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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Collection Arrangement
  • Introduction
  • Publications
  • Career History
  • Preferred Citation
  • Related Materials
  • Collection Scope and Contents
  • Publication Rights
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Charles H. Lee papers and photographs
    Date (inclusive): 1905-1959
    Collection Number: WRCA 071
    Creator: Lee, Charles H. (Charles Hamilton), 1883-1967
    Extent: 24 linear feet (57 boxes)
    Repository: Rivera Library. Special Collections Department.
    Riverside, CA 92517-5900
    Languages: The collection is in English


    Collection is open for research.

    Acquisition Information

    This collection was bequeathed to the Water Resources Collections and Archives by Mr. Charles H. Lee.

    Collection Arrangement

    The collection is arranged in the original order in which it was kept by Charles H. Lee, i.e. chronologically. His file numbering system has been adopted with minor changes to accomodate miscellaneous material. Numbers are not sequential in all cases, indicating files which were not included among the donated materials. Reports of his soil testing laboratory, included in the collection, form a separate chronologically arranged group. If not otherwise designated, geographic locations are in California.


    Charles Hamilton Lee was born February 1, 1883, in Oakland, California, and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1905.
    He then began his career as a hydrographer for the U.S. Geological Survey but resigned in 1906 to become assistant engineer for the city of Los Angeles. From 1906-1911, he was involved in design and construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. During this period his report on the groundwater basin of the Independence region of the Owens Valley was published as U.S.G.S. Water Supply Paper 294.
    From 1912-1917 he had his own practice as a civil and hydraulic engineer in Los Angeles, serving in 1912 as hydraulic engineer for the California State Conservation Commission. Work from this period is the earliest represented in this collection and deals primarily with water supply, both surface and groundwater, and irrigation.
    World War I interrupted his career and from 1917-1919 Lee served in France as captain in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, concerned with military water supply and sanitation. Returning after the war, he was appointed President of the State Water Commission of California and subsequently Chief of the Division of Water Rights. In this capacity he had an active influence on water resource development in California.
    In 1921 Lee again set up private practice, this time in San Francisco, doing a wide variety of work in all phases of water supply and structural foundation. A major client was the city of Los Angeles for whom he did work connected with the Owens Valley, in large part relating to pending litigation. In 1926 he also established the Pacific Hydrologic Laboratory, the first soils engineering Laboratory on the West Coast.
    In addition to work performed for the city of Los Angeles, Lee was consulting engineer for several other California municipalities and numerous U.S. departments and agencies including the State of California; water, public utility, and irrigation districts; and private companies and individuals in California and elsewhere. He was consulting engineer for the fill project which built Treasure Island and from 1936-1939 he was chief of Water Supply and Sanitation for the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island.
    Other soil engineering work included slide repairs, foundation engineering, tunnels, and earth dams. He was recipient of the 1939 Norman Medal awarded by the American Society of Civil Engineers for his research on materials for earth fill dams.
    Charles H. Lee was the author of a number of papers during his career. He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Water Works Association, American Sewage Works Association, Seismological Society of America, California Sewage Works Association, and the American Geophysical Union. He died at his home in Berkeley on May 4, 1967, at the age of 84.


    Publications on Groundwater Hydrology
    1. "An Intensive Study of a part of Owens Valley, California," Water Supply Paper 294, U.S. Geological "The Determination of Safe Yield Underground
    2. Reservoirs of the Closed-Basin" -- Transactions, Am. Soc. Civil Engineers, Vol. LXXVIII, p. 148 (1915).
    3. "The Interpretation of Water Levels in Wells and Test Holes," National Research Council, Trans. Am. Geophysical Union, Section of Hydrology, Part II, 1934.
    4. "Classification and Definitions of Subsurface Water.) Bul. 24, International Union of Geodesy and Geo- physics, International Assoc. of Scientific Hydrology, Washington, D.C. September 4-15, 1939.
    5. "Subterranean Storage of Floodwater by Artificial Methods in San Bernardino Valley, California," Report of Conservation Commission, State of California, January 1913.
    6. "Evaporation and Transpiration with Special Reference to a Salt Water Barrier below confluence of Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers," Appendix C, Bul. 28, California Department of Public Works, Division of Water Resources, 1931.
    7. "Drainage and Leaching at Treasure Island," Convention Proceedings, 1939, American Road Builders' Association.
    8. "Sealing the Lagoon Lining at Treasure Island with Salt," (Trans. A.S.C.E. Vol. 106, p. 577, 1941). Transpiration and Total Evaporation, (Chapter VIII), HYDROLOGY, by Charles H. Lee, Edited by Oscar E. Meinzer, 1942.
    9. Selection of Materials for Rolled-Fill Earth Dams, (Trans. A.S.C.E. Vol. 103, p. 1, 1938). Building Foundations in San Francisco, Proceedings A.S.C.E. Separate, No. 325, November 1953."
    10. Friant-San Joaquin River Litigation, (Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Div., Proc. A.S.C.E. December, 1961.)

