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The Bridge:  Part II: Builder of the Brooklyn Bridge:  John August Roebling, the Father– Part 2


You may ask, who was John Augustus Roebling? He was born in Germany in 1806, and from his early youth engineering and bridge-building animated his passions. At the Royal Polytechnic Institute of Berlin, his philosophy professor, Frederick Hegel, recommended that Roebling learn English. As tradition and bureaucracy would prevent Roebling from ever building bridges in Germany, the young man decided his future lay abroad, and in 1831 he departed for America.

Roebling, from the very beginning, advocated designs and materials to build strong bridges. Not one of the bridges he built ever fell down. This was a real accomplishment because one out of four American bridges built between 1840 and 1880 collapsed. The oldest standing American suspension bridge is the one built by John Augustus Roebling in 1848 near Port Jervis, New York. It is now part of Delaware National Historic Recreation Area.  Roebling helped make America the land of great suspension bridges where most of the world’s suspension bridges are found.

Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge

His company, John Roebling & Sons, became the foremost manufacturer of cable in America. In 1841, Roebling invented “iron rope” or cable to replace the hemp rope that had previously been used. Roebling eventually had eleven patents to his credit. Bridges, mines, and railroads demanded what he made. His company spun the cable for the George Washington Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Golden Gate Bridge. He set up his factory in Trenton, New Jersey, which he considered his hometown. In turn, the City considered him its hometown hero. His statue stands in Cadwalader City Park to this very day. People remarked that the statue looked exactly like Roebling’s son, Washington Augustus. But then it should because it was he who had posed for the statue.

On June 24, 1869, while surveying the shores of the East River for the exact site to begin construction, Roebling sustained fatal injuries. He was so busy scouting the area that his toes became trapped between the ferry and the landing. John Roebling died from gangrene and tetanus a few days later.

Blog 23 The Brooklyn Bridge:  Part II: Builder of the Brooklyn Bridge:  John August Roebling, the Father– Part 2

© 2018 by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg

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