Back to Jonathan Parker Snow –
Born in Concord New Hampshire, and said to have attended private academy at ”Contoocookville” The Contoocook Academy formerly stood in the Contoocook village section of Hopkinton, none so far from the Contoocook Railroad bridge (the Child’s Truss bridge which was there when he attended Academy, and the current Double Town he replaced it with – see June entry “Railroading, Adverts and Lists of What Was”) and Col. Long’s childhood home.
My initial interest in the mans work was sparked by two things, his being a lifelong proponent of wooden bridges, that and his being openly appreciative, even praiseful of the bridgewrights he worked with, and the knowledge and abilities they possessed. Particularly those of New Hampshire and B&M Bridgewright David Haselton.
The more I come to know about the man, the more I come to understand where it was that seeming sense of admiration might have come from. It is also in a growing sense of who he was that I come to find another reason for my own appreciation. With a deepening understanding of a lifelong shared interest and friendship he held with his engineering professor at Dartmouth’s Thayer School.
The Thayer School of Civil Engineering opened in 1871, the Schools namesake and benefactor, and 1807 Dartmouth alumnus Brevet Brigidier General Sylvanus Thayer, would handpick twenty four year old West Point mathematics instructor Robert Howe Fletcher to create and run the program. He would carry on as Dean for forty seven years until he reached the mandatory retirement age, and would continue to serve as lecturer and on the School’s Board of Overseers for years thereafter.
Snow would attend Dartmouth at an age slightly older than what was or is the norm, graduating in 1875, as a member of a Thayer School class of two. Fletcher would hire Snow, only a year his junior as “instructor” for the School, he would stay on for an additional two years. The 1877 Catalogue lists him as a member of the faculty and “Instructor of Surveying.” Dean Fletcher seems to have leaned heavily on Jonathan to help in the creation of instructional materials, during this period Snow wrote several treatises on Carpentry and Timber Frame Construction for this purpose. Though I am yet to corroborate this, his ability to produce these materials is suggestive of his already having deep knowledge in this subject. I spent a day recently at Dartmouth’s Rauner Special Collections Library photographing one of Snow’s handwritten books created for the Thayer School Program.
Snow would leave Dartmouth in 1878 and enter the employ of the Boston Bridge Works. Interestingly, beginning not in their engineering office, but in the shop cutting Timber joinery.
Snow and Fletcher would go onto work cooperatively on many papers over the course of their long careers, this ending with their hundred page masterwork prepared for the American Society of Civil Engineers, Paper No. 1864 – A History Of The Development Of Wooden Bridges, published when both men were in their 80’s
Students of Scarf Joints (Timber Splices) might have interest in the following paper, written by Mr Fletcher in 1909 – Reproduced here in its entirety though unfortunately in type too small to read. Clicking on the article will bring you to the Digital library where you will be able to expand it in size for readability.