    Career History

    Below is a chronological outline of Charles H. Lee's professional activities and involvements.
    1905-1966 Sixty years as civil engineer, specializing in hydraulics, sanitation, irrigation, municipal water supply, and surface and groundwater hydrology... including seepage into and from streams, precipitation, evaporation, transpiration, consumptive use, well fluctuation and yield, interpretation of groundwater contour maps, and safe yield of underground reservoirs.
    1905-1906 Hydrographic engineer, U. S. Geological Survey; Stream gaging throughout California, including Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, Southern California, Colorado River.
    1906-1911 Assistant Engineer, City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Los Angeles Aqueduct, - 1 year on Aqueduct design; 1 year on precise leveling for con ol of aqueduct construction; 3 years in charge surface and underground water in investigations in Owens Valley. Prepared numerous reports, one of which was published by U.S. Geological Survey as Water Supply Paper 294. Also made study of irrigation diversions and practice in Owens Valley in connection with proposed storage regulation at Long Valley and on Big Pine Creek; later made surveys for hydroelectric development at Owens River Gorge and Big Pine Creek and transmission line to City of Los Angeles.
    1912 Hydraulic Engineer, California State Conservation Commission - in charge groundwater investigations, including special study of replenishment of pumped well supplies by spreading torrential flood waters of Santa Ana River in San Bernardino Valley, Calif. (Report published by the State of California.)
    1912-1917 Engaged in private practice as Civil and Hydraulic Engineer in Los Angeles, including irrigation, water supply, groundwater and geology in States of California, Nevada and New Mexico.
    1917-1919 On special military duty in France as Captain, Corps of Engineers, U.S.A., with American Expeditionary Forces, General Headquarters, on military water supply and sanitation. Assigned to Water Intelligence duty, including general study of geology and hydrology of theatre of war, and control of all drilling equipment and to advise on water development at military bases. Assigned to duty as Water Intelligence Officer, Water Supply Service, 1st Army, during latter part of war.
    1919-1921 Served as President, State Water Commission of California, and later, Chief of Division of Water Rights, State Department of Public Works. This was during a period of very active development of water resources in California and applications to appropriate water for storage and direct diversions throughout the State were acted upon.
    1921-1966 (?) Engaged in private practice as consulting engineer in San Francisco, including irrigation, water supply, land drainage, flood control, sewage works, water works, ground water investigations and utilization, and structural foundations. Practiced in California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico, Idaho, Hawaii, Jamaica, Thailand. Clients: U.S. Governmental departments including Army, Navy, State, Justice, Public Health Service, Bureau of Reclamations, Veterans Bureau, Geological Survey; State of California, municipalities, counties, water, public utility and irrigation districts, public utilities, private companies and individuals.

    Preferred Citation

    [identification of item], [date if possible]. Charles H. Lee papers and photographs (WRCA 071). Water Resources Collections and Archives. Special Collections & University Archives, University of California, Riverside.

    Related Materials

    Papers resulting from Charles H. Lee's work with the State Conservation Commission (1912) and later with the State Water Commission and Division of Water Rights (1919-1921) are not among the materials here. They presumably are in the State Archives in Sacramento.

    Collection Scope and Contents

    This collection contains reports, correspondence, documents, maps, photographs, clippings, etc., pertaining to projects in hydraulics, sanitation, irrigation, municipal water supply, surface water and groundwater hydrology, and soil in California and other Western states, particularly for the City of Los Angeles regarding water supply from the Owens Valley.

    Publication Rights

    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 Director of Distinctive Collections. 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.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-1940 : San Francisco, Calif.)
    Colorado River Aqueduct (Calif.)
    Dams -- California -- Eel River
    Earthquakes -- California -- San Francisco
    Elephant Butte Dam (N. M.)
    Fort Stanton (N.M.)
    Hetch Hetchy Valley (Calif.)
    Los Angeles Aqueduct (Calif.)
    Mono Basin (Calif.)
    Mono Lake (Calif.)
    Mono Lake (Calif.) -- Water rights
    Owens River (Calif.)
    Owens River (Calif.) -- Water rights
    Owens Valley (Calif.)
    Saint Francis Dam (Calif.)
    San Bernardino Valley (Calif.)
    San Joaquin Valley (Calif.)
    San Luis Rey River (Calif.)
    Sierra Nevada (Calif. and Nev.)
    Tulare Lake (Calif.)
    Water resources development -- California -- Inyo County
    Water resources development -- California -- San Diego County
    Water-supply -- California
    Water-supply -- California -- Los Angeles
    Yosemite Valley (Calif.)