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Collection Overview

Tedesko, Anton, 1903-1994
Anton Tedesko Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1913-2005 (mostly 1922-1990)
44 boxes and 42.0 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • This is stored in multiple locations.
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1-38
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 39-44
English German


Anton Tedesko (1903-1994) was a German-born American structural engineer, best known for his extensive work in reinforced thin-shell concrete design, often on significant industrial, institutional, and government construction projects, largely in the United States during World War II and the Cold War. The papers consist of Tedesko's writings, correspondence, calculations, engineering drawings and designs, personal papers, photographs, reference materials and technical journals, along with some film reels and glass lantern slides, including materials from his time at the Dyckerhoff & Widmann and Roberts & Schaefer firms, representing his professional work and activities from the 1920s through the 1990s.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The papers consist of a mixed group of office files that reflect Anton Tedesko's multiple roles as a structural expert, engineer, and manager at the Roberts & Schaefer engineering firm over his thirty-three years with the company from 1934 to 1967, as well as his long career as a professional engineer, spanning seven decades, which included consulting, lecturing, publishing articles, and committee work. To a lesser degree, the papers also reflect Tedesko's technical education and his time at the Dyckerhoff & Widmann firm in Europe, and even less frequently, his personal life. The vast majority of materials are related to Tedesko's professional career and include blueprints and other large structural designs and drawings, project files, small preliminary sketches and calculations, cost estimates and data, correspondence regarding projects and contracts, project proposals, field test data and film reels, promotional materials, personnel files, photographs of buildings and construction sites, consulting files and reports, reference materials and clippings regarding thin-shell concrete design and German engineers, product catalogs, reports on thin-shell construction methods, lecture drafts and correspondence regarding related travels, glass lantern slides used in presentations, reports from professional conferences, drafts and reprints of articles by Tedesko, and copies of professional journals, along with correspondence and minutes for professional committee work. Personal materials, which make up a very small portion of the collection, include autobiographical writings, a small amount of personal correspondence and documents, and school notebooks from his college years, which are interspersed among Tedesko's general office files.

The collection's contents and organization reflect Tedesko's interrelated activities and functions. Although files do not usually follow a discernable arrangement scheme, original file runs have been described where they existed. Other aspects that contribute to the intermingled nature of these files include Tedesko's strategy of repurposing and reusing structural designs and concepts from earlier buildings in updated forms for newer structures, as well as his concurrent role as an administrator and engineer during most of his time at Roberts & Schaefer. Clippings, bibliographies, scrapbooks and reference files, photographs, and technical journals on German thin-shell design, from which Tedesko drew his inspiration and aesthetic, are frequently interspersed with project files. Reflecting the time when Tedesko worked for Dyckerhoff & Widmann and Roberts & Schaefer's collaborative venture, early designs, promotional materials, photographs, reference files, and reports from both firms are often interfiled. Similarly, materials surrounding Tedesko's lectures and committee participation on topics closely tied to his own work in the field can often be found together. Detailed folder contents lists, provided by Princeton University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, were included in individual file descriptions when present. Due to the varied nature of the collection, researchers are advised to do a keyword search to locate materials related to specific projects or topics, which may be found in several locations within the collection.

Of particular note is an original run of Tedesko's numbered project files for Roberts & Schaefer that span from the 1930s through the 1950s and contain preliminary drawings, calculations, office memoranda, and blueprints for many of Roberts & Schaefer's projects during the early years of thin-shell construction in the United States, including files on the Budd Manufacturing Plant in Philadelphia, the terminal for the St. Louis International Airport, the Signal Corps warehouses in Dayton, Ohio, and many other government and industrial hangars and warehouses. Also present is a run of Roberts & Schaefer cost data files that contain information about costs for specific projects, types of buildings, and particular designs and materials. There is also a complete set of reports generated by the "Lehigh tests," a set of structural tests that Roberts & Schaefer contracted with Bruno Thürlimann and Bruce Johnston of the Fritz Engineering Laboratory at Lehigh University from 1949 to 1951 to assess the structural integrity of various thin-shell design practices.

