government”6 (by way of West Point). Similarly, in his 1973 survey of the history of engineering education around the world, George Emerson wrote that while many early American engineers were trained through apprenticeships, “a very important number [of engineers], however, were military officers educated at West Point”.7 More recently, Theodore Crackel, in his 2002 bicentennial work on West Point, remarked that its graduates “built the railroads that made this continent a nation”.8 In Stephen Ambrose’s history of West Point, he downplays the importance of engineers trained elsewhere: “Some engineers learned their profession on the job… but West Point stood pre-eminent.”9

  • 10 R. H. Merritt, 1969, p. 4.
  • 11 E. Kranakis, 1989.
  • 12 E. Kranakis, 1989, pp. 12-14, 20-21, 40-47.
  • 13 E. Kranakis, 1989, pp. 46-47.
  • 14 E. Kranakis, 1989, p. 21. See also E. T. Layton, 1976 (describing American 19th century engineerin (...)

9While the clear thrust of the commentary is that West Point graduates had an important role in the engineering profession and in the economy in the early 19th century, some scholars have pushed back. Raymond Merritt, in his book Engineering in American Society 1850-1875, argues that engineering was the engine of America’s great 19th century technological growth but also clarifies that the profession did not coalesce until the second half of the century and that military engineers had a “negligible” influence on society before 1850.10 Consistent with Merritt’s claim, Eda Kranakis provides a view of the broader 19th century American engineering community, including those who were not academically trained, in her article contrasting the French and American engineering professions.11 Kranakis argues that contrary to the hierarchical French community of engineers, the American community was characterized by decentralization and mobility. Also, while French engineers graduated from schools like the École polytechnique, which were also incubators of some of the world’s most innovative abstract mathematics at the time, the broader American engineering community, by contrast, affirmatively devalued academic credentials and glorified practical experience over theory.12 As a result, Kranakis says, the great American scientific and industrial research programs were run by private companies,13 and the majority of engineers at that time did not hold academic degrees but instead were apprenticed or otherwise trained on the job.14

  • 15 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 208.
  • 16 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 43.

10Despite the many claims about West Point’s early influence on the engineering profession and on the American economy, there is little in the way of data to help probe the accuracy of these assertions. Daniel Calhoun’s 1960 work, The American Civil Engineer: Origins and Conflict, is perhaps the only prior scholarly work that does make use of West Point graduates’ biographical data. Calhoun reports the number of graduates working as civilian engineers by year from 1802 to 1860 and also gives totals by decade of those “who went into civilian engineering at any time after graduation”.15 He concludes that the “cumulative total may have reached near 200 in 1837”, and that West Point “far exceeded the New York canal system” as a training ground for new engineers.16 Calhoun’s study is a good starting point for looking at West Point’s influence but leaves many questions unanswered. It is unclear, for example, what criteria he used for categorizing a graduate as an “engineer”, a question that we shall see is not straightforward because many graduates took on discrete engineering projects but also practiced other professions.

11This study seeks to reconcile these differing views of West Point’s role and importance in the 19th century. It can be simultaneously true that while West Point produced numerous trained graduates, some of whom practiced engineering, there was also a much larger, thriving community of people performing the work of engineers without formal training. Similarly, it can be simultaneously true that while West Point’s graduates were not numerous, they had influence in certain industries, particularly those related to transportation infrastructure, and that they took on prominent positions in those industries. This is what the study seeks to show.

3. Overview of West Point

  • 17 T. S. Reynolds, 1992. See also the register of Norwich graduates, which shows that in the five gra (...)

12West Point is the informal name given to the United States Military Academy, the first engineering school in the United States. Two smaller engineering schools, Norwich University and Rensselaer Institute, began to offer degrees in civil engineering in 1826 and 1835, respectively. A number of universities, including Columbia and Princeton, experimented with offering engineering classes prior to 1850, and some military schools tried to copy West Point’s model of engineering education. Still, West Point was by far the largest of these engineering programs in the first half of the 19th century.17

  • 18 B. Belhoste, 2003, pp. 45-46.
  • 19 H. Barnard, 1872, p. 752.
  • 20 T. Crackel, 2002, p. 48.

13Built on a strategic military site on the cliffs overlooking the Hudson River in West Point, New York, West Point was founded in 1802 to supply the Army Corps of Engineers and other units with technically trained officers and to provide a pathway into civil service for those who were not already among the country’s elite. The school’s early engineering classes covered little content and focused on the construction of military defenses. It would take decades for the academic standards of the Academy to improve. One obstacle was the limited knowledge of the cadets who entered the school. Unlike the École polytechnique, which had an entrance exam from its founding in 1794,18 West Point’s only academic requirement before 1871 was that the candidate be “well versed in reading, writing, and arithmetic”.19 Even so, “a large number had only the most rudimentary skills in either arithmetic or grammar”.20

  • 21 T. Crackel, 2002, p. 95.
  • 22 T. Crackel, 2002, p. 98.
  • 23 T. Préveraud, 2014, pp. 78-86.
  • 24 T. Préveraud, 2014, p. 86.

