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John F. Wixford Manuscript Collection [DOC MSS 5]

Identifier: DOC MSS 5

Scope and Contents

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.


  • 1887-1934


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access to this collection

Conditions Governing Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Please contact the Saint Louis University Archives for details.


1.80 Linear Feet

352 items other_unmapped

Language of Materials



This collection is organized into eleven series:  1. Analyses and Experiments; 2. Clippings; 3. Correspondence; 4. Ephemera; 5. Legal Documents; 6. Manuscripts; 7. Notes; 8. Pamphlets; 9. Publications; 10. Reports; 11. Speeches. This collection is a combination of two separate caches of material, the earlier John F. Wixford Manuscript Collection and a donation made to the Archives by the City of St. Louis Water Division in 1997. Although the provenance of the first collection is uncertain, most likely it came from Charles 1. Borgmeyer, S.J., Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at Saint Louis University. Borgmeyer was a member of the Wixford Testimonial Committee Advisory Board of the North St. Louis Business Men's Association that voted in favor of Wixford's preponderant role in the purification of St. Louis water in time for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World's Fair) of 1904. It is not known when the collection reached the Library, but it may have been part of a large amount of general University historical material awaiting processing in the Saint Louis Room of the Library since about 1960. The material donated by the City Water Division had long reposed in a metal box at the Howard Bend Water Treatment Plant in Chesterfield, Missouri, where it was under the protection of longtime employee William B. Schworm, who was aware of its historical value. Perhaps the most important part of the material consists of typed reports apparently submitted to the Advisory Board as it pursued its work of investigating the Wixford story. These reports include a long series of statements by Wixford himself covering the history of his efforts at the Water Department, known water treatment processes, the origin of his own system, etc.  Manuscript versions of the reports, the results of Wixford's filtration and coagulation experiments, and correspondence offering views for and against Wixford complement this record of the problem of water purification in 8t. Louis.  Pamphlets and other publications on water purification in general place the story in its larger environmental and social context.

John F. Wixford Manuscript Collection [DOC MSS 5]DOC MSS 5
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Repository Details

Part of the Saint Louis University Archives Repository

Pius XII Memorial Library
3650 Lindell Blvd.
St. Louis Missouri 63108 United States