Sunday, October 5, 2008

Andrew Chase Cunningham Biography in Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers



* Memoir prepared by P. T. Chambers, M. Am. Soc. C. E. .

Andrew Chase Cunningham, the son of Thomas and Celeste (Chase) Cunningham, was born at Mohawk, N. Y., on February 15th, 1858. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy from the Twenty-first District of New York State, on June 9th, 1874, and was graduated from that institution as a Midshipman on June 10th, 1879. He served on the TJ. S. S. Shenandoah and the TJ. S. S. Saratoga, and on February 1st, 1883, he resigned from the service, meanwhile having been promoted to the rank of Ensign. Mr. Cunningham had decided by this time that a career in the Navy was not what he desired, and, having determined to become a Civil Engineer, he entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at Troy, N. Y., from which he was graduated in 1885 with the degree of Civil Engineer.

From October, 1885, to April, 1886, Mr. Cunningham occupied the position of Topographer on preliminary and location surveys of the Lincoln Branch of the Missouri-Pacific Railway, and from May, 1886, to September, 1887, he served as Draftsman with the Massillon Bridge Company, Massillon, Ohio. From September, 1887, to November,1890, he was in charge of the inspection of iron and steel in Pittsburgh, Pa., and vicinity. This work consisted in the acceptance or rejection of material for such structures as the high bridge across the Mississippi River, at St. Paul, Minn., the Ohio Connection Bridgeacross the river below Pittsburgh, the New York Elevated Railway, numerous large buildings in Chicago, 111., and bridges on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, the Pennsylvania System, the Louisville and Nashville, and other railroads.

From November, 1890, to May, 1892, Mr. Cunningham was Chief Inspector for Carnegie, Phipps and Company, of Pittsburgh, Pa., now the Carnegie Steel Company. In this position he had charge of the testing and inspection of steel materials, together with special investigation and special supervision of material for several structures, such as the Memphis Bridge, the Sixth Street Bridge across the Allegheny River at Pittsburgh, and others.

In May, 1892, Mr. Cunningham associated himself with Charles F. Stowell, M. Am. Soc. C. E., at Albany, N. Y., under the firm name of Stowell and Cunningham, the principal engineering business of the company being in connection with the design, inspection, and testing of steel bridges and steel materials. This work included materials and bridges for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, and the Central Vermont Railroad, as well as materials for the Cities of Albany, N. Y., Waterbury, Conn., for the State Engineer of New York, and the U. S. Treasury Department. In 1898, while he was a member of this firm, the Spanish War broke out, and, as a former officer of the Navy, he obeyed his country's call, volunteering for such duty as he might be assigned to by the Navy Department. At that time the Navy was by no means as large as it is now, and had almost no auxiliary ships for the purpose of furnishing supplies to the fleet. Mr.Cunningham, therefore, found himself an Ensign, on May 14th, 1898, aboard the Collier Abarenda, a ship purchased for that use. While this ship was moored to the wharf at the New York Navy Yard, the late L. L. Buck, M. Am. Soc. C. E., visited the Navy Yard for consultation work, in connection with one of the dry docks then under repair. Some one had informed him that Mr. Cunningham was serving as an Ensign aboard the collier, and Mr. Buck expressed the determination to visit him before he left the yard, adding at the same time that he considered Mr. Cunningham one of the foremost steel experts of the country, and that it seemed to him a waste of valuable services to have placed him as an Ensign aboard a supply ship. Mr. Cunningham's nature was such that he would never have sought to be transferred from this position, but Mr. Buck felt strongly on the subject, and made it hia business to inform the Navy Department of his views, the consequence being that on May 2Jst, 1&98, Mr. Cunningham was transferred to the Bureau of Ordnance, and was immediately assigned to the Washington Navy Yard, which is the Naval gun factory. Mr. Buck and Rear- Admiral Mordocai T. Endicott, U. S. N. (Retired), Past-President. Am. Soc. C. E., were classmates at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and it was not long before Admiral Endicott, then Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, learned that an accomplished Civil Engineer was available for naval duty, and, consequently, Mr. Cunningham was transferred to the Bureau of Yards and Docks on June 27th, 1S98.The Civil Engineer Corps of the Navy was then rapidly expanding and in need of officers, and Mr. Cunningham served first on a board to examine candidates for the position of Civil Engineer in the Navy; before the successful candidates were appointed, however, he himself, on September 29th, 1898, was given a permanent commission. On October 5th of that year, he reported to the Bureau of Yards and Docks, where he served until November 6th, 1901, being then detached and ordered to the Naval Station, New Orleans, La. This was a new station just bring established, and Mr. Cunningham was the first Civil Engineer officer, thus being given the opportunity to lay out the engineering works from the start. On April 3d, 1903, he was detached from the New Orleans Station and ordered to the Naval Academy, where he served until June 9th, 1905, and from there he was again ordered to the Bureau of Yards and Docks. On March 17th, 1906, he was commissioned with the rank of Lieutenant in the Corps of Civil Engineers.

