The Past President Project – “Finding Fred”

Nicholas Pinhey, CWEA History Committee, Announcements, History

Frederic A. Batty, Superintendent of Sewers
City of Los Angeles, 1939

Did you know that CWEA’s second President was an early leader in the field of collection system maintenance? The CWEA History Committee uncovered this little-known fact when we started documenting our early Association leaders.

The CWEA History Committee introduced its “Past President Project” in the January 2015 issue of the Wastewater Professional. The goal of this project is to develop short biographies of CWEA’s leaders during the first decade of the Association’s existence (1928 to 1939).

As described in the first article, documenting CWEA’s early leaders can be a real challenge due to the fact that our Association’s first publications focus almost exclusively on conference proceedings and technical information – details regarding our early leaders are noticeably absent in the old California Sewage Works Association Journals (CSWA Journal) and photographs of members are almost non-existent.

While some of our first Association Presidents were profiled in other professional publications, others are not, and photographs of certain individuals are particularly difficult to find. Documenting these past Association leaders requires a specific and unique set of skills. To be effective, you must have the skills of a detective, academic researcher, genealogist, industrial archeologist, photo archivist, librarian and the ability to network with other groups, associations and families – in other words, the basic job description for a History Committee member!

The search for photographs and biographical information for our second Association President illustrates some of the challenges inherent in reconstructing CWEA early history and specifically the problems encountered in finding and identifying photographs of early Association leaders.

Who was F.A. Batty?

According to the CSWA Journal articles, Albert K. Warren was our first Association “Head of State” serving as the Chairman of the Formation Committee in 1928 and Leon B. Reynolds was our first Association President in 1929. Our second Association President is listed as F.A. Batty and, per the CSWA Journal, he presented a paper entitled “Methods of Sewer Cleaning” at the first annual CSWA convention in San Bernardino (October 1928 – published as “Cleaning Sewers”).

From CSWA Journal, 1928

The CSWA Journals provided the first clues to F.A. Batty’s profession and work history. The CSWA Journal membership sections list him in 1929 as being a “Maintenance Engineer, Engineering Department, City of Los Angeles” and by 1930, the CSWA Journals list F.A. Batty as the “Assistant Chief Engineer in Charge of Pumping Stations and Sewer Outfalls” working under the supervision of the City Engineer for the City of Los Angeles. In 1931 he is listed as a “Sewer Maintenance Engineer” and “Civil Engineer” for the City of Los Angeles. Throughout the 1930’s, F.A. Batty continued to present and author papers on sewer maintenance, sewer safety, pumps and lift stations for the CSWA. I also noted that it was mentioned in convention proceedings that he had sewer system work experience in Santa Barbara before working for the City of Los Angeles (though it was not specifically stated he was working for the City of Santa Barbara).

Thus far, I had firmly established that F.A. Batty worked for the City of Los Angeles in the 1920’s and 1930’s and was responsible for collection system maintenance and engineering. Armed with this information, my first stop was a Google search using the search terms “F.A. Batty” combined with “City of Los Angeles”, “sewers”, “CSWA”, California Sewage Works Association, and so on. My Internet searches, for the most part, came up with little or no information and the City of Los Angeles record search was limited (this has since been rectified thanks to identifying photographs of F.A. Batty at the University of Southern California Digital Library). What I needed was a first name, and preferably first and middle names, to really find out more about F.A. Batty.

Finding “Fred”

How do you find a first name when you have only initials to go by? I started by reviewing CSWA Journals and CSWA documents, plus CWPCA and CWEA documents. My searches consistently came up with F.A. Batty, but no first name. I recalled that the old conference programs would list past Association Presidents at the back of the schedule of events. A quick search located an old conference program that listed “Fred A. Batty” as our Association President for 1930. I also found that the presidential plaque at the CWEA office has “Fred A. Batty” engraved on it. Finally, I found a CSWA conference attendee list showing “Ada R. Batty”, wife of “Fred A. Batty”. Now I had a first name and finally a way to possibly track down “Fred”.

