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Papers of Louis G. Carpenter

Identifier: WLGC

Scope and Contents

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.


  • Creation: 1888-1919
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1898-1910


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.


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.


3.5 linear feet (4 document boxes, 1 flat box)

Language of Materials



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. A portion of the collection is digitized and online.


Materials discovered at the Engineering Research Center in 2011 were added as Series 2.

Series 1: College papers, 1892-1910

Series 2: Research papers, 1888-1919 and undated


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.

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.

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.


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.

Inventory Note

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

Guide to the Papers of Louis G. Carpenter
Edited Full Draft
Prepared by Holley R. Lange; updated by Patricia J. Rettig
Copyright 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA