Gardner Stewart Williams Papers

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Gardner Stewart Williams Papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Gardner Stewart Williams manuscript collection held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the collection, please consult the online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's division of Reference and Access Services.

Ann Arbor, Michigan based hydraulic engineer known for his multiple arch dams, hydroelectric plants, and for developing the Hazen-Williams hydraulic tables, designed and consulted on numerous water power and dam projects. Materials in this online repository include scanned images of maps prepared by Williams of the Huron River Valley (Mich.) and its environs between 1905 and 1922.

Gardner Stewart Williams was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1866. He was graduated from Saginaw City High School in 1884, and received a degree in civil engineering from the University of Michigan in 1889.

Williams became a nationally recognized authority in hydraulic engineering, and was known for his multiple arch dams, hydroelectric plants, and for developing the Hazen-Williams hydraulic tables. He was employed as an engineer on water works construction at Bismarck, North Dakota, and at Greenville and Owosso, Michigan. From 1890 to 1893 he was a draftsman and engineer with the Russell Wheel and Foundry Company of Detroit, and from 1893 to 1898 was civil engineer to the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners. It was while he was in Detroit that he developed the valuable Hazen-Williams Tables, which calculate the headloss in pipes.

From 1898 to 1904 Williams was professor of experimental hydraulics and engineer in charge of the hydraulic laboratory at Cornell University, and from 1904 to 1911 was professor of civil, hydraulic and sanitary engineering at the University of Michigan.

Williams had been a consulting engineering since 1895, and was in increasing demand as a consultant. In 1911 he resigned from the University and devoted full time to his consulting practice. He opened his first office with Robert Norris, a former student, as a subordinate. From 1911 to 1931 Williams had a wide range of engineering interests, and his company had offices in Ann Arbor and Chicago. In addition to being an engineering consultant, Williams acted as an agent for his hydroelectric clients and purchased the flowage rights along various rivers. He also became known as an expert witness and testified in court cases throughout the United States about the causes of hydraulic failures. In 1923 his consulting firm formed a partnership known as Ayres, Lewis, Norris and May. Williams, however, preferred to remain as an independent consultant.

Among his many accomplishments, Williams designed the single arch Cheeseborough Dam in Ithaca, New York, in 1906; the multiple arch dam at Sturgis, Michigan, which was built in 1910; and the water power plant at Sault Ste. Marie. In 1930 he designed the Magnitogorsky Dam on the Ural River in Siberia, Russia.

As consultant for the Detroit Edison Company, Williams prepared a proposal for the development of the Huron River water powers. By 1910 Detroit Edison, with Williams acting as their agent, had acquired most of the prospective flowage rights necessary for the project. The Huron River development was not completed as planned, but six dams were built: Barton in 1912, Argo in 1913, Geddes in 1916, Superior in 1919, French Landing in 1925, and Rawsonville (owned by Henry Ford) in 1927. Williams died in 1931.

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Copyright is held by the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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