The Archbald/Roebling correspondence
The family of James Archbald donated a collection of old letters, most of them still retained in their postmarked envelopes, to the Lackawanna County Historical Society of Scranton, Pennsylvania. ln 2001, the letters were studied and indexed for the first time by Michael Knies of the Weinberg Memorial Library at the University of Scranton. Knies reports he has discovered the archive contains 17 previously unknown letters written by John A. Roebling to Archbald. The letters are dated from March 16, 1844 to September 2, 1851 . There is also one letter from Roebling addressed to Russel Lord that somehow must have been passed onward into Archbald's possession by Lord. James Archbald, and his mentor, John B. Jervis, were the two foremost railroad experts in America in the early 1840s. Archbald was born in Scotland in 1793, emigrated to the United States with his parents as a youth, and came into his first contact with Jervis during excavation of the Erie Canal in New York. ln 1827, the Delaware & Hudson Co. of New York City hired Jervis to design a transportation system that would efficiently transport fuel from the anthracite region to their market at New York City. Immediately, Jervis called for Archbald to assist him. When Jervis next moved onward to other assignments, Archbald remained in the anthracite region, working there for rest of his life. ln addition to his engineering achievements, he was also a noted public official. The city of Archbald, Pennsylvania is named after him. Although he did not leave us with any extensive archive of his engineering documents at the time of his death, Archbald did save, for some reason, this series of significant letters written to him by other engineers. Archbald was employed by the Delaware & Hudson Co. in the capacity of mechanical alfactotum. ln the era prior to the advent of the high-pressure steam locomotive, motive power for railroads was provided often by gravity combined with inclined hoisting planes that elevated the trains to higher altitudes using either waterwheels or stationary steam engines. ln the 1840s, the D&H operated more inclined railroad planes than any other entity in America. Archbald tested numerous mechanical inventions on the D&H railroad
seeking efficient, high-speed operation.
Author(s): Sayenga, D.