Auction Closing: June 8, 2024 at 11:59 PM Pacific Time
Lot Number: 50
Estimate Range: $800 - $1,000
“Canvass White” Autograph Letter Signed Regarding the Erie Canal, he later Provided the Foundation for the Statue of Liberty and the West Wing of the White House, American Pioneering Engineer, Inventor of a superior quality Waterproof Hydraulic “Rosendale” Cement widely Used

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CANVASS WHITE (1790-1834). American Engineer and Inventor, he was Chief Engineer for the Erie Canal, also the Delaware and Raritan Canals; Canvas White patented “Rosendale Cement,” which became the dominant superior quality cement used in the United States until 1900,

April 17, 1829-Dated, Rare Historic Content Autograph Letter Signed, “Canvass White”, measuring 7.75” x 12.5”, 1 page, Allentown (PA), Choice Very Fine. This Letter in reference to finishing work on the Erie Canal, on which he had been engaged for over 12 years. Here, White writes as Chief Engineer of the Lehigh Canal and Navigation Company to fellow engineer William Lehman. This Letter reads, in part:

“I regret very much that our Canal should be so shackled with the imperfections of the Pennsylvania Canal for we must of course share a part of the public odium for it makes the Union Canal incomplete and the trade will be driven down the Susquehanna in consequence of the imperfection in the Canal. I hope you will be able to get on without another interruption occasioned by breaks or want of water.”

Small tears at folds repaired on verso with archival tape and where letter was opened at its wax seal in the outer blank margin, not near any text. Very well penned in rich brown ink that is easily readable on clean wove period paper.
Canvass White has been acclaimed one of America’s great pioneering engineers and inventor of a waterproof hydraulic cement that was both cheaper and of better quality than that used in England, where he had spent a year studying canal technology.

The cement was used for nearly a century, providing the foundation for the Statue of Liberty and the west wing of the White House. As he died prematurely at age 44, suffering from a long illness contracted while surveying lands west of the Susquehanna River, White’s autograph letters are rarely encountered.

After being severely wounded in combat in the War of 1812, White began a career of nearly 20 years working on Canal construction projects - notably including the Erie, being hired for that work by Benjamin Wright, “the father of American civil engineering”.