The John F. Wixford Manuscript Collection chronicles a great moment in the history of St. Louis--its almost miraculous achievement of clear, clean drinking water just days before the opening of the World's Fair in 1904--as well as a difficult, disappointing time for Water Department chemist Wixford, who had to fight to establish his right to recognition for this feat. By illuminating the daunting technological problem of water purification in one particular locale, this material also throws light upon the environmental and social issues facing many burgeoning metropolitan areas at the tum of the century. With its strong human interest story of an underdog battling for vindication against what he perceived to be the politically motivated calumniations of his superiors, the collection reflects, too, the pressures attendant upon great success as well as the acrimonious partisan political climate of 1904-era St. Louis.
The collection contains items from 1887 to 1934, with the bulk of the material dating from 1911, when the Wixford Testimonial Committee was gathering evidence in its attempt to fix Wixford's share of the credit for the newly pure water of St. Louis.
The Reports Series consists of statements on the history of the St. Louis water problem, including a long series of reports submitted by Wixford himself entitled "Water Purification at St. Louis" and comprising sections on his own work in the Water Department prior to 1903, on known water treatment processes, the origin of his own process, chemical calculations, his process for preparing and feeding the reagents in his system, etc. Also here is Water Commissioner Edward E. Wall's official view of Wixford's work for the Department.
The Manuscripts Series contains drafts of Wixford's reports as well as ofletters he wrote disputing the refusal of some foreign governments to grant him patents for his process. These, along with the results of his filtration and coagulation experiments for the Water Department in the 1890s, covered in the Analyses and Experiments Series, add depth to Wixford's version of events. The Correspondence Series encompasses many letters sent in reply to the Wixford Testimonial Committee's call for information, and helps to flesh out both sides of the story. The Pamphlets and Publications Series consists of booklets, articles, and monographs that provide background for the murky problem of water purification at the tum of the century, an overwhelming challenge both internationally and for St. Louis as a city straddling the muddy Mississippi.