Harry Lewis Cobb Austin Dam Reconstruction Photograph Album
An Inventory of the Collection
Harry Lewis Cobb was the resident engineer in charge of the Austin Dam reconstruction project from August 1911-July 1917. He was married to Jessamine. They lived at 1202 West 22nd Street. He does not appear in the Austin city directories after 1920. No further information is known about him.
The Austin Dam was first conceived in 1871 and built on the Colorado River in Austin, Texas between 1890 and 1893. It formed Lake McDonald (now Lake Austin), named for Mayor John McDonald who spearheaded the project. The lake was a popular recreational area for residents and tourists. In April 1900, heavy rains caused more water flow than the dam could handle, and the dam broke in a catastrophic incident. Reconstruction of the dam began in 1912. Engineers learned from the problems of the previous dam and designed a hollow reinforced-concrete shell with curves to accommodate large volumes of water. The new dam also included floodgates to regulate lake levels. In 1915, as completion was nearing for the reconstruction project, floodwaters hit again. Dam operators realized that there were still problems in the dam design as the floodgates could not release enough water. Another dam was not built at this site until 1938. The new dam was named the Tom Miller Dam.
An album with 720 black and white photographs taken, developed and printed by Harry Lewis Cobb documents the damage to the Austin Dam and its reconstruction from 1911 to 1918. The images depict the original damaged dam from multiple angles; construction equipment; hydraulics machinery; men and horses (mules?) at work; construction of new power lines; installation of new pipes; group portraits of work crews; the completed dam with water rushing through the floodgates; views of the surrounding area. There is also a portrait of Cobb on the first page. Some images are made from multiple prints lined up and glued together to form wide-angle views of the area. There are handwritten inscriptions on the first page, but otherwise no captions. Many photographs have the month and date inscribed on the edges.
The album received water damage at some point which ruined the emulsion on many of the photographs. For preservations purposes, the binding of the album has been undone and pages have been put in individual Mylar sleeves. Photos that have detached from their pages have also been individually sleeved, but left with their corresponding page.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users. Users should consult the digital photos of the album pages instead of the original album as much as possible in order to minimize handling of the fragile album.
Restrictions on Use
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
The album had been discarded and then found by Neal E. Armstrong of the University of Texas at Austin Department of Civil Engineering.
Harry Lewis Cobb Austin Dam Reconstruction Photograph Album (AR.2006.008). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/2006/017
Donation Date: 2006 February 22
Finding aid created and encoded by Nicole Davis/March 2015.
Digital scans of the pages are available in the Digital Collections Box in the Reading Room.
Detailed Description of the Collection