14It is widely acknowledged that Sylvanus Thayer’s term as superintendent of West Point from 1817 to 1833 was a turning point in the school’s history. Thayer attempted to emulate the French model more closely, and in doing so, raised both the discipline and the academic standards of the school. Thayer instituted structural changes inspired by the École polytechnique, such as a cadet testing and ranking system, and he changed the academic program to focus on the “twin pillars” of French and mathematics.21 When the United States Congress later gave the Corps of Engineers the explicit authority and funding to assist in civilian infrastructure projects, starting with the General Survey Act of 1824, West Point’s engineering course was reformed. Classes in civil engineering were incorporated into the engineering curriculum (specifically methods of constructing roads, canals, bridges, railways, and ports), and that part of the program was expanded over the next decade.22 Like Thayer before them, West Point’s engineering professors leaned heavily on French knowledge, for example, by observing French schools, incorporating translations of French engineering texts, and ordering French books for the school’s library.23 While these reforms were significant, the standard of academic training received by West Point students was still well below that received by engineering students in France. All students graduated with the same general degree in these years, and any instruction in engineering was necessarily more elementary than the specialized training dispensed, for example, at the École des ponts et chaussées or the École des mines in France.24

15Upon graduation, West Point cadets entered the Army as officers, and their placement into the various units depended on the needs of the Army and their rank within their graduating class. Even with their engineering training, most graduates were assigned to the Artillery and Infantry units. It was typical at this time for the top few graduates to be assigned to the Corps of Engineers, where they worked on defense projects, surveying work, and (later) civilian infrastructure projects. Some graduates were appointed to a second engineering corps called the Corps of Topographical Engineers, which, as the name suggests, did surveying work. Others stayed at West Point to teach mathematics, science, engineering, or military tactics; nearly all of the Academy’s professors and assistant professors came from West Point itself.

  • 25 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868].

16The United States was involved in various wars in the 19th century, including the 1812 War against Great Britain, the 1846 Mexican American War, the 1861 Civil War, and the many wars against Native American groups, so many of West Point’s graduates, including members of the Corps of Engineers, were actively involved in battles. Some stayed in the Army only for a year or two before resigning to pursue civilian pursuits, while others remained for their entire careers. For those who left the Army after serving, their West Point degree and their Army experience launched them into prominent careers in a wide variety of fields, including law, politics, business, teaching, agriculture, and engineering. The details of these careers were documented by George Washington Cullum, an 1833 graduate of West Point and superintendent of the Academy from 1864 to 1866, in a document entitled Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the US Military Academy, from 1802 to 1890 and informally titled Cullum’s Register.25 This document forms the basis of this study.

4. Overview of engineering in the United States from 1802 to 1850

  • 26 United States Census Bureau, 1801.
  • 27 A book entitled Landmark American Bridges, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers sh (...)

17At the turn of the 19th century, the United States was a new, mostly agricultural, country with a population of 5.3 million people26 clustered mostly on the Atlantic Coast. Counting the number of engineers who practiced in the United States in the early 1800s or even defining the term “engineer” in this period is not a straightforward task. Some of the work of designing and overseeing the construction of buildings, bridges, canals, municipal water systems, and machinery was done by people who styled themselves “engineers”, but it was mostly done by local artisans, builders, millworkers or ironworkers who were relying (and innovating) on traditions and techniques passed down within their profession. The territorial expansion of the United States gave rise to the country’s first large-scale infrastructure projects – its roads, canals, and later its railroads – which in turn precipitated the need for new technology and expertise. A bridge builder in 1810 might simply call himself a “stone mason” or a “builder”. Decades later, however, new methods and stronger bridges were needed to support the weight of railroads, and their designers would typically be called “engineers”, particularly if they were employed by railroad companies.27

  • 28 P. L. Bernstein, 2005, p. 191.

18Still, the need for specialization and technical knowledge did not necessarily mean that the newly emerging engineering profession was academically trained, and most United States engineers in the first half of the 19th century were not. When construction began in 1817 on the country’s first large-scale engineering project, the 363-mile Erie Canal, not a single person with training or experience as an engineer was involved – only men who, at most, had worked as surveyors. According to historian Peter Bernstein, for the organizers of the project, hiring skilled people to map out the route of the canal, develop cement from local materials, design the needed culverts and aqueducts, and design the canal’s locks, was the most difficult task they faced because “there was no one in the entire United States who could properly style himself as a professional ‘engineer’”.28 Bernstein’s statement is not quite true because by 1817, when construction began on the Erie Canal, West Point had already produced 179 graduates. Still, the fact that the largest engineering project of the time was run entirely by people with no engineering training or experience suggests that the engineering community was still in its infancy and that West Point’s influence in these early years was minimal.

  • 29 G. T. Koeppel, 2000.
  • 30 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 52.
  • 31 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 53.
  • 32 London Institution of Civil Engineers, 1870, p. 167.

19Projects like the Erie Canal served as a training ground for future projects. John Jarvis, who would go on to become one of America’s prominent engineers, started by clearing brush and trees for the project.29 The influence of academically-trained engineers grew over time, but even by 1837, historian Daniel Calhoun estimates that of a total of 87 “chief engineers” on infrastructure projects in the United States, only 22 were academically trained.30 And while West Point and other academic institutions accounted for a significant share of the preeminent engineers of 1837, they “almost certainly did not produce more than a minor fraction of all engineers considered as a population group”.31 Even by 1870, when a professional class of engineers was emerging, according to one contemporaneous study, anyone in America could call himself an engineer just as easily as he could call himself a blacksmith, “and it [was] still done commonly without any regard to school diplomas”.32 Clearly no one was yet effectively acting as a gatekeeper to the profession.

  • 33 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 53.
  • 34 M. A. Calvert, 1968.
  • 35 J. H. White, 1997, pp. 5-14.
  • 36 J. H. White, 1997, pp. 449-558.

20While the United States’ great infrastructure projects gave birth to the field of engineering in the country, the term “engineer” was not limited to the kind of work that later would fall into the category of “civil engineering”. An 1830 engineering textbook by Amos Eaton described the profession to include “the construction of mills, factories, locomotive and stationary steam-engines”.33 While academically trained engineers had a role in building the country’s infrastructure, if the profession is defined more broadly to include the work of industrial and mechanical engineers, their influence becomes still less significant. The strong culture of shop training and apprenticeship that dominated the 19th century in fact impeded the professionalization of mechanical engineers.34 Pioneers of railroad locomotive design in the years 1830 to 1850, for example, were almost exclusively trained outside of academia. John White, a noted historian of American railroad history, explains that there were approximately 150 establishments working on locomotive design and construction in the United States in the years 1830 to 1850. The design changes tended to be small and incremental and were practical responses to specific operating difficulties, not bursts of inspiration from scientifically trained designers.35 White also notes that most locomotive designers had humble origins as blacksmiths or machinists. George Whistler, an 1819 West Point graduate, was one of the few academically trained 19th century figures of locomotive design.36

  • 37 J. D. B. DeBow, 1853, p. LXX.
  • 38 Another 11,626 people in the 1850 census were categorized simply as “engineers”, a term that may h (...)
  • 39 J. D. B. DeBow, 1853, p. LXXI. Nearly 100 categories are included, and there is no separate catego (...)

21In 1850, 48 years after the first generation of West Point graduates, the United States Census for the first time indicated each individual’s self-declared profession. A summary from the census that year reported that a total of 512 people listed their profession as “civil engineer”, 1,614 as “surveyor”, and 591 as “architect”.37 No specific categories of engineers were recognized other than the “civil engineer”.38 European immigrants were another source of trained engineers. The summary of the 1850 census reports the numbers of engineers that immigrated to the United States in three specific years: 1845 (53 engineers), 1847 (35), and 1852 (91).39 If any American academic institution had an impact on the profession, it would have been West Point, which was producing approximately 40 to 50 graduate cadets per year by 1850. As we shall see, however, these raw numbers of graduates are deceptive in quantifying West Point’s supply of trained engineers to the American economy.

5. Findings

  • 40 This number excludes the small number of people who received appointments but did not practice eng (...)

22A first step in understanding West Point’s influence in shaping the engineering profession is to look at the total number of practicing engineers the school produced in the relevant years – including both Army engineers and those who practiced engineering upon discharge from the Army. Although West Point was a school of engineering, and although every graduate received the same training, only a small fraction of any graduating class was appointed to engineering positions in the Army; the others were appointed to other units such as the Artillery or Infantry. Of West Point’s total of 1,493 graduates in the years 1802-1850, a total of 135, or about nine percent, held positions as Army engineers,40 the great majority of whom worked in the Corps of Engineers. The engineers from a separate, smaller corps, the Corps of Topographical Engineers, are included in the count as well. Starting with the class of 1818, under Thayer’s reforms, the graduates were given a class rank upon graduation, and it was typically the top few graduates from each class who entered the Corps of Engineers. More uncommonly, West Point graduates would start in a different Army unit and work their way up to the Corps of Topographical Engineers or, more rarely, to the Corps of Engineers. The graph in Figure 1 shows the size of each West Point graduating class from 1802 to 1850 and the number of graduates from each class who held positions as engineers at some point in their Army careers.

Figure 1. West Point-trained army engineers compared to total number of graduates, by year of graduation

Figure 1. West Point-trained army engineers compared to total number of graduates, by year of graduation

Sources. Data are from G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868]. (Note that there were no graduates in 1810 or 1816.)

23The Biographical Register details particular engineering projects that each graduate worked on while in the Army. Nearly all of the work fell into the following three broad categories: (1) military defense work (2) work on transportation infrastructure and other projects with a direct civilian benefit and (3) surveying to establish borders and make maps. These categories are not always distinct. Almost all Army engineering work involved some surveying, but because so much manpower was required to establish the constantly changing borders and navigation routes of the country as it expanded in the 19th century, that kind of survey work is treated here as a separate category. Table 1 organizes the total 135 West Point-trained Army engineers into clusters by graduation year and reports the number of men who engaged in each of the three categories of engineering work in the Army.

Table 1. Numbers of West Point-trained army engineers who engaged in various types of engineering work, by year of graduation

Graduation years Total Army engineers Army engineers who performed defense-related work Army engineers who performed work related to transportation and other civilian projects Army engineers who did general surveying work to make maps and establish borders
1802-1805 6 6 1 1
1806-1810 8 8 3 1
1811-1815 9 8 3 2
1816-1820 12 9 11 5
1821-1825 11 9 7 2
1826-1830 11 5 7 7
1831-1835 17 12 15 11
1836-1840 23 19 17 11
1841-1845 20 15 16 11
1846-1850 18 14 14 11
Totals 135 105 94 62

Note. The total number of Army engineers is not equal to the sum of the columns to the right because a single engineer often performed work that fell into more than one category.

Sources. Data are from G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868]. (Note that there were no graduates in 1810 or 1816.)

  • 41 Daniel P. Woodbury (class of 1836), for example, was actively involved in various aspects of the C (...)

24Table 1 shows that most of West Point’s graduating Army engineers engaged in defense-related work, which is not surprising. Note that the table shows a sharp increase in the number engaged in defense-related engineering work and in the total number of Army engineers in the 1830s. 1836 is an example of a year with a large number of appointments to the Corps of Engineers (six graduates) and the Corps of Topographical Engineers (three graduates, one of whom later served in the Corps of Engineers). All seven of the members of the Corps of Engineers did some traditional, military defense-related engineering work, including constructing and repairing forts and participating in defense-related engineering work in active wars.41 There was no obvious change in the need for such defense-related work at that time. The increase was likely caused by changes in Congressional funding meant for internal improvements (discussed below), which allowed for more appointments to the Corps of Engineers in general. The Army would have put those newly funded engineers to work wherever it perceived there was a need for their skills.

  • 42 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 54.

25Military construction, of course, was a priority from the time West Point was founded. Army engineers were employed in the construction of forts, armories, and other permanent military structures in times of peace, but they were also involved in the field in wars throughout the 19th century, including the War of 1812 against the United Kingdom, the Mexican American War, and the American Civil War. Joseph Swift, for example, who was West Point’s first graduate in 1802 and later a superintendent of the school, began his Army career in the Corps of Engineers with the position of Superintending Engineer of the construction of Ft. Johnson in North Carolina and later supervised construction of batteries and defenses in the harbors along the east coast of the country. When the War of 1812 began, Swift became actively involved in strategic defensive decisions in the field, such as where to place walls and trenches “to cover New York and Brooklyn from any descent upon our shores from the British squadron then cruising off the coast”.42 This kind of work to design temporary walls, trenches, roads, and even bridges in the field was typical for Army engineers in times of war.

  • 43 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], pp. 182-183.

26The second broad category of engineering work performed in the Army concerned transportation infrastructure and other projects with a direct civilian benefit. This included construction and improvements for travel by boat, such as river dredging, harbor improvements and lighthouse construction, and the building of roads, canals, and railroads to facilitate interstate land travel and westward expansion. When West Point was founded, North America was full of dense, old-growth forests, swamps, mountains, and other natural features that made travel difficult. The task of creating a transportation infrastructure in a new and expanding country through previously unsettled land was almost immeasurable, and this was a large focus of the Corps of Engineers and the Corps of Topographical Engineers in the 19th century. Richard Delafield, for example, the top-ranked graduate of 1818 and later a superintendent of West Point, spent part of his early career in the Corps of Engineers in charge of dredging the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to make them navigable; he also supervised the construction of Cumberland Road, the country’s first national highway.43 This category of “projects with a direct civilian benefit” also comprises public works projects in urban areas, such as aqueducts and federal government buildings, including custom houses, museums, hospitals, monuments, and the United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Table 1 above shows the number of Army engineers working on civilian projects in relation to the total number of Army engineers, by graduation year.

  • 44 S. Minicucci, 2004.

27In the very first decades of the 19th century, the United States was still in its infancy, and the federal government was weak. It was not clear at that time whether the Corps of Engineers, or the federal government in general, had the authority under the United States Constitution to spend money on civilian infrastructure projects. In 1824, starting with a Supreme Court case and then the 1824 General Survey Act, funds were given to the Corps of Engineers for the first time specifically to take on such projects. From then and until 1837 (corresponding to the 18th through 25th sessions of Congress), there was a short-lived “era of internal improvements” when an increase in federal appropriations allowed for more appointments to the Corps of Engineers.44 Table 1 above reflects the increase in appointments of Army engineers as well as the increased focus on internal improvements.

  • 45 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 163.
  • 46 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], pp. 162-163 (describing the role of William Gibbs McNeill and the othe (...)
  • 47 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 53.
  • 48 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 165.

28One of the great technological and economic events in this era, of course, was the rise of railroads. Some sources, including West Point’s own Biographical Register, portray West Point Army engineers as playing a leading role in building the country’s railroads. The Register explains (and perhaps exaggerates) the influence of West Point’s graduates: “[O]ur army engineers became the pioneers in railroad construction, and the educators of an able body of civil engineers, who, to this day, have continued the inherited traditions, methods, discipline, esprit-de-corps, and high bearing of their distinguished predecessors”.45 In spite of this lofty claim, under the terms of the General Survey Act and in practice, the role of Army engineers in assisting privately chartered railroad companies was limited to doing survey work to find routes,46 which of course is an important but limited part of the engineering required to build a functioning railroad. The Biographical Register also provides some counterevidence for its own claim that the Army engineers were leaders in pioneering railroad projects. William McNeill (class of 1817) is widely recognized as among the most influential and respected of the United States Army engineers who worked in railroad construction.47 The Register lauds William Gibbs McNeill as an important example of an Army engineer who assisted railroad companies but also notes that his purported skill was that “at a glance” he could determine whether the ground was stable for building a railroad track and concedes that McNeill had “no constructive capacity whatever” and relied on assistants for the details of railroad building.48

  • 49 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], pp. 629-660.
  • 50 William Warner from the Corps of Topographical Engineers went on an expedition to explore Californ (...)