Tedesko's participation in the design of the NASA Verticle Assembly Building and Launch Complex 39 at Cape Canaveral is also prominently reflected in the papers. The Army Corps of Engineers chose a group of New York architects and engineers to form the joint venture, Urbahn, Roberts, Seelye, and Moran (URSAM), which undertook the design and construction work involved in the project. The papers include a group of correspondence among the various URSAM members between 1960 and 1966, as well as several packets of contract drawings of the launch complex and copies of NASA's specifications for the project. Additionally present are various clippings, articles, and lecture materials related to the Vertical Assembly Building.

Also present is a typescript of Tedesko's unpublished autobiography, written in the 1980s and titled "A Chronicle," that details Tedesko's early life, education, and experiences in the United States, as well as his views on his professional career.


The order in which this collection was stored in file drawers at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering for many years was generally maintained. Although materials have not been physically arranged into an imposed order, existing intellectual relationships between materials filed together have been described accordingly as file groups. Using keywords, researchers can easily search across the collection for materials related to certain topics, which were either filed separately originally by their creator or alienated from their context prior to their arrival at the library.

Collection Creator Biography:

Tedesko, Anton, 1903-1994

Anton Tedesko (1903-1994) was a German-born American structural engineer, best known for his work in the field of reinforced thin-shell concrete design, often for significant industrial, institutional, and government construction projects, largely in the United States during World War II and the Cold War. His most famous buildings include the Hayden Planetarium, in New York City (1934), and the Vertical Assembly Building, at NASA's Cape Canaveral Launch Complex (1966).

Tedesko grew up in Austria, where he attended Technische Universität, in Vienna, and received a diploma in Structural Engineering in 1926. After moving to the United States for two years to pursue structural steel detailing and design work, he returned to Austria in 1929 and briefly served as an assistant to Professor Ernest Melan, a steel structure specialist. He received an additional diploma from Technische Universität Berlin in 1930 and went to work for the well-established Wiesbaden-Biebrich-based firm, Dyckerhoff & Widmann, that was then pioneering the engineering and construction of concrete buildings, bridges, dams, and tunnels in Germany. In the 1920s, Dyckerhoff & Widmann teamed up with Walter Bauersfeld, who developed the famous cupola for the Zeiss Planetarium, and obtained several patents on Bauersfeld's framework and reinforcement processes. During his time at Dyckerhoff & Widmann, Anton Tedesko worked alongside famous engineers, including Franz Dischinger (1887-1953), Ulrich Finsterwalder (1897-1989), and Hubert Rüsch (1903-1979), whose ideas greatly influenced his work.

After two years at the company, Dyckerhoff & Widmann's executives decided, based on Tedesko's previous experience overseas and extensive knowledge of thin-shell design, to send him to the United States to work for the Chicago consulting engineering firm Roberts & Schaefer, with the goal of introducing the German firm's methods of thin-shell design to the United States. Slowed down markedly by the Great Depression, the join venture struggled to find shell construction projects, and many designs were drafted while few were built. Tedesko's team constructed their first temporary shell in the form of a small circular-barrel roof for the Brook Hill Farm Dairy Barn at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, followed by the Hayden Planetarium, in New York, in 1934, the first permanent shell built in the United States. Shortly after, the growing unrest in Europe immediately preceding World War II, coupled with the German company's struggles to adapt their strategies to American business practices, led Dyckerhoff & Widmann to give up on their American prospects.

Anton Tedesko, however, elected to stay on with Roberts & Schaefer and went on to design close to 60 concrete shells during his time there from 1934 to 1967, including many airport hangars, factories, and storage facilities. After marrying American Sally Murray, with whom he later had two children, Peter and Suzanne, Tedesko became an American citizen in 1938. Shell design in the United States began to catch hold following several successful projects led by Tedesko in the late 1930s, including the Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania (1936), a major water filtering plant in Hibbing, Minnesota (1939), and the cupola for the McAlister Auditorium at Tulane University in New Orleans (1939). Prior to the start of World War II, Roberts & Schaefer built several notable facilities for the Armed Forces, including Air Force seaplane hangars at North Island in San Diego, a major Army warehouse in Columbus, Ohio, and a hangar for the Signal Corps in Dayton, Ohio. During the war, government agencies regularly contracted shell structures with Roberts & Schaefer, due to their design's economic use of materials and efficient industrial production methods. During this boom, Tedesko was put in charge of the firm's Washington D.C. office, where he oversaw many government projects.

