Finding Aid for the R. R. Martel Papers 1922-1935

Processed by Nurit Lifshitz.
Caltech Archives
California Institute of Technology
1200 East California Blvd.
Mail Code 015A-74
Pasadena, CA 91125
Phone: (626) 395-2704
Fax: (626) 793-8756
California Institute of Technology. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: R. R. Martel Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1922-1935
Collection number: 10215-MS
Creator: Martel, R. R. (Romeo Raoul) 1890-1965
Extent: 3 linear feet
Repository: California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives
Pasadena, California 91125
Abstract: The correspondence, manuscripts, reports, photos, and published papers of Romeo Raoul Martel (1890-1965) form the collection known as the R. R. Martel Papers in the Archives of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Martel was professor of civil engineering at Caltech from 1918 until his retirement in 1960. Prof. Martel was a pioneer in the earthquake-resistant design of structures and in earthquake engineering research. He also served as a consulting engineer for the cities of Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank, Riverside and Los Angeles.
Physical location: Archives, California Institute of Technology.
Language of Material:
Languages represented in the collection:


The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

Publication Rights

Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Caltech Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise, is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], R. R. Martel Papers, 10215-MS, Caltech Archives, California Institute of Technology.

Acquisition Information

The small collection of R. R. Martel Papers were donated to the Caltech Archives by Professor George W. Housner in April 2002.


Romeo Raoul Martel was born in Iberville, Quebec in 1890, and moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, with his family a year later. He graduated from Brown University in 1912 and taught civil engineering at Rhode Island State College for a year, and at the Mechanics Institute in Rochester, New York, for another year.
During 1915-1918, he was engaged in civil engineering work in industry. He worked as an assistant engineer for the Sayles Finishing Plants in Rhode Island and at the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in Amarillo, Texas. In 1918, he was invited to join the faculty of Caltech, where he became a full professor of civil engineering in 1930.
R. R. Martel served as a consultant on the construction of Pasadena's San Rafael Bridge in 1921 and later consulted on the designs of the Linda Vista and Colorado Street bridges. He also served as a consulting engineer for the cities of Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank, Riverside and Los Angeles. He consulted on the design of flood control structures and reservoirs for the US Army Corps of Engineers in Los Angeles, and served on the Advisory Committee of Engineering of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey between 1947-1952.
Professor Martel was one of the first engineers interested in the field of earthquake resistant structures. He was one of the founders, along with Dr. George W. Housner, of the independent non-profit Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, which was established in 1952 to promote research on safe and economical earthquake resistant structures.
R. R. Martel was a member of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineers, the Seismological Society of America, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Concrete Institute, the Société des Ingénieurs Civils de France, and a past president of the Structural Engineering Association of Southern California.
R. R. Martel passed away on February 28, 1965.

Scope and Content

The small collection of R. R. Martel Papers comprise four boxes of correspondence, research notes, reports and photographs. They cover the time period of 1922 through 1935.
About a third of R. R. Martel's collection deals with the Long Beach Earthquake, which occurred on March 10, 1933. A variety of material regarding that earthquake, from related correspondence to reports, can be found in Series 2.
In 1926, Martel was a delegate of the Southern California Council on Earthquake Protection to the 3rd Pan-Pacific Science Congress in Tokyo, and again in 1929, to the World Engineering Congress there. Material regarding these conferences and others can be found in Series 3.
Martel was consultant on the design and construction of many buildings and structures, both public and private. Rare and unique photos of earthquake damage to a variety of those structures in the U.S.A. and Japan can be found in Series 4.
Rare journals and reprints from the late 1920s to the early 1930s, as well as Martel's remarks on earthquakes can be found in Series 5.
The collection is organized into the following series:
  • Series 1. Correspondence
  • Series 2. Long Beach Earthquake (March 10, 1933)
  • Series 3. Talks and Conferences
  • Series 4. Maps and Photos
  • Series 5. Publications

Related Material

Researchers should also examine the Papers of Robert A. Millikan, Don L. Anderson, and John P. Buwalda, as well as the oral histories of George W. Housner and Donald Hudson, which are deposited in the Caltech Archives.

