Osmar Lysander Waller Papers, 1897-1935  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Waller, Osmar Lysander
Title
Osmar Lysander Waller Papers
Dates
1897-1935 (inclusive)
Quantity
23 containers., (13 linear feet of shelf space.)
Collection Number
Cage 222
Summary
Correspondence, notes, drafts, reports, photographs, maps and drawings concerned with irrigation in Washington and Idaho, ca. 1900-1935, especially relating to the Columbia Basin Survey Commission (1919-1921) and other public agencies involved in the effort to reclaim the arid regions of central Washington. In addition, the papers document Waller's participation in the codification of the water laws of Washington, ca. 1910-1916. Also included are a portion of the papers resulting from Waller's teaching and administrative positions at Washington State University. Correspondents include Marvin Chase, Elwood Mead, J.W. Summers, and Ross Tiffany.
Repository
Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections.
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Terrell Library Suite 12
Pullman WA
99164-5610
Telephone: 509-335-6691
mascref@wsu.edu
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Languages
English
Sponsor
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Digital Objects

5 total - see all



Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Osmar L. Waller was born in Ohio in 1857. His young adulthood was spent moving between Ohio and Michigan and seemed to have been characterized by uncertainty about the choice of a profession. He began by receiving the type of literary-religious education then offered in most American colleges, going so far as to receive a graduate degree of that nature. Then he attended the University of Michigan law school and was admitted to the bar, but instead of practicing law he became a public school teacher and administrator. About 1890 he moved to Washington state, where he was again admitted to the bar and where he again became a public school administrator, this time at Colfax, Washington. In 1893, he was suddenly appointed to a position wholly unrelated to any of his previous experience--Professor of Mathematics and Civil Engineering at the Washington Agricultural College and School of Science, the ancestor of the present Washington State University, in nearby Pullman, Washington. At the time Waller had only the limited mathematical background which had been included in his education. He probably knew nothing of engineering.

A few cram courses at the University of Chicago enabled him to teach the preparatory school mathematics which comprised the mathematics curriculum at the school in its early years. This process of self-education was repeated to an even greater degree as Waller took up civil engineering. Learning on the job, he not only taught the subject for years, but also developed an extensive consulting practice. Moreover, he acquired the reputation as one of the leading irrigation project engineers in the Northwest within a relatively few years. In spite of this reputation, Waller always exhibited a certain amatuerism about irrigation and reclamation, sometimes making serious errors, as in his early estimates on the Klickitat-Horse Heaven Project. Generally, however, he maintained his competency by adhering to a basic theory of hydrologic engineering which he seems to have derived for the great reclamation engineers of the British Empire, Sir William Willcocks and Robert Hanbury Brown. At times Waller was an almost pedantic advocate of their "natural" system of diversions and canals. He also seemed to shy away from the more typically American approach, with its mechanized features, big dams, flumes, pipes and pumps. Consequently it was not surprising to find that as he led in the search for a means to water the arid region of central Washington during the 1920s, Waller was one of the foremost opponents of the Grand Coulee dam proposals and also the foremost advocate of a "gravity plan" which would have reclaimed the area with water diverted from points hundreds of miles from the land which was to receive it.

In part, Waller overcame the limitations of his knowledge of mathematics and engineering by working at jobs which were related to these fields but which did not require him to be a technical expert. At the University, he spent at least as much time as an administrator as a teacher, serving at various times as Vice-President, Dean of Arts and Sciences and Chairman of his department. He also acted as a public spokesman for the University, especially in the re-organization controversies of 1916-1917.

As an engineer, Waller likewise held a number of positions which involved the making of policy rather than technical decisions. His first major position of this nature was with the United States Department of Agriculture and consisted of a census of irrigation for the state. Bringing him into contact with most of the people concerned with irrigation in the state, this position provided the means of entrance into several later consulting jobs. It also brought him into contact with the Department of Interior's Reclamation Service and with the foremost figure in American irrigation, Dr. Elwood Mead, who was to become a close friend and confidant of Waller.

