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OVERVIEW OF THE COLLECTION

Title: John A. Roebling Collection

Collection Date(s): 1836-1975 (bulk 1930-1950)

Extent and Forms of Material: 18.5 cubic feet, including photographs and blueprints (62 boxes)

Creator: John A. Roebling’s Sons Company

Abstract: 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.

Repository: Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.archivescenter@si.edu 202-633-3270 www.americanhistory.si.edu/archives

Collection Number: AC0981

Processing Note: Processed by Beatrice Kelly (intern) and Alison Oswald (archivist), August 2009.

 

INFORMATION FOR USERS OF THE COLLECTION

Conditions Governing Access: The collection is open for research use.

Physical Access: Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution. 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.

Preferred Citation: Title and date of item, John A. Roebling Collection, dates, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, box number X, folder number XX, digital file number XXXXXXXX

 

 IN-DEPTH INFORMATION ABOUT THE COLLECTION

Administrative/Biographical History: 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.

Scope and Content: 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 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 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 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.

System of Arrangement: 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 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

Languages:Some materials in German, French, Italian, and Spanish.

Acquisition Information: This collection was donated by Blair Birdsall, former chief engineer at John A. Roebling’s Sons Company in 1981.

Custodial History: This collection was formerly known asthe Blair Birdsall Collection. It was transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Work and Industry in 2007.

Related Archival Materials: There are several collections documenting bridges in the Archives Center.

The Rutgers University, Special Collections and University Archives houses the papers of Mary G. Roebling (http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/libs/scua/roebling/roebling_main.shtml) and Roebling Family Papers, 1821-1960 (MC 654.1).

Ferdinand Roebling III Museum Archives (http://www.roeblingmuseum.org/) in Roebling, New Jersey acquires and preserves records in a variety of formats that document the history of the Roebling and Trenton steel and wire mills, the Village of Roebling, and products of the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company.

Access Points:

Subject/Names:
Roebling, John A.

Subject/Topical:
Wire-rope industry--New Jersey
Wire industry--New Jersey
Suspension bridges--Design and construction
Bridge construction industry--United States
Bridges--Design and construction
Iron industry and trade--United States
Iron industry and trade--Colorado
Suspension bridges--New York (State)--New York
Bridges--New York (State)--New York
Trenton (N.J.)--Genealogy
New York (N.Y.)--Transportation--Bridges
New Jersey--Business, industries, and trades--Wire
Trenton (N.J.)--Business, industries, and trades—Wire
New York (N.Y.)--Business, industries, and trades--Lamps
New Jersey--Business, industries, and trades--Securities
Trenton (N.J.)--Business, industries, and trades--Securities

Form/Genre:
Blueprints
Correspondence
Patents
Photographs

Occupations:
Civil Engineers--New Jersey
Engineers--New Jersey
Industrialists--New Jersey

CONTAINER LISTING

Box

Folder

 

 

 

Series 1, Historical Background, 1895-1958

 

 

Subseries 1, John A. Roebling’s Sons Company materials, 1895-1949

17

1

Roebling family genealogical chart, 1949

 

2

The Roebling Story, 1941

21

3

Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser (overview of Roebling’s Sons Company), 1945 May

 

1

Roebling Scrapbook, 1975 October

 

2

John A. Roebling’s Sons Company (correspondence), 1900-1903

17

3

John A. Roebling’s Son Company Book, Suspension Bridges: A Century of Progress, undated

 

4

Charles G. Roebling notebook, undated

 

5

Roebling’s Sons Company, Price list, 1904

 

6

John A. Roebling’s Sons Company Wire in Electrical Construction Book, 1897

 

7

Price List for John A. Roebling’s Son’s Company, 1919

 

8

John A. Roebling’s Sons Price List, 1922 June

18

1

John A. Roebling’s Sons Company Catalog of Wire Rope and Wire Rope Fastenings, 1912

 

2

Cableways, Tramways, 1905

 

3

Construction of Parallel Wire Cables for Suspension Bridges, 1925

 

4

Ledger of list of estimates, 1895 January-1905 February

 

5

Testing data/cost estimates, 1903-1910

 

6

Wire rope tables, 1887 and undated

 

 

Subseries 2, Newsletters, 1929-1931

1

6

Blue Center, 1929 January-1929 April

 

