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Personal papers of William C. McNown

Call Number: PP 5


William C. McNown was a professor of civil and highway engineering at the University of Kansas from 1913 to 1950. He was a Learned distinguished professor of engineering. His papers include correspondence, course papers, and research into soil-cement blocks and cement.


  • Creation: 1913 - 1951


Conditions Governing Access

These materials are stored in the KU Annex off-site storage area.

All researchers interested in reviewing this material must consult Spencer Research Library Public Services staff (785-864-4334 or, 9-5 M-F CST) no less than three days in advance of a planned visit. Be advised that drop-in requests for this material cannot be accommodated.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of William C. McNown

William C. McNown was born near Mauston, Wisconsin, January 11, 1880. McNown enlisted and saw active service during the Spanish-American War with General Miles' expedition to Puerto Rico during the summer of 1898. In the autumn of 1899 he entered the University of Wisconsin, from which he graduated in 1903 with the degree of Bachelor in Civil Engineering.

After graduation, McNown held positions as civil engineer with the Buffalo division of the Erie Railroad and in the city engineer's office at Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1905 he obtained a position as instructor in civil engineering at Cornell University where he taught for two years. In 1907 he was offered a professorship in civil engineering at Earlham College, in Richmond, Indiana, a position he occupied for two years.

McNown then decided to go into private practice and for four years, 1909-1913, he was engaged in irrigation and highway engineering at Walla Walla, Washington.

In 1913 he took the position of assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan. McNown was raised to the rank of associate professor in 1914 and in 1921 became professor of highway engineering. He was a Learned distinguished professor of engineering.

McNown's summers while teaching at KU were spent in various kinds of engineering work. In 1916 he was engineer for the Bismarck Drainage District near Lawrence. During the summer of 1918 he was employed by Black and Veatch on the survey and plans for the improvement of twenty-three miles of the Santa Fe Trail in Pawnee County and by the national government on the extension of the Camp Pike cantonment. In 1919 he held the office of engineer for Sumner County. Other summers were spent in engineering work in the Marais Des Cygnes Valley Drainage District and as city engineer at Eudora.

He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Kansas Engineering Society, and the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education. McNown wrote several magazine articles, chief among which were 'The Use of the Sewage of Walla Walla, Washington, for Irrigation,' Engineering News, 1912; 'The Countour Method of Applying Irrigation Water,' Engineering News, 1912; and 'City Planning,' Engineering and Contracting, 1921.

McNown developed a soil cement block which was used in the construction of the Industrial Research Laboratory on the KU campus. McNown was the father of John S. McNown, former dean of the KU School of Engineering and Architecture. William Coleman McNown died December 5, 1965.


1 Linear Feet (1 box + 1 oversize folder )

Language of Materials


Physical Location

PP 5

Physical Location

Annex (Contact Spencer Library Public Services)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, William C. McNown.

Related Materials

William McNown collection, RH MS S46, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Consult library staff regarding the availability of related photographs, biographical files, and scrapbooks.

Guide to the William C. McNown Collection
Personal papers of William C. McNown
Finding aid prepared by sk, 2004. Finding aid encoded by sk, 2004. Finding aid revised by skt, 2010; mwh, 2018, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Personal papers of William C. McNown, University Archives, PP 5, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States