Herbert S. Crocker
Herbert S. Crocker
Builder – Consultant – Civil Engineer – Arbiter – Mediator – Administrator
Railroads – Public Works – Construction – Military Engineering – Viaducts – Steel Bridges
Seventh National Honor Member Nominated by the University of Colorado Chapter
An outstanding civil engineer, steel bridge designer, builder, and most important of all, a peacemaker, was born at Haverhill, New Hampshire, June 20, 1867. That was Herbert Samuel Crocker, seventh National Honor Member of the Fraternity. His sixty years of intensely active professional life, included in a total life span of 82 years, is a basic statistic in any proper appraisal of the achievement of this man. He prepared himself for a career in civil engineering at the University of Michigan, receiving his undergraduate degree (B.S.C.E.) in 1889; and as a relatively young man, age 30, he received an honorary degree of master of science from his alma mater in 1897.
From 1889 to 1891, he was a draftsman for the Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul Railway; from 1891 to 1894, he was assistant engineer in the Bridge Department of the Northern Pacific Railway; from 1895 to 1896, he was bridge engineer for the Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo Railway; from 1897 to 1901, he was assistant engineer for the Board of Public Works of Denver, Colorado; from 1901 to 1906, he was assistant erecting manager for the American Bridge Company at Chicago, Illinois; and from 1906 to 1907, he served as bridge engineer for the Denver Tramway Company.
On December 1, 1907, aged 40, he first engaged in private practice. He designed and supervised construction of important viaducts in Denver. He became a member of the Board of Arbitration for the Grand Crossing Grade Separation in Chicago during 1909 and 1910, a member of the Board of Directors for the State of Colorado for the organization for industrial preparedness, associate member of the Naval Consulting Board; and was commissioned major of the Engineers Reserve Corps on June 28, 1917, and assigned to duty at the Cantonment Division, Office of the Quartermaster, constructing the Army Supply Base at Brooklyn, New York. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Quartermaster Corps on August 24, 1918.
Always, he was an alert, practical student of modern technological trends – a faithful participant in the technical, professional and administrative affairs of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He filled every office of that society except that of treasurer. He was director from 1915 to 1917, vice-president in 1919 and 1920, acting secretary from January 1, 1920, to May, 1921, and president in 1932. He was elected an honorary member in 1938.
In addition to his interest in the society, he was a member of the Advisory Committee on Water Resources of the National Resources Committee, the Administrative Committee of American Engineering Council, and the Mississippi Valley Commission. He was also active in the Western Society of Engineers, Tau Beta Pi, and the Colorado Society of Engineers.
Herbert Samuel Crocker was in consulting practice in Denver until his retirement in 1948. In mid-1921, he formed the firm of Crocker and Means, which subsequently became Crocker and Fisher. This firm constructed a number of projects in Texas, Wyoming, and Colorado. Mr. Crocker designed and supervised the construction of a number of important viaducts in Denver. Among these are the Colfax-Larimer viaduct, the 16th Street and the 23rd Street viaducts. He also designed and supervised the construction of the Iowa Street subway and was consulting engineer for the City of Denver on the Broadway viaduct and the 38th Street subway. During 1909 and 1910, Mr. Crocker and Dean Milo S. Ketchum, First National Honor Member of Chi Epsilon, formed a partnership. Among the more important projects handled by this firm were the 20th Street viaduct and the Alameda subway. Widely known for his work in transportation structures, Colonel Crocker designed notable projects in Chicago and Salt Lake City, as well as in Denver. He was a member of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners, and he served as consulting engineer in charge of the city’s ten million dollar trans-mountain diversion project. He was supervising engineer of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Denver Chamber of Commerce. He served with the Missouri Valley Commission and as a consulting engineer on various projects of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). During World War II, as senior partner in the firm of Crocker & Ryan, Colonel Crocker undertook a good deal of architectural engineering for the Army Ordnance Department, especially in the construction of air bases and prison camps. The firm also served as consultants to the states of Colorado and New Mexico on their through urban highways.
A prominent and loyal protégé, Elsie Eaves (F. ASCE and Colo. XE), recalls that: “Colonel Herbert S. Crocker was a gifted listener. Presiding over a meeting, he could retire behind bushy eyebrows with an inscrutable expression. He then picked up, not only the main stream of the discussion, but could tune in also on the satellite comments and distill out of confusion and disagreement those scattered areas of common purpose and thought which would be a base for final settlement. He had a subliminal sense of humor, often used gently to puncture pomposity or to deflate a salesman’s excessive claims. The victim suspected that he was being kidded, but was rarely quite sure enough to risk a laugh.
“These two gifts made the Colonel a great arbiter of differences, an area in which some of his most distinguished professional work was done. War work on the army supply base in Brooklyn (destined to be the largest structure of its day) had bogged down in controversy when he was put in charge as construction quartermaster to get it back on schedule. Before he returned to Colorado he served as acting secretary, ASCE, while warring factions were reaching an agreement on a new secretary. He was a great mediator between the railroads and the City of Denver on viaduct work, and in Chicago on the railroad terminal work there.
“Colonel Crocker’s system of training young engineers was to open the day by springing a question about the job that he was pretty sure his victim couldn’t answer. The next day, when the young engineer was all set to answer, it was a new question that he couldn’t answer. When his trainee “got wise,” anticipated any possible question, and was ready with the answer, the questions stopped.”
Colonel Crocker became a Chapter Honor Member of the Colorado chapter of Chi Epsilon in November, 1932, and was elevated by the Fraternity to the grade of National Honor Member May 18, 1943. He died March 8, 1949.
Dean C. L. Eckel (Hon. M. ASCE and past president and National Honor Member of Chi Epsilon) has stated that Mr. Crocker “was intensely loyal to his friends and, in turn, took his friends’ loyalty for granted. He was absolutely fair in dealing with other people. I could cite instances in which two parties to a Controversy had decided to refer to a board of arbitration, each man to write his representative’s name on a slip of paper with the expectation that these men would choose a third. Mr. Crocker’s name would be on both slips of paper.”