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Finding Aid to the M.M. O'Shaughnessy photograph collection, circa 1885-1986 (bulk 1890-1934)
BANC PIC 1992.058  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: M.M. O'Shaughnessy photograph collection
    Date (inclusive): circa 1885-1986
    Date (bulk): 1890-1934
    Collection Number: BANC PIC 1992.058
    Extent: 9 cartons, 10 volumes, 4 oversize boxes, 8 oversize folders, 6 boxes (negatives), 2 sleeves (strip negatives), 1 object 90 digital objects (91 images)
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: The M.M. (Michael Maurice) O’Shaughnessy photograph collection, 1887-1986, consists of photographic prints, film negatives, reports, albums, cartoons, lantern slides and ephemera relating to M.M. O’Shaughnessy’s professional life as a civil engineer, working first as a consultant in private practice, and later as City Engineer of San Francisco. The bulk of the collection documents the construction of the Hetch Hetchy Water Supply system, which O’Shaughnessy directed during his tenure as City Engineer of San Francisco. In addition, there is material relating to his personal life and family.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers

    Access Information

    COLLECTION STORED, IN PART, OFF-SITE: Advance notice required for use. RESTRICTED NEGATIVES: Use of negatives only by permission of the appropriate curator. OVERSIZED "--H" RESTRICTED DUE TO SIZE: Advance notice required for use.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], M.M. O'Shaughnessy photograph collection, BANC PIC 1992.058, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Alternate Forms Available

    Digital reproductions of selected images are available.

    Related Material

    M.M. (Michael Maurice) O’Shaughnessy papers, 1982-1937, BANC MSS 92/808 c
    O’Shaughnessy family papers, circa 1920s-1980s, BANC MSS 2003/229 c

    Separated Material

    Three unrelated collections were received with the O'Shaughnessy photographs and have been cataloged separately.
    Harry M. Guy photograph collection, BANC PIC 1992.081
    Irina Tolstoy photograph collection, BANC PIC 1992.082
    Sheehy and Rodman family photograph collection, BANC PIC 1992.083

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
    Civil engineers--California--Photographs
    Dam failures--California--Los Angeles County--Photographs
    Dams--Design and construction--California--Photographs
    Flood control--California--Photographs
    Public works--California--San Francisco--Photographs
    Street-railroads--California--San Francisco--Pictorial works
    Water-supply--San Francisco (Calif.)--Photographs
    Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (Calif.)--Pictorial works
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Pictorial works
    Cartoons (Commentary)
    Editorial cartoons
    Photograph albums
    Photographic prints

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    M. M. O’Shaughnessy photograph collection was received by The Bancroft Library from two sources. The first portion was purchased from Butterfield & Butterfield on March 6, 1992. The second, and much larger portion, was given to The Bancroft Library by Elizabeth O’Shaughnessy on August 15, 1992.
    The material donated by Miss O’Shaughnessy formed the manuscript collection, BANC MSS 92/808. The photographs were transferred from BANC MSS 92/808, and merged with BANC PIC 1992.058. The rationale was that all the material was originally part of a single collection, and that there was no apparent reason to leave them as two separate collections. There was no attempt to distinguish the items originally contained in the purchase from those originally contained in the gift.


    No additions are expected.