7

Blue Center, 1929 May-1929 August

 

8

Blue Center, 1929 September-1929 December

 

9

Blue Center, 1930 January-1930 June

 

10

Wire Engineering, 1930-1931

 

 

Series 2, Photographs, 1926-1975

22

4-6

AT & T Rappahannock River Crossing Bridge, 1937-1938

 

1-3

Bonanza Tramway, 1949

35

 

Bridge Albums [1920s-1930s]

34

1-5

California City Property Photograph Album, 1926-1941

50

 

Chesapeake Bay Bridge, 1951-1952

20

1

Deer Isle Bridge, 1943-1944

30

1-4

El Paso Gas Company Bridge Photograph Album, 1932-1952

52

 

Golden Gate Bridge, 1935, undated

41

 

Golden Gate Bridge #1, 1935-1936

42

 

Golden Gate Bridge #2, 1936

43

 

Golden Gate Bridge #3, 1936-1937

23

1-5

Hudson River Bridge Photograph Album #1, 1928 April-1929 March

24

1-5

Hudson River Bridge Photograph Album #2, 1929 April-1929 August

25

1-4

Hudson River Bridge Photograph Album #3, 1929 September-1929 December

26

1-6

Hudson River Bridge Photograph Album #4, 1930 January-1930 June

27

1-6

Hudson River Bridge Photograph Album #5, 1929 July-1930 June

28

1-6

Hudson River Bridge Photograph Album #6, 1929 April-1930 August

52

 

Hudson River Bridge, Miscellaneous, 1929-1931

53

 

Hudson River Bridge, Miscellaneous, 1927-1929

54

 

Hudson River Bridge, 1929-1930

56

 

Hudson River Bridge, 1930 (#1-75)

57

 

Hudson River Bridge, 1930 (#126-175)

58

 

Hudson River Bridge, 1930 (#177-229)

55

 

Hudson River Bridge, 1930 (#230-290)

62

 

Hudson River Bridge, 1930 (#291-348)

59

 

Hudson River Bridge, 1930 (#349-389)

60

 

Hudson River Bridge, 1931 (#390-427)

61

 

Hudson River Bridge, 1931 (#428-488)

49

 

Kingston Port Ewan Bridge, undated

40

 

Lumberville Bridge, 1947-1948

49

 

Manhattan Bridge, 1908-1909

30

5-7

Manhattan Bridge (repair), 1956

39

 

Maysville Bridge, 1931

33

1-6

Mt. Hood Tramway Photograph Album, 1949-1959

20

2

Peace River Bridge, 1943

38

 

Portsmouth, Ohio Bridge, undated

20

3

Sciotoville Cantilever Bridge, undated

51

 

Skelton, West Virginia Mine Tramway, 1937-1938

32

1-5

Ski Lift Construction Photograph Album, 1947-1957

49

 

Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge, 1930-1931

35

51

 

St. Johns Bridge, 1930-1931

20

4

Suwannee River Bridge, 1947

44

 

Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1939-1942

45

 

Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1949

46

 

Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1949-1950

47

 

Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1949

48

 

Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1931, 1948 June, 1949 April -1949 August

36

 

Tramways, 1914

22

7-9

West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company Conveyor Bridge, 1947

29

1-5

Yauricocha Tramway (Peru) Photograph Album, undated

30

8-10

Miscellaneous Bridge Photograph Album, 1947-1948

31

1-2

Miscellaneous Bridges (floods), 1936-1938

 

 

Series 3, Specifications, 1855-1962

2

1

Bellayre Mountain Chair Lift, 1949

 

2

Century of Progress Skyway, undated

 

3

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Sub Structural, 1949

 

4

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Sub-Construction, 1949

 

5

Chesapeake Bay Bridge, 1949

 

6

Chesapeake Bay Bridge, 1949

 

7

Colorado Department of Highways Bridge, 1958

 

8

Columbia Crossing Lift Bridge—Oregon State Highway Department, 1956

 

9

Comparison of Wire Sizes, 1920 December

 

10

Contract Correspondence, 1927-1928

 

11

Davenport Bridge, 1934

3

1

Davenport Bridge Commission Mississippi River Bridge, 1958

 

2

Deer Island Sedgwick Bridge, 1937

 

3

Detroit River Bridge, 1927

21

4

Dimensions between arrow points, undated

 

