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Othniel Foster Nichols papers

Identifier: MC 7

Scope and Contents

The Othniel Foster Nichols Papers (MC 7) span the years 1869 to 1900 with the bulk of the material falling into the period 1887-1900. The collection contains scrapbooks, a photo album, sketches, writings and newspaper clippings documenting his personal interests as well as his professional civil engineering activities. The scrapbooks contain a wide variety of material collected by Nichols, including newspaper clippings related to the Brooklyn Elevated Railroad and other railroad engineering projects such as the London Rapid Transit system. There are also an assortment of RPI related clippings, commencement programs and alumni event programs and menus. Other items include advertisements, particularly for railroad-related equipment; tickets for various railroads; society listings for groups such as the American Society of Civil Engineers; political cartoons; theatre playbills; an invitation to the opening of the Ferris wheel with a ticket; literary and historical clippings; and photographs of politicians and other prominent figures. There is also a photocopy of an obituary scrapbook held by the Newport Historical Society in 1980 and the society may also hold copies of the photographs from the photo album in the collection. Of particular note are the materials related to the design and construction of the Williamsburg (New East River) and Manhattan Bridges including documentation of the controversy surrounding the eye bar cable system. Also of significance are the photographs of workers inside the caissons for the Williamsburg Bridge contained within the photo album.


  • Created: 1869-1900
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1887-1900



2.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The collection contains personal and professional papers, scrapbooks and a photo album primarily related to O. F. Nichols' work on the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges and for the Brooklyn Elevated Railroad Company.

Arrangement Note

Organized into two series:  I. Personal papers, and II. Professional papers.

Physical Access Requirements

Several photographs from one of the disbound scrapbooks are heavily damaged, possibly from the adhesive used. The large red marbled scrapbook is coming apart along the binding and pages are extremely brittle.  Access may be restricted due to its condition.

Processing Information

One scrabook and one photo album have been disbound for preservation purposes and the pages arranged in order in folders.  Pages 59-104 of the photo album were blank and discarded during disbinding.  Access may be limited due to condition.

Amber J. D'Ambrosio
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2015: Due to preservation needs this collection has been reprocessed.  The first finding aid (1982) can be accessed by consulting archives staff.

Repository Details

Part of the Institute Archives and Special Collections Repository

110 8th Street
Institute Archives and Special Collections
Rensselaer Libraries, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy NY 12180-3590 US
518 276 8340