29Whatever the role of Army engineers in particular railroad projects, it is clear that transportation infrastructure in general was a focus of Army engineers in the 19th century and that this kind of work went well beyond the glamorous work of railroad construction. Another look at the work of the class of 1836 gives a sense of the variety of the infrastructure work performed. As mentioned above, most of the graduates with engineering appointments did traditional defense-related work. In addition to these projects, the 1836 graduates repaired sea walls in Florida, constructed a lighthouse, dredged the Hudson River in New York and the Red River in Louisiana, constructed a custom house and a marine hospital, made harbor improvements along the east coast, constructed the Potomac Aqueduct, constructed bridges, and made additions to the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.49 While, of course, some graduates did supporting survey work for railroads, that was never a large focus of the Army engineers’ operations, and in fact only one of the graduates from 1836, even as railroads were beginning to take off, did any such work.50

30Finally, as also shown in Table 1 above, general surveying work for purposes of establishing borders and mapping rivers and coasts was a focus of the Army engineers who graduated in the first half of the 19th century. It may seem counterintuitive that this work increased, or at least remained steady, over time, but the boundaries of the United States were constantly changing in this period. The United States acquired territories from France, Great Britain, and Mexico in the first half of the 19th century, including lands and waters previously unexplored by non-indigenous people, and much of that land was then divided into states that were admitted into the union, one by one, over the course of decades. The Corps of Engineers helped map out those lands and establish their boundaries. Taken all together, the data about the activities of West Point’s Army engineers shows that they took on important but limited and specialized roles within the economy of the new and expanding nation.

  • 51 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 601.
  • 52 Graduates numbered 216, 552, 660, 982, 1237, and 1400 were mining engineers. G. W. Cullum, 1891a [ (...)
  • 53 Taking into account the 135 Army engineers previously noted, this means that altogether only 303, (...)

31Another way to assess West Point’s influence on the engineering profession is to look at the engineering work done by its graduates after their discharge from the Army. In many cases, graduates continued the same type of work they were doing in the Army, but now worked as civilians on a contract basis. George Meade (class of 1835) is an example. Meade worked both in the Army as part of the Corps of Topographical Engineers and outside of the Army as a civilian contract engineer on the same project: the “Survey to Establish the Northeastern Boundary Line between the United States and British Provinces”.51 Some others were hired by local state or city governments or even foreign governments for civil engineering projects similar to those they had worked on in the Army. In addition to government projects, some West Point graduates worked as engineers for private (or privately chartered) companies, such as railroad companies, and others worked as civil engineers in private practice. While there were exceptions, the work performed by West Point graduates outside of the Army tended to encompass surveying and construction work that aligned with their training at West Point and in the Army. There were some exceptions; six graduates, for example, worked as mining engineers.52 In total, out of the 1,493 graduates from 1802 to 1850, 208 performed some engineering work outside of the Army. Some of these civilian West Point engineers had earlier held positions as Army engineers, but it was not the norm. In fact, this was the case for only 40 of the 208 graduates who performed engineering work outside the Army.53

  • 54 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 594.

32To call all of these 208 West Point graduates “engineers”, is somewhat misleading because approximately half of these civilian engineers (93 to be precise) worked in the field for only a short time, defined for purposes of this study as a period of less than five years. For many of these men, engineering could be described as more of an activity than a profession. The graduating class of 1835, for example, had 56 graduates, 16 of whom took on some engineering work after leaving the Army. Of those, 11 continued for less than five years and instead moved into other professions and jobs, including farming, running businesses, practicing law, holding public office, and teaching. Robert M. Renick, for example, from the class of 1835,54 served briefly in the artillery unit upon graduation. He worked as an assistant and then as chief engineer for two railroad companies for the next three years, but spent the rest of his life in other fields. For the next 20 years until his death, Renick worked as a school principal, a colonel in the Missouri militia, an “oil miller”, a banker, and then a real estate agent and broker. This kind of movement in and out of fields was not unusual and again reflects the porous nature of the engineering profession (and indeed other professions) in those years.

33Figure 2 shows the total number of graduates (by graduation year) who practiced engineering outside of the Army and the numbers of graduates who practiced engineering for five years or more. While there were exceptions, the work performed by West Point graduates outside of the Army tended to encompass surveying and construction work that aligned with their training at West Point and in the Army. Note that while the number of graduates remained steady in the 1830s and 1840s, the number who took on engineering work outside the Army dropped precipitously. A financial crisis in 1837 led to a depression that lasted into the mid-1840s, so while enrollment in West Point remained steady (and the number of Army engineers relatively stable), the number of private industries and privately chartered companies that employed engineers dropped off dramatically.

Figure 2. West Point-trained civilian engineers compared to total number of graduates, by year of graduation

Figure 2. West Point-trained civilian engineers compared to total number of graduates, by year of graduation

Sources. Data are from G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868].

34By the early 19th century, by far the most common type of engineering work performed outside the Army was for railroad companies. Figure 3 separates out the civilian engineers who worked for railroad companies and compares their numbers to the total number of civilian engineers, by graduation year. The graph confirms that railroad expansion accounted for a large part of the increased demand for civilian, West Point-trained engineers in those years. It also reflects, as explained above, the country’s financial crisis of 1837 and the drop-off in demand for engineers, both within and outside the railroad industry.

Figure 3. West Point-trained civilian engineers who worked for railroad companies compared to total civilian engineers, by year of graduation

Figure 3. West Point-trained civilian engineers who worked for railroad companies compared to total civilian engineers, by year of graduation

Sources. Data are from G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868].

  • 55 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868] (graduates numbered 98, 127, 129, 150, 172, 175, 216 (...)

