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Irving B. Crosby papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0081

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Irving B. Crosby Papers contain correspondence, consulting reports, manuscript drafts of articles and a book, and reprints of articles. The material spans the years from 1914 to 1959. The papers are arranged into three series: 1. Correspondence Files, 1923-1959; 2. Geological Reports, 1914-1959; and 3. Writings by Crosby and Others

The bulk of the collection consists of geological consulting reports which serve to document Crosby's thirty-nine years as an engineering geologist consultant. He worked on a wide variety of projects, but he specialized in water-power and water-supply dam sites, groundwater resources, and mineral resources. Reports from the New England projects form the largest group, although there are reports from twenty-one states, almost all the states where Crosby worked.

Irving Crosby had many types of clients and the reports document investigations for federal, state, and county government as well as his work for private industry. For example, there are several reports from one of his biggest projects, a study of many dam, powerhouse, and lock sites at Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project in Maine for the US Army Corps of Engineers (see Boxes 3 and 4). His study of New Jersey glass sand for Owens-Illinois Glass Company is documented by two reports (Box 6) and by correspondence (Box 2).

Crosby received consulting assignments from many foreign countries. He began to work in Canada soon after he started his private practice and a number of these early reports remain in the collection. In the 1940s and 1950s, his consulting work expanded to include the Belgian Congo, Chile, Costa Rica, Crete, Haiti, India, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the islands of the Western Pacific. In Crete, he investigated groundwater resources for the Rockefeller Foundation (Box 10). The Punjab government of India asked Crosby to report on the Bhakra Dam, and he was working for the International Bank in Chile when he studied the Rio Elqui Valley (Box 10). Towards the end of his career international consulting projects dominated Crosby’s practice and the collection's later reports are primarily from other countries.

Some of Crosby’s earliest work can be found in the collection. Series 2 contains an MIT class report on a geological study he made of part of Boston (Box 4), as well as some of his undergraduate thesis notebooks (Box 6) and a report for Columbia University on a 1925 Catskill Field Trip (Box 7). Two consulting reports that Crosby wrote jointly with his father also remain in the collection. Crosby’s correspondence files (Series 2) closely related to his consulting reports. His files were maintained alphabetically in two separate chronological sequences and primarily concern scientific and professional projects, but some personal letters do exist. He corresponded with a number of well-known geologists and engineers, including John Ripley Freeman and Karl Terzaghi. Many of the letters deal with his consulting work. These include letters that inquire about consulting prospects’ fees and contract information on specific projects as well as geological inquiries. There is also some financial information, travel data, and reports that concern consulting projects.

Late in his career, Crosby served as an expert witness in several lawsuits. The letters from Carlo Bianchi and Company concern their suit against the Army Corps of Engineers and Crosby's role as expert witness for the Almond Dam Project, Almond, New York. This correspondence contains his testimony.

The correspondence files also reflect Crosby’s involvement in professional organizations. As a member of the Soil Mechanics and Foundations Division of the American Society of Civil Engineers, he was on the joint committee of Waterways Division and Bearing Value of Pile Foundations. The files contain reports and recommendations as well as correspondence from the joint committee members.

Some of Crosby’s manuscript drafts that concern geology are also in the collection. In the 1950s he started to write a book about dam geology. It remained unfinished and was never published, but there is a typescript of it in the papers (Boxes 12 and 13). Series 3 contains a manuscript of a Crosby article and an article and book outline by his wife, Gerda Crosby. Also in Series 3 are reprints of articles by Crosby and a small group of articles written by others that relate to Crosby's work.

A list of Crosby's consulting engagements can be found in R. R. Schrock's "Memorial to Irving Ballard Crosby (1891-1959)" published in the Proceedings Volume of the Geological Society of America, Annual Report for 1959, p. 119.


  • Creation: 1914 - 1959


Access note

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Biographical Note

Irving Ballard Crosby was born in 1891, the only child of Professor William Otis Crosby and Alice Ballard Crosby of Boston, Mass. W. O. Crosby graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1876 and became the fifth professor of geology at the Institute. Alice Ballard Crosby attended MIT from 1878 until 1879. Irving Crosby carried on the tradition, receiving a BS degree from MIT in 1918 with a thesis titled, "Geology of Randolph Valley and the North End of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains of New Hampshire." After graduation he entered the Army, where he served with the Signal Corps and the Chemical Warfare Service until the end of World War I.

Crosby continued his studies in geology at Harvard, receiving an MS degree in 1920. During the 1924-1925 academic year he studied physiography under Douglas W. Johnson of Columbia University.

In 1929 Irving Crosby married Gerda Richards. After graduating from Smith in 1922, she received both a master's and a doctorate degree from Radcliffe College with a specialization in government. Her teaching assignments included Hunter, Wellesley, and Radcliffe Colleges.

Crosby joined his father's consulting practice in 1921. W. O. Crosby was a well-established engineering geologist. After his father's death in 1925 Irving Crosby started a private consulting practice.

