Guide to the Papers of Louis G. Carpenter

Prepared by Holley R. Lange; updated by Patricia J. Rettig
Colorado State University Water Resources Archive
A joint effort of the University Libraries and the Colorado Water Institute
Copyright 2013 Colorado State University. All rights reserved.
Finding aid encoded in EAD Version 2002 by Holley R. Lange, 2004.
Creator: Carpenter, L. G. (Louis George), 1861-1935
Title: Papers of Louis G. Carpenter
Dates: 1888-1919
Bulk: 1898-1910
Quantity: 3.5 linear feet (4 document boxes, 1 flat box)
Identification: WLGC
Abstract: Louis G. Carpenter (1861-1935), irrigation engineer, was appointed professor and head of engineering and physics at the Colorado Agricultural College in 1888. He became director of the Colorado Experiment Station at that institution in 1899 and remained at the college until 1911. Carpenter initiated the first systematic instruction in irrigation engineering, consulted widely on irrigation and hydraulic construction projects, and was also consulted for his expertise in water law. The collection consists primarily of correspondence related to the college and research data related to the duty of water, stream seepage, weather observations, and the Cache la Poudre River.
Contact Information: Water Resources Archive
Archives and Special Collections
Morgan Library
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1019 USA
Phone: 970-491-1844
Fax: 970-491-1195
Restrictions on Access
There are no access restrictions on this collection.
Restrictions on Use
Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the Colorado State University Libraries online catalog. Researchers seeking materials about related subjects, persons, organizations, or places should search the catalog using these headings.
  • Education (Higher) -- Colorado -- Fort Collins.
  • Irrigation engineering -- Colorado.
  • Irrigation water -- Colorado -- Return flow.
  • Stream measurements -- Colorado.
  • Meteorology -- Observations -- Colorado.
  • Precipitation (Meteorology) -- Colorado -- Measurement.
  • Carpenter, L. G. (Louis George), 1861-1935.
  • Colorado Agricultural College. Department of Civil and Irrigation Engineering.
  • Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station.
  • Colorado Agricultural College.
  • Fort Collins (Colo.)
  • Cache la Poudre River (Colo.)
  • Irrigation engineers.
Special Document Types:
  • Lantern slides.
Louis G. Carpenter, irrigation engineer, arrived in Colorado from Michigan in 1888 to serve as professor of Engineering and Physics at Colorado Agricultural College. Born in Orion, Michigan, on March 28, 1861, he received a B.S. from Michigan Agricultural College in 1879, an M.S. in 1883, and an honorary D. Engineering in 1927. He did post-graduate work at both the University of Michigan and at Johns Hopkins University.
Carpenter's career began at Michigan Agricultural College where he taught mathematics between 1881 and 1888. In 1888 he replaced Elwood Mead at Colorado Agricultural College as head and professor of Engineering and Physics. His instruction in irrigation engineering was the first systematic coursework on that subject and in 1890 Irrigation Engineering became the College's fourth major. In 1899 Carpenter was appointed director of the Colorado Experiment Station. He was twice offered the presidency of Colorado Agricultural College, but declined the opportunity both times.
Carpenter investigated irrigation systems in the United States and Europe and became a recognized expert on that subject. France awarded him the Chevalier du Merite Agricole in 1895 for his work in agriculture, and in 1900 he received a gold medal at the Paris exposition for his work in irrigation. He was often consulted in the area of water law, most notably, in 1902-1906 when he conferred in the suit brought by Kansas against Colorado regarding the Arkansas River. This expertise led to his appointment as Colorado State Engineer, serving in that position between 1903-1905. He was also in demand as a consultant on dam, irrigation, and hydraulic construction.
Carpenter was closely involved in the controversy within the college about its future, and whether the aim of the institution should be as a school to train farmers, or an institution with a broader focus. Carpenter supported the latter and his view prevailed.
Carpenter left Colorado Agricultural College in 1911 and established an engineering consulting firm in Denver with his brother. Carpenter married Mary Merrell in 1887. They had two children, a son Charles L. and a daughter Jeannette. His first wife died in 1921 and he married Katherine M. Warren in 1922. Carpenter died in Denver, September 12, 1935.
The Papers of Louis G. Carpenter consists of documents dated 1888 to 1919, with the bulk falling from 1898 to 1910. The collection consists primarily of correspondence related to the college and research data related to the duty of water, stream seepage, weather observations, and the Cache la Poudre River. Though generally routine, the correspondence files reflect Carpenter's role as professor and administrator. The research data give a glimpse into his interests and early water research efforts at the college. The collection also contains lantern slides, depicting dams in France, Algeria, California, and Colorado.
Materials discovered at the Engineering Research Center in 2011 were added as Series 2.
Preferred Citation

