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Biography Frederick Graff 1833 Memorial

Memorial of Frederick Graff to the Select and Common Councils of Philadelphia, April 17, 1833

Mr. J. P. Wetherill presented the annexed petition from Mr. Frederick Graff, which was referred to a joint committee of three members from each Council, and Messrs. Haines, Toland, Maitland, J. P. Wetherill, Lippincott and Lewis, were appointed the committee.

To the Select and Common Councils of the city of Philadelphia.
The memorial of Frederick Graff, respectfully sheweth: That he entered the service of the city, in the year seventeen hundred and ninety-nine, as an assistant or draughtsman to B. Henry Latrobe, Esquire, the engineer employed by the corporation to plan and build the first works, erected for supplying the city of Philadelphia with wholesome water.
That having acquired some practical, as well as theoretical knowledge of their management, he was on the 1st April, 1805, appointed Superintendent of the water.Works, with an annual salary of twelve hundred dollars, in the place of Mr. John Davis, who had resigned.  Your memorialist had served in that capacity during the months of January, February, and March in that year without any compensation.
These works were at length discovered to be not only defective in plan, but also entirely inadequate to the increased supply of Schuylkill water required for the use of the citizens.  The reservoirs only contained 16,000 gallons of water, equal to a supply of half an hour, when the engines were not in operation.
These considerations induced the Watering Committee to bring the defective state of these works before Councils, and a resolution was accordingly passed by those bodies on the 24th October, 1811, directing the Watering Committee “to cause examinations to be made, in relation to an alteration of the present mode of supplying the City with water, and also whether any other mode can be advantageously substituted for that now in operation.”
In compliance with this resolution, the Watering Committee directed Mr. John Davis, the former superintendent, and your memorialist, to examine the works then in operation, and afterwards to inspect the eastern shore of the Schuylkill from the Upper Ferry to the Falls, and thence to the mouth of Wissahickon creek, and also the latter stream as far as the dam and mills of Mr. Robeson.
On the 18th December, 1811, Messrs. Davis and Graff made a joint report of their proceedings to the Watering Committee in which they submitted their views, in relation to the different plans for watering the city, suggested for their consideration.
They recommended the abandonment of the old works and basins, and the erection of reservoirs on the hill at Fair Mount, and their supply by means of steam engines to be fixed at its base.
The Wissahickon creek was also examined, but the waters of it were discovered to be entirely insufficient for the supply of the city.
The next examination made, was of the water and Power, at the falls of Schuylkill, then owned by Messrs. White and Gillingham. There, although a sufficient power was found for the object in view, yet it was ascertained that the mills of those gentlemen were frequently stopped by back water and ice during the winter.
After a due consideration of these several plans, and the suggestions contained in the report, the Watering Committee determined to recommend to Councils, the purchase of a site at Fair Mount, upon which large reservoirs could be erected at a proper height, and to supply them by means of steam engines. This was accordingly done in their report of the 2d May, 1812, and the plan being approved by Councils, the ground was purchased, and the works were commenced in August, 1812, and finished on the 7th September 1815, when they were put into successful operation.
These works (with the exception of the designs for the steam engines) were planned and executed by your memorialist, who had also during the period of their erection, the management of the old works for the superintendence of which, he received the before named salary of $1200.
When the new works were about to be commenced, the Watering Committee directed the Superintendent, to provide himself with a spirit level, compass, and such other instruments, as were necessary, and agreed that they should be paid for by the city; and it was also understood, that your memorialist should be compensated for his services as engineer, when the works were completed.
On the 13th September, 1813, a resolution was passed by the Watering Committee, “That the Superintendent shall be entitled to the sum of $1000 as a full compensation for the extra duties, attention and skill which the new works occasion, which shall be paid to him, one half on the first of October next, and the balance at the completion of the works aforesaid.”
The instruments that your memorialist had purchased were stolen from the office at Fair Mount, which was broken open during the night, and having cost $250, would have left $750 as the compensation of your memorialist, for the labor of nearly three years.
Under these circumstances, your memorialist at last found himself compelled, in justice to himself and family, to render his resignation as superintendent, which he accordingly did on the 3d March, 1815. It was accepted by the committee, who immediately advertised in Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore, for a person competent to take the place of superintendent.