35A final way of understanding West Point’s relationship to the engineering profession is to broaden the lens to see what kinds of work the graduates performed outside of the Army, even if they did not, strictly speaking, hold positions as engineers. Figure 4 totals the number of graduates, by graduation year, doing work that was either engineering or “engineering-adjacent”. Those who graduated from West Point and spent time as officers in the Army acquired academic skills in mathematics and engineering, but also mechanical and technical skills that would be valuable outside of the Army in other professions. This includes, for example, careers in mathematics teaching, serving as the president of a railroad company, or working as a patent examiner. Of the 1,493 graduates in the years 1802 to 1850, 418 (or about 28% of the total) performed work that made use of the mathematics and technical training they received at West Point. Many took on administrative roles in industry and government after leaving the Army. Fifty-seven graduates were officers (presidents, vice-presidents, and treasurers) in railroad, mining, manufacturing and telegraph companies, among others, that employed engineers.55

Figure 4. West Point-trained engineers who engaged in engineering or engineering-adjacent work as civilians compared to total number of graduates, by graduation year

Figure 4. West Point-trained engineers who engaged in engineering or engineering-adjacent work as civilians compared to total number of graduates, by graduation year

Sources. Data are from G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868].

  • 56 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868] (graduates numbered 130, 134, 416, 431, 442, 449, 47 (...)
  • 57 Graduates numbered 1, 13, 52, 79, 83, 90, 96, 174, 186, 189, 212, 217, 220, 229, 233, 238, 240, 24 (...)
  • 58 This includes Alden Partridge (class of 1806) who founded Norwich College, and Horace Webster (cla (...)

36While West Point produced a large number of skilled graduates whose training was evidently valuable to government and private entities, the majority made other uses of their degrees, their experience and their connections. While many were military men who spent their careers in the Army, others held socially prominent positions in society that made no obvious use of the mathematical and technical training they had received. They became politicians, businessmen, and lawyers. Several graduates became clergymen.56 Many were well-connected Southerners who returned home to oversee cotton, rice, and sugar plantations after leaving the Army.57 Many became teachers, school principals, or even founded colleges.58

Conclusions

37A closer look at the careers of West Point graduates from the first half of the 19th century makes clear that the conventional wisdom about the school’s position and role in society in these years is two-dimensional, and that the reality is in fact more complex. West Point was indeed an important institution in the early history of the United States for a number of reasons that are beyond the scope of the present study. In addition to its prominent status as a cultural institution, West Point produced Army engineers who played a large role in the unglamorous and invisible work needed to establish a new country and make the subsequent economic growth possible. In addition to defense-related engineering work, Army engineers dredged rivers and harbors, cleared trees, blasted through rock to lay down interstate roads, constructed government buildings, and surveyed vast lands to establish the borders of a new country. In this respect, the work of Army engineers largely remained separate and parallel to the industrial work of the private sector in the 19th century. Some cross-over existed between public engineers and the private sector, but as this study shows, it was limited in scope. Some West Point-trained Army engineers were “loaned” to private railroad companies to help establish routes, but not on a large scale.

38When West Point graduates left the Army, they tended to take on limited types of construction and surveying projects consistent with their training. And yet the United States’ emerging engineering profession was much broader than that. The country’s growing manufacturing sector, for example, and the industrial and mechanical engineers who worked in those industries, thrived wholly apart from the work of the West-Point-trained engineers. Although West Point graduated 1,493 men in the years 1802 to 1850, only 115 graduates in that half century had sustained careers in engineering after leaving the Army, an average of only about four graduates per year. The number was not much higher even at the peak in the early to mid-1830s. Meanwhile, extrapolating from the sample years reported in the 1850 census report, around 50 trained engineers immigrated from Europe each year. Regardless of their particular roles, the number of West Point-trained engineers is so small compared to other sources of trained engineers that their impact and influence on the profession as a whole in these years can only be described as limited.

39Of course, influence comes not only from absolute numbers but from prestige, and there is reason to think that, in this respect, West Point’s influence on the engineering profession and on the 19th century United States generally is greater than would be suggested by the raw numbers. The presence of West Point graduates among the twelve engineers at the 1852 inaugural meeting of the ASCE suggests that this may be true. This study confirms that while only a small number of West Point graduates practiced engineering as a sustained profession after leaving the Army, it was common for graduates in these years to take on elite positions in society, and they were well represented in administrative and management roles in the kinds of private industries that employed engineers. It is reasonable to conclude that West Point’s engineers, while few in number, mostly operated in an elite stratum, above and apart from the vibrant communities of informally educated engineers that were emerging in the United States throughout the 19th century. This discrepancy helps to explain the frustration that ASCE members expressed in the late 19th century about their inability to establish standards and control the porous boundaries of their profession. While West Point’s importance as a cultural institution is undeniable, its influence on the engineering profession in the 19th century was, at most, indirect and limited.

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Bibliographie

Archival sources

Barnard, Henry, Military Schools and Courses of Instruction in the Science and Art of War in France, Prussia, Austria, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Sardinia, England, and the United States, New York, E. Steiger, 1872.

Cullum, George Washington, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy, at West Point, N. Y., from its Establishment, in 1802, to 1890. With the Early History of the United States Military Academy, Third Edition Revised and Extended, vol. 1, nos. 1 to 1000, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1891a [1868].