Papers of Louis G. Carpenter, Water Resources Archive, Colorado State University.


The Papers of Louis G. Carpenter was transferred from the University Archives in July 2004. Lantern slides were separated from the Ralph L. Parshall Collection and added to this collection in February 2005, since the notation "Zola Dam France L.G.C. 1892" appears on two slides (#108 and #110). In 2017, the card index in the Irrigation Photograph Collection allowed these slides to be better described. Additional materials, including data and publications, were discovered at the Engineering Research Center and transferred to the Archive in November 2011.


Processing was completed in August 2004. Materials were placed in acid-free folders, and reboxed, and metal fasteners were removed. Lantern slides were processed in February 2005 and were placed in acid-free envelopes. The materials found at the Engineering Research Center were added as Series 2 in January 2013.

Related Collections

Carpenter, Louis George, 1861-1935. Papers, 1881-1947. Denver Public Library Conservation Collection.

Records of the Colorado Experiment Station, Agricultural and Natural Resources Archive, Colorado State University.

Irrigation Photograph Collection. Water Resources Archive, Colorado State University.

Online Materials

Some materials have been scanned and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context.

Note: Estimated pagination is preceded by an "e."

Series 1: College papers, 1892-1910 (1.5 linear feet)

This series consists primarily of Louis Carpenter's routine correspondence dated 1900 to 1910. There are letters from and to manufacturers and publishers concerning equipment, materials, and books that might be needed in the department and for the new Civil and Irrigation Engineering Building. Carpenter's role as professor and chair is reflected in the letters concerning students, including letters of inquiry about the department, letters of recommendation, grade reports, and courses offered in the department. Included as well is some correspondence regarding field surveys carried out under Carpenter's direction. As director of the Colorado Experiment Station, he received requests for information and Station publications. The controversy about the focus of the college includes solicitation of information from other agricultural colleges as well as letters seeking support for his position that the college be more than a training school for farmers. Folders are arranged in alphabetical order, with approximate chronological order within folders. At the end of the series are lantern slides, depicting dams in France, Algeria, California, and Colorado. They are in order of the number on the slide.
Box Folder
1 1 Civil and Irrigation Engineering Building--bids, correspondence and planning. 1901-1909. e90pp. VIEW
1 2 Correspondence. 1900-1902. e160pp. VIEW
1 3 Correspondence. 1903-1906. e120pp. VIEW
1 4 Correspondence. 1907. e140pp. VIEW
1 5 Correspondence. 1908. e170pp. VIEW
1 6 Correspondence. 1909. e150pp. VIEW
2 7 Correspondence. 1910. e110pp. VIEW
2 8 Dispute over future function of the college, correspondence. 1907-1908. e80pp. VIEW
2 9-10 Engineering--Applications and correspondence for Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering. 1906. e340pp. VIEW Folder 9 Folder 10
2 11 Engineering program at the college. 1904-1908. e25pp. VIEW
2 12 Field Camp--bills and invoices. 1904-1908. e35pp. VIEW
2 13 Field Camp--correspondence and associated materials. 1904-1908. e70pp. VIEW
2 14 Uncategorized. 1908. e40pp. VIEW
3 Lantern slides.
Original wrapper labeled "Zola Dam"
3 1-11 101-111: Zola Dam. 1892. 11 slides VIEW 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111
3 12-17 112-117: Hamiz Dam. undated. 6 slides VIEW 112 113 114 115 116 117
3 18 119: Carpentras Canal. undated. 1 slide VIEW
3 19-24 120-125: Tlelat Dam. undated. 6 slides VIEW 120 121 122 123 124 125
3 25-28 126-128 and 131: Highline Canal Platte Canyon. undated. 4 slides VIEW 126 127 128 131
3 29-30 134-135: Roanne Dam. undated. 2 slides VIEW 134 135
3 31-43 136, 138-139, 141-150: [Miscellany and devices]. undated. 13 slides VIEW 136 138 139 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150
Includes France and California

