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Catt, George W.

Published onJul 30, 2021
Catt, George W.

(March 9, 1860 – October 8, 1905)

Quick Facts

George W. Catt graduated in 1882 with a degree in civil engineering and went on to become a successful engineer in the field of hydraulic dredging.


George W. Catt was born in Davenport, IA, on March 9, 1860. As a student at Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University), Ames, IA, he worked his way through college. In addition to his engineering studies, Catt studied commercial and contract law. He graduate in 1882 with a BS in civil engineering.

From 1882 to 1885, Catt helped design bridges as a contracting engineer for the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, OH, in their Des Moines, IA, office. In 1886, he became chief engineer at the San Francisco Bridge Company, where he designed and erected bridges for railroads and municipalities, including rebuilding most of the piers and waterfront structures destroyed in the Great Bakersfield Fire of 1889. In 1893, Catt formed his own company, the New York Dredging Company, where he designed and erected four large dredging plants and executed a large amount of river and harbor improvement works, primarily on the Pacific Coast. He also built the first modern drainage station for New Orleans and a seven-mile-long ship canal for Port Arthur Channel and Dock Company in Texas.

In 1899, the New York Dredging Company was incorporated with the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Company, of which Catt became president and chief engineer. Besides actively directing the operations of the company around the United States, he was a consulting engineer to the Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company, the San Francisco Bridge Company, and the British Columbia General Contract Company. In 1891, he received the contract for the improvement of the Manila harbor, which included rebuilding and extending the Spanish jetties, dredging a large anchorage-basin, constructing an additional breakwater, and building a rock bulkhead. During this time, Catt also built a large coaling station at Sangley Point, near Manila. One of the last important contracts he undertook was the reclamation of salt marshes contiguous to Cape May, New Jersey, to allow the extension of the town and district.

George Catt married Carrie Lane Chapman, a fellow Iowa State graduate and leader of the U.S. women's suffrage movement, in 1890. Catt supported his wife’s suffrage work both financially and personally, believing that his role in the marriage was to earn their living and hers was to reform society. They had no children.

In 1903, Catt was elected president of the Iowa State Alumni Association, a position he held at the time of his death. He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Academy of Political and Social Science, Institution of Civil Engineers, and Franklin Institute of Philadelphia. He was a founding member of the Northwest Society of Engineers in Seattle, WA.

Catt died on October 8, 1905, after a sudden illness. In his will, he gifted Iowa State with his 800-volume engineering library. He also stipulated that half of his estate be given to Iowa State at the death of Mrs. Catt (a gift estimated at $73,000) to support scholarships in his name. To ensure that this request could be fulfilled, in 1922 Mrs. Catt gave Iowa State $100,000 in bonds with an agreement to receive the income from the bonds until her death. In 1942, she gave an additional gift of corporation stocks worth $22,521, and at her death bequeathed her estate worth $117,116 to Iowa State to supplement the scholarship fund. The scholarships are still awarded to Iowa State undergraduate students across the university.

Selected Sources

George Catt Papers, RS 21/7/4, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library, Ames, Iowa.

“George William Catt.” 1905. Engineering News 54(15):384-85, October 12.

Gilkey, Herbert J. 1968. Anson Marston: Iowa State University’s First Dean of Engineering. Ames: Iowa State University.

Institution of Civil Engineers. 2017.

“To Aid Young Men.” 1905. Story County Watchman, November 3.

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