Waller's next major appointment came when Governor Marion Hay asked him to head a commission which would codify the state's water laws. His eastern legal background may have exerted some influence on the commission, where he emerged as a reformer, advocating the doctrine of beneficial use of water as opposed to the general western practice of appropriation. Though not all of Waller's viewpoints were included in the code, many were, and though the code was prepared in 1910, it was to take eight years of lobbying by Waller and others before they were to win legislative enactment of the code.

At about the same time as the state legislature enacted the water code, it also revived interest in the Columbia Basin irrigation project and appointed a commission to recommend ways of reclaiming the Columbia Basin area in central Washington. Waller quickly became the Secretary of this board, the Columbia Basin Survey Commission, and was very influential in the preparation of the report it issued in 1920. The first of a long series of reports on the Basin project, this report surveyed a variety of proposals and eliminated all but two: the "pumping plan," a scheme which would have diverted water from the Pend Oreille River at Newport, Washington, then transported it through a canal formed largely by the Little Spokane River and the Bonnie Lake-Rock Lake Coulee, with connecting tunnels, and then distributed it to canals in the Northeast corner of the Basin area. The commission strongly recommended the "gravity plan."

Throughout the 1920s Waller continued as an advocate of the "gravity plan," usually from a position on one of the bodies which succeeded the Survey Commission. He repeated earlier recommendations when he contributed to the Federal Board of Engineers' report of 1924. He also attempted to clear political obstacles while with the informal board which sought to work out the interstate agreements necessitated by the gravity plan's need for storage of water in Idaho and Montana. Coincidentally, Waller retired from active concerns at about the same time as the gravity plan fell from favor and the Grand Coulee Dam became more of a certainty. As a final touch of irony, Waller died in 1935, almost simultaneously with the beginning of construction on the great dam.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

O.L. Waller's papers consist of correspondence, notes, drafts, reports, photographs, drawings and maps relative to irrigation in Washington and Idaho, ca. 1900-1930, and to Waller's administrative responsibilities at Washington State University, principally during the years 1920-1925. The irrigation papers are largely concerned with Waller's activities with various public boards and commissions involved with irrigation and hydrological matters, and to a lesser extent with the irrigation projects for which Waller served as a consulting engineer. Two of Waller's major public appointments, the Columbia Basin Survey Commission (and its successors) and the State Water Code Commission are heavily documented, while some materials related to such meetings as the 1908 White House Conference on Natural Resources and the 1929 Western States Governors' Conference briefly document Waller's role in each. Waller's Washington State University papers largely emanate from his positions as Vice-President and Dean of Arts and Sciences and are concerned with such matters as student records, faculty reports, grading policies, faculty appointments and student discipline.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item Description]. Cage 222, Osmar Lysander Waller Papers. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Arrangement

The papers are arranged in four major series, with a fifth minor series of personal items. The major series divide the papers according to function and consist of a Columbia Basin irrigation series, a Boards and Commissions (other than Columbia Basin) series, a consultation series and a Washington State University series. Within each series there are several sub-series which separate the various types of materials--correspondence, reports, speeches and so forth. Material in the four subseries of correspondence are arranged chronologically; in the others a subject arrangement predominates.

Location of Collection

(MASC Staff Use) Container 23 is located in the basement map case.

Acquisition Information

The papers of Osmar Lysander Waller (1857-1935), irrigation engineer and official of Washington State University (Pullman), were donated to the Washington State University Library in 1935 by Waller's widow and daughter. The Irrigation Projects Papers in the Addendum (Series 6) were transferred from the defunct Geography Department to Washington State University Libraries in August of 1982. This material was unrelated to other materials sent at the same time [Accession Number: UA 82-19] and so was separated to be included within Waller's records in Cage 222. Roger and Carolynn Brislawn donated the diplomas and certificates in container 23 in 2016.