Mr. Cunningham continued to serve in the Bureau of Yards and Docks as Principal Assistant to Admiral Endicott until April 6th, 1907, when he was ordered to the Navy Yard, Norfolk, Va., as Senior Civil Engineer Officer, and on November 18th, 1909, he was commissioned with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. On February 20th, 1910, he was detached from the Norfolk Navy Yard, and ordered to the Navy Department, Washington. D. C., as Inspector of Public Works for the entire Navy. This duty required great tact and diplomacy, and it was on this account that Mr. Cunningham was selected for the work, which necessitated his maintaining headquarters in Washington, and visiting the various Navy Yards, keeping the Department informed as to the status of the various public works, and co-ordinating the ideas of the Yards with those of the Department.

On July 10th, 1913, Mr. Cunningham left headquarters at Washington to assume the duties of Public Works Officer of the Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N. H. Shortly afterward he had a severe nervous breakdown, and on November 17th, 1913, was ordered to sick leave, and did not return to actual duty until June 16th, 1914. He never fully recovered from this illness, although he performed lighter duties practically up to the time of his death, his principal assignments after this being at the Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, HI., and the Naval Training Station, Point Isabel, Tex., at both of which places he erected large steel towers for radio-telegraphy.

While on duty in the Bureau of Yards and Docks of the Navy Department, and previous to his detail as Civil Engineer Officer at New Orleans, Mr. Cunningham had supervised the construction of the 16 000-ton steel floating dock for the New Orleans Station. He became much interested in docks of this type, and, at a later date,

obtained letters patent on a floating dock of his own invention. He was, indeed, of an inventive turn of mind and secured patents on several of his ideas, one of the best known in the Navy being that for a coal-tar paint.

Mr. Cunningham was affectionately known as "Andy" by his friends and associates, and was universally liked. His genial nature, combined with his diplomatic spirit, caused him to be much in demand on boards of officers for the adjustment of disputes or for changes in contracts.

While at the Naval Academy, he was the champion fencer of his time, and he maintained his interest in this sport up to the time of his severe illness. While in Washington he was a member of the Washington Fencers Club, and when he was at the Navy Yards he stirred the younger men to a revival of the fencing game. He was looked on by the entire Navy as an authority on this subject, and was also consulted by the Army at one time, in connection with the modification of the Army saber. As a fencer, he was also interested in singlestick, and was the author of a book entitled "The Cane as a Weapon." Fencing was a considerable feature of his recreation; he was also very fond of writing, and contributed various articles to the press, among them being several on naval matters published by the Naval Institute.

Mr. Cunningham was married, at Middleville, N". Y., on June 18th. 1879, to Miss Jessie E. Thomas. He is survived by his widow and two sons: John Howard Cunningham of Grand-Mere, Canada, and George Thomas Cunningham, of Washington, D. C. Mr. Cunningham was elected an Associate Member of the American Society of Civil engineers on September 2d, 1891, and a Member on October 3d, 1894.