Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography

Biography Charles Mason

Charles Mason

Charles Mason

Charles Mason was born in Pompey, New York on October 24, 1804.  He graduated from West Point in 1829, where he was first in his class, ahead of Robert E. Lee.

Mason taught engineering at West Point for two years, then resigned from the army and read law, becoming an accomplished lawyer.  He moved west in 1837 and was appointed chief judge of the Iowa Territorial Supreme Court in 1839.  President Franklin Pierce appointed Mason to be head of the U.S. Patent Office in April 1853.  He returned to Burlington, Iowa in 1857 and in 1862 founded a patent law partnership in Washington, where one of his clients was Birdsill Holly.  Mason was impressed by Holly's water system, and decided to install one in Burlington.  He was also involved in several other businesses in that city.

Mason died on February 25, 1882 in Burlington.

Charles Mason's Water Works Experience
City State Years Projects
Promoter of water system; President of Burlington Water Company; patent attorney for water patents.

May 20, 1870 - Have been engaged with Messrs. Holly and Keep. Theirs is a $550 job. (Extracts from the diaries of Charles Mason)

May 25, 1870 - Am hard at work preparing for the reissue of an important patent for Birdsill Holly of Lockport for a water supply regulator. I am intending to introduce his method of supplying cities with water into Burlington when I return there. (Extracts from the diaries of Charles Mason)

May 27, 1870 - Have been engaged in Mr. Brown's business and also in the preparations of Holly's reissue morning, daytime, and evening. (Extracts from the diaries of Charles Mason)

December 5, 1874 -  B. Holly called to obtain some information from me and from Pat. Office. (Extracts from the diaries of Charles Mason)

1939 Life and Letters of Charles Mason: Chief Justice of Iowa, 18041882, edited and arranged by his eldest grandson, Charles Mason Remey.

1963 "Biography of an Iowa Businessman:  Charles Mason, 1804-1882," by Willard Irving Toussaint, A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of History in the Graduate College of the State University of Iowa, August, 1963

1967 "'The Fire Fiend Doffs His Hat:' Burlington's First Water Works," by Willard I. Toussaint, Annals of Iowa 38(7):510-526 (Winter 1967) | pdf |

Charles Mason, from the Biographical Dictionary of Iowa

Charles Mason, Wikipedia page

Stories about The Man Who Beat Lee at West Point

2020 Morris A. Pierce