Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing History
  • Collection Number
  • Biographical Note
  • Collection Scope and Contents
  • Collection Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Joseph Barlow Lippincott papers
    Date (inclusive): 1882-1942
    Collection Number: WRCA 052
    Creator: Lippincott, Joseph Barlow, 1864-1942
    Extent: 42 linear feet 86 boxes
    Repository: Rivera Library. Special Collections Department.
    Riverside, CA 92517-5900
    Abstract: Correspondence, reports, documents, news clippings, and several descriptive photograph albums, pertaining to projects on dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, and other water supply works, groundwater and streamflow, in California, in particular for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and in Arizona and other Western States. Collection described in: Water Resources Reports and Papers in the J. B. Lippincott Collection,compiled by Gerald J. Giefer and Anelle McCarty Kloski (Water Resources Collections and Archives Series Report no. 21, 1970).
    Languages: The collection is in English


    The collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the University of California, Riverside Libraries, Special Collections & Archives. Distribution or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. To the extent other restrictions apply, permission for distribution or reproduction from the applicable rights holder is also required. Responsibility for obtaining permissions, and for any use rests exclusively with the user.

    Preferred Citation

    [identification of item], [date if possible]. Joseph Barlow Lippincott papers (WRCA 052). Water Resources Collections and Archives. Special Collections & University Archives, University of California, Riverside.

    Acquisition Information

    The Lippincott collection was presented to the University by Kenneth Q. and Bette Volk of Los Angeles.

    Processing History

    Processed by Gerald J. Giefer, Anelle McCarty Kloski, Rochelle Zelzer, and Sharon Laven, 1999.
    Finding aid updated to contextualize use of racial slurs in creator-supplied description, 2022

    Collection Number

    Collection number updated February 2019. Legacy collection number was LIPP. This change was part of a project in 2018/2019 to update the collection numbers for collections in the Water Resources Collections and Archives.

