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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Walsh Construction Company Records

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1907-1952
Creator: Walsh Construction Company
Extent: .25 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0053
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: This small collection contains papers of the company started by Patrick T. Walsh. These are mostly photocopies and photostats, and include information on the Walsh Company, correspondence, and materials relating to their bid to build the Panama Canal.

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: These papers were collected for the University of Iowa Libraries by George Sheets between 1957and 1959.

Preferred Citation: Walsh Construction Company Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Patrick Thomas Walsh was born on Saint Patrick's Day in 1855. His Irish parents had moved to Davenport, Iowa, in 1848 from County Clare, Ireland by way of New York. As a boy Walsh earned money working as an apprentice stonecutter on the construction of the Rock Island (Illinois) Arsenal. An agitator for the eight hour day in the 1880s, Walsh succeeded in attaining this goal, but this activity apparently cost him his job.

Walsh added to his construction skills and was involved in two separate partnerships, the Edwards and Walsh Construction Company and the Tri-State Construction Company, before creating his own Walsh Construction Company. Walsh and his foreman, Henry C. Kahl, quickly became involved with railroad expansion, eventually landing large contracts for railroads including the Great Northern, Chicago, Illinois Central, Erie, and New York Central. Walsh constructed several bridges and train stations as well. According to America's Builders (November 1952), at one point, the Walsh Construction Company possessed the largest collection of railroad stock and equipment owned by a non-railroad company. Walsh Construction Company was incorporated in Davenport in 1899, one month after Walsh turned forty-four years old. An illustration of the high esteem accorded the construction company is that it was invited to submit a bid for building the Panama Canal before the government decided to use its own engineer corps.

Walsh married Catherine Beecher in 1881 and they had six children. Thomas J. Walsh and Edward P. Walsh would eventually join their father in the company. Patrick Walsh died in 1916 and Thomas took over presidency of the company. Under Thomas's direction, the company diversified, taking on projects that included bridges, canals, tunnels, dams, and buildings. In 1937, Thomas J. Walsh III became active in the company, bringing the third generation of Walshes into the company. During World War II the Walsh Construction Company participated in the war effort by building troop training camps, battleship docks, overseas military bases, bomb factories, and even ships. After the war Walsh Construction created a Building Division, established a headquarters in San Francisco, California, and more overseas ventures in France and Germany.

This collection consists of photocopies of correspondence, clippings, and other materials.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical information for P.T. Walsh and the Walsh Construction Company
  • Certificate of Commendation to T. J. Walsh from the U. S., Navy; laminated copy, March 1 - 1947
  • Correspondence regarding Panama Canal bid (photostats), March 11-July 22 - 1907
  • General correspondence (photocopies)
  • From B. Moreel, Rear Admiral of the U. S. Navy, December 4 - 1943
  • From James Forrestal, the Secretary of the Navy, September 1 - 1945
  • From Harry S. Truman, the President of the United States, December 7 - 1948
  • Obituaries for P. T. Walsh (photostats)