Guide to the Osmar Lysander Waller Papers 1897-1935
Cage 222

Summary Information

Repository
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries
Creator
Waller, Osmar Lysander
Title
Osmar Lysander Waller Papers
ID
Cage 222
Date [inclusive]
1897-1935
Extent
22.0 containers.
General Physical Description note
10.75 linear feet of shelf space.
Language
English
Abstract
Correspondence, notes, drafts, reports, photographs, maps and drawings concerned with irrigation in Washington and Idaho, ca. 1900-1935, especially relating to the Columbia Basin Survey Commission (1919-1921) and other public agencies involved in the effort to reclaim the arid regions of central Washington. In addition, the papers document Waller's participation in the codification of the water laws of Washington, ca. 1910-1916. Also included are a portion of the papers resulting from Waller's teaching and administrative positions at Washington State University. Correspondents include Marvin Chase, Elwood Mead, J.W. Summers, and Ross Tiffany.

Preferred Citation note

[Item Description]. Cage 222, Osmar Lysander Waller Papers. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

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Biographical/Historical note

Osmar L. Waller was born in Ohio in 1857. His young adulthood was spent moving between Ohio and Michigan and seemed to have been characterized by uncertainty about the choice of a profession. He began by receiving the type of literary-religious education then offered in most American colleges, going so far as to receive a graduate degree of that nature. Then he attended the University of Michigan law school and was admitted to the bar, but instead of practicing law he became a public school teacher and administrator. About 1890 he moved to Washington state, where he was again admitted to the bar and where he again became a public school administrator, this time at Colfax, Washington. In 1893, he was suddenly appointed to a position wholly unrelated to any of his previous experience--Professor of Mathematics and Civil Engineering at the Washington Agricultural College and School of Science, the ancestor of the present Washington State University, in nearby Pullman, Washington. At the time Waller had only the limited mathematical background which had been included in his education. He probably knew nothing of engineering.

A few cram courses at the University of Chicago enabled him to teach the preparatory school mathematics which comprised the mathematics curriculum at the school in its early years. This process of self-education was repeated to an even greater degree as Waller took up civil engineering. Learning on the job, he not only taught the subject for years, but also developed an extensive consulting practice. Moreover, he acquired the reputation as one of the leading irrigation project engineers in the Northwest within a relatively few years. In spite of this reputation, Waller always exhibited a certain amatuerism about irrigation and reclamation, sometimes making serious errors, as in his early estimates on the Klickitat-Horse Heaven Project. Generally, however, he maintained his competency by adhering to a basic theory of hydrologic engineering which he seems to have derived for the great reclamation engineers of the British Empire, Sir William Willcocks and Robert Hanbury Brown. At times Waller was an almost pedantic advocate of their "natural" system of diversions and canals. He also seemed to shy away from the more typically American approach, with its mechanized features, big dams, flumes, pipes and pumps. Consequently it was not surprising to find that as he led in the search for a means to water the arid region of central Washington during the 1920s, Waller was one of the foremost opponents of the Grand Coulee dam proposals and also the foremost advocate of a "gravity plan" which would have reclaimed the area with water diverted from points hundreds of miles from the land which was to receive it.

In part, Waller overcame the limitations of his knowledge of mathematics and engineering by working at jobs which were related to these fields but which did not require him to be a technical expert. At the University, he spent at least as much time as an administrator as a teacher, serving at various times as Vice-President, Dean of Arts and Sciences and Chairman of his department. He also acted as a public spokesman for the University, especially in the re-organization controversies of 1916-1917.

As an engineer, Waller likewise held a number of positions which involved the making of policy rather than technical decisions. His first major position of this nature was with the United States Department of Agriculture and consisted of a census of irrigation for the state. Bringing him into contact with most of the people concerned with irrigation in the state, this position provided the means of entrance into several later consulting jobs. It also brought him into contact with the Department of Interior's Reclamation Service and with the foremost figure in American irrigation, Dr. Elwood Mead, who was to become a close friend and confidant of Waller.

