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Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy Archive

Update Oct 2017

Planned

The Archive

In 2016, the O’Shaughnessy family donated an archive of papers belonging to their relative, Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy (1864-1934) to the NUI Galway Library. O’Shaughnessy came from Loughill, Co. Limerick, and completed a degree in Engineering from 1882 to 1884 in what was then Queen’s College Galway. The following year, he emigrated to California, where he embarked on a prolific career in Civil Engineering.

The first half of his career was in private practice on railroads, land development, and irrigation projects in both California and the Hawaiian sugar plantations. In 1912, he was appointed the City Engineer of San Francisco, his term lasting until 1932. His appointment came just six years after the devastating earthquake and fire which destroyed much of San Francisco. His legacy was to oversee the city’s municipal streetcar system, upgrade the city’s water and sewer systems, and carry out feasibility work on the San Francisco Bay Bridges (Dumbarton, Golden Gate, and San Francisco-Oakland Bay). He is best remembered for the construction of the Hetch Hetchy dam and reservoir system, which to this day provides water for over 2 million residents of the San Francisco Bay region.

The archive in NUI Galway comprises:

  • His memoirs (four in total). Engineering Experiences: From Honolulu to Hetch Hetchy, Reminiscences of Hawaii, (February 1920), My Trip Abroad (July-October 1925), and Hetch Hetchy: Its Origin and History (1934); the latter being the only memoir from the collection that has been published to date.
  • Approximately 300 sheets of blueprints, maps and drawings that relate to O’Shaughnessy’s early career as a private consultant.
  • Reports, files and correspondence relating to the projects O’Shaughnessy was involved in as a private consultant.
  • Approximately 2,000 photographs that depict O’Shaughnessy’s professional and personal life in vivid detail. There are also many photographs of the fascinating O’Shaughnessy daughters that document their lives after their father’s death, up until the 1960s.

The archive will be of interest to anyone with an interest in the history of civil engineering, Irish emigration in the late 19th century, debates on environmental conservationism.

The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley also holds a major O’Shaughnessy archive with substantial primary source material relating to his time as City Engineer. Read more information on the archive held by The Bancroft Library.