01:00 PM - 02:00 PM
25 October 2022

Roebling Before the Bridge

History & Heritage

This session gives an overview of the early works of Roebling from his first suspension aqueduct in Pittsburgh, for the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, to the world’s first Railway Suspension Bridge across the Niagara Gorge, to the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge – his first bridge to use large masonry towers a direct predecessor to his final work, the Brooklyn Bridge. Differing from the European methods in use, Roebling developed his own system for the construction of suspension bridges including a method of stringing wires in place which produced cables with wires of equal tension, a means of anchoring suspension cables when bedrock was not available, and a method of adding a protective wrapping around the main cables of suspension bridges.

The difference in his methods allowed his bridges to withstand the forces of nature, while others including Ellet’s Wheeling Bridge in West Virginia and Telford’s Menai Bridge in Wales (UK), were damaged by the winds. He was the originator of unique ideas including the concept of a hybrid bridge, which integrated the use of both vertical suspenders with diagonal stays – the intersection of which gives the Brooklyn Bridge it’s iconic look. His ingenuity changed how bridges were built and his work continues to influence how we build to the present day. This lecture looks to reintroduce the early history of the modern suspension bridge to a new generation.