Waller's next major appointment came when Governor Marion Hay asked him to head a commission which would codify the state's water laws. His eastern legal background may have exerted some influence on the commission, where he emerged as a reformer, advocating the doctrine of beneficial use of water as opposed to the general western practice of appropriation. Though not all of Waller's viewpoints were included in the code, many were, and though the code was prepared in 1910, it was to take eight years of lobbying by Waller and others before they were to win legislative enactment of the code.

At about the same time as the state legislature enacted the water code, it also revived interest in the Columbia Basin irrigation project and appointed a commission to recommend ways of reclaiming the Columbia Basin area in central Washington. Waller quickly became the Secretary of this board, the Columbia Basin Survey Commission, and was very influential in the preparation of the report it issued in 1920. The first of a long series of reports on the Basin project, this report surveyed a variety of proposals and eliminated all but two: the "pumping plan," a scheme which would have diverted water from the Pend Oreille River at Newport, Washington, then transported it through a canal formed largely by the Little Spokane River and the Bonnie Lake-Rock Lake Coulee, with connecting tunnels, and then distributed it to canals in the Northeast corner of the Basin area. The commission strongly recommended the "gravity plan."

Throughout the 1920s Waller continued as an advocate of the "gravity plan," usually from a position on one of the bodies which succeeded the Survey Commission. He repeated earlier recommendations when he contributed to the Federal Board of Engineers' report of 1924. He also attempted to clear political obstacles while with the informal board which sought to work out the interstate agreements necessitated by the gravity plan's need for storage of water in Idaho and Montana. Coincidentally, Waller retired from active concerns at about the same time as the gravity plan fell from favor and the Grand Coulee Dam became more of a certainty. As a final touch of irony, Waller died in 1935, almost simultaneously with the beginning of construction on the great dam.

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Scope and Contents note

O.L. Waller's papers consist of correspondence, notes, drafts, reports, photographs, drawings and maps relative to irrigation in Washington and Idaho, ca. 1900-1930, and to Waller's administrative responsibilities at Washington State University, principally during the years 1920-1925. The irrigation papers are largely concerned with Waller's activities with various public boards and commissions involved with irrigation and hydrological matters, and to a lesser extent with the irrigation projects for which Waller served as a consulting engineer. Two of Waller's major public appointments, the Columbia Basin Survey Commission (and its successors) and the State Water Code Commission are heavily documented, while some materials related to such meetings as the 1908 White House Conference on Natural Resources and the 1929 Western States Governors' Conference briefly document Waller's role in each. Waller's Washington State University papers largely emanate from his positions as Vice-President and Dean of Arts and Sciences and are concerned with such matters as student records, faculty reports, grading policies, faculty appointments and student discipline.

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Arrangement note

The papers are arranged in four major series, with a fifth minor series of personal items. The major series divide the papers according to function and consist of a Columbia Basin irrigation series, a Boards and Commissions (other than Columbia Basin) series, a consultation series and a Washington State University series. Within each series there are several sub-series which separate the various types of materials--correspondence, reports, speeches and so forth. Material in the four subseries of correspondence are arranged chronologically; in the others a subject arrangement predominates.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries © 1974

http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/masc
Terrell Library
P.O. Box 645610
Pullman, WA, 99164-5610
509-335-6691
mascref@wsu.edu

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The papers of Osmar Lysander Waller (1857-1935), irrigation engineer and official of Washington State University (Pullman), were donated to the Washington State University Library in 1935 by Waller's widow and daughter. The Irrigation Projects Papers in the Addendum (Series 6) were transferred from the defunct Geography Department to Washington State University Libraries in August of 1982. This material was unrelated to other materials sent at the same time [Accession Number: UA 82-19] and so was separated to be included within Waller's records in Cage 222.

