The photographic images in this collection are largely of railway bridge construction and other properties owned by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company at the turn of the twentieth century. Images are of two distinct projects (mostly construction) taken in and around the St. Louis, Missouri area (1890-1900): of a bridge project (name and location unknown) spanning 1902-1903; and of the construction of the Metropolis Bridge (that crosses the Ohio River at Metropolis, Illinois, about 12 miles south of Paducah, Kentucky) between 1914-1915. For the latter project Ralph Modjeski originally served as consultant engineer and then as chief civil engineer of construction. There are also negatives of unidentified bridge construction.
Scope and Contents:
The collection includes approximately 230 glass plate negatives depicting railway bridge construction; 41 negatives, dated 1890 to 1894, depicting construction and railroad facilities in St. Louis, Missouri (including the Mound Street Viaduct and the buildings at the corner of Main and Brooklyn Streets); and 36 negatives showing construction work at the Metropolis (Illinois) Bridge from 1914-1915.
Court testimony in an accidental injury claim (Kersten vs. Hines, no. 21593) indicates these sites are located in St. Louis, Missouri, and were at the time owned by the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. The envelope containing these negatives marks them as the property of F.H. Cramer, Bridge Engineer with the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad.
Negatives in Subseries 3 are themselves undated. The containing envelope indicates the photos depict construction work at the Metropolis Bridge by Carter H. Harrison Jr., 1914-1915.
The collection is arranged into one series.
Series 1, Photographic negatives, 1890-1915, undated
In the later part of the 1800s and throughout the Progressive Era, the United States experienced a great expansion of its railroad industry, which resulted in many partnerships, mergers, and changes in leadership. Among railroad companies that became a dominant force in the industry was the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company (originally the Aurora Branch Railroad), which was purchased in 1901 by James Jerome Hill. Hill, a businessman and resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, also owned the Great Northern Railway and other entities. Hill's other business interests included mining, timber, land, and livestock--all industries with ties to the transportation industry, and particularly to railroads as the country became more reliant upon this mode of transportation. Hill was noted for his business acumen and competition with other wealthy men and families of the time--J.P. Morgan, the Rockefellers, and E.H. Harriman of the Union Pacific--who eventually pooled their resources to form the Northern Securities Company.
Northern Securities Company was a holding company, set up to hold a controlling part of the stock of other companies, essentially to control four big railroads of the Northwest. During a period of much labor unrest and migration to the country's Midwestern and Northwestern regions, people were left at the mercy of one big conglomerate that had a stronghold on the industry. It is important to note that the Northwestern Securities Company (at President Theodore Roosevelt's request) was sued by the United States government through invocation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
In March of 1904, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 5 to 4, ruled in favor of the United States and ordered the Northern Securities Company dissolved (Northern Securities Company vs. United States 193 U.S. 197). While the images in this collection are not known to be tied to the court case, they do provide details of many construction projects that are significant to the railroad expansion occurring at that time. The bulk of the collection focuses on railway bridge construction. Also included are photos of the Metropolis Bridge in Metropolis, Illinois, which was overseen in part by Ralph Modjeski. Modjeski was a lauded civil engineer who wrote the engineering manual Standard Designs for Steel Bridges for the Northern Pacific Railway Company. Additionally, the collection includes earlier photographic negatives showing construction from 1890 to 1894 of the Mound Street Viaduct and buildings at the corner of the Main and Brooklyn Streets in St. Louis, Missouri.
Materials in the Archives Center
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, subject category Railroads (AC0060)
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Records, circa 1826-1943, 1951 (AC1086)
Wilbur L. Metz Collection of Railroad Ephemera, 1910-1986 (AC1172)
Originally collected by the Division of Mechanical and Civil Engineering (now called the Division of Work and Industry). Exact date and source of acquisition unknown.
Collection open for research on site by appointment.
Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs and negatives. Special arrangements required to view negatives due to cold storage. Using negatives requires a three hour waiting period. Contact the Archives Center at 202-633-3270.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: reproduction fees may apply.
Collection documents the work of the John A. Roebling's Sons Company, builders of bridges. The materials consist primarily of photograph albums documenting some of the bridges, tramways, ski lifts and chair lifts that Roebling's Sons Company was involved with. The documentation also includes specifications, patents, and reference materials about the engineering process of building bridges and bridges in general.
Scope and Contents:
The collection documents the work of the John A. Roebling's Sons Company, builders of bridges. The materials consist primarily of photograph albums documenting a variety of bridges, mostly in the United States. The documentation also includes specifications, patents, and reference materials about the engineering process of building bridges and bridges in general.
Series 1, Historical background materials, 1895-1958, is divided into two subseries: Subseries 1, John A. Roebling's and Sons Company materials, 1895-1949 and Subseries 2, Newsletters, 1929-1931.
