5.5 linear feet (in 7 boxes) — 1 oversize folder
The collection documents the professional life of John G. Claybourn, superintendent of the Dredging Division of the Panama Canal from 1921 to 1948 and a consultant on matters of river and harbor improvement. In addition to the Panama Canal, the collection illustrates the role of the United States in infrastructure development in the Third World.
The papers include materials created and collected by Claybourn in his work on the Panama Canal, materials relating to personal business activities away from his primary work, materials relating to consulting jobs and to Claybourn's activities in professional engineering societies, and personal correspondence, much of it with some business connection.
The collection is not clearly divided by topic: papers relating to a particular topic may be divided among topical files, files arranged by correspondent or company, and the general personal correspondence file. Some of the topics of interest include the following:
Burma: The papers document Claybourn's consulting work in the early 1950s, on contract with the U.S. government, to rebuild commerce on the Irrawaddy River destroyed during World War II and to develop the Dalla Dockyards near Rangoon.
Claybourn, Elsie Greiser: A scrapbook documents her activities as a long-distance swimmer and canoeist. Her retirement years are described in detail in the personal correspondence file.
Claybourn, Leslie W.: Claybourn's correspondence with his brother, an inventor and printing industry executive, provides some documentation of the development of that industry.
Colombia: In the 1920s Claybourn was involved in the development of the Dique de Cartagena, a ship canal serving that city. The papers document his relations with the Colombian government.
Florida: Claybourn was a consultant in the early 1930s for a projected canal across Florida. The collection includes surveys and other papers relating to this project.
Panama Canal: The papers reflect both Claybourn's work on the Canal and his interest in the history of its construction. Most papers on this topic have been drawn together in processing, but many are found under the names of correspondents and in the general correspondence file. The topics documented in the greatest detail are maintenance of the canal, especially clearing of landslides, and planning for additional locks and later for a sea-level canal. Information about dredges used on the canal is also included. A collection of photographs, most of them from official sources, parallels these strengths.
The papers also document Claybourn's moonlighting on private dredging operations during the 1920s. This material is found under the names of companies and projects.
Retirement: Claybourn's retirement years were spent in Ann Arbor. The personal correspondence describes in great detail his and his wife's retirement activities.
Rumania: Correspondence with Bill Arthur includes a copy of Arthur's diary of events during a 1940 rebellion in that country.
World War II: In addition to the Rumanian material described above, the collection contains much relating to defensive activities on the Panama Canal. The Burma project described above includes information about war damage to transportation in that country.
Other consulting activities: Consulting projects in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Venezuela are documented less fully than those described above.