Processing Information note

Lawrence Stark processed this collection in the summer of 1974, with the exception of the Addendum papers which were processed by Leslie J. Tevebaugh in 1986.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Columbia Basin Survey Commission (Wash.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Chase, Marvin
  • Mead, Elwood, 1858-1936
  • Summers, John William, 1870-1937
  • Tiffany, R. K. (Ross Kerr), 1879-
  • Waller, Osmar Lysander, 1857-1935--Archives

Subject(s)

  • Irrigation
  • Irrigation -- Northwest, Pacific -- History -- Sources
  • Washington (State)
  • Water -- Law and legislation -- Washington (State)

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General note

Columbia River Dam - Grand Coulee generating, pumping & switch stations preliminary estimate drawing, (1924)

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Bibliography

Some aspects of Waller's activities and of the gravity plan are discussed in Bruce Harding's Water from the Pend Oreille: The Gravity Plan for Irrigating the Columbia Basin, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 45:2 (April 1954) 52-61.

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Collection Inventory

Series 1: Columbia Basin Irrigation Project 1918-1935 

Correspondence. Official and personal correspondence relative to investigations, proposals and political controversies concerning irrigation of central Washington, especially related to the Columbia Basin Survey Commission (1919-1921), the Columbia Basin Survey Board (1922-1925), The Bureau of Reclamation's Board of Engineers (1924-1925), and the interstate conference on the waters of the Pend Oreille River (1928-1929). Correspondents include: Fred A. Adams, Marvin Chase, Roy Gill, Ivan Goodner, Louis Hart, Wesley Jones, George Kruetzer, Hervey Lindley, Elwood Mead, John Summers, Ross Tiffany and Arthur J. Turner. 1918-1935   1000

Box

 1918-1924 

1

 1925-1935 

2
Box

Reports on Columbia Basin Irrigation Proposals 1920-1928.   25

2

Columbia Basin Survey Commission Report 1920 

3

Henny Report and Commission rebuttals 1920 

3

Goethals Report 1921 

3

Related projects (Kittitas, Baker, Palouse) 1924 

3

Kirk Bryan Geology Report 1924 

3

Federal Board of Engineers Report 1924 

3

Market Survey Report 1927 

3

Senate Committee Print, including Board of Engineers Report of 1924, Special Commission Report of 1925, and Gault Report of 1925 1927 

3

Hearings before the United States Senate 1927 

3

Farm Economics Report (undated) 

3

Addresses and statements of Waller relative to the Columbia Basin Project, especially defenses of the "Gravity Plan. ca 1920-1928.   15

4

Notes, drafts and working papers used in preparation of various reports, including some material relative to rejected plans, such as the 600 foot dam at Grand Coulee ca 1919-1928.   200

4

Maps and Drawings used in various plans ca 1918-1928.   50

5

Columbia Basin Irrigation League, Bulletins and Minutes 1923-1933.   100

5

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Series 2: Commissions and Conferences 

Water Code Commission 

Box
5
Box

Correspondence. Official and personal correspondence relative to drafting water code and efforts to secure legislative enactment. Correspondents include E.W. Burr, Charles Flummerfelt, Carroll B. Graves, Marion Hay, David Huntington and Ernest Lister. 1910-1915   250

6

Notes, drafts, and working papers used on codification. 110 

6

Research materials, including water contracts and legal decisions.   30

6

White House Conference on the Conservation of Natural Resources 1908   10

7

Western State's Reclamation Association 1921   3

7

Western States Governors' Conference 1928   35

7

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Series 3: Consultation and Professonal Practice 

Correspondence 1900-1923   1600

Box

Letterbooks, including some correspondence relative to Washington State University. 1903-1908 

8

General Correspondence 1900-1906. 

8

General Correspondence 1907-1923. 

