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Catalog Number HRHS-005
Collection John J. Forrer Papers
Object Name Records

"The successful development of Virginia's Highway system, for more than a third of a century, has been due in large measure to the ability, energy and example of our Assistant Chief Engineer, Mr. John J. Forrer." So wrote J. A. Anderson, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Highways, in a letter dated 28 March 1952 to Dr. F. P. Gaines, President of Washington and Lee University, Forrer's alma mater. Born in Harrisonburg on 15 February 1886 to Henry and Maria Showalter Forrer, John Jacob Forrer became a highly regarded pioneer in the asphalt paving industry. A 1909 graduate of Washington and Lee, he worked as a river levee engineer in Mississippi and as an engineer for various concrete building construction projects in Memphis, Tennessee and Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1917 he began a lengthy career with the Virginia Department of Highways as resident engineer, maintenance engineer and Assistant Chief Engineer. In 1952 Forrer left the Highway Department to become executive director of the Virginia Asphalt Association, Inc. Upon retirement in 1958, Forrer and his wife, Florence [Firebaugh] moved to Saluda, Virginia. Forrer was a member of several professional associations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, Virginia Engineers Club, Association of Asphalt Paving Technologists and the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce. He was also a Mason and a member of the Methodist Church. He and his wife had three children: John Jacob Forrer, Jr. (father of the donor), William Henry Forrer and Margaret [Forrer] Wren. Forrer died October 17, 1973 at the age of 87.


The collection consists of biographical and professional information, correspondence, typed reports, an unpublished manuscript ("Modern Methods of Highway Maintenance"), trade publications, certificates, awards, magazine articles, newspaper clippings and photographs pertaining to his career in the asphalt paving industry. The unpublished manuscript contains original photographs and should be handled with care. Folder 9 (oversize) contains a Forrer family tree printed after John J. Forrer's death. The donor included the item in this collection although technically it was not part of John J. Forrer's papers. A portrait photograph of Forrer's maternal grandmother is housed in HRHS-5.1.


Folder 1: Biographical/Professional Information, 1956-1958
Folder 2: Correspondence, 1916-1971
Folder 3: Typed Reports, 1939-1953
Folder 4: Unpublished manuscript, "Modern Methods of Highway Maintenance," 1924
Folder 5: Magazine articles and newspaper clippings
Folder 6: Trade Publications, 1951, 1956
Folder 7: Certificates/Awards, 1946-1960
Folder 8: Photographs, c.1968 [10 items]
Folder 9: [oversize] Forrer family tree
Title John J. Forrer Papers