No one however offered, and the Watering Committee then proposed to your memorialist, that if he would reingage as superintendent, they would pay him $2000 instead of $1000 for his extra services, and raise his regular salary from $1200 to $2000 per annum, to commence from and after the 30th December 1815. This proposal was accepted by your memorialist, and the steam works were completed, and conducted by him to the entire satisfaction of the committee, until it was proposed to supply the reservoirs by means of water power above the Upper Ferry Bridge.
The Watering Committee having determined to change the mode of supplying the reservoirs at Fair Mount, from steam power to water power, invited plans and estimates from Messrs. Cooley, Wernwag, and others. Your memorialist was directed by the committee to give his aid and assistance, in all these matters, and he accordingly attended to this new duty from the first sounding of the river, in February 1819, preparatory to the erection of the dam, until the completion of the work in December, 1822.
The erection of a dam and works, having been finally concluded upon, operations were commenced on the 19th April, 1819.
From the hurried manner in which they were begun, (the Superintendent being then absent on a tour of duty up the Delaware purchasing timber for the dam,) no specific plan or design was adopted with regard to the buildings, or the location or form of any part of the works, excepting the dam, and the water wheel, the form of the latter of which was given by Mr. Oaks.
Your memorialist becoming uneasy, and fearing that the general outline of the works had not been properly digested, commenced drawing plans for the same, and making models, (some of which are still in his possession) which when completed were approved of and adopted by the Watering Committee, who instructed your memorialist to enter into agreements for their construction, and to procure materials for the execution of the Works. From this period until the works were finished, in December 1822, your memorialist had the sole charge (under the authority of the committee,) of  directing the works under contract as well as the management of all other parts connected with them.
Your memorialist gave all the designs and superintended their execution, for the canal and locks on the west side of the river, the forebay, head arches, and their gates, and the reservoir on the east side of the Schuylkill, the mill buildings, the pumps, mains, and all other parts of the works, excepting the wheels and the mill machinery and dam.
Under the direction of your memorialist, the head pier and mound were raised from seven to fifteen feet, after the great freshet of February, 1822, and the planting in front of the dam was done by Mr. Erdman, under a contract with the city, made by the Superintendent, the timbers of the dam having been placed so far apart, that the stone filling would have fallen out unless this addition had been made.
During the whole of this period, your memorialist superintended the operation of the old works, paid all the expenses, and kept all the accounts, both of the old and new ones, under a firm belief that when the new works were finished, he would receive a just and liberal compensation for having performed a task which for more than three years occupied his time, both day and night.
In the midst of these services, your memorialist was  engaged in designing and bringing into its present state  of perfection the iron pipe system, and although weigh ed down by the labor of conducting the old works and  erecting the new ones, he was compelled to travel at  least once a month to the furnaces, forty miles from the  city in all weathers to prove iron pipes and to arrange the various devices connected with them. 
During the same period, also, your memorialist, in  order to get through these numerous avocations, was  obliged to keep a horse which cost him upwards of $150 per annum, which sum was to be taken from the salary he received for conducting the old works, thereby reducing it from $2,000 to $1850, without deducting  private incidental expenses incurred but not charged  against the city, in his frequent visits on their business  to the State of New Jersey.
Your memorialist, in consequence of the destruction  of the Falls bridge, by the freshet of 1822, and the suit brought by its owners against the Schuylkill Navigation  Company, which was defended by the city, measured  all the different localities near and at the falls, connected with the decision of this important case, and made explanatory models and plans of the bridge and its different parts, which were afterwards laid before the court and jury by whom this suit was tried, and which afforded, as your memorialist believes, an important part of the evidence in refutation of the claim made by the Plaintiffs.
In order to show that the exertions of your memorial it met with the entire and cordial approbation of the Watering Committee, under whose authority he had acted, he begs leave to insert the following extract from the minutes of that committee, which was sent to him on the completion of the water power works at Fair Mount.
