Watertown Daily Times, December 13, 1926


Reprinted with Permission
of the
Watertown Daily Times

Former Watertown Boy Is
Dean of Bridge Builders

Frank W. Skinner Designed and Built One of First Great Spans
Across St. Johnís River, New Brunswick, Two Across
Mississippi--Now One of Leading Consulting Engineers of Country.

A dean of his profession is Frank W. Skinner, eminent consulting engineer of New York city and former Watertown boy, who designed and built one of the first great bridges of the cantilever type across St. Johnís river, New Brunswick, two bridges across the father of waters, the Mississippi, and who served as editor on the Engineering Record for 25 years.

Mr. Skinner was born in the village of Brownville and spent his early life there. He prepared for college in the Watertown High school when the late Hannibal Smith was principal and after his graduation from that institution entered Cornell university where he took up the study of civil engineering.

His grandfather, Alanson Skinner, and his seven brothers were very prominent and influential in the early history of northern New York, where they practiced with distinction either as doctors, lawyers, clergymen or in business and other professional careers. Alanson Skinner settled in Brownville about 100 years ago, developing there the first water power at that point and founding an important foundry and machine shop business which was carried on by Frank Skinnerís father, Horace, and his brothers for a long period of years. Alanson Skinner served in the Indian wars, in the state legislature and was for many years president and directory of the National Union bank, Watertown.

After graduating from Cornell university, Mr. Skinner acquired his practical experience in a bridge shop in Pittsburgh where he worked in all its departments. Immediately after these first two years, he spent considerable time in the erection of numerous steel and iron bridges. During this time he was successively foreman and superintendent in charge of the reconstruction of the famous railroad suspension bridge across the Niagara river. Shortly afterward he became assistant engineer for the Delaware Bridge company, in charge of field construction.

Soon afterward he began the erection of one of the first great cantilever bridges in America. The bridge structure, 49 feet long, projected out, unsupported, from the opposite shores to meet in midstream high above the waters and was adjusted by a simple mechanism which he designed and which was adopted for other structures built in later years. Following the completion of this bridge he became resident engineer at the Lachine Bridge works and then bridge engineer for the St. Paul & Northern Pacific railroad in charge of building two bridges across the Mississippi river, one at St. Paul and one at Minneapolis.

Following this work he became assistant engineer in charge of steel for the longest arch ribbed bridge in the world, the 500-foot span of the Washington bridge across the Harlem river in New York.

From this time, for a period of 25 years, Mr. Skinnner served as editor of the Engineering Record. While with that publication he created many new departments such as that of technical journalism, field construction of engineering structures, and visited, studied, analyzed and described the developments in that period in all kinds of public and private construction, such as foundations, bridges, buildings, dams, aqueducts, canals, tunnels, irrigation projects, reclamation, drainage, river and harbor work and industrial and municipal construction.

Some of the structures to his credit are a deep water railroad terminal and a freight and coal depot in Cuba, and a shop layout including also freight and passenger terminals for the Guantanamo Railroad company. His editorial training has brought him a rather unusual class of work since he has been working in the capacity of a consulting engineer, that of preparing briefs and reports on matters in controversy or in litigation. He prepares them with the co-operation of attorneys, the object of his engagements being to enable them to see quickly the engineering essentials upon which the case turned.

In recent years his alma mater, recognizing his position as an authority on field engineering, has appointed him to the faculty as a non-resident lecturer. The favor with which his lectures were received at Cornell brought him engagements at other colleges and he has lectured at various times at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, McGill, Columbia, University of Wisconsin, and other institutions both in the east and the west.

In addition to his work on the Engineering Record, Mr. Skinner has written extensively for other magazines. Colliers, McClureís, the Century, Harperís Weekly, London Engineering and others have printed his articles which set forth in a simple and popular manner the recent advancements in engineering work. His most notable literary effort is a series of three volumes on Types and Details of Bridge Construction.

His only son, Alanson Skinner, attained an international reputation as an ethnologist and explorer, who studied especially the American Indian. He met his death by an accident last year while on an important expedition to study the Sioux tribe in the Dakotas.

Mr. Skinner is a cousin of Charles R. Skinner of this city and former legislative librarian at Albany. Mr. Skinner is also a cousin of Otis Skinner, famous dramatic actor.


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