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Eugene Shallcross Ferguson papers

1937-2001 Majority of material found within 1960-1995
 Collection
Identifier: 2249

Abstract

Eugene S. Ferguson (1916-2004) was one of the founders of the discipline of the history of technology, both through teaching at Iowa State University and the University of Delaware and by working at the Smithsonian Institution and the Hagley Museum. This collection documents the first twenty years of the history of technology as an academic discipline, and networking among its practitioners.

Dates

  • 1937-2001
  • Majority of material found within 1960-1995

Creator

Extent

26 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Eugene S. Ferguson (1916-2004) was one of the founders of the discipline of the history of technology, both through teaching at Iowa State University and the University of Delaware and by working at the Smithsonian Institution and the Hagley Museum.

Eugene Shallcross Ferguson was born in Wilmington, Delaware, on January 24, 1916, received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1937, and began his career as a practicing mechanical engineer with Western Electric and the DuPont Company before joining the Navy in World War II. During a period of recuperation, a roommate interested him in naval history, and thus began his growing interest in the history of technology. After the war, Ferguson taught mechanical engineering at Iowa State College, where he completed his M.S. in 1955, but by this time he was set on a career in the history rather than the practice of engineering.

From 1958 to 1961, Ferguson was Curator of Mechanical & Civil Engineering at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of History and Technology, then under development. In 1958, Ferguson joined with longtime friend Mel Kranzberg and other kindred spirits in forming the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), separating it as a discipline separate from the history of science or economic history. Ferguson became the semi-official bibliographer for SHOT and published the wide-ranging "Bibliography of the History of Technology" in 1968. Ferguson was president of SHOT in 1977-1978 and received its most prestigious award, the Leonardo da Vinci Medal in 1977.

In 1961, Ferguson returned to Iowa State as a professor of the history of technology, and in 1969, he secured a joint appointment and the University of Delaware and the Hagley Museum, where he remained until his retirement in 1979. At Delaware, Ferguson joined with John J. Beer (1927-) and George Basalla (1928-) to create one of the country's leading programs in the history of technology, one butressed by opportunities for practical work and research at the Hagley Museum and Library.

After retirement, Ferguson remained at Hagley as Senior Resident Scholar until 1982. During these years he began work on his major book, "Engineering and the Mind's Eye", which was published in 1993. He died at Quarryville, Pennsylvania, on March 21, 2004.

Scope and Content

The collection documents the first twenty years of the history of technology as an academic discipline, and networking among its practitioners.

Series I, Research Files, consists of notes and clippings collected by Ferguson over the years to support his research, writing and teaching projects. They give a good idea of the scope of his interests and his basic attitudes towards technology.

Series II, Writings, Talks and Papers, consists of drafts and notes for the many short papers, articles and oral presentations that constitute the bulk of Ferguson's writings.

Series III, consists of drafts, notes and correspondence covering the preparation of Ferguson's major work, Engineering and the Mind's Eye.

Series IV, consists of notes collected for the Bibliography of the History of Technology. Where possible, they have been arranged according to that work's chapter headings.

Series V, Publications by Others, consists of photocopies of complete articles or reviews written both by major writers, other historians of technology, and Ferguson's own students. Again, they serve to show the range of his activities and interests and the influences on his own thought.

Series VI, Correspondence, is perhaps the most interesting section of the papers, as it contains Ferguson's private and candid opinions and illustrates the relative strengths of his ties within the general network of historians of technology. As might be expected, his correspondence with Mel Kranzberg is particularly extensive, as is that with John R. Harris, a British historian for whose work Ferguson sought wider American recognition. There is also substantial material on Ferguson's work at the Hagley Museum, with the Hagley Program and with individual fellows, as well as biographical materials and c.v.'s (filed under "Vanity"). Many of Ferguson's colleagues were close personal friends, and the letters contain a mix of professional and personal information.

Series VII consists of a separate file of correspondence that Ferguson maintained in chronological rather than subject order.

Series VIII consists of files relating specifically to Ferguson's role as advisor to students in the Hagley Fellowship Program.

Series IX consists of notes and materials collected for an aborted "Album of American Technology" that was to have been published by Scribners.

Series X consists of correspondence and notes relating to Ferguson's other book projects, including the works on Truxtun, Ramelli, Oliver Evans, George Escol Sellers and the early version of "Mind's Eye" that appeared as an article in Scientific American. There are also copies of illustrations collected for the annotated version of Sellers's memoirs.

Access Restrictions

Records less than 25 years old are closed.

This collection is stored off-site at the Hall of Records. Please allow 48 hours for delivery to reading room.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Eugene Shallcross Ferguson papers
Status:
Online
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400