“Extract from the minutes of the watering Committee, Dec. 31, 1822. The Watering Committee taking into consideration the great labor and strict attention of Mr. Graff, in the works at Fair Mount, have agreed to   the following resolution:
Resolved, That Mr. Frederick Graff merits the thanks of this committee, and they are hereby tendered to him for his judgment, prudence, indefatigable attention and taste in the management and prosecution of the works at Fair Mount to the period of their happy conclusion, owing largely to his exertions and skill, and also for his zealous attention to the general interest of the city in all its concerns under his management.
                    SAMUEL W. Rush, Register.
As a further testimonial of their estimation of the services of your memorialist, a silver vase which cost two hundred and forty-five dollars was presented by the Watering Committee, on which was engraved the following very flattering inscription: “This vase is presented on behalf of the city of Philadelphia, by the Watering Committee of the Councils to Frederick Graff, to express their admiration of the taste, judgment, and fidelity, with which he arranged and assisted in prosecuting to a conclusion the public works at Fair Mount.”
And in the annual report of the Watering Committee to Councils made on the 6th of January, 1823, the following language is used:
“The committee cannot close this report without presenting, in the most distinct manner, to the notice of both the Councils and the City, Mr. Frederick Graff, for many years superintendent of the Water Works, whose taste in the design, and whose judgment in the arrangement of the works at Fair Mount, with his indefatigable zeal for the public interest, in every department, have attracted the regard and thanks of the Committee and entitle him to those of Councils.”
Your memorialist, therefore, begs leave to represent to your honorable bodies, that notwithstanding, he acted as an engineer, in the erection of the present splendid and valuable works at Fair Mount, and devoted more than three years of his life to their design, arrangement,  and execution, and that his exertions and labors met with the unqualified approbation of those under whom he served, he has never received any compensation for these services unless the voluntary present of the vase, by the watering committee can be considered in that light.
Your memorialist, therefore, in the decline of life, and with a constitution impaired by a constant and untiring devotion to the public works entrusted to his charge, at this late day submits his case to your honorable bodies, and asks at your hands a proper and reasonable compensation, for services which he is obliged to say have as yet been entirely unrequited except by the general approbation of his fellow citizens.
In order to judge of their value, he respectfully submits the following observations:
Mr. Latrobe received by his contract as engineer for the erection of the first works, $6350.00
And an additional compensation of                                                                               1050.00
was voted him by councils on the 28th February, 1805.                                             ________
making about $3500 per annum — and he was also also allowed all travelling and other reasonable expenses incurred by him in the service of the city - He had under him a clerk or superintendent of the works who received an annual salary of 936 — and there was also an accountant at the Water Works, who received a salary of $800 per annum.
He was also allowed an assistant or draughtsman, and was at the same time acting as the architect of the Pennsylvania Bank.
Your memorialist performed the joint duties of engineer, superintendent, accountant, and draughtsman, having no assistance in any branch of the business whatever.” His whole time for the last 28 years has been exclusively devoted to his official duties — not having been absent from his station for more than 56 days during the whole of that period.
The result may be simply stated thus: From the commencement of the first steam works at Fair Mount to the 31st December, 1832, as superintendent he has disbursed $1,401,678.77, and kept all the accounts relating thereto. There are now five water wheels in operation, two of which have been entirely designed by him and were executed under his immediate supervision — three reservoirs completed and the banks of the large one so far advanced as to be ready to receive the walls. Upwards of 72 miles of iron pipes are now laid in the city and districts, the designs and arrangements for the whole of which were given by your memorialist, with a view to prevent errors being made by the District Committees. The annual income now accruing from the Department amounts for the year 1833 to $77,567.78.  Your memorialist submits this candid statement of facts to the consideration of your honorable bodies, and asks at your hands, as the representatives of his fellow citizens, a fair and just compensation for his extraordinary services rendered his native city during the years 1819, 1820, 1821, and 1822.
Philadelphia, April 17, 1833.

From Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania: Devoted to the Preservation of Facts and Documents, and Every Kind of Useful Information Respecting the State of Pennsylvania 11(24):381-383 (June 15, 1833) 

© 2018 Morris A. Pierce