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"L" is for Lebby, Nathaniel H. [1816-1880]

South Carolina A to Z larger logo

"L" is for Lebby, Nathaniel H. [1816-1880]. Inventor. In 1852 Lebby, an employee of the South Carolina Railroad, received a patent for a “water-raising apparatus”—a steam-driven pump frequently used in the Lowcountry’s rice fields. It was also used to deepen a channel in Charleston Harbor. When in operation, the pump discharged sizable amounts of mud, sand, and even rocks. He then made a working model of a dredge that impressed the U.S. Corps of Engineers responsible for Charleston Harbor. Lebby’s dredge boat went into service in 1857 and the results were spectacular—moving an unprecedented tens of thousands of cubic yards of material. He received four patents for various inventions. However, Nathaniel H. Lebby is best remembered for conceiving the world’s first hydraulic suction dredge—which would become the standard of modern dredging.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.