Processing Note

Lawrence Stark processed this collection in the summer of 1974, with the exception of the Addendum papers which were processed by Leslie J. Tevebaugh in 1986.

Bibliography

Some aspects of Waller's activities and of the gravity plan are discussed in Bruce Harding's Water from the Pend Oreille: The Gravity Plan for Irrigating the Columbia Basin, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 45:2 (April 1954) 52-61.


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series 1: Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, 1918-1935Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Correspondence. Official and personal correspondence relative to investigations, proposals and political controversies concerning irrigation of central Washington, especially related to the Columbia Basin Survey Commission (1919-1921), the Columbia Basin Survey Board (1922-1925), The Bureau of Reclamation's Board of Engineers (1924-1925), and the interstate conference on the waters of the Pend Oreille River (1928-1929). Correspondents include: Fred A. Adams, Marvin Chase, Roy Gill, Ivan Goodner, Louis Hart, Wesley Jones, George Kruetzer, Hervey Lindley, Elwood Mead, John Summers, Ross Tiffany and Arthur J. Turner.
1000
1918-1935
Box
1
1918-1924
2
1925-1935
Box
2
Reports on Columbia Basin Irrigation Proposals
25
1920-1928.
3
Columbia Basin Survey Commission Report
1920
3
Henny Report and Commission rebuttals
1920
3
Goethals Report
1921
3
Related projects (Kittitas, Baker, Palouse)
1924
3
Kirk Bryan Geology Report
1924
3
Federal Board of Engineers Report
1924
3
Market Survey Report
1927
3
Senate Committee Print, including Board of Engineers Report of 1924, Special Commission Report of 1925, and Gault Report of 1925
1927
3
Hearings before the United States Senate
1927
3
Farm Economics Report
(undated)
4
Addresses and statements of Waller relative to the Columbia Basin Project, especially defenses of the "Gravity Plan.
15
ca 1920-1928.
4
Notes, drafts and working papers used in preparation of various reports, including some material relative to rejected plans, such as the 600 foot dam at Grand Coulee
200
ca 1919-1928.
5
Maps and Drawings used in various plans
50
ca 1918-1928.
5
Columbia Basin Irrigation League, Bulletins and Minutes
100
1923-1933.

Series 2: Commissions and ConferencesReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box
5
Water Code Commission
Box
6
Correspondence. Official and personal correspondence relative to drafting water code and efforts to secure legislative enactment. Correspondents include E.W. Burr, Charles Flummerfelt, Carroll B. Graves, Marion Hay, David Huntington and Ernest Lister.
250
1910-1915
6
Notes, drafts, and working papers used on codification.
110
6
Research materials, including water contracts and legal decisions.
30
7
White House Conference on the Conservation of Natural Resources
10
1908
7
Western State's Reclamation Association
3
1921
7
Western States Governors' Conference
35
1928