From Pacific Municipalities 1925

My next step was checking Pacific Municipalities, the quarterly publication of the old League of Pacific Municipalities (the League was the forerunner of the League of California Cities). I knew that the League would periodically publish profiles or listings of public officials working for California cities and there might be a chance that Fred A. Batty would show up in the 1920’s-1930’s editions. My search through Pacific Municipalities produced excellent results – first, F.A. Batty was listed in 1916 as an “Inspector, Sewer Construction” for the City of Los Angeles. Second, he shows up in 1925 as ‘Frederic A. Batty, Engineer Sewer Mtce, Los Angeles” and, most importantly, his photograph was published with the listing. Now I had his full first name, Frederic (not Fred or Frederick), documentation that he was working for the City of Los Angeles as far back as 1922 and a photograph to help complete my search. Unfortunately, the photograph was very poor quality due to the low resolution of the print, but it would prove useful for tracking down more images of our second Association President.

The Search is on: The Hunt for More Photographs

Frederic A. Batty (back to the camera) in his office, 1939

One of the goals for the Past President Project is finding good quality photographs of the former Association Presidents to use with their biographies. So, now the search was on to find more background about Frederic A. Batty’s career and life and also attempt to locate a good quality photograph of him. I used the name Frederic A. Batty to check the digital archives at the University of Southern California (USC) as they have some excellent photographs of early public works projects in the City of Los Angeles. I found that the City of Los Angeles municipal departments were documented in 1939 through a series of high quality photographs and my search in the USC Digital Library archives turned up a photo captioned “Workers in Mr. Batty’s Office, Department of Public Works”. This might be the photograph I needed for his biography. Imagine my surprise when I opened the digital image to find this (see below):

The photograph clearly shows Frederic A. Batty in his office, unfortunately with his back to the camera! While the photograph does not give us a good look at Mr. Batty, it does show us some interesting details of his office and the operations. Photographs of what appears to be the interior of a brick lined sewer and sewer inspection notes hang above a desk adjacent to Mr. Batty’s desk, the Chicago Pump catalog and similar publications sit on a shelf above his desk along with a 1939 calendar on the wall verifying that the photograph was taken in sometime in October of that year. Additional searches of the USC archives failed to turn up more photos of Frederic A. Batty, however, there was a reference to him participating in the 1937 sanitary engineering short school that was jointly produced by USC and CSWA. His 1937 presentation was titled “Maintenance of Sewers and Storm Drains” – more confirmation of his work in collection systems.

Based on the Pacific Municipalities photograph, I decided to scan the CSWA conference films and the (very few) CSWA Journal photographs in the archives for images of Frederic A. Batty. By developing a file of the poor quality photo images I hoped to be able to identify more and better quality photographs of Mr. Batty for his presidential profile. I was able to find an image of Mr. Batty in a group photograph taken at the 1930 CSWA Long Beach convention and by cropping and enlarging the image I had my second print photograph, albeit a very poor one (see below).

Frederic A. Batty
1930 CSWA Convention Long Beach CA

The two print photographs allowed me to check the early 1930’s CSWA convention films and identify images of Mr. Batty. The 1930 CSWA Long Beach convention film yielded some good views of Mr. Batty and these allowed me to identify Frederic and his wife Ada in the 1932 Yosemite convention films (both Frederic and Ada were listed as attendees at the 1932 convention). Here is a frame from the 1932 convention film showing Frederic and Ada enjoying Yosemite:

Frederic A. Batty and Ada R. Batty
1932 CSWA Convention Yosemite CA

While the photograph of Frederic and Ada is better than the print photos and the “back of the head” office photograph, I wasn’t satisfied with it. Based on my review of the images, I had a feeling that I had run across a photograph of Mr. Batty in another publication on the City of Los Angeles. Based on this “hunch”, I was able to locate the publication and do some more searching through the USC digital archives. By using the archives, I was able to locate my final and best photo of our second Association President, Frederic A. Batty. Not only is it a good quality photograph, it shows Mr. Batty in the field checking a manhole for gas odor. The photograph was captioned showing his job title as “Superintendent of Sewers”, which matches listings in the CSWA Journal from the same time period.

