Lyman D. Wilbur’s slides from his visits to Afghanistan in 1957 and 1958 are part of a larger collection of his papers (MSS 205) donated to Boise State University by his daughter, Olive G. Waugh, in 2001. The collection as a whole documents Wilbur’s career as an engineer, including his four decades with the Boise, Idaho-based international engineering and construction firm Morrison-Knudsen.Born in California in 1900 and educated at Stanford, Wilbur went to work as an engineer in the 1920s. His father was Secretary of the Navy in the Coolidge administration; his uncle was president of Stanford University. Wilbur was working in Los Angeles when Harry Morrison hired him to work for the Morrison-Knudsen Company in 1932. He rose through the ranks and was a vice president of the company in 1957 and 1958 when he went to Afghanistan to inspect its work building dams and irrigation works in that country. The slides in this collection are his personal photos, not official Morrison-Knudsen images. A few of the slides have brief captions written on their mounts, but most are uncaptioned. The slides are supplemented by excerpts from Wilbur’s handwritten diary and that of his wife Henrietta (Shattuck) Wilbur chronicling their visits. Transcripts are provided along with the images of the diary pages. The transcribers occasionally inserted punctuation marks to improve readability, but with the exception of correcting the spelling of the name of Wilbur’s colleague Dale Shockley (which Wilbur usually rendered Schockley), they made few other editorial alterations in the transcriptions.
Lyman D. Wilbur retired from Morrison-Knudsen in 1970. During the course of his career he garnered many awards. He was named “Construction’s Man of the Year” by the Engineering News- Record in 1966 in recognition of his work managing American contract construction work in Vietnam. He also won awards from The Beavers, The Moles, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the National Society of Professional Engineers. In 1972 he received the John Fritz Medal. He once published an article in National Geographic about his early engineering work and personal experiences in Soviet Turkistan. Entitled “Surveying through Khoresm,” it appeared in the June 1932 issue. The article is illustrated by Wilbur’s own photos.
Wilbur remained in Boise after his retirement from Morrison-Knudsen and worked for many more years as an engineering consultant. He died in 2001 at the age of 100. A personal profile of Lyman D. Wilbur appeared in Morrison-Knudsen’s in-house magazine, The eMKayan, in January 1992. That profile is reproduced within this digital collection.