Series 2: Research papers, 1888-1919 and undated (2 linear feet)

Materials in this series primarily relate to Louis Carpenter's research interests, including the duty of water, stream seepage, weather observation, and the Cache la Poudre River. The files related to the study of the duty of water contain register charts and data for farms in the Arkansas River Valley. The seepage files contain data from multiple rivers across Colorado. The Poudre River reports are all by Carpenter, reporting weekly on the flow of the river and comparing to previous years. The files are mostly arranged alphabetically by folder title, with the duty of water files grouped by geography. Materials types include publications, data, charts, and letters.
Box Folder
5 1 Canal construction in Colorado, by Harvey H. Griffin. 1888. 18pp., 10 x 14 inches, handwritten VIEW
4 Duty of water.
4 1 Duty of water at B. F. Rockafellow's farm, Canon City, Colo. 1898. e40pp.
4 2 Duty of water at Canon City Colo on the farm of B. F. Rockafellow. 1899. e40pp.
4 3 [Duty of water on B. F. Rockafellow's farm (?)]. 1899, undated. e40pp.
4 4 [Rockafellow farm charts]. 1900. 15pp.
4 5 [Charts from Phil Sheridan, Canon City]. 1898-1900. 12pp.
4 6 [Frederica Mesa charts]. 1900. 17pp.
4 7 Duty of water on Capt Wm Post's meadow. 1899. 5pp.
4 8 Duty of water on the Experiment Station Farm, Rocky Ford, Colorado. 1899. e40pp.
4 9 Duty of water on the farm of W. F. Crowley, Holly, Colo. 1899. e20pp.
4 10 [Crowley charts, Holly]. 1900. 8pp.
4 11 [Unfiled charts]. 1900-1902. e30pp.
4 12 Irrigation notes. 1898-1899. e25pp.
4 13 Meteorological observations, Walden, Colorado. 1912-1913. e20pp.
4 Poudre River reports.
4 14 Report. 1896. 1p. VIEW
4 15 Reports. 1898. e40pp. VIEW
4 16 Bulletins. 1899. e40pp. VIEW
4 Seepage.
4 17 Arkansas River seepage. 1901. 8pp. VIEW
4 18 Cache la Poudre River seepage. 1900-1909. e60pp. VIEW
4 19 Conejos River seepage. 1902. 2pp. VIEW
4 20 Left Hand Creek seepage. 1901-1903. 6pp. VIEW
4 21 Rio Grande seepage. 1902. 4pp. VIEW
4 22 South Platte River seepage. 1895. 5pp. VIEW
4 23 Uncompahgre River seepage. 1900-1902. e20pp. VIEW
5 2 Groundwater and seepage measurements. 1902. 7pp. VIEW
4 24 [Seepage notes?]. undated. 10pp. VIEW
4 25 Carpenter, L. G. Seepage or return waters on Boulder and South Boulder Creeks. Fort Collins, Colo.: Agricultural Experiment Station. Press bulletin no. 14. 1902 December. 2pp. VIEW
4 26 Victorian Water Supply, Loddon River weir and dam. undated. 9pp.
4 27 Victorian Water Supply, Western Irrigation Channel, Goulburn District. undated. e20pp.
4 28 Weather records. 1906-1919. e40pp.