After World War II, Tedesko returned to Chicago to serve as the structural manager of Roberts & Schaefer's operations at their main office, during which time he completed massive Air Force aircraft hangars in Rapid City, South Dakota,and Limestone, Maine (1948), the Denver Municipal Coliseum in Colorado (1952), and the shell structures for the terminal building at the St. Louis International Airport (1954). From 1956 to 1967, Tedesko served as the vice-president of Roberts & Schaefer's New York office, where he worked with well-known architects, Minoru Yamasaki and I. M. Pei. While in New York, Tedesko designed the May D&F Entrance Canopy in Denver (1959) and NASA's Vertical Assembly Building, at Cape Canaveral (1966), which housed the assembly of the Saturn space vehicles and was, at the time, the largest building by volume in the world. Following his work for NASA, Tedesko received a Civil Engineering Achievement Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 1966, and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1967.

In 1967, Tedesko left Roberts & Schaefer to found his own consulting engineering company, where he served as a consultant for the United States Air Force and many other large firms and as an expert witness for various legal proceedings surrounding structural failures and accidents. Tedesko continued to consult, lecture, and participate in professional committees surrounding shell design until his death in 1994. In 1998, the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE) Foundation created the Anton Tedesko Medal in his honor.

Collection History


Gift of Anton Tedesko, as confirmed by his son, Peter Tedesko, in 2014 [AM 2014-98].

Custodial History

Prior to their arrival at Firestone Library, Anton Tedesko's papers were housed at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where they were stored in file cabinets and used for over twenty years by various professors, students, and researchers. Professor David P. Billington acquired the papers from Anton Tedesko and maintained them as a part of what was then referred to as the Maillart Archive until 2014.


Duplicate print materials were returned to the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in August-October, 2014, with assistance from Kristine Gift and Fiona Bell. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in October-November, 2014.

In 2022, restrictions on the glass lantern slides were lifted as part of a restrictions review project.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Trustees of Princeton University hold the copyright for materials in this collection that were created by Anton Tedesko. Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, any copyright vested in the donor has passed to The Trustees of Princeton University and researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of donor-created materials within the collection. For materials in the collection not created by the donor, or where the material is not an original, the copyright is likely not held by the University. In these instances, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

The glass lantern slides are fragile and require special handling in the reading room.

Credit this material:

Anton Tedesko Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • This is stored in multiple locations.
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1-38
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 39-44

Find More


Billington, David P. "Anton Tedesko: Thin Shells and Esthetics." ASCE Journal of the Structural Division. 108/11 (1982): 2539-2554. Hines, E. M. and David P. Billington. "Anton Tedesko and the Introduction of Thin Shell Concrete Roofs in the United States." Journal of Structural Engineering. 130/11 (2004): 1639-1650. Schlaich, Jörg. "Anton Tedesko (1993-1994)." Structural Engineering International. 4 (2004): 324-326. Weingardt, Richard G. "Anton Tedesko: Father of Thin Shell Concrete Construction in America." Structure. 2007 April. Accessed August 15, 2014.

Subject Terms:
Engineers -- United States -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Industrial Design -- History -- United States -- 20th century -- Sources.
Roofs, Shell -- United States -- 20th century.
Shells, Concrete -- United States -- 20th century.
Structural engineering -- United States -- 20th century.
Genre Terms:
Blueprints (reprographic copies) -- United States -- 20th century.
Correspondence -- United States -- 20th century.
Project files -- United States -- 20th century.
Structural drawings -- United States -- 20th century.
Dyckerhoff & Widmann
Roberts & Schaefer
Tedesko, Anton, 1903-1994