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Catherine L. Gibbon: Improvements in Street Railway Construction, 1892

Keeping House

A woman working in the field of engineering in the 19th century was quite uncommon. Acknowledgement for her work was even less probable. Gibbon's improvements in street railway construction are noteworthy; her recognition in 1892 by a reputable Institution for those improvements is remarkable.

The United States 1880 Federal Census reveals some basic biographical information about Catherine Gibbon. In that year, she was 29 and living in Bethlehem, Albany, New York, with her husband Thomas H. Gibbon and three daughters: Sarah, Nancy, and Clara. Catherine's occupation on the census form is not listed as "engineer" or "inventor," but rather is recorded simply as "Keeping House."

Interestingly, throughout case file #1643, Catherine's husband Thomas generates all correspondence about the Gibbon Duplex Rail System to The Franklin Institute. Thomas signs the letter at right—the only one that appears as such in the file—"for Catherine L. Gibbon, T.H. Gibbon." The Committee on Science and the Arts application is the only other item that bears Catherine's name.