Series 3: Consultation and Professonal PracticeReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Correspondence
1600
1900-1923
Box
8
Letterbooks, including some correspondence relative to Washington State University.
1903-1908
8
General Correspondence
1900-1906.
9
General Correspondence
1907-1923.
10
Notes and drafts relative to consultations.
30
10
Statements, speeches, articles and testimony relative to a variety of irrigation matters
25
ca 1900-ca 1925.
Box
10
Consultation projects
1500
ca 1900-ca 1932.
Box
11
Adrian Irrigation Project
11
Arden Orchard Tract
11
Cheney Wells and Heating System
11
Cloverland Irrigation System
11
Coeur D'Alene Water System
11
Fruitland Irrigation Company, Kettle Falls
11
Hauser, Idaho
11
Horse Heaven Irrigation Project
11
King's Hill
11
Klickitat Power and Irrigation Company
11
Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District
11
Lind Sewer
11
Marysville Canal, Idaho
12
Methow-Okanogan Irrigation project
12
Moses Lake
12
Oakesdale Water Works
12
Opportunity (Freewater, Oregon)
12
Palouse Project
12
Prosser Water Works
12
Pullman Resevoir
12
Rathdrum (Sucker Lake)
12
Ritzville Sewer
12
Round Lake Irrigation Company
12
Spokane Valley Land and Water Company
13
Spokane Water Supply Controversy
13
Sunnyside Resevoir
13
Twin Falls Projects
14
Twin Falls Projects
14
Walla Walla Flood Control
14
Whitestone Irrigation Project
14
Yakima Valley Projects
15
Field Books
33
ca 1900-ca 1925.
Box
15
Irrigation Investigations, U.S. Department of Agriculture
3 volumes
15
Current Meter notes, U.S. Geological Survey
3 volumes
15
Weston-Pine Creek Irrigation Co.
2 volumes
15
Southern Idaho-Twin Falls
7 volumes
15
Spokane Water Works
2 volumes
15
Kettle Falls
1 volume
15
Moses Lake
1 volume
15
Klickitat
1 volume
15
Attalia
1 volume
15
Water works: Oakesdale, Coeur D'Alene & Malden
1 volume
15
Palouse Highway
1 volume
15
Miscellaneous and Unidentified
10 volumes

Series 4: Washington State UniversityReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Vice-Presidential and Dean's correspondence
1200
1900-1930.
Box
16
1900-1923
17
1924-1930
Student delinquency records
500
1922-1925.
Box
17
1922-1924
18
1924-1925
Box
18
Reports to University Administration (technical and administrative)
100
1898-1925.
19
Statements, speeches, publications related to education:
Box
19
Defenses of Land Grant Education and State University's curriculum, prepared for reorganization controversy of 1916-1917.
35
20
Public speaking, commencement address, etc.
50
20
Reprints of Waller publications.
10

Series 5: PersonalReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box
20
Correspondence, including collected letters from military personnel in France 1918-1919.
40
ca 1900-ca 1930
20
Portraits
3
undated
20
Biographical sketches of Waller, written by Florence Waller and E.O. Holland, and related correspondence
20
ca 1940.
23
Diplomas and Certificates
1887-1931

Series 6: Irrigation ProjectsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box
21
Amendments To The Irrigation Law
1
1917
21
Canada Land and Irrigation Company, Limited
8
1919
21
Cement, Concrete, and Concrete Bridges
23
1924
21
Delhi State Land Settlement
2
1922
21
Electric Cam Drive Triplex Pump
1
1915
21
Engineering Data
1
1915
21
General Statements From Irrigation Projects
67
1914-1915
21
Horse Heaven Irrigation District
2
1919-1920
21
Horse-Springs Coulee
16
1925
21
Klickitat Irrigation and Power Company
1
1913
21
Lewiston Valley Water Company
11
1922-1925
21
Okanogan Project
28
1915
21
Palouse Irrigation Association
1
undated
21
Post Falls Development of The Washington Water Power Company
1
1908
21
Priest Rapids Highlands Irrigation Project
4
1913-1930
21
Pumping Plant
2
undated
21
Spokane Improved Water Supply
1
1905
22
Storage Dams At Lakes Kachess, Keechelus, Clealum, and McAllister's Meadow, Estimate of Cost of
1
1915
22
State Superior Court In And For Klickitat County
1
1917
22
Tieton Irrigation Project
11
1914-1915
22
Valier Project: Report on Water-Logged Lands
4
1916
22
Water Legislation For Washington
10
1914-1916
22
Water Power
9
1914-1916

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Irrigation -- Northwest, Pacific -- History -- Sources
  • Water -- Law and legislation -- Washington (State)

Personal Names

  • Mead, Elwood, 1858-1936
  • Chase, Marvin
  • Summers, John William, 1870-1937
  • Tiffany, R. K. (Ross Kerr), 1879-
  • Waller, Osmar Lysander, 1857-1935--Archives (creator)

Corporate Names

  • Columbia Basin Survey Commission (Wash.)