Cullum, George Washington, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy, at West Point, N. Y., from its Establishment, in 1802, to 1890. With the Early History of the United States Military Academy, Third Edition Revised and Extended, vol. 2, nos. 1001 to 2000, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1891b [1868].

DeBow, J. D. B. (ed.), The Seventh Census of the United States, 1850: Embracing a Statistical View of Each of the States and Territories…, Washington, DC, Robert Armstrong, 1853.

Ellis, William A., Roster of the Graduates and Past Cadets of Norwich University, the Military College of the State of Vermont, 1819-1907, Bradford, Opinion Press, 1907.

London Institution of Civil Engineers, The Education and Status of Civil Engineers in the United Kingdom and in Foreign Countries: Compiled from Documents Supplied to the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1868 to 1870, London, W. Clowes and Sons, 1870.

United States Census Bureau, Return of the Whole Number of Persons within the Several Districts of the United States, According to “An Act Providing for the Second Census or Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the United States”. Passed February the Twenty-Eight, One Thousand Eight Hundred. Printed by Order of the House of Representatives, Washington, DC, Government Printing Office, 1801.

Wayland, Francis, Report to the Corporation of Brown University on Changes in the System of Collegiate Education, Providence, G. H. Whitney Press, 1850.

Webster, Noah, An American Dictionary of the English Language; Exhibiting the Origin, Orthography, Pronunciation, and Definitions of Words, New York, White & Sheffield, 1841 [1828].

Secondary sources

Ambrose, Stephen E., Duty, Honor, Country: A History of West Point, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999 [1966].

Belhoste, Bruno, La formation d’une technocratie : l’École polytechnique et ses élèves de la Révolution au Second Empire, Paris, Belin, 2003.

Bernstein, Peter L., Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation, New York and London, W. W. Norton, 2005.

Calhoun, Daniel H., The American Civil Engineer: Origins and Conflict, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1960.

Calvert, Monte A., The Mechanical Engineer in America, 1830-1910, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 1967.

Crackel, Theodore J., West Point: A Bicentennial History, Lawrence, University Press of Kansas, 2002.

DeLony, Eric, Landmark American Bridges, New York, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1993.

Emmerson, George S., Engineering Education: A Social History, New York, Crane, Russak, & Co., 1973.

Griggs, Francis E. & Fitzsimons, Neal, “ASCE, Whither Goest Thou? I: History”, Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, vol. 123, no. 3, 1997, pp. 103-110.

Koeppel, Gerard T., Water for Gotham: A History, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2000.

Kranakis, Eda, “Social Determinants of Engineering Practice: A Comparative View of France and America in the Nineteenth Century”, Social Studies of Science, vol. 19, no. 1, 1989, pp. 5-70.

Layton, Edwin T., “American Ideologies of Science and Engineering”, Technology and Culture, vol. 17, no. 4, 1976, pp. 688-701.

Merritt, Raymond H., Engineering in American Society, 1850-1875, Lexington, The University Press of Kentucky, 1969.

Minicucci, Stephen, “Internal Improvements and the Union, 1790-1860”, Studies in American Political Development, vol. 18, no. 2, 2004, pp. 160-185.

Préveraud, Thomas, “Circulations mathématiques franco-américaines : transferts, réceptions, incorporations et sédimentations (1815-1876)”, PhD thesis in epistemology, history of science and technology, Université de Nantes, 2014.

Reynolds, Terry S., “The Education of Engineers in America before the Morrill Act of 1862”, History of Education Quarterly, vol. 32, no. 4, 1992, pp. 459-482.

White, John H., A History of the American Locomotive: Its Development, 1830-1880, New York, Dover Publications, 1979.

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Notes

1 Today it is called the American Society of Civil Engineers.

2 F. Griggs & N. Fitzsimmons, 1997, quoting the Railroad Gazette, p. 108.

3 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 5.

4 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 4. Cullum states in the dedication of the book that its purpose was to serve as a “future stimulus to still higher military achievements and civic usefulness”.

5 F. Wayland, 1850, p. 18.

6 H. Barnard, 1872, pp. 748-749.

7 G. S. Emmerson, 1973, p. 138.

8 T. Crackel, 2002, p. 3.

9 S. E. Ambrose, 1999 [1966], p. 97.

10 R. H. Merritt, 1969, p. 4.

11 E. Kranakis, 1989.

12 E. Kranakis, 1989, pp. 12-14, 20-21, 40-47.

13 E. Kranakis, 1989, pp. 46-47.

14 E. Kranakis, 1989, p. 21. See also E. T. Layton, 1976 (describing American 19th century engineering culture as skeptical and sometimes hostile towards scientific theories and excessive abstraction).

15 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 208.

16 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 43.

17 T. S. Reynolds, 1992. See also the register of Norwich graduates, which shows that in the five graduating classes of 1846 to 1850, Norwich produced only 36 (listed) graduates, 11 of whom practiced engineering after graduation. W. A. Ellis, 1907.

18 B. Belhoste, 2003, pp. 45-46.

19 H. Barnard, 1872, p. 752.

20 T. Crackel, 2002, p. 48.

21 T. Crackel, 2002, p. 95.

22 T. Crackel, 2002, p. 98.

23 T. Préveraud, 2014, pp. 78-86.

24 T. Préveraud, 2014, p. 86.

25 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868].

26 United States Census Bureau, 1801.

27 A book entitled Landmark American Bridges, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers shows this change over time. Stone bridges constructed in the early part of the 19th century were attributed to “builders”; the designers of bridges and viaducts made of stone, wood, or iron starting in the 1830s were working for canal and railroad companies and held the title of “engineer.” E. DeLony, 1993.

