William L. Clements (1861-1936) was the founder of the Clements Library. A Michigan industrialist who made his fortune supplying steam shovels and cranes for the building of the Panama Canal, he amassed an outstanding rare book library with his fortune and donated it to the University of Michigan in 1923.

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The Clements Library in large part owes its existence to the Panama Canal project. William L. Clements, graduate of U-M's first Engineering School class of 1882, designed and manufactured cranes and steam shovels in Bay City, Mich. The Panama Canal project created an unprecedented need for such equipment and Clements' factory was in high gear between 1904 and 1915. Not only did Clements' business produce equipment, but it allowed him the extra personal income to put together one of the greatest collections of Americana in the world. Clements built and donated the present library to his alma mater.