January 2, 2011

Building bridges

Brooklyn Bridge, photo by Derek Jensen

John Roebling came to the US from Prussia in 1831 already a trained engineer.  But the US, just coming out of an eight-year recession, didn’t need any engineers.  Not many major construction projects were funded or even planned, so Roebling became a Pennsylvania farmer.

Farming, it turned out was not his metier, so he started a wire rope factory instead.  Wire rope, the stuff you use in construction, was closer to his heart, but not quite close enough.  In 1840 Roebling started looking for engineering jobs and finally got work building canals and aqueducts.  Four years later, he got his first major commission – the Allegheny Aqueduct bridge – and his reputation grew.  Before he died, he built five major suspension bridges, but the last was the one that made him famous.

John Roebling, 1806-69

Site clearance for the Brooklyn Tower of the Brooklyn Bridge began on January 2, 1870.  It took thirteen years to finish the bridge and during that time more than 20 workers died, including Roebling himself.  His foot was crushed by an incoming ferry as he stood on a pier and, declining more than initial treatment, he died three weeks later of tetanus.  Washington Roebling, the eldest of his nine children, finished the job, though he himself was confined to his home, paralyzed by caisson disease.  The younger Roebling’s wife Emily carried his instructions to the work site.

All possible details here.

Iconic from the first, the Brooklyn Bridge has inspired poets, musicians and above all artists and photographers.  And it is the bridge of legend that was sold to visiting hayseeds.

For 30 years, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, until the Williamsburg bridge opened in 1903.  But its reign as one of the world’s most beautiful bridges continues.

Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct Bridge today, photo by Derek Ramsey



  1. good show jean thank you


    Comment by avery — January 2, 2011 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  2. Bridges are very inspiring things. Visable connections. Again, thanks Jean.


    Comment by GALYA TARMU — January 2, 2011 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

  3. great pix! 😉


    Comment by Nina C — January 3, 2011 @ 3:16 pm | Reply

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