Osborne, Richard B. (Richard Boyse), 1815-1899

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Richard Boyse Osborne, a prominent civil engineer and "father of Atlantic City," was born in London on November 3, 1815, and died in Glenside, Pa., on November 28, 1899.

Osborne was educated at Bannow and Waterford, Ireland, and at Bath, England. In 1834 he sailed to New York and travelled to Upper Canada via the Erie Canal and Detroit in the company of two relatives, Townsend and George Gahan. Late in 1835 Osborne was in the Chicago area where he helped to lay out several new towns. He then went to St. Louis, travelling 1200 miles in a small open boat on the Des Plaines, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers accompanied by the Gahans. Their intention to proceed to New Orleans and embark for Hawaii was thwarted by the presence of yellow fever in New Orleans. They came east to Baltimore, where the Gahans parted from Osborne and sailed for Rio de Janeiro.

Osborne then proceeded to Philadelphia. A former schoolmate from England, Gustavus A. Nicolls, an official with the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Company, secured him a post as draftsman under Chief Engineer Moncure Robinson in 1838. His first work was the preparation of a topographical map, which was used by Robinson in securing funds in England for the extension of the railroad from Reading to Mt. Carbon. On November 1, 1838, Osborne was appointed engineer in charge of the first, or Reading Division, and in April 1839 of the Port Clinton Division. In 1841-42 he supervised the construction of the Pottsville Division, and in 1842 the construction of the Port Richmond Branch in Philadelphia. Osborne became chief engineer of the company in August 1842, following the resignation of Wirt Robinson, a nephew of Moncure Robinson. Under his supervision the entire line was double-tracked in 1844-45. As part of this construction, Osborne designed and built the first all-iron Howe truss near Manayunk.

Osborne returned to Great Britain in 1845. He soon became chief engineer of the Waterford & Limerick Railway in Ireland and served in that position until 1850. In this capacity he introduced many features of American engineering practice, such as the Howe truss and 8-wheeled, bogie-truck railroad cars. In 1850 Osborne spent six months on the Isthmus of Panama to salvage a ship and cargo belonging to his father-in-law, Bartholomew Graves. He then returned to Pennsylvania and in 1851-52 made a survey for the Catawissa Railroad, and in 1852 he began construction of the Dauphin & Susquehanna Coal Company's railroad, both later absorbed by the Reading.

In 1852 Osborne also became chief engineer of the Camden & Atlantic Railroad Company. In addition to supervising the construction of the railroad, he also laid out and named the resort of Atlantic City, which became the road's eastern terminus.

Subsequently, Osborne was connected with the Lebanon Valley Railroad; the East Mahanoy; Danville & Northumberland; Jersey Shore, Pine Creek & State Line; Elmira & Williamsport; New York & Oswego Midland; and Western Maryland roads. In 1888 he was consulting engineer for Moncure Robinson on his North and South Carolina lines.

From the description of Journals, 1829-1857 [microform]. (Hagley Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 86123670

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Boyse family. family
associatedWith Brown, Shipley & Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Camden and Atlantic Railroad Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Carr, George, d. 1824. person
associatedWith Catawissa Railroad Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Cornwall Railroad Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Dauphin and Susquehanna Coal Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Gahan, Townsend (Richard Boyse Townsend), d. 1841. person
associatedWith Graves, Bartholomew, d. 1853. person
associatedWith Lebanon Valley Railroad Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Lyons, M. Evelyn, d. 1864. person
associatedWith Manning, Charles P. fl. 1859. person
associatedWith Miller, Edward, 1811-1872. person
associatedWith Mount Carbon and Port Carbon Rail Road Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Nicolls, G. A. (Gustavus A.), 1817-1886. person
associatedWith North Lebanon Railroad Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Osborne, Eliza Graves, d. 1896. person
associatedWith Osborne family. family
associatedWith Osborne, John C. person
associatedWith Osborne, John H. (John Humfrey), 1818-1894. person
associatedWith Osborne, R. B. (Richard Boyse), 1791-1853. person
associatedWith Pennsylvania Railroad Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Robinson, Moncure, 1802-1891. person
associatedWith Robinson, Wirt, b. ca. 1807. person
associatedWith Steele, J. Dutton (John Dutton), 1810-1886. person
associatedWith Stephenson, George, 1781-1848. person
associatedWith Stephenson, Robert, 1803-1859. person
associatedWith Vignoles, Charles Blacker, 1793-1875. person
associatedWith Waterford and Limerick Railway Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Wilson, William Hasell, 1811-1902. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Great Britain
West Indies
Atlantic City (N.J)
New Jersey
New York (State)
United States
Civil engineering
Civil engineers
Domestic relations
Frontier and pioneer life
Historic bridges
Howe truss
Howe truss bridges
Railroad construction workers
Railroad engineering
Railroad tunnels
Real estate development
Seaside resorts
Technology transfer
Truss bridges


Birth 1815

Death 1899


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