Scope and Content
Title: Joseph Barlow Lippincott papers,
Date (inclusive): 1882-1942
Collection number: LIPP
Lippincott, Joseph Barlow, 1864-1942
ca. 42 linear ft.
1,137 online items
Water Resources Collections and Archives
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).
Physical location: Water Resources Collections and Archives
Selected digitized images from this collection.
Collection is open for research.
Alternative Form of Materials Available
Copyright has not been assigned to the Water Resources Collections and Archives. All
requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing
to the Head of Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Water
Resources Collections and Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended
to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the
[Identification of item], Joseph Barlow Lippincott papers, LIPP, Water Resources
Collections and Archives, University of California, Riverside.
The Lippincott collection was presented to the University by Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Q. Volk
of Los Angeles.
Joseph Barlow Lippincott
was born in Scranton,
Pa., on October 10, 1864, the son of Joshua Allen and Harriet (Phillips) Lippincott. He
attended Dickinson College at Carlisle, Pa., 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Papers of the U.S. Geological Survey.
With the organization of the U.S. Reclamation Service in 1902 Mr. 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, Mr. 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
In July 1906, Mr. 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. Mr. 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, Mr. 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.
Mr. 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
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
Mr. 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
Mr. Lippincott died on November 4, 1942, at Arlington, Calif. at the age of 78.
* 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.
Scope and Content
This is an annotated listing of reports, papers and photographs in the J.B. Lippincott
collection, Water Resources Collections and Archives, University of California,
The collection is arranged here in the order in which it was kept by Mr. 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 Mr. Lippincott used as a frontispiece is reproduced by
courtesy of Bancroft Library of the University of California, Riverside.
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.
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
Water resources development--California
Water resources development--West (U.S.)
Los Angeles Aqueduct
Owens River Valley