Purdum and Jeschke Survey Records

If you have no familiarity with the firm, the organization of the records of Purdum and Jeschke will be confusing. We confess that at times the organization of those records is confusing to us, and we've spent a long time indexing them. To head off questions and to eliminate as much dizzyness as possible, we have decided to document here what we have learned about them, and also note what we have changed with respect to their organization, and why.

When we bought the records, all of the principals involved in their creation had either died or retired and were unavailable to advise us. We got, essentially, two rooms-full of records, a few incomplete project lists, and nothing else. In fairness to those with whom we dealt, these were records that they had themselves inherited, with little or no direction as to their organization by those who created them.

And we bought only the survey records. The engineering records are retained by EBL Engineers, from whom we purchased what we did. Civil engineering projects frequently have a surveying component, so those retained engineering records could well contain survey data.

Until we created it, there was no comprehensive listing of their projects; indeed, since we know that we did not receive even all the survey records (some had likely been destroyed prior to our purchase), our list is also incomplete. Nevertheless, we count nearly 8,000 projects (excluding location surveys) in the collection. With the exception of those location surveys and the P&J fieldbooks, all the files have been scanned and are online.

The records had a reputation inside the firm as being a tangled maze.

There were thousands of files that had no file number at all, but were organized by street name, then by client. Not good. Imagine trying to find a survey conducted for an unknown client on a property along Route 1 in Howard County, and discovering that there are three file drawers full of Route 1 files. Then remember that some projects were filed under U.S. Route 1, while still others were filed under Washington Boulevard or Baltimore-Washington Boulevard. One former employee joked about "being sentenced to go down into the basement to look for an old survey file." Apparently it was a painful experience, with no guarantee of success. And that's when you were looking for a specific file. Looking for "anything in the area" was completely out of the question.*

We at Martenet could not tolerate such a situation, so we assigned numbers (and geographic references) to those projects lacking them, taming that mess in the process. Now it is trivial to find all records pertaining to an area, just as it is with the rest of our holdings.

The firm used different filing systems through the years. Here's the "early" numbering scheme, supplemented by SJM's reorganizing nomenclature where needed:

The original Columbia, Maryland surveys for the Rouse Company; numbers assigned by SJM
Development projects
Projects that originally had no project number or for which we could find no project number; we at SJM assigned these numbers to facilitate precise filing and retrieval.
We think these stand for "Office and Survey," but we're not sure. These projects, from the '50s and '60s, seem to have the year and month embedded into them.
P&J collected records from other surveyors as do all surveyors. We assigned "Resource" numbers to these files to distinguish them from actual P&J projects.

The later numbering scheme was one based on either the client or the type of work. Started approximately in 1970, they implemented the scheme by redesignating all of the active projects with new numbers. Thus, it is not uncommon for a single project from that era to have two project numbers. Since there were often separate folders for each number, it is possible that parts of the project will be found under each project number. (We have attempted to add links to the companion numbers on each project page.) That later scheme is as follows:

House Location surveys
Army Corps of Engineers projects
Maryland State Highway Administration projects
Other Maryland State agency projects
Howard County Government projects
C&P Telephone (later Bell Atlantic, later still Verizon) projects
Residential subdivision projects
Commercial development projects
Stand alone surveys, or surveys not in support of other engineering work
Overflow of stand alone surveys
Overflow of Bell Atlantic projects

If this hasn't been complex enough, the finished plats of the firm were not filed by project number or with the rest of the project papers, but were filed in one of six other series: S- plats for small drawings, SM- plats for drawings up to about 18" by 24," and SL- plats for drawings larger than that. And P- plats which were recorded subdivision plats. And HC- and H- plats generated (we think) by the Howard County office. True to form, there was only an imperfect index linking any of these drawings to the actual project files. Again, that is inconsistent with the Martenet standard of record maintenance, so we have endeavored to link the plat records with the project records. This effort should only be viewed as a good faith attempt, however, based on the name of the plat and the name of projects sounding similar. Should you encounter mismatches of this sort, we'd appreciate a note to that effect.

The format of these records varies. Sometimes we have a paper file for the project. Other times, we only have a rolled worksheet or finished drawing. Occasionally we found gaps in their numbering where we are fairly sure a project existed, although we have yet to find any record of it. In those cases, we sometimes entered the project number as a placeholder, hoping that we'll yet encounter the records. Finally, some projects appeared on a list given to us, but without any corresponding files or drawings.

Every project we could identify is listed in our online indices. If we also got enough material to determine where the project was, we have geo-indexed it. As we are in the early(!) stages of living with this material, inevitably we will discover traits about the collection unknown to us at present. We'll update as we go.

Nevertheless, the current results are workable. Enjoy.

  *This was a memory-dependent system, or one that depended on people remembering specific projects in the archive. Unfortunately, most surveying firms, and nearly all civil engineering firms, employ this sort of indexing system for their files. These systems are imperfect at best (as are memories themselves), but completely break down when the memories necessary are no longer available. The only truly independent indexing system is a geographically-based one, which does not depend on knowing anything about what the archive contains, but merely the area of interest. Of course, such a system could be (and usually is) augmented by alphabetic indices of clients.