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“L” is for Lebby, Nathaniel H. (1816-1880)

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“L” is for Lebby, Nathaniel H. (1816-1880). Inventor. Born in Charleston, Lebby conceived of the mechanism for the world’s first hydraulic suction dredge, which became the standard method of modern dredging. In 1852 he was awarded a patent for a “water raising apparatus,” a steam-driven pump that found frequent employment on rice plantations to flood and drain fields. When in operation his pumps discharged sizable amounts of mud, sand, and even rocks. Lebby believed that a similar pump would pass through dredged material as well. In 1857, his machine was housed on a dredge-boat to work in Charleston harbor. The results were spectacular. In eighteen months, his suction pump had been used to remove some 145,000 cubic yards of material—an unprecedented dredging accomplishment. Nathaniel H. Lebby received three additional patents after the Civil War.

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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.