Indexing Terms

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


California Institute of Technology
Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
Civil engineering
Earthquake engineering
Earthquake resistant design


Civil engineers

Container List


Series 1. Correspondence

Box 1, Folder 1

Board of Fire Underwriters of the Pacific 1927, 1933

Box 1, Folder 2

California Uniform Building Code 1933-1935

Box 1, Folder 3

Dewell, Henry D. 1928

Box 1, Folder 4

McBean, A. 1934

Box 1, Folder 5

McLean, Ralph S. 1933-1934

Box 1, Folder 6

Richter, R. M. 1934

Box 1, Folder 7

Miscellaneous correspondence

Scope and Content Note

  • Burne, Stanley 1933
  • Clay Products Institute of California 1928
  • Derrick, C. J. 1934
  • Doolittle, H. L. 1931
  • Erick, Murray undated
  • Garrett, J. A. 1933
  • Gregory, S. M. 1933
  • Hadley, Homer M. 1933
  • Hayes, J. E. 1935
  • Maher, T. J. 1933
  • Naito, T. 1927
  • Querida, Quinta 1933
  • Simons Brick Company 1933
  • Whittlesey, H. C. 1933
  • Wilder, Robert M. 1933

Series 2. Long Beach Earthquake (March 10, 1933)


Related Correspondence

Box 1, Folder 8

Binder, R. W. 1933

Box 1, Folder 9

Davies, J. H. 1933-1934

Box 1, Folder 10

Hammill, Harold B. 1933

Box 1, Folder 11

Marshal, Donald E. 1933

Box 1, Folder 12

Miller, A. F. G. 1933

Box 1, Folder 13

Narver, D. L. 1933

Box 1, Folder 14

Shield, J. E. 1933-1934

Box 1, Folder 15

Sweeney, John 1932-1933


School Buildings

Box 1, Folder 16

"Estimates of cost for rehabilitation of Los Angeles City schools," excerpt from Southwest Builder and Contractor 1933 Dec

Box 1, Folder 17

Report: "Certain information pertaining to the problem of reconstructing, rehabilitating, and strengthening school buildings of Los Angeles City" 1934 Jan 5

Box 1, Folder 18

Report: "Structural problems in connection with the design of earthquake resistive school buildings," [by] C. H. Kromer 1934 Apr 14

Box 1, Folder 19

School Safety Bonds 1933-1934

Box 1, Folder 20

Brochure: "Safety with economy in school buildings" 1934 Aug


Prepared and published by National Lumber Manufacturers association.
Box 1, Folder 21

Diagram: Beverly Hills High School undated



Box 1, Folder 22

"Preliminary notice: Earthquake of March 10, 1933" 1933 Apr 4

Box 1, Folder 23

"Engineering lessons of the quake," by R. R. Martel 1933 Apr 12


Presented at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Symposium on the Long Beach Earthquake of March 10, 1933.
Box 1, Folder 24

"What happened geologically," by J. P. Buwalda 1933 Apr 12


Presented at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Symposium on the Long Beach Earthquake of March 10, 1933.
Box 1, Folder 25

"What happened seismologically," by H. O. Wood 1933 Apr 12


Presented at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Symposium on the Long Beach Earthquake of March 10, 1933.
Box 1, Folder 26

"The Southern California earthquake as affecting automatic sprinkler fire protection" 1933 Apr 12


Two copies.
Box 1, Folder 27

"Building Department of the City of Long Beach repairs by Gunite, specification no. 1" 1933 May 4


Includes photos.
Box 1, Folder 28

"Effect of Southern California earthquake upon building of unit masonry construction," by Raymond E. Davis 1933 May 31


Two copies.
Box 2, Folder 1

"Abstracts of reports received regarding the earthquake which occurred in Southern California on March 10, 1933" 1933 Jun 15


Prepared by the Department of Commerce, U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.
Box 2, Folder 2

"Report concerning earthquake of March 10, 1933" 1933 Jun 26


Submitted by Harry H. Baskerville to the Los Angeles City Board of Education.
Box 2, Folder 3

"Condensed report of the damage done by the earthquake of March 10, 1933, and subsequent shocks to the Lyons Van Storage warehouse, Long Beach, California," compiled by E. S. Marsh 1933 Aug 1

Box 2, Folder 4

"The Southern California earthquake," by Victor A. Endersby 1933


Includes photos.
Box 2, Folder 5

"Report of the Southern California earthquake of March 10, 1933 in the design of steel storage tanks" 1934 Jan 11


Prepared by the California District Sub-Committee on Tanks.
Box 2, Folder 6

"Report of the structural damage to the Wilmore Apartments, Long Beach, California," [Prepared by] Edward L. Mayberry probably 1933

Box 2, Folder 7

"Report on California First National Bank building, First & Pine, Long Beach" probably 1933


Includes photos.