As an engineering geologist, Crosby specialized in water supply problems and surficial geology, including dam sites and foundations, drainage problems, groundwater supplies, and glacial features. He had consulting jobs all over the United States and Canada working for the US government, state bureaus and commissions, cities, and private companies. In 1933 he served with the US Interior Department as a member of the Technical Board of Review of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works.

After 1949, most of Crosby’s work was done outside the United States. He served as a consultant in the Philippines, Chile, the Belgian Congo, India, and Costa Rica, and the Rockefeller Foundation hired him to study the groundwater resources of Crete and Greece. He continued working as a consultant until his death in 1959. Irving Crosby belonged to many professional and scientific organizations including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of America, the American Geographical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, the Seismological Society of America, the Society of Economic Geologists, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Boston Society of Civil Engineers. He also belonged to the Harvard Club of New York City, the Cosmos Club, and the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Crosby wrote a number of articles for scientific and professional journals and contributed popular articles on geology and other subjects to area newspapers and magazines. His one published book was a geological study of Boston written for school children. _____

Information for this biographical sketch was found in Robert R. Shrock's The Geologists Crosby of Boston (MIT, 1972).


5 Cubic Feet (13 manuscript boxes, 1 legal manuscript box, 1 half manuscript box)

Language of Materials



The collection documents the career of Irving Ballard Crosby, 1891-1959, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and son of William Otis Crosby, a professor of geology at MIT. Irving Crosby was an engineering geologist who specialized in water supply problems. Correspondence, reports, graphs, illustrations, and photographs document his geological consulting projects, including the Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project in Maine and other projects relating to dam sites, groundwater and mineral resources in the United States and abroad, including Canada, Europe, South America, and Asia.


Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Related Materials in the Institute Archives and Special Collections

William Otis Crosby Papers (MC 68).

John Ripley Freeman Papers (MC 51).

Francis William Crosby Papers (MC 82).


