ABSTRACT. Civil engineers have played a central role in reshaping the physical environment during the past two centuries. Their accomplishments were made possible in no small measure by an ability to assess local hydrologic conditions and design structures to withstand the forces of water. Recent assertions that engineers had little comprehension of groundwater processes until the 1970s prompted an analysis of the engineering literature to reconstruct the state of knowledge up to the 1950s. Textbooks and manuals demonstrated that knowledge developed in constructing transportation lines, in draining cities and farms, in creating sewers, dams, canals, and lagoons, and in erecting manufacturing facilities contributed to design with groundwater in mind. In practice, this knowledge was available and drawn on, but the success of its application was inconsistent.