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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:750 1909-1969 B234

Earl Huntington Barber papers


Earl Huntington Barber was a public utility engineer who specialized in gas and electric rates. Includes work notes, correspondence, reports, and articles, largely relating to a number of Massachusetts towns and cities whose gas and light companies Barber investigated.


  • Creation: 1909-1969


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact for more information.


11 linear feet (4 volumes, 2 boxes, 7 cartons)

The papers of Earl Huntington Barber date from 1909 to 1969. The bulk of these materials date to the 1920s and 1930s and were created and collected by Barber during his professional career as a public utility engineer in Boston, Massachusetts.

The collection materials document the various directions taken by the Department of Public Utilities D.P.U.) in response to a variety of economic and social trends in the field, as well as in response to the necessities of two world wars. Such trends can be observed in the emphasis placed on price regulation, the types of new plant construction offered, the rapid increase in use of electrical household appliances, the extension and betterment of facilities and finally the criticism and controversies surrounding the rate-setting function of D.P.U.

The collection materials include articles, speeches, typescripts, notes, correspondence, pamphlets, clippings, drafts, drawings, notices, photographs, negatives, index cards, balance sheets, graphs, agreements, reports, invoices, maps, blueprints, memoranda, diaries, price lists, and a very detailed job description of clerical work, data analysis, and office management duties of assistant Mary Hagerty in 1926. These papers document the development of public utility regulation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including the organizations that preceded the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the creation of the D.P.U. itself.

Of particular note in this collection are the descriptions of civil service and consulting jobs investigated by Barber during from the 1920s through the 1960s. These document the increasing demand for electricity, gas and water between the two world wars, the addition of transmission and distribution lines and increased generating capacities in cities and towns across Massachusetts. Also, the Rural Electrification Association material provides glimpses of the lives of employees of this Depression era federal agency. Barber's 1922 to 1929 memoranda to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities on appeals of denial of utility services, indicating considerable self-advocacy by women property owners. They include a 1922 statement by property owner Mrs. Mary McNeil of Roxbury, Massachusetts, pointing out the difficulties of caring for a child with infantile paralysis by lamp and candlelight when utility services were denied.

Biographical Note:

Earl Huntington Barber (1883-1974), a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (B.S., 1910), worked as a laborer, foreman, superintendent and engineer during his early career. During 1912 and 1913, Barber participated in the construction of a sea wall around Ellis Island in New York Harbor. Appointed special assistant to the Attorney General of Massachusetts, Barber provided technical expertise on the Haverhill gas-rate case, planned by Stone & Webster as a challenge to the Commonwealth's rate-setting abilities. In 1915, he was appointed engineer to the Board of Gas and Electric Light Commissioners which oversaw the general supervision of gas, electric and water companies, controlled municipal properties, and set rates in Massachusetts. In 1919, the Board of Gas and Electric Light Commissioners and the Public Service Commission consolidated to become the Department of Public Utilities (D. P. U.), and Barber continued as engineer. In addition, he investigated all complaints against public utility companies and became a spokesman for the department. After leaving the D. P. U. in 1930, Barber undertook a wide variety of private consulting jobs, usually serving as an expert witness or investigator. Barber worked for the federal Rural Electrification Administration (1935-1936) and the Federal Power Commission (1938-1940). In 1951, he was made a life member in the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Series I. Personal material, ca. 1920-1962
  2. Series II. Writing and research, 1909-1943
  3. Series III. Professional experience: Department of Public Utilities, 1920-1965
  4. Series IV. Professional experience: Rural Electrification Administration, 1935-1937
  5. Series V. Professional experience: Federal Power Commission, 1938-1945
  6. Series VI. Professional experience: Fuel clause, 1945-1958
  7. Series VII. Inventory-Costs, A-W, 1909-1925
  8. Series VIII. Inventory-Costs, Board of Gas and Electrical Commissioners, 1914-1919
  9. Series IX. Notes: Department of Public Utilities, 1906-1927
  10. Series X. Miscellaneous professional papers, 1913-1969
  11. Series XI. Professional projects, 1913-1967
  12. Series XII. Subject file, 1910-1956
  13. Series XIII. Notebooks, 1927-1957
  14. Series XIV. Bound volumes, 1915-1940
  15. Series XV. Photographs, 1923-1936

Physical Location



Gift of Earl H. Barber, 1973

Processing Information

Processed: October 1997

Baker Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections and Archives, Harvard Business School Repository

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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