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JOHN FINDLEY WALLACE
(For Memoir, see Part II, pp. 185-193.)
The President :—We will now hold the Memorial Meeting for John Findley Wallace, our first President, and Colonel George Herbert Webb.
I consider it a great personal privilege to preside here this morning. I regarded Mr. Wallace as a father, and those of you who were active in the last year will recall his address when he spoke of me as one of his boys. He started, like most of us, as a rodman on a railroad out west, and later came to the Illinois Central as Chief Engineer, where I first knew him. He advanced step by step after he left the road, and he went to Virginia, taking me with him, but he remained in Virginia only a few months and came back as Assistant to the Second Vice-President, and finally was made General Manager of the Illinois Central.
He was then appointed by the President of the United States as one of the Canal Commissioners, and later was made its first Chief Engineer. An unusual thing happened at the time of his resignation as Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal. He was publicly rebuked by the Secretary of War, a man who afterwards became President of the United States and is now Chief Justice. It was an unwarranted and uncalled-for action.
I had occasion to visit the Panama Canal in recent years while it was building, and I found that the plans which were originally made by Mr. Wallace were carried out to their completion. All honor to Col. Goethals for completing the Panama Canal, but I say, let us not forget the man who made the plans that were carried out.
Robert Emmett said when he was condemned to die, "Let no man dare, when I am dead, to charge me with dishonor. Let no man taint my memory by believing that I could have engaged in any cause than that of my country's liberty and independence. Let not my epitaph be written until my country takes her place among the nations of the earth; then, and not until then, let my epitaph be written." I say—let not the epitaph of John Findley Wallace be written until a committee of engineers, unbiased by politics, decide whose brains it was that built the Panama Canal.
Mr. Wallace returned.from the Canal broken down in health. I visited him quite often at his home, and when he recovered his health he became President of Westinghouse, Church, Kerr & Co., and afterwards he was a Consulting Engineer. He was one of the few engineers who capitalized his brains and reaped a satisfactory dividend from it. He died in the harness July 4, 1921, when he was in Washington to testify before the Interstate Commerce Commission.
I admired Mr. Wallace as an Engineer; I esteemed him as a superior officer on the railroad where I worked, and I loved him as a man. We would be glad to hear from others who may have anything to say.
Mr. Hunter McDonald (Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis) :-) deem it a great privilege to be permitted to speak on this occasion of Mr. Wallace's memorial. My first recollection of Mr. Wallace was about 1893, when I had under advisement some foundation work. I sought Mr. Wallace's advice as to the course which I should pursue in this matter, and he gave me some advice which has been of use to me ever since. At that time I formed such a conception of Mr. Wallace's character and ability, that I believe it has not only had a very large influence on my work in engineering, but I am sure it has had the same effect on many others.
Mr. Wallace's work on the Illinois Central Railroad in the training of apprentices has made a stamp on the conduct of engineering and maintenance work which has been reflected all over this Nation. The President has referred to the unfortunate termination of Mr. Wallace's connection with the Panama Canal. It has been my observation that in nearly all important enterprises undertaken by the Nation, someone must be the pioneer, and that as a general thing that pioneer is also the victim. Mr. Wallace's work on the Panama Canal paved the way for the success of those who followed, and I have felt that his downfall and the treatment which he received was absolutely uncalled for, but I should say that his downfall was merely the course which most pioneers have to necessarily follow in dealing with a question of that kind.
I have no doubt that many of you recall the monograph written by Prof. Charles N. Tilden of Baltimore. It is entitled “The Romance of Engineering.” If you have not read it, I would advise you to do so. In that short treatise Mr. Tilden refers to the "Brothers of the Bridge," a society of monks, organized, I think in the second century, whose motto was “To build bridges for those who will pass over them in the future." In my opinion there never was a truer “brother of the bridge” than Mr. Wallace.
Mr. Charles S. Churchill (Norfolk & Western) :-Mr. John F. Wallace, the first President of this Association, overcame difficulties which none but its charter members are acquainted with. In those days every railroad held their standard and other plans much more as personal property than to-day. What their Engineers had accomplished in this direction was regarded as an improvement for that particular road, and not for general distribution to others.
The speaker, attending the early meetings of this Association, noted that its members were somewhat diffident in submitting the plans of the railroads they represented for consideration, also in commenting on plans of others. It therefore became difficult for Mr. Wallace to secure a free discussion on many subjects that were first presented not only on this account, but also because the members were less ready to talk than in later years. The President would frequently urge discussion, using words to the effect: "Even if you have not much to say—say it"; and after great patience displayed, he accomplished his purpose.
Mr. Wallace was a very genial man; much more approachable than many men who occupied positions similar to his, and one who reached the