    Biographical Information

    Michael Maurice (M. M.) O’Shaughnessy was born in Limerick, Ireland, on May 28, 1864, the son of Patrick and Margaret (O’Donnell) O’Shaughnessy. One of nine children, he was educated in the public schools in Ireland, and attended Queen’s College, Cork, and then in Galway. He graduated with honors from the Royal University, Dublin on October 21,1884, and received the degree of Bachelor of Engineering.
    0n March 8, 1885, O’Shaughnessy sailed for America and ten days later reached New York City, then proceeded on to San Francisco, arriving on March 30, 1885. He began his career working as Assistant Engineer, first for the Sierra Valley and Mohawk Railroad (1885-1886) and later for Southern Pacific Railroad (1886-1888) at various locations throughout California. He began private consulting as a civil engineer in August 1888, and undertook the surveying and engineering of land developments in California, laying out a number of small towns. From 1890 to 1898, he was in general engineering practice in California, with an office in San Francisco. He served as Chief Engineer of the 1893 California Mid-winter International Exposition; was Chief Engineer for the Mountain Copper Company and built 12 miles of narrow-gauge railroad in Shasta, California in 1895; and completed projects for several corporations, including the Spring Valley Water Company.
    From 1899 to 1906, O’Shaughnessy was engaged in the design and construction of four large irrigation and hydraulic projects on about twenty sugar plantations in the Hawaiian Islands, including Olokele Aqueduct, Kauai; Koolau Aqueduct, Maui; and Kohola Aqueduct, Hawaii. From 1907 to 1912, he served as both Chief Engineer and Consulting Engineer for John D. and Adolph Spreckels’ Southern California Mountain Water Company in San Diego, and completed the Dulzura Conduit and Morena Rock Fill Dam. Other work during this period included Throttle Dam (New Mexico), channel rectification on the Salinas River for Spreckels Sugar Company, Crocker-Huffman Dam on the Merced River, and development of the water works at Port Costa.
    On September 1, 1912, O’Shaughnessy was appointed City Engineer by Mayor James Rolph, and received a yearly salary of $15,000—almost double that of his predecessor. He held the position for twenty years – until January 8, 1932, when a new City Charter was adopted that separated the ordinary work of the City Engineer from that of its public utilities, including the municipal water supply. On February 8, 1932, the newly formed Public Utilities Commission appointed him Consulting Engineer for Hetch Hetchy Water Supply, a position that he held until his death in 1934. Accomplishments during his tenure as San Francisco City Engineer include extensions of streets and sewers, design and construction of boulevards, tunnels, bridges, development of a high pressure fire system and fire alarm signal station, and municipally owned utilities, including a street railway system and water supply and hydro-electric power projects.
    The major part of O’Shaughnessy’s time and interest were occupied with the Hetch Hetchy Water Supply project. Former City Engineer Carl E. Grunsky had selected the Tuolumne River as the source of water for San Francisco, but there were lengthy delays due to opposition from many sources. O’Shaughnessy’s immediate predecessor, Marsden Manson, kept the project alive, and following engineer John R. Freeman’s report on the project in 1912, Congress approved President Wilson’s grant of the federal lands to San Francisco. Construction work began in 1914 in the mountains and was finally completed in 1934, when water first reached reservoirs. The work required building a railroad, power plants and transmission lines, several storage dams and reservoirs, and an aqueduct. During the lengthy period of construction, O’Shaughnessy resisted attacks by numerous opponents of the project who sought to stop the progress of the work. In July 1923, the dam at Hetch Hetchy Valley was dedicated in his honor, and officially given the name, O’Shaughnessy Dam.
    Throughout his career, O’Shaughnessy served as a consulting engineer for a wide variety of projects, including municipal, state and federal government endeavors, as well as corporate and private enterprise. Notable among these are water and power projects throughout California, including Strawberry Dam (Stanislaus River); Lower Otay, Barrett and El Capitan Dams (San Diego); Alpine Dam (Marin County); Bowman Dam (Yuba River); and Juncal Dam (Santa Barbara); and elsewhere in the U.S., including Skagit River, Seattle and Dix River, Kentucky. He advised on municipal transportation systems, including street railways in Detroit, Michigan and Tacoma, Washington, and waterfront development in Portland, Oregon. He also served in an advisory capacity for Marin County Municipal Water District and as Acting Commissioner of the waters of Lake Tahoe for the Department of the Interior. O’Shaughnessy was called upon as an expert witness in several land valuation cases, and reported on his studies of earthquakes for the City of Santa Barbara, and on the St. Francis Dam failure.
    M. M. O’Shaughnessy was elected a Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers on June 4, 1902, and was active in the San Francisco Section, serving as its President in 1920. He was a regular contributor to the publications of the Society, and in 1913 won the James Laurie Prize for his article on the construction of Morena Dam, the largest rock fill dam in the world. He was a member of the American Water Works Association, American Society of Military Engineers, American Society for Testing Materials, and the Seismological Society, and regularly lectured to engineering students at Stanford University, University of Santa Clara, and the University of California, Berkeley.
    In 1890, M. M. O’Shaughnessy married Mary Spottiswood of San Francisco. They had four daughters (Margaret, Mary, Elizabeth, and Helen) and two sons (Francis J. and Maurice, who died in early childhood). In 1893, O’Shaughnessy built a summer cottage at 60 Summit Avenue, Mill Valley, which eventually evolved into a 3-story, 10-room home with a tennis court, barn, and gardens laid out by John McLaren, the designer of Golden Gate Park. In 1912, O’Shaughnessy purchased 2732 Vallejo Street as the family’s San Francisco residence, although they continued to spend summers in Mill Valley. He was a member of the Commonwealth Club of California, University Club, Chit Chat Club, Presidio Golf Club, Save the Redwoods League, and the American Irish Historical Society, and throughout his life remained an active member of the Roman Catholic Church.
