MILO SMITH KETCHUM - DEAN, 1904 -1919
by Milo S. Ketchum, Jr.
Milo Smith Ketchum was born on a farm in Illinois in 1872, the son of a Primitive Baptist minister. After high school in 1889, he took the examinations for a teaching certificate and taught for a year in a country school. In 1890 he entered the University of Illinois in Civil Engineering because it was the only department that did not require Latin. At that time 75 percent of the enrollees entered engineering.
In the summer of his junior year, he was an instructor in surveying at the Michigan School of Mines in Houghton Michigan. He was graduated in 1896, the valedictorian of his class. The next two years he was an assistant in Civil Engineering of the University of Illinois, but because his salary was reduced from 700 dollars to 500, he considered that was a signal that he was not wanted. From 1897 to 1899 he worked for a steel fabrication and machinery company in their branch office in Butte, Montana, doing all the work, including writing letters, design, estimating and bidding on contracts. This was a rough country and was the time of many miners strikes. He designed buildings, bridges, coal tipples and mines equipment. He soon was moved to the home office in Minneapolis to help solve difficult technical problems.
In 1899 he went back to the University of Illinois as an Assistant Professor at a salary of 1200 dollars per year where he stayed until 1902. At this time he wrote with Professor W. D. Pence, the Surveying Manual which was for years, a leader in its field with a circulation of 56,000. During this time he often earned more than his salary as a consultant during the summer. In 1903 he married my mother and wanted to get away from teaching so took a job at twice the salary as an Contracting Manager for the American Bridge Company in Kansas City, a connection that made if possible to obtain much of the information for his later books.
He received an offer from the University of Colorado to become a Professor of Civil Engineering for the sum of 2000 dollars. When he arrived, the campus looked dreary and barren which was greatly remedied by the time I remember, 10 years later. For the first year he taught all the courses in the Department with the help of a half time assistant, with very few funds. Each day he taught for four hours in the morning and the laboratory classes in the afternoon. In addition he was the National Secretary of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education which had been founded several years earlier. He was President in 1917.
At the end of the first year the Dean, who was also the Professor of Electrical Engineering, resigned and since my father was the ranking professor, he was appointed Dean. He was 33 year old at the time. For his extra duties he was alloted a full time assistant, and his salary was raised to 2100 dollars. The registration in engineering was 171 the first year, 225 the second year and by 1919 was 350.
During this period, he also wrote the following books
The Structural Engineers Handbook was 900 pages in length, and cost 5 dollars. The total number of pages in these four books was 3100, and the number of illustrations, 1539. These books were published by McGraw Hill, but he produced the book himself and arranged for all the printing and binding and did all the proof reading. He received half of the published price. He trained and kept busy many student drafting the illustrations which were beautifully done. These books stress the use of graphic analysis, especially for trusses. It is sad that this type of analysis has been eliminated from the curriculum.
In the spring of 1909, Dean Ketchum took a sabbatical from the University and formed a partnership with H. S. Crocker in Denver for the next academic year. During this time the firm worked on a large number of projects, including the 20th and 22nd Street Viaducts, just dismanteled, a large dam in the mountains, and the underpass under the railroads at Alemeda Avenue which is still in use. He designed a concrete grain mill in Denver which only last year was dynamited but refused to fall immediately.
There were many interesting incidents recounted in Dean Ketchum's Autobiography. An example is when he was asked to settle a problem of the President of Colorado School of Mines by the Board of Trustees during which he was offered the job at 15,000 dollars a year, which, of course, he refused.
In 1917 at the start of the war he was appointed the Assistant Director of Explosive Plants for the War Department and placed in charge of the construction plant in Nitro, West Virginia near Charleston. This was a 70 million dollar project involving the design and construction of a complete city with all the the necessary facilities including water, sewerage, streets and electricity. The plant was in full production by the time the war ended in November 1918.
When he returned to Boulder after this period he felt out of touch with the University and accepted a position as Head of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and, after several years was appointed Dean of Engineering at the University of Illinois. He died in 1934.
In summary, Dean Ketchum may be considered as one of the outstanding egineering educators of the early 20th Century and his books, placed the name of the University of Colorado on the desk of most of the civil engineers in the country.