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British Industrial History

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William Powell Shinn

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William Powell Shinn (1834-1892)

1892 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM POWELL SHINN was born in Burlington, New Jersey, May 14, 1834. He began his professional life as a civil engineer in 1849, and was for a time engaged in making surveys for county maps in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In May, 1850, he entered the service of the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad. He rapidly passed through the intermediate grades, and in August, 1852, was appointed assistant-engineer in charge of a division of the road. In the following April he became principal assistant-engineer in charge of the location and construction of eighty-three miles of the Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad. In February 1885 he practically abandoned the active practice of railway location and construction, and began to occupy himself with the details of traffic and general management of railways by taking charge of the freight department of the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad Company. From October, 1856, to September, 1861, he held various responsible positions in the accounting department of the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad Company. In September 1861 he took charge of the passenger department; in September 1863 he was made superintendent of the passenger department; and in October 1865 he was made the head of the freight department.

When the Pennsylvania Company was organised, Mr. Shinn was appointed as an expert to examine the affairs and conditions of the various companies interested in the lease to tine Pennsylvania Company. From May, 1871, to May, 1873, he had charge of tine construction of tine Ashtabula, Youngstown and Pittsburg Railway Company, and in 1873 he became president of that road. In 1874, he was vice-president of the Allegheney Valley Railway Company.

From January, 1873, to October 1, 1879, Mr. Shinn acted as the managing partner of Carnegie, M'Candless, & Co., and had charge of the building and operating of the Edgar-Thomson Steelworks. In 1879-80 he reorganised the Vulcan Steel Company of St. _Louis, and rebuilt and started these works. From 1881 to 1887 he was vicepresident of the NeW York Steam Company, for the distribution of heat by steam through the streets of New York. From December, 1886, to December, 1889, lie was vice-president in responsible charge of the New York and New England Railroad Company, and in 1888-89 lie was president of the Norwich and New York (steamboat) Transportation Company.

Mr. Shinn was elected a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers on September 15, 1869, and on _January 15, 1890, he was made its president. In 1875 he was elected a member of the Institute of Mining Engineers, his leading proposer being Alexander L. Holley. In 1876 and 1877 he was one of its vice-presidents, and in 1880 he was elected president: His contributions to the "Transactions" of the last-named Society include, besides remarks in discussion, the following papers:—" Pittsburg, its Resources and Surroundings" (1879, viii. 11); "The Advance in Mining and Metallurgical Art, Science, and Industry since 1875" (Presidential Address, February 1881, ix. 293); "The Distribution of Steam in Cities" (1884, xii. 632), and "The Genesis of the Edgar-Thomson Blast Furnaces" (1890, xix. 674). But these published papers by no means represent the amount of his labours. His special ability, developed in wide and various experience as a railroad engineer and manager, as director of the Edgar-Thomson Steelworks, and in the difficult and novel business of the New York Steam Company (to mention no others), was in the organisation and control of complicated undertakings.

In 1890, the Institute of Mining Engineers, and the societies and trades co-operating with it in the reception of the Iron and Steel Institute, and other foreign guests, needed just such a man as Mr. Shinn, and he, in response to their call, leaving positions of less laborious, but more conspicuous, service to be filled by others, accepted the chairmanship of the Sub-Committee on Transportation of the General American Reception Committee. The arduous, vexatious, exhausting, and unremitting labours of that position cannot be adequately described. Their results, in the unprecedented excursions of more than five hundred guests over thousands of miles, extending from Lake Superior to Southern Alabama, and keeping several Pullman trains in continual use for weeks—securing not only the collective safety, but also the individual comfort of the travellers—have been the topic of general wonder and praise. To those who knew that in the midst of the preparations for those intensely busy weeks, Mr. Shinn was overwhelmed by the greatest sorrow that could befall him, in the death of his tenderly beloved wife - from whose grave he turned to resume the work from which at that late stage he could not be spared without disaster - the spectacle of his unwearied zeal and efficiency was all the more impressive. Mr. Shinn carried through his task to the grateful admiration of all, and this Institute awarded an appropriate testimonial to the marvellous executive ability which had done so much for their convenience and comfort; while his American colleagues were not backward in confessing their debt to him for the one feature which made the international meeting of 1890 unique.

Mr. Shinn had been a member of the Iron and Steel Institute since 1878, and had looked forward to visiting England in the summer of 1892.

1893 Obituary [2]

WILLIAM POWELL SHINN was born on the 4th of May, 1834, in Borlington, New Jersey. After receiving such elementary education as the schools of the town afforded, he went to Pittsburgh early in 1850 and found employment as rodman in an engineer corps, under the charge of Mr. Solomon W. Roberts, then engaged in the location of the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad.

From August, 1851, to February, 1852, he was Assistant Engineer in charge of a sub-division at Columbia, Ohio, and from April 1852 he had charge of the fuel and water supply of the line. In April, 1853, he was appointed principal Assistant Engineer of the Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad, in charge of location and construction, in which capacity he continued until October, 1854.

In February, 1855, he took charge, as auditor, of the freight. accounts of the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad, retaining this position until the following November. From March to September, 1856, he was engaged as engineer in the preparation of the land maps and title records of the Ohio and Indiana Railroad, now forming a portion of the Western Division of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad.

In October of the same year he took charge of the freight accounts of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad,....[more]

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