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Charles Wood Irish Papers

Identifier: MsC0362

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Scope and Contents

The Papers of Charles Wood Irish are organized into five series: personal documents, government and work documents, correspondence, photographs, and maps, surveys, and diagrams. These papers reflect various aspects of Irish's career, including early railroad surveying done in Iowa and the West during the 1850s to the 1880s; Bureau of Irrigation activity, 1893 -- 1896; western mining data, 1889 -- 1900; and correspondence 1852 -- 1904, including letters from Joaquin Miller and John P. Irish. Maps, surveys, and diagrams are organized by state and include a variety of maps and blueprints related to rivers, topography, and railways.


  • Creation: 1852-1927


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

Charles Wood Irish was born in New York City on February 11, 1834, the son of Frederick Macy Irish and Elizabeth Ann Robinson. He was raised and educated in Iowa. In 1855, he married Susannah Abigail Yarbrough. They had two daughters, Elizabeth and Ruth (Mrs. Charles H. Preston).

As an engineer and surveyor, Irish served in a number of capacities. He was a city engineer for Iowa City and the first county surveyor in Tama County. In addition, he was a chapter member of both Iowa Society of Civil Engineers and the Agassiz Society of Iowa City.

Irish was involved with the first attempt to build a railroad across Iowa in the 1850s. Later he worked as a surveyor in the West during the construction of such railroad lines as the Chicago and North Western, the Dakota Railway, and the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe. He was appointed United States Surveyor General for Nevada by President Cleveland in 1886, and in 1893 was called to Washington to head the Bureau of Irrigation and Inquiry. At the time of his death in 1904, he had returned to Nevada and was serving as Deputy Mining Surveyor.

In addition to being both an engineer and surveyor, Irish was a noted botanist, geologist, and astronomer. His observations of a total solar eclipse in 1869 at Iowa City, and of one in Nevada in 1889, resulted in international recognition.

Charles Wood Irish died September 27, 1904, at Gold Creek, Nevada.


4.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Civil engineer and surveyor. Diaries, surveyor notebooks, letterpress books, correspondence, postcards, terrain profiles, photographs, etc.

Physical Location

16 boxes at n18:08:2-5

atop Map Cases: Oversize boxes - 1 containing flat surveys and maps; 43 boxes of rolled materials

One additional oversize container of rolled materials - items from this container will be periodically removed for conservation through 2012.

Two large rolled maps and one flat folder on top of map case 3

The 2018 addendum has been removed to Preservation to have a box built for it. jlr

Method of Acquisition

The C.W. Irish Papers include material bought at auction in Davenport, Iowa, in 1977 from the Charles Irish Preston Estate; and also material donated by the Division of the State Historical Society, Iowa State Historical Department. Materials, including the maps and many of the surveyor notebooks in the collection, were received in 2010 from the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming.

Related Materials

The Division of the State Historical Society, Iowa State Historical Department, has a collection of Irish-Preston Family Papers other than Charles Wood Irish. The Society also holds portraits of C.W. Irish and his wife by Isaac A. Wetherby. Iowa Central Air Lines. Land Tract Ledger. xMs I6481la

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)