THE EADS BRIDGE
The Eads Bridge Under Construction, 1873
THE EADS BRIDGE "The Eads Bridge Under Construction, 1873"
bridge prior to its completion in 1874. In the late 1860's St. Louis
the hub of steamboat traffic. Chicago was gaining in importance as a
center due to the railroads. A group of St. Louisans, realizing the
of rail traffic to the area, formed the Illinois and St. Louis Bridge
They knew their future depended on bridging the Mississippi and Captain
James Buchanan Eads was given the project.
Captain Eads accumulated a vast knowledge about the Mississippi River.
He started out as a steamboat purser and later operated a profitable
salvaging business. He was also responsible for building a fleet of
plated steamboats used to defend the waterways for the Union cause
the Civil War.
Although he had little formal education, Captain Eads was an
natural genius who accomplished many firsts with the completion of the
bridge. At the time, the Eads Bridge was the largest bridge ever
It was the first bridge in the world to use alloy steel, marking the
of the iron age. Its cantilever method of construction was the first of
a bridge that size.
Upon completion of the bridge, several methods of testing were used
to assure the public it was safe. The non-scientific method consisted
walking an elephant across the bridge. Everyone knew that elephants had
an uncanny instinct and would not set foot on an unsound bridge. The
cheered as the great beast from the local menagerie mounted the
without hesitation and lumbered across to the Illinois side. The
approach consisted of having fourteen locomotives, weighing more than
tons, drive back and forth across the bridge while a team of inspectors
measured the bending of the arches under the load.
The Eads Bridge opened July 4, 1874 and remains in use today.