28 P. L. Bernstein, 2005, p. 191.

29 G. T. Koeppel, 2000.

30 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 52.

31 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 53.

32 London Institution of Civil Engineers, 1870, p. 167.

33 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 53.

34 M. A. Calvert, 1968.

35 J. H. White, 1997, pp. 5-14.

36 J. H. White, 1997, pp. 449-558.

37 J. D. B. DeBow, 1853, p. LXX.

38 Another 11,626 people in the 1850 census were categorized simply as “engineers”, a term that may have included those who designed and oversaw the construction of machinery but was also used broadly to include any skilled worker who “manages engines or artillery”. N. Webster, 1841 [1828], p. 298.

39 J. D. B. DeBow, 1853, p. LXXI. Nearly 100 categories are included, and there is no separate category for “civil engineer”, as there is in the previous page of the same document. Here, “engineer”, seems to mean professional engineer.

40 This number excludes the small number of people who received appointments but did not practice engineering because, for example, they taught at the Academy instead of taking on engineering projects, declined the appointment, or passed away.

41 Daniel P. Woodbury (class of 1836), for example, was actively involved in various aspects of the Civil War (1861-1865). In addition to constructing the temporary defenses of Washington, DC, he made “important reconnaissances” upon which strategic decisions were made and constructed “roads, field-works, and bridges” for the passage of troops. G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 633.

42 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 54.

43 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], pp. 182-183.

44 S. Minicucci, 2004.

45 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 163.

46 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], pp. 162-163 (describing the role of William Gibbs McNeill and the other Army engineers in surveying routes for canal and railroad companies as a result of the General Survey Act).

47 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 53.

48 D. H. Calhoun, 1960, p. 165.

49 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], pp. 629-660.

50 William Warner from the Corps of Topographical Engineers went on an expedition to explore California mountain passes for a railroad that would go from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 635.

51 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 601.

52 Graduates numbered 216, 552, 660, 982, 1237, and 1400 were mining engineers. G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868].

53 Taking into account the 135 Army engineers previously noted, this means that altogether only 303, or about 20%, of West Point’s graduates performed any engineering work at all, in or out of the Army.

54 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868], p. 594.

55 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868] (graduates numbered 98, 127, 129, 150, 172, 175, 216, 231, 266, 293, 297, 301, 326, 334, 445, 448, 470, 475, 491, 534, 541, 546, 566, 648, 665, 671, 681, 683, 723, 724, 737, 753, 802, 816, 832, 833, 845, 903, 938, 988, 989, 1021, 1064, 1110, 1112, 1115, 1139, 1174, 1212, 1234, 1255, 1273, 1276, 1284, 1285, 1348, 1369 were corporate officers in industries related to transportation, manufacturing, mining, and electricity).

56 G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868] (graduates numbered 130, 134, 416, 431, 442, 449, 477, 570, 590, 602, 629, 670, and 991 were all listed as “clergy” or “bishop”).

57 Graduates numbered 1, 13, 52, 79, 83, 90, 96, 174, 186, 189, 212, 217, 220, 229, 233, 238, 240, 247, 271, 324, 330, 367, 398, 414, 438, 453, 462, 506, 530, 544, 567, 582, 612, 667, 713, 745, 757, 772, 774, 805, 812, 884, 903, 922, 943, 966, 1017, 1046, 1048, 1075, 1088, 1119, 1143, 1180, 1183, 1209, 1233, 1385, 1440, 1476, 1486 are all listed at some point in their civilian careers as a “planter” in the South. G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868].

58 This includes Alden Partridge (class of 1806) who founded Norwich College, and Horace Webster (class of 1818), the founder of Hobart College.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. West Point-trained army engineers compared to total number of graduates, by year of graduation
Crédits Sources. Data are from G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868]. (Note that there were no graduates in 1810 or 1816.)
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/histoiremesure/docannexe/image/20113/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 370k
Titre Figure 2. West Point-trained civilian engineers compared to total number of graduates, by year of graduation
Crédits Sources. Data are from G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868].
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/histoiremesure/docannexe/image/20113/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 319k
Titre Figure 3. West Point-trained civilian engineers who worked for railroad companies compared to total civilian engineers, by year of graduation
Crédits Sources. Data are from G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868].
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/histoiremesure/docannexe/image/20113/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 298k
Titre Figure 4. West Point-trained engineers who engaged in engineering or engineering-adjacent work as civilians compared to total number of graduates, by graduation year
Crédits Sources. Data are from G. W. Cullum, 1891a [1868]; id., 1891b [1868].
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/histoiremesure/docannexe/image/20113/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 402k
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Sian Zelbo, « The Role of the United States Military Academy at West Point in the Formation of America’s Engineering Profession (1802 to 1850) »Histoire & mesure, XXXVIII-2 | 2023, 217-240.

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Sian Zelbo, « The Role of the United States Military Academy at West Point in the Formation of America’s Engineering Profession (1802 to 1850) »Histoire & mesure [En ligne], XXXVIII-2 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2024, consulté le 23 mai 2024. URL : http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/histoiremesure/20113 ; DOI : https://0-doi-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/10.4000/histoiremesure.20113

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Sian Zelbo

Department of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, Teachers College, Columbia University. E-mail: sez2105@tc.columbia.edu

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