Scope and Content
Title: David E. Hughes Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1880-1942 (bulk 1920-1935)
Collection number: MS 77/1
Hughes, David Edward, 1861-1942
Extent: 2 linear ft. (4 boxes)
Water Resources Collections and Archives
Shelf location: This collection is stored off-campus at NRLF. Please contact the Water Resources Collections and Archives staff for access
to the materials.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Water Resources Collections and Archives. All requests for
permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head
of Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Water Resources Collections and Archives as the owner of
the physical items and is not intended to include or imply
permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], David E. Hughes Papers, MS 77/1, Water Resources Collections and Archives, University of California,
United States. Army. Corps of Engineers. Los Angeles District.
Shore protection --California
Tide-waters --Law and legislation --California
Tide-waters --Law and legislation --United States
Submerged lands --Law and legislation --California
San Pedro Harbor (Calif.)
Los Angeles Harbor (Calif.)
Long Beach Harbor (Calif.)
Los Angeles River (Calif.)
Newport Bay (Calif.)
San Diego Harbor (Calif.)
David Edward Hughes was born on September 21, 1861 at Palmyra, Ohio, the son of Evan and
Ann Johns Hughes. His youth was spent in that locality attending school, farming for his
widowed mother, and working in sandstone quarries. At the age of sixteen he moved to
Dunigan in Northern California.
He was largely self-educated, devoting every spare moment to study in both medicine and
engineering. He taught in country schools and at Pierce College, College City,
California, and, although still in his early twenties, became a professor of mathematics.
Hughes was one of the finest applied mathematicians of his generation. He evolved,
calculated, and published a table on the perfect transition ("Sickle") curve, or American
spiral, which was used on the construction of the Chicago elevated railroad, as well as
on other projects.
In 1893, he accepted employment with the U.S. Engineer Department, remaining with that
service until his retirement in 1932. His first work for the War Department was on the
improvement of Humboldt Bay, California, stabilizing the entrance by jetty construction.
In 1902 he was transferred to the newly created Los Angeles Engineer District and, for
the following thirty years, was its ranking civilian engineer. He built jetties and
fortifications at San Diego, Calif., and breakwaters and fortifications for Los
Angeles-Long Beach Harbor. For a year he served as engineer for a board appointed by
President Taft to determine the site and the design for San Carlos Dam, later Coolidge
Dam, in Arizona. His was the guiding hand in the establishment of federal harbor lines
along the Southern California coast. These lines determined the development of the
Hughes investigated tideland law and ownership and became an authority on the subject.
Typically, he urged and aided in the litigation that restored the local tidelands to the
people and resulted in municipally owned harbors. He experimented and wrote on
seiche. He evolved the idea of substitution of
waste dredging for the costly stone in the strengthening of breakwaters, and the vast
chain at San Pedro, or Los Angeles, Harbor, built from this design is a monument to him.
Hughes was married to Lydia Wiklund in 1913 at Florence, Arizona. He was elected a member
of the American Society of Civil Engineers on September 6, 1905. He died on November 19,
Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers,
v. 109 (1944), p. 1495-1497.
Scope and Content
Correspondence and reports pertaining to Los Angeles Harbor, San Pedro Harbor, Long Beach
Harbor, Los Angeles River, Newport Bay, San Diego Harbor, Santa Monica breakwater, and
the Point Fermin landslide (1929). Includes materials on tides and boundaries.
The collection was given to the Water Resources Collections and Archives in March 1977 by Richard
O. Eaton, of Sun City, Arizona. Mr. Eaton worked with Hughes at the office of the Los
Angeles District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.