4

Florida State Roads Bridge, 1945

 

5

Francisco and Jacobus – NY Towers and Cables, 1950

 

6

Golden Gate Bridge, 1929-1932

 

7

Golden Gate Bridge, 1932-1937

 

8

Golden Gate Bridge, 1935

 

9

Gore Mountain Ski Center, North Creek Ski Lifts #3 and 4, 1963

4

1

Grand Mere Bridge, 1928

 

2

Hoover Dam Cableway, 1932

 

3

Hudson River Bridge, 1927-1931

 

4

Hudson River Bridge, 1927-1931

 

5

Interstate (East) Bridge Reconstruction, 1958

 

6

John Boyd Thacher State Park Ski Lift, 1949

 

7

Lumberville Bridge, 1946

 

8

Manhattan Bridge, 1938

21

5

Manufacturing specifications, undated

5

1

Maumee River Bridge, 1929

 

2

Maysville, KY, 1930

 

3

Mid-Hudson, Poughkeepsie Bridges, 1927

 

4

Missouri River Bridge at Broadway, Kansas City, MO, 1955

 

5

Missouri River Bridge at the Paseo, Kansas City, MO, 1952

 

6

Mount Hope Bridge, 1927

 

7

Mount Hope Bridge, 1927

 

8

Oroville Dam Bridge, Middle Fork Feather River Bridge, 1962

 

9

Philadelphia and Camden Bridge, 1922-1923

6

1

Pikes Peak Chairlift, 1948

 

2

Pipe Line Suspension Bridge across Colorado River near Glenfora, TX, 1950

 

3

Point Pleasant Bridge, 1927

 

4

Portland General Electric Co. Bridge, Crooked River and Deschuter River, 1962

 

5

Puerto Rico Radar Telescope, 1960

 

6

Puerto Rico Radar Telescope, 1961

 

7

Request for cableway estimate, undated

 

8

Riegelsville, DE Bridge Suit, 1928

 

9

Rondout Creek Bridge, 1920

 

10

San Pedro River near Benson, AZ, 1949

7

1

San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, 1932-1933

 

2

San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, 1933

 

3

Shelter Island Bridges, 1931

 

4

Snake River Bridge, 1958

 

5

St. John’s Bridge, 1929-1930

21

6

Standard Lewis Chart, 1895 March

7

6

Strand fabrication, 1924

21

7

Strand lay and rope lay information, undated

7

7

Strand Sections for Wire Rope, 1855-1930

21

8

Strand Sections for Wire Rope, 1920

7

8

Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1938

 

9

TWA Hangar, Philadelphia International Airport, 1955

 

10

Triborough Bridge, 1935

8

1

Triborough Bridge, 1937

 

2

Whitestone Bridge, 1937

 

3

White Face Mountain Ski Lift, 1947-1948

 

4

Williamsburg Bridge, undated

 

5

Williamsburg Bridge, undated

 

6

Williamsburg Bridge, 1897-1917

 

7

Williamsburg Bridge, 1900-1903

21

9

Wire Clearances, 1921

8

8

Miscellaneous Bridge, Tramway, and Ski Lift, 1929-1949

9

1

Miscellaneous Bridge, Tramway, and Ski Lift, 1928-1949

 

 

Series 4, Reports, 1928-1938

9

2

Hoover Dam, 1932

 

3

Hudson River Bridge, 1928-1931

 

4

Hudson River Bridge, 1928-1938

 

5

Hudson River Bridge, 1930-1938

 

6

Kill Van Kull Bridge Progress Report, 1930 April

 

7

Mao Bridge (Dominican Repulic), 1935

 

8

Maysville, Kentucky Bridge, 1932

 

9

Port of New York Authority Tenth Annual Report, 1930 December

10

1

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, 1930

 

2

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, 1934-1936

 

 

Series 5, Patent materials, 1849-1952

 

3

Cable and Cable Appliances Wire (British), 1849-1881

 

4

Cable and Cable Appliances Wire, 1918-1930

 

5

Cable and Cable Appliances Wire, 1931-1951

 

6

Cables and Cable Apparatus (electric), 1884-1932

 

7

Cables and Cable Apparatus (electric), 1933-1952

 

8

Cableways and Tramways, 1892-1933

 

9

Cableways and Tramways, 1902-1904

11

1

Cableways and Tramways, 1904-1908

 