Series 3. Talks and Conferences


3 rd Pan-Pacific Science Congress, Tokyo, Japan 1926

Box 2, Folder 8

"Notes: Reconstruction of Tokyo and Yokohama" [1927]

Box 2, Folder 9

"Discussions on construction of earthquake proof frame buildings," by Dr. Tachu Naito undated


Translated from Japanese.
Box 2, Folder 10

Miscellaneous research material regarding Japan earthquake Sep 1, 1923


World Engineering Congress, Tokyo, Japan 1929

Box 2, Folder 11

"On earthquake and building construction," by Dr. Kenzaburo Mashima 1929


Presented at the World Engineering Congress, Japan, 1929.
Box 2, Folder 12

"On the vibration curves of high framed structures," by A. Mizuhara 1929


Presented at the World Engineering Congress, Japan, 1929.
Box 2, Folder 13

"Earthquake-resistant building construction in Japan in theory and practice" 1929


Abstracts of papers presented at the World Engineering Congress, Japan, 1929.
Box 2, Folder 14

Photos of Japanese buildings and structures probably 1926


Students' classwork dated Jan-Apr 1929 on reverse side.
Box 2, Folder 15

Postcards of Japanese buildings undated


Students' classwork dated Jan-Apr 1929 on reverse side.
Box 2, Folder 16

Excerpts from Engineering News-Record regarding Japanese structures 1929-1930

Box 2, Folder 17

Glass slides for Martel's lecture

Scope and Content Note

  • Box 1: 6 b/w slides of Tokyo, Japan undated
  • Box 2: 7 b/w slides of Tokyo, Japanundated
  • Box 3: 5 b/w slides of Yokohama, Japanundated
  • Box 4: 5 colored slides of Japan, generalundated


Box 2, Folder 18

"Strengthening buildings for earthquake stress," talk given at University of Southern California 1934 May 31

Box 2, Folder 19

Structural Engineers Association of California Annual Convention (4 th: Fresno) 1935 Oct 18-19

Box 2, Folder 20

"Two years of experience in the application of the Field Act" 1935 Nov 7


Paper presented before the Industrial Section of the California State Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles.

Series 4. Maps and Photos

Box 3, Folder 1

Map: Los Angeles District undated

Box 3, Folder 2

Map: Depleted groundwater basins in metropolitan area 1931 Aug

Box 3, Folder 3

Photos: Seismographic records 1922, 1928

Box 3, Folder 4

Photos: Santa Barbara earthquake damages 1925-1929

Box 3, Folder 5

Photos: First Trust Building, Pasadena, California undated

Box 3, Folder 6

Photos: The New Edison Building, Los Angeles, California undated

Box 3, Folder 7

Photos: Southern California earthquake damages 1933 Mar 10

Box 3, Folder 8

Photos: Earthquake damage to a house in Compton, California undated

Box 3, Folder 9

Photos: Gold Medal Creamery Building, East Anaheim near Ohio undated

Box 3, Folder 10

Photos: Unidentified buildings photos undated

Box 3, Folder 11

Photo: Apparatus, unidentified undated


Series 5. Publications



Box 3, Folder 12

Building Economy, vol. 6, no. 6 1930 Jul

Box 3, Folder 13

California Highways and Public Works 1933 Apr, Jul-Aug

Box 3, Folder 14

The Conference Bulletin 1933 Apr, Jun; 1934 Jan

Box 3, Folder 15

The Engineering Magazine, vol. 1, no. 4 1930 Dec

Box 3, Folder 16

Masonry Mortar 1934

Box 3, Folder 17

Pipe Progress, vol. 18, no. 2 1933 Apr

Box 3, Folder 18

West Coast Builders 1933 Mar



Box 3, Folder 19

"The rigidity and strength of flame walls," by George W. Trayer 1929 Oct 7


Accompanied by a letter dated May 2, 1933 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.
Box 3, Folder 20

"Report of flame and bond tests made upon Thermax insulating board for the Thermax Corporation, Chicago, Illinois" 1932 Jan 14


Report no. 2282 of the Committee on Testing, Department of Civil Engineering, Columbia University.
Box 3, Folder 21

"Report on effects of Southern California earthquake on Lamella Roof Construction" probably 1934


2 copies.
Box 3, Folder 22

"The dynamics of oscillating structures," [by] L. M. Hoskins undated

Box 3, Folder 23

"Earthquake provisions for First Trust Building, Pasadena, California," [by R. R. Martel] probably 1927


Reprints and Miscellaneous

Box 4, Folder 1

R. R. Martel reprints 1929, 1933

Box 4, Folder 2

Reprints of others 1924-1934

Box 4, Folder 3

Binder: "Notes on earthquakes" by R. R. Martel 1933-1934

Box 4, Folder 4

Broschure: When earthquake comes-good construction wins! probably 1934


Published by Portland Cement Association.
Box 4, Folder 5

Excerpts from Engineering News-Record and newspaper clippings 1927-1933