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Collection Overview

Twitchell, K. S. (Karl Saben), 1885-1968
Karl S. Twitchell Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
33 boxes and 1 folder
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-33
English Arabic


Karl S. Twitchell was an American mining engineer who conducted extensive surveys in the Middle East, Europe, and South America between 1915 and the 1950s. His papers document the span of his career, particularly his interest in the Middle East, and include correspondence, journals, notes, reports, writings, topical files, photographs, and maps. Personal documents and correspondence with family and associates are also contained.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The Karl S. Twitchell papers contain correspondence, journals, notes, reports, writings, topical files, photographs, and maps documenting his career in mining and interest in the Middle East. The bulk of the professional documentation focuses on specific mining projects, principally in Yemen and Saudi Arabia between the late 1920s and 1950s. Particularly well-documented is Twitchell's participation in the Saudi Arabian Mining Syndicate (SAMS).

Also contained are personal documents comprised mostly of correspondence with his wife and other family members, professional acquaintances, and philanthropic organizations.

Please see series descriptions in contents list for additional information about individual series.


Arrangement closely reflects order in which material was kept by Karl S. Twitchell. Related topics may be located in different series. The Papers have been arranged in seven series:

Collection Creator Biography:

Twitchell, K. S. (Karl Saben), 1885-1968

Karl S. (Saben) Twitchell (born in St. Albans, Vermont on June 7, 1885) was an American mining engineer and geologist who conducted extensive mineral surveys in the Middle East between 1927 and the 1950s. He attended Kingston School of Mines, Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and graduated with a BS in 1908 and an ME in 1909. Between 1908 and 1915, Twitchell worked as an assayer, surveyor, prospector, and engineer in California, Idaho, and Arizona for various British and American companies, including Delamar Ltd. While working in a copper mine in Arizona, Twitchell met Colonel Seeley W. Mudd, who offered Twitchell an opportunity to work on developing the Skouriotissa Gold Mine in Cyprus in 1915. This pivotal early project ultimately led to a variety of mining projects in Portugal, Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia), Iran, and British Guiana. Twitchell's most significant work, however, took place in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

As a gift to Imam Yahiz, businessman Charles R. Crane hired Twitchell to survey mine resources, develop transportation infrastructure, and conduct agricultural experiments in Yemen during the later 1920s and early 1930s. Based on his successes in Yemen, a similar arrangement for surveying water resources, later to include mineral and oil surveying, was negotiated in 1932 for King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. On behalf of Standard Oil Company of California, Twitchell negotiated the first ever oil concession with the Saudi Arabian government in May 1933. With negotiations successfully completed, Twitchell began developing Mahad Dhahab and other mines in Saudi Arabia on behalf of the newly formed Saudi Arabian Mining Syndicate, which later included and was managed by the American Smelting and Refining Company. Other professional projects during this time include exploration and development of Placer Diamond Mine in British Guiana, serving as Vice President and consultant for American Eastern Corporation, consulting in Iran as part of its "Seven Year Plan," and leading the Agricultural Mission to Saudi Arabia in 1943-1944.

As an American businessman with a strong connection to the Middle East, Twitchell was involved with several philanthropic and academic organizations which had an interest in the region, including American Middle East Relief, Council on Islamic Affairs, Committee for Security and Justice in the Middle East, and Princeton University's Department of Oriental Languages and Literature Graduate Advisory Council. Often such affiliations reflected Twitchell's interest in the region's social and political circumstances, particularly if events impacted American-Saudi Arabian business relations. Twitchell also served on the Boards of Directors for American Eastern and Rock of Ages Corporations.

As a result of his experience and interest in the Middle East, Twitchell wrote many articles and a book, Saudi Arabia, published by Princeton University Press in 1947. Dodd, Mead and Company published a second book, Keith Arnold in Mining, in 1955.

Collection History


Gift of Harry G. Twitchell in September 1986 .

Custodial History

These papers were originally donated to Professor L. Carl Brown of Princeton University's Department of Near Eastern Studies in September 1986 and were housed in Princeton University Library's Manuscript Division beginning in January 1987. The papers were then transferred to Mudd Manuscript Library's Public Policy Papers Collection in August 1991.


Duplicate materials were separated from the collection and destroyed. Several Arabian coins were transferred to the Numismatics Department. A US general survey map of the Arab peninsula in Arabic (1958) was transferred to the Map and Geospatial Information Center.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Amy E. Armstrong in July 2007. Finding aid written by Amy E. Armstrong in July 2007.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use.

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.

Some letters in Series 1 have water damage and may be illegible, however, photocopies have been made and are housed in the folder following the original letters.

Credit this material:

Karl S. Twitchell Papers; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-33

Find More


The following sources were consulted for preparation of the biography: Materials from Karl S. Twitchell Papers. "Karl S. Twitchell: An Interview." Mining Engineering, September 1965.

Subject Terms:
Petroleum industry and trade -- Saudi Arabia.
Genre Terms:
Princeton University
Princeton university press
Crane, Charles Richard, 1858-1939
Twitchell, K. S. (Karl Saben), 1885-1968
Middle East.
Saudi Arabia.