    M. M. O’Shaughnessy died of heart failure on October 12, 1934, just a few days before the mountain water from Hetch Hetchy flowed into the reservoirs.
    Sources include:Memoirs: Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1934.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The M.M. O’Shaughnessy photograph collection contains photographic prints, film negatives, photographically illustrated reports, albums, cartoons, lantern slides and ephemera from 1887 to 1986. The majority relate to M.M. O’Shaughnessy’s professional life as a civil engineer, working first as a consultant in private practice, and later as City Engineer of San Francisco. The bulk of the collection documents the construction of the Hetch Hetchy Water Supply system, which O’Shaughnessy directed during his tenure as City Engineer of San Francisco. In addition, there is some material relating to his personal life and family.
    The collection has been divided into three series. The first two series, Consulting Engineer and Miscellaneous Professional Material, and San Francisco City Engineer, contain photographs of engineering projects he supervised or was consulted for. A good portion of these photographs were taken by professional photographers, both identified and unidentified. The remaining photographs are snapshots probably taken by M.M. O’Shaughnessy. The third series, Personal, Family and Miscellany contain photographs of M.M. O’Shaughnessy and his family, and miscellaneous ephemera collected by them.
    As a consulting engineer, M.M. O’Shaughnessy worked on projects at various locations throughout California and the West. Most of the projects represented in the Consulting Engineer and Miscellaneous Professional Related Material series are related to water engineering, especially dams. His early career is represented by photographs of irrigation projects for various sugar plantations in Hawaii. When he returned to California, he became Chief Engineer of the Southern California Mountain Water Company. The collection includes photographs of the many dams and water systems in San Diego County including Morena Dam.
    In 1912, when M.M. O’Shaughnessy was appointed City Engineer of San Francisco, he became responsible for major redevelopment as he directed municipal projects undertaken by the city after the earthquake and fire of 1906. These included major thoroughfare projects, the San Francisco Municipal Railway, the city’s Civic Center, bridges, and sewage systems, many of which are documented in this collection. Also included in the collection are aerial views of the city, various city events, and miscellaneous subjects mostly related to San Francisco during the time of O’Shaughnessy’s tenure as City Engineer.
    One of the largest challenges O’Shaughnessy faced in his career was the construction of the Hetch Hetchy Water Supply system for the city of San Francisco. Visual documentation related to the project forms a sub-series under San Francisco City Engineer, and constitutes the bulk of the entire collection. The photographs date from early planning surveys in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1906 to the 1934 “holing through” of the Coast Range Tunnel, which provided for the arrival of mountain water to the local San Francisco distribution system later that year.
    O’Shaughnessy documented the projects he supervised by taking snapshots, and writing travel diaries and notes while on inspection trips to work sites. He also relied on professional photographers to record the stages of construction. Later he would create reports and albums using collected photographs, or his own snapshots, to show what he thought was important in the development of the project. A single report or album can span several years of a project, or focus on a single day. Included are brief annotations with the images, or several pages of text. The photographic reports and albums are listed within the subjects’ corresponding series. Travel diaries, notes and text reports are found in manuscript collection, M.M. (Michael Maurice) O’Shaughnessy papers, BANC MSS 92/808 c.
    Many views of construction projects present in thie collection were taken by San Francisco City Photographer Horace B. Chaffee. Of note are those he photographed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains documenting the Hetch Hetchy system. Other identified photographers within the collection include, Francis P. Farquhar (Hetch Hetchy before construction), Gabriel Moulin (Exchequer Dam and O’Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir), Frank D. Robinson (Exchequer Dam), Charles M. Hiller (Islais Creek reclamation), R.P. Stineman (Lower and Upper Otay Dams, Morena Dam and Sweetwater Dam), O.J. Todd (Early Intake), and I.W. Taber (copy prints of historic views of San Francisco area).
    The original order of the collection is not known, but it is known that the collection has changed since MM O’Shaughnessy left it when he died. The collection survived a fire at the O’Shaughnessy home in 1987. The Bancroft Library staff has reassembled the collection to its present state.
    Three distinct collections of photographs, originally found with this collection, were removed and given separate call numbers. These included the family photographs of Harry Maurice Guy (BANC PIC 1992.081), the Sheehy and Rodman family (BANC PIC 1992.083), and the photograph collection of Russian Countess Irina Tolstoy (BANC PIC 1992.082). The relation of these people to M.M. O’Shaughnessy and/or his daughters has not been determined.
    The collection does include some modern photographic prints. These are selections of unprinted negatives printed by the Library Photographic Service. Many negatives were discarded during processing because of deterioration.


    A small number photographs have been retained within the M.M. O’Shaughnessy papers, BANC MSS 92/808 c. These are photographs that have been determined to be integral to the accompanying reports and textual records. The location of the photos are noted in the container listing of manuscript finding aid under the related folder. Notes follow the pattern: Includes photographs (supplementary or duplicate): # of prints and negatives. "Duplicate" indicates that other copies are found in BANC PIC 1992.058--PIC.