    Biographical Note

    Joseph Barlow Lippincott was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on October 10, 1864, the son of Joshua Allen and Harriet (Phillips) Lippincott. He attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, from 1880 to 1882, when the family moved to Kansas where he entered the University of Kansas at Lawrence.
    Upon his graduation, he worked as track engineer in Missouri for the Santa Fe Railway System, and in the spring of 1889, was promoted to the position of division engineer.
    From 1889 to 1892 Lippincott was topographer for the U.S. Geological Survey in charge of making topographic maps in New Mexico and California. In 1893 he became assistant engineer for the Bear Valley Irrigation Company, on the construction of an early irrigation project on the headwaters of the Santa Ana River in Southern California.
    In 1895 Lippincott accepted the position of resident hydrographer for the State of California, with the Hydrographic Branch of the U.S. Geological Survey. At this time there were practically no stream-flow measurements available in this area. He established many of the gaging stations on the principal streams and secured local observers who served without pay. The rainfall and stream-flow records obtained in this early day were of great value in developing plans for the future water supply of California.
    In the fall of 1897 and the spring of 1898 Lippincott served as a member of the board of consulting engineers of the City of Los Angeles, Calif., in connection with litigation in the San Fernando Valley over the pueblo rights of the city.
    In the spring of 1899 Lippincott prepared an exhaustive report for the Geological Survey on the water supply, available reservoir sites, and irrigable areas on the Gila River in southwestern Arizona. After this assignment he made a comprehensive study of the development of the surface waters of the upper Santa Ana River and the San Bernardino artesian basin. The results of both of these studies were published in the Water Supply Papersof the U.S. Geological Survey.
    With the organization of the U.S. Reclamation Service in 1902 Lippincott became supervising engineer of all Reclamation Service activities in the Pacific Coast region extending from the Klamath River in Oregon to the lower Colorado River in Arizona and California. His work included the preparation of plans and estimates of cost and construction of the Klamath and the Yuma projects until July 1905.
    The need for additional water for the City of Los Angeles was brought forcibly to the attention of the water commissioners in July of 1904 when, for a ten day period, the daily consumption exceeded the inflow into the city's reservoirs by nearly four million gallons. In 1905, Lippincott was appointed with O.K. Parker and William Mulholland to a board of engineers which was to make recommendations in regard to the expansion of the water supply, investigating seven sources. The decision was that the Owens River was the nearest adequate supply and that to augment the city's needs temporarily at lower cost by withdrawals from adjacent artesian areas would result in the curtailment of the development of the surrounding country.
    In July 1906, Lippincott left the Reclamation Service to become assistant chief engineer of the Owens River Aqueduct. When completed, the Owens River Aqueduct had a capacity of 400 cu. ft. per sec. and consisted of open-canal, covered conduit, steel and concrete siphons, sixty miles of tunnels, five dams, storage reservoirs, and three hydroelectric power plants for construction purposes. One of the first municipal projects of magnitude to be built by day labor under the supervision of its engineering staff, this was a monumental undertaking for such a small city. Lippincott had much to do with the final location of the aqueduct, was in charge of the preparation of the detail plans and estimates of cost, and initiated and established a new system of construction cost keeping together with the bonus system which developed keen rivalry between different divisions and aided in breaking many records for rapid tunnel construction.
    Upon the completion of the aqueduct in 1913, Lippincott entered private practice at Los Angeles, specializing in water supply for irrigation and municipal uses under the firm name of "Engineering Offices of J.B. Lippincott," in which company he was active until the time of his death. During this period he was engaged as consultant on water supply investigations and water works construction for many of the western cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Long Beach, Riverside, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Orange, Santa Ana, Whittier, Avalon, and Fullerton, in California; Denver, Colo.; El Paso, Tex.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and others. In addition, he was consultant for many irrigation districts throughout the west including San Fernando Valley Irrigation District, Santa Fe Irrigation District, Vista Irrigation District, Lindsay Strathmore Irrigation District, and numerous others.
    Lippincott made several trips to the Hawaiian Islands where he was employed by the Oahu Sugar Company in connection with the Waiahole water supply and the construction of the Nuuanu reservoir. He also served as consultant on the Wahiawa Water Company's spillway project and later was employed by the City of Honolulu in connection with its domestic system.
    His work also included investigations and a report on the diversion of a large water supply from one watershed to another near Fairbanks, Alaska, for a large hydraulic mining operation.
    Lippincott served on many boards of consulting engineers for the federal government, the State of California, and various municipalities. He was a member of a board of engineers on the preparation of the original flood control plans for Los Angeles County in 1915 and later, for a time, was consultant during the construction of this project. His office also prepared plans for flood control and water conservation for Santa Barbara County and Orange County, California. As a member of the consulting board of the State of California, he aided in the development of a state-wide water plan. At the time of his death he was consulting engineer for the International Boundary Commission between the United States and Mexico, as well as consulting engineer for the U.S. Engineer Office, Los Angeles District, on the design and construction of numerous large flood control dams and appurtenant works. He was also a member of the advisory committee on the U.S. Weather Bureau for the National Sciences Advisory Board.
    Lippincott died on November 4, 1942, in Arlington, California at the age of 78.
    Note: This biographical sketch is extracted from the "Memoir" on Lippincott prepared by Kenneth Q. Volk and Edgar Alan Rowe which appeared in the Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, volume 108, 1943 (pp. 1543-1550).

    Collection Scope and Contents

    This is an annotated listing of reports, papers and photographs in the J.B. Lippincott collection, Water Resources Collections and Archives, University of California, Riverside.
    The collection is arranged here in the order in which it was kept by Lippincott, i.e., alphabetically by name of contracting agency, project title, or geographical entity.
    Manuscript materials in the collection of the Water Resources Collections and Archives cannot be loaned. Arrangements can be made to photocopy items of interest.
    The Van Valkenburgh sketch of Lippincott used as a frontispiece is reproduced by courtesy of Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley.
    The photographs in this collection were cataloged by Rochelle Zelzer and Sharon Laven. Project supervisors are J.W. Johnson, Professor of Hydraulic Engineering, and David K. Todd, Professor of Civil Engineering.

    Collection Arrangement

    The collection is arranged into three series as follows:
    • Series 1.
    • Series 2.
    • Series 3.

    Indexing Terms

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


    Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Calif.)
    Dams -- California
    Groundwater -- California
    Los Angeles Aqueduct (Calif.)
    Owens Valley (Calif.)
    Water resources development -- California
    Water resources development -- West (U.S.)
    Water-supply -- California
    Waterworks -- California

    Genres and Forms of Materials

    Clippings (information artifacts)