Frederic A. Batty, Superintendent of Sewers
City of Los Angeles, 1939

Gathering the Final Pieces and Putting Them Together

While searching for photographs of Mr. Batty, I was also able to simultaneously search for information on his life thanks to the various genealogical resources, archives and library resources available through the Internet. Once I had the name “Frederic Batty”, the search for information was relatively easy compared to the search for photographs and I was able to piece together some significant parts of Frederic Batty’s life.

By using his first name, I was able to determine that Mr. Batty’s full name was “Frederic Arthur Batty” and that he was born in the Kensington district of London England in 1876. This information allowed me to trace his arrival in the United States through ship passenger lists which show that he arrived with his mother, father and siblings in 1890. U.S. census records indicate that the family settled in Santa Barbara and also that Mr. Batty completed four years of college. California state records show him licensed as a land surveyor as of August 8,1907 and later registered as a civil engineer. The licensing records also show him living in Santa Barbara in 1907.

Per the California newspaper archives, I was able to determine that Frederic A. Batty married Ada R. Moore in Los Angeles on July 28, 1908 and that the newlyweds first residence was in Santa Barbara. The census records indicate that Frederic was employed by the City of Los Angeles with the title of “Civil Engineer” by 1910 and that Frederic and Ada relocated to Los Angeles, where they lived for the next 71 years (as verified by Frederic’s obituary). Genealogy records show that Frederic and Ada had no children.

The archives and draft records also show that Mr. Batty became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1926 and that he held a number of positions with the City of Los Angeles before retiring in 1945 as an Assistant City Engineer. The majority of his career was spent in collection systems engineering and maintenance as evidenced by his job titles with the City and the numerous conference papers he authored on the subject of collection systems. After his retirement, Frederic and Ada continued to live in Los Angeles until Frederic’s death in 1961.

By using the resources described in this article, the CWEA History Committee was able to produce the following memorial biography of our second Association President:


(1876 – 1961)

Frederic Arthur Batty, second President and Charter Member of the California Water Environment Association (1930) (formerly California Sewage Works Association), and Assistant City Engineer, City of Los Angeles

Frederic Arthur Batty (F.A. Batty) was born in London England in 1876 and immigrated to the United States in 1890, eventually settling in Los Angeles California. Batty became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1926.

Batty completed his college training in civil engineering and was licensed to practice as a land surveyor professional civil engineer by the State of California in 1907. He initially worked in Santa Barbara as a land surveyor and an engineer and was subsequently hired by the City of Los Angeles in 1910 as a Civil Engineer. In 1916, Batty was placed in charge of sewer construction inspection by the City of Los Angeles. Batty was then promoted to Engineer in Charge of Sewer Maintenance and then to the position of Assistant Chief Engineer in charge of Pumping Stations and Outfalls by 1930 and Superintendent of Sewers in 1939. He retired from the City of Los Angeles in 1945 as an Assistant City Engineer.

Batty was a charter member and the second president of the California Sewage Works Association (CSWA, now CWEA) serving his term of office in 1930. He also served on the CSWA Board of Directors and several CSWA Committees including the Safety Regulations Committee, Operators School Committee, Publicity Committee, Pump and Motor Standards Committee and the Industrial Wastes Committee. Remarkably, Batty was able to produce nearly one CSWA conference paper per year during the 1930’s covering a range of topics in sewer maintenance and construction. He was highly active in the CSWA until his retirement.

Batty’s papers and presentations provide us with a picture of a leader in the wastewater field who was dedicated to advancing the maintenance and construction of collection systems through his service to the CSWA and the City of Los Angeles.