2

Cableways and Tramways, 1908-1933

 

3

Cableways and Tramways, 1911-1914

 

4

Cableways and Tramways, 1914-1927

 

5

Cableways and Tramways, 1927-1935

 

6

Cableways and Tramways, 1936-1951

 

7

Grips, 1889-1914

 

8

Grips, 1914-1952

 

9

Robinson, H.D. Aerodynamically stable suspension bridge, 1943

 

 

Series 6, Reference materials, 1836-1964

12

1

American Toll Bridges Association Ambassador Bridge, 1934

1

1

Ammann, Othmar Hermann, 1958

 

2

Andrew, Charles E. (business card), undated

12

2

Arch Bridges, 1917-1961

 

3

Arch Bridges, 1917-1961

 

4

Bailey Bridges, 1944-1950

 

5

Bailey Bridges, 1944-1959

 

6

Bridge Failures, 1916-1952

 

7

Bridges- General, 1959

 

8

Bridges- Scientific American Articles, 1849-1934

 

9

Brooklyn Bridge, 1933-1954

 

10

Brooklyn Bridge Truss Buckling and Miscellaneous, 1894-1898

 

11

Cableways—Miscellaneous Articles, 1908-1948

13

1

Cableways—Advertising, 1906-1930

 

2

Cableways—Domestic, 1899-1929

 

3

Cableways—Domestic, 1930-1951

 

4

Cableways—Domestic, undated

 

5

Cableways—Foreign, 1909-1933

 

6

Cantilever Bridges, 1911-1956

13

7

Dams, 1927-1946

 

8

Dams, 1931-1951

 

9

Deer Creek Suspension Bridge, 1961

 

10

Dravo Bridges Ferries, 1906-1943

 

11

Florianopolis Bridge (Brazil), 1927

 

12

Foreign Bridges, 1900-1929

 

13

Foreign Bridges, 1928-1964

14

1

Foreign Bridges, 1930s and undated

 

2

German Bridges, 1911-1957

 

3

Golden Gate Bridge, 1930-1938

 

4

Grand’Mere, 1929-1930

19

1

Gutehoffnugschutte Hand Book of Steel Sections, 1903

1

3

Hildenbrand, William, 1902-1964

 

4

Hildenbrand, William (lecture), 1905

14

5

Hoover Dam Cableway, 1922-1938

14

6

Manhattan Bridge including wire cables vs. eye bar chains, 1903

1

5

Moisseff, Leon S., 1930-1945

14

7

Mt. Hood Aerial Tramway (Skyhook), 1947-1951

 

8

Niagara and Binghamton Bridge, 1877-1897

 

9

Ohio River Bridge—E. Liverpool and Covington, 1897-1898

 

10

Old Bridges, 1836-1961

 

11

Passenger Tramways, 1916-1962

 

12

Pittsburgh Bridges—Point and Allegheny, 1878-1883

 

13

Pontoon Bridges, 1917-1952

14

14

Quick, Howard P., 1946-1947

15

1

Roebling Tramways, 1896

 

2

Roebling Tramways, 1895-1909

 

3

Skew Bridge, 1918-1934

 

4

Skilifts, 1937-1950

 

5

Skilifts, 1947-1964

15

6

Steel Girder Bridges, 1919-1955

 

7

Steinman, D.B., 1931, 1952

 

8

Three Hinge Suspension Bridge in New South Wales, 1937

 

9

Timber Bridges, 1923-1942

 

10

Tolls on Bridges, 1931-1951

19

2

Tramway and Bridge Dept. Contract Book, 1908

15

11

Tramways, 1891-1934

 

12

Tramway Advertising, 1925-1952

 

13

Tramways—Domestic, 1897-1929

16

1

Tramways—Domestic, 1930-1950

 

2

Tramways—Domestic, 1941-1950

 

3

Truss Bridges, 1916-1950

19

3

Union Wire Rope Tramway Company, undated

16

4

Williamsburg Bridge, 1897-1904

 

5

Wire, 1957 August

 

6

Miscellaneous Structures, 1923-1962

 

7

Miscellaneous Structures, 1927-1963

 

8

Miscellaneous Tramway, 1912-1953

 

9

Miscellaneous Photos and Historic Material, 1855-1952

 

 

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Revised: March 9, 2011