This bibliography was taken from Robert R. Shrock's The Geologists Crosby of Boston (MIT, 1972), pp. 85-88. A few additions have been made by the processor. The bibliography is in chronological order. An asterisk next to an article indicates that a copy is in the Irving Ballard Crosby Papers.
  • *Former courses of the Androscoggin River. Jour. Geol., v. 30, p. 232-247, 1922.
  • *The earthquake risk in Boston. Boston Soc. Civil Engineers, Jour., v. 10, p. 421-430, 1923.
  • *Are you prepared for the next Boston earthquake? The Boston Sunday Globe, December 16, 1923.
  • *The physiographic history of Pinkham Notch [White Mountains, New Hampshire]. Appalachia, v. 15, p. 462-468, 1924.
  • *(with Crosby, W.O.). Keystone faults. Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull., v. 36,p. 623-640, 1925.
  • The danger of earthquakes in New England. Science, new series, v. 63, p. 186-187, 1926.
  • *The origin of some famous boulders in New Hampshire. The Automobilist, Sept., 1926, p. 8-9.
  • *Earthquake insurance risks. Irving B. Crosby of Boston explains how they can be reduced by geology. The Standard, July 2, 1927, p. 7.
  • *Boston before Columbus [A series of short articles published in The Boston Globe during October, 1927, with the following titles]: 1) The Roxbury puddingstone, Mon. Oct. 11; 2) The bottom falls out, Tue. Oct. 12; 3) A volcano in West Roxbury, Wed. Oct. 13; 4) When the Merrimac crossed Washington Street, Thu. Oct. 14; 5) In the refrigerator, Fri. Oct. 15; 6) Lake Shawmut, Sat. Oct. 16; 7) Birth of our modern rivers, Mon. Oct. 18; 8) Making of Boston Harbor, Tue. Oct. 19; 9) Making of Boston Beaches, Wed. Oct. 20; 10) The Work of Man, Thu. Oct. 21; 11) Shaking up the Puritans, Fri. Oct. 22; 12) Boston, Past and Future, Sat. Oct. 23.In these articles Irving presents a popular account of the geological history of the Greater Boston area, much of which was later incorporated together with illustrations in his Boston through the Ages, published in 1928.
  • *Geology in the Making. Boston Soc. Civil Eng. Jour., v. 15, no. 1, p. 33-35,1928.
  • *Concrete and Other Building Materials in Exposed Locations, by J. J. Harty,discussion by Irving Crosby and others. Boston Soc. Civil Eng. Jour., v. 15, no. 3~,p•.143, 1928.
  • Boston through the Ages: the geological story of Greater Boston. Boston, Marshall Jones Co., 166 p., 1928.A simply written straightforward account of the geological history of the Geater Boston area, with reference to many familiar geological features. The book is aimed at school children and interested layman who know little or no geology. It was reviewed by Jean West Maury in The Bostonian, p. 16 and by S.L.O. in a review entitled "Geological Boston" published in one of the Boston newspapers.
  • *Potholes on Mount Jefferson [White Mountains, New Hampshire]. Appalachia, v. 17 (Bull. Appalachian Mountain Club, v. 21), p. 44-45, 1928.
  • *Electrical Exploration Methods for Location of Dams and Tunnels. BostonSoc. Civil Eng. Jour., v. 16, no. 1, p. 21-25, 1929.
  • (and Leonarden, E. G.). Electrical prospecting applied to foundationproblems. Amer. Inst. Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, Tech. Pub. 131,12 p., 1928; Trans., v. 81, Geophysical Prospecting, p. 199-210, 1929.*A resume of this article was published anonymously in the CanadianMining Journal, Sept. 1929, p. 915-918, under the title "Electric SubsoilExploration."
  • *(and Kelly, S. F.). Electrical subsoil exploration and the Civil Engineer - Foundation conditions at a dam site investigated by an interesting method which checked closely with results of boring. Engineering News-Record, v. 102, p. 270-273, Feb. 1929.
  • Further evidence of keystone faulting. Jour. Geol., v. 38, p. 184 186, 1929.
  • *Discussion of paper on the Importance of Geology to Civil Engineering by Prof. H. Ries. The Engineering Journal, v. 12, p. 330-331, May 1929.
  • *Report of the Committee on Boston Subsoils, Crosby a comm. member. Boston Soc. Civil Eng. Jour., v. 18, no. 7, p. 243, 1931.
  • *Drainage changes and their causes in the St. Maurice Valley in Quebec. Jour. Geol., v. 40, p. 140-153, 1932.
  • Report on the mineral resources of Massachusetts; a survey of the literature. Massachusetts Industrial and Development Commission, 35 p., 1932.
  • *Relation of geology to the ground-water supplies of New England. New England Water Works Assoc., Jour., v. 47, p. 74-95, 1933.
  • *Geology of the ground-water supplies of New England - A study of the relation of rock formation to the underground water supplies of that region. Water Works Engineering, v. 86, p. 603-604, 607, 1933.
  • *Geology of Fifteen Mile Falls development; design of dam on Connecticut River required extensive study of the glaciated valley. Civil Engineering, v. 4, p. 21-24, 1934.
  • *Evidence from drumlins concerning the glacial history of Boston Basin. Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull., v. 45, p. 135-158, 1934.
  • *Extension of the Bethlehem, New Hampshire, moraine. Jour, Geol., v. 42, p. 411-421, 1934.
  • *(and Lougee, R. J.). Glacial marginal shores and the marine limit in Massachusetts. Geol. Soc. Arner, Bull., v. 45, p. 441-462, 1934.
  • *Discussion of "Failure of bridge piers" by K. V. Terzaghi, Conference on Soil Mechanics, Proc. III, p. 238-239, 1936.
  • *Methods of stream piracy. Jour. Geol" V. 45, p. 465-468, 1937.
  • *Groundwater conditions of parts of Middlesex, Worcester and Norfolk counties in the buried valleys of the pre~glacial Merrimack, Sudbury and Charles Rivers; p. 219-225 in Ann. Rept., Dept. Public Health for Year ending November 30, 1937 - Public Document No. 34 [Commonwealth of Massachusetts].
  • *Engineering geology of the Passamaquoddy Project. Boston Soc. Civil Eng. Jour., v. 25, p. 9-29, 1938.
  • *Ground water in the pre-glacial buried valleys of Massachusetts. New England Water Works Assoc., Jour., v. 53, p. 372-383, 1939.
  • *Engineering geology problems at Conchas Dam, New Mexico. Amer. Soc. Civil Eng., Pr., v. 65, p. 29-47, 1939; Trans. No., v. 66, with discussion by H. L. Johnson and author, p. 581-605, 1940.
  • *Geological conditions at Pittsburgh, New Hampshire, Dam site. Boston Soc. Civil Eng., Jour., v. 27, p. 136-138, 1940.
  • *Geological problems of Dams -Masonry Dams. A symposium. Amer. Soc. Civil Eng. Trans., v. 106, p. 1171-1193 (Paper No. 2121), 1941.
  • Discussion of construction of the hydro-electric development at La Tuque. Eng. Jour., v. 24, p. 297-300, 1941.
  • *New England Foundation Problems: Foundation conditions in Boston. Official Year-Book, New England Building Officials Conference, p. 115-127, 1941.
  • *Geological investigation of dam sites on the St. Maurice River, Quebec. Boston Soc. Civil Eng. Jour., v. 28, p. 331-348, 1941.
  • Geology of the Virilla Canyon, Meseta Central Occidental, Costa Rica. 8th American Scientific Congress, Washington, D.C. 1940, Pr., v. 4, Geological Science, p. 483-494, 1942.
  • Glacial erosion and the buried Wyoming valley of Pennsylvania. Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull., v. 56, p. 389-400, 1942.
  • Physiography and war in Burma. Military Engineer, v. 37, no. 232, p. 43-48, 1945.
  • *Boring Data from Greater Boston, prepared by Comm. on Subsoils of Boston, Crosby a comm. member. Boston Soc. Civil Eng. Jour., v. 36, no. 4, p. 391, 1949.

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Guide to the Papers of Irving B. Crosby
Ready For Review
Mary Jane McCavitt
Copyright 1981
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processing of the collection was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

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