9

Notes and drafts relative to consultations.   30

10

Statements, speeches, articles and testimony relative to a variety of irrigation matters ca 1900-ca 1925.   25

10

Consultation projects ca 1900-ca 1932.   1500

Box
10
Box

Adrian Irrigation Project 

11

Arden Orchard Tract 

11

Cheney Wells and Heating System 

11

Cloverland Irrigation System 

11

Coeur D'Alene Water System 

11

Fruitland Irrigation Company, Kettle Falls 

11

Hauser, Idaho 

11

Horse Heaven Irrigation Project 

11

King's Hill 

11

Klickitat Power and Irrigation Company 

11

Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District 

11

Lind Sewer 

11

Marysville Canal, Idaho 

11

Methow-Okanogan Irrigation project 

12

Moses Lake 

12

Oakesdale Water Works 

12

Opportunity (Freewater, Oregon) 

12

Palouse Project 

12

Prosser Water Works 

12

Pullman Resevoir 

12

Rathdrum (Sucker Lake) 

12

Ritzville Sewer 

12

Round Lake Irrigation Company 

12

Spokane Valley Land and Water Company 

12

Spokane Water Supply Controversy 

13

Sunnyside Resevoir 

13

Twin Falls Projects 

13

Twin Falls Projects 

14

Walla Walla Flood Control 

14

Whitestone Irrigation Project 

14

Yakima Valley Projects 

14

Field Books ca 1900-ca 1925.   33

Box
15
Box

Irrigation Investigations, U.S. Department of Agriculture   3.0 volumes

15

Current Meter notes, U.S. Geological Survey   3.0 volumes

15

Weston-Pine Creek Irrigation Co.   2.0 volumes

15

Southern Idaho-Twin Falls   7.0 volumes

15

Spokane Water Works   2.0 volumes

15

Kettle Falls   1.0 volume

15

Moses Lake   1.0 volume

15

Klickitat   1.0 volume

15

Attalia   1.0 volume

15

Water works: Oakesdale, Coeur D'Alene & Malden   1.0 volume

15

Palouse Highway   1.0 volume

15

Miscellaneous and Unidentified   10.0 volumes

15

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Series 4: Washington State University 

Vice-Presidential and Dean's correspondence 1900-1930.   1200

Box

 1900-1923 

16

 1924-1930 

17

Student delinquency records 1922-1925.   500

Box

 1922-1924 

17

 1924-1925 

18
Box

Reports to University Administration (technical and administrative) 1898-1925.   100

18

Statements, speeches, publications related to education: 

Box
19
Box

Defenses of Land Grant Education and State University's curriculum, prepared for reorganization controversy of 1916-1917.   35

19

Public speaking, commencement address, etc.   50

20

Reprints of Waller publications.   10

20

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Series 5: Personal 

Box

Correspondence, including collected letters from military personnel in France 1918-1919. ca 1900-ca 1930   40

20

Portraits undated   3

20

Biographical sketches of Waller, written by Florence Waller and E.O. Holland, and related correspondence ca 1940.   20

20

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Series 6: Irrigation Projects 

Box

Amendments To The Irrigation Law 1917   1

21

Canada Land and Irrigation Company, Limited 1919   8

21

Cement, Concrete, and Concrete Bridges 1924   23

21

Delhi State Land Settlement 1922   2

21

Electric Cam Drive Triplex Pump 1915   1

21

Engineering Data 1915   1

21

General Statements From Irrigation Projects 1914-1915   67

21

Horse Heaven Irrigation District 1919-1920   2

21

Horse-Springs Coulee 1925   16

21

Klickitat Irrigation and Power Company 1913   1

21

Lewiston Valley Water Company 1922-1925   11

21

Okanogan Project 1915   28

21

Palouse Irrigation Association undated   1

21

Post Falls Development of The Washington Water Power Company 1908   1

21

Priest Rapids Highlands Irrigation Project 1913-1930   4

21

Pumping Plant undated   2

21

Spokane Improved Water Supply 1905   1

21

Storage Dams At Lakes Kachess, Keechelus, Clealum, and McAllister's Meadow, Estimate of Cost of 1915   1

22

State Superior Court In And For Klickitat County 1917   1

22

Tieton Irrigation Project 1914-1915   11

22

Valier Project: Report on Water-Logged Lands 1916   4

22

Water Legislation For Washington 1914-1916   10

22

Water Power 1914-1916   9

22

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