Subseries 1, John A. Roebling's and Sons Company materials, 1895-1949, contains a variety of items related to the company such as historical narratives, correspondence, price lists, testing data, and a ledger with cost estimates. The correspondence is partially bound (pages 1 to 104) from a letter press book (handwritten and typescript) belonging to John A. Roebling's and Sons Company. William Hildebrand and Charles G. Roebling are the chief correspondents. The correspondence documents daily activities related to the design and erection of bridges as well as finances and supplies. Charles G. Roebling's notebook, undated, contains calculations and notes about various bridge projects.
Subseries 2, Newsletters, 1929-1931, contain copies of Blue Center and Wire Engineering, which were John A. Roebling's and Sons Company publications intended for employees. The newsletters were apparently used as scrapbooks, with black-and-white photographs pasted into the pages. Found among the pages of Blue Center are photographs of the Hudson River Bridge and in Wire Engineering, there are photographs of the Maysville, Kentucky Bridge.
Series 2, Photographs, 1926-1975, comprises the largest series in the collection. The photographs are primarily black-and-white and document aerial tramways, tramways for logging or mining, chair lifts, ski lifts, floods, and bridge construction projects. The latter makes up the majority. Most photographs were assembled into albums with corresponding captions and dates, and almost all of the photographs document bridges in the United States. There is one exception, the Yauricocha Tramway in Peru. In some instances, the captions are recorded on the back of the photographs, and others were recorded on album pages. The series is arranged alphabetically by name of bridge and/or project.
Series 3, Specifications, 1855-1962, consists of printed textual documents (both bound and loose) that contain information for bidders, proposals, contracts, and bonds, and the detailed specifications. This series is arranged alphabetically by bridge name.
Series 4, Reports, 1928-1938, contains bound reports (both progress and final) detailing problems, requirements, research, manufacture, plant installation, cable equipment, strand adjustments, and Roebling Company developments. This series is arranged alphabetically by bridge/and/or project.
Series 5, Patent materials, 1849-1952, consists of issued patents (to a variety of individuals) for cable and cable appliances, cables, and cable apparatus, cableways and tramways, and grips. The patents are arranged by subject area, then by patent number.
Series 6, Reference materials, 1836-1964, contains a wide range of materials—articles, biographical files, drawings, photographs, newspaper clippings, advertising, correspondence, notes—documenting all aspects of bridges. This series is arranged alphabetically by topic.
The collection is arranged into six series.
Series 1, Historical background materials, 1895-1958, undated
Subseries 1, Biographical, 1900-1958, undated
Subseries 2, John A. Roebling's and Sons Company materials, 1895-1949
Subseries 3, Newsletters, 1929-1931
Series 2, Photographs, 1926-1975
Series 3, Specifications, 1855-1962
Series 4, Reports, 1928-1938
Series 5, Patent materials, 1849-1952
Series 6, Reference materials, 1836-1964
Biographical / Historical:
John Augustus Roebling (1806-1869) was the founder and proprietor of John A. Roebling's Sons Company. Born in Mühlhausen, Germany, he was a civil engineer famous for his wire rope suspension bridge designs, in particular, the design of the Brooklyn Bridge. Roebling married Johana Herting in 1836 and they had nine children: Washington A. Roebling (1837-1926); Laura R. Methfessel (1840-1873); Ferdinand W. Roebling (1842-1917); Elvira R. Stewart (1844-1871); Josephine R. Jarvis (b. 1847); Charles Gustavus Roebling (1849-1918); Edmund Roebling (1854-1930); William Roebling (b. 1856, d. 1860); and Hannah Roebling (died in infancy). Roebling's three sons, Washington Augustus Roebling; Ferdinand William Roebling and Charles Gustavus Roebling, worked for the company.
Roebling's Sons Company was active in the design and manufacture of wire rope used in the erection of suspension bridges since the 1840s. Roebling devised a system of spinning the wires together where weights and swivels turned the wire coils in the opposite direction from the twisting, thereby removing kinks. Method of and Machine for Manufacturing Wire Rope (US Patent # 2,720) issued on July 16, 1842. Roebling would adapt this wire rope to his suspension bridge principle. In 1848, he established a company—John Roebling's Sons Company—in Trenton, New Jersey, to manufacture his wire rope. Roebling manufacturing plants were sold in 1952 to the Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) Company of Pueblo, Colorado. In 1968, the Crane Company purchased the CF& I.
Materials in the Archives Center
George S. Morison Collection (AC0978)
Modjeski and Masters Company Records (AC0976)
Materials at Other Organizations
The Rutgers University, Special Collections and University Archives
Papers of Mary G. Roebling and Roebling Family Papers, 1821-1960 (MC 654.1).
This collection was donated by Blair Birdsall, former chief engineer at John A. Roebling's Sons Company in 1981.
The collection is open for research use.
Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.