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Building the Suspension Bridge, 1849

Transportation in Wheeling Icon

▼ Suspension Bridge Newspaper Articles

      ▶ Series of articles from Aug-Dec of 1849 covering the building of the Susupenion Bridge

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Aug. 9, 1849, p. 3.


The first iron cable of the Wheeling Suspension bridge, was suspended across the river, from tower to tower, a span of 1010 feet, yesterday afternoon. it is the small cables which are to guide to course of that giant pathway through the air, and above the unobstructed river which rolls beneath.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Aug, 13, 1849, p. 2


The two small wire cables of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge have been stretched across the river, between the southern towers, and temporarily anchored on both sides of the river. During Friday and Saturday, the workmen were engaged in constructing the temporary foot bridge, composed on planks suspended from the cables by means of wire stirrups. At the time of writing this, the foot bridge is nearly completed, and before this number of our paper goes to press, a crossing will be effected over, and high above the broad expanse of the Ohio river; by means of the longest span (1010 feet) ever projected in the world!

The operation of stretching the cables, as well as all the previous operations upon this stupendous structure, are of the most ponderous and Herculean magnitude; but the skill and genious of the superintending Engineer, Chas. Ellet, Esq., as well as the skill and intrepidity of his workmen, have rendered them comparatively easy, and thus far entirely successful, and unattended by any accident.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Aug, 15, 1849, p. 2


The high wind which rose yesterday morning after the rain, and blew down the river form above, came with such violent force against the temporary foot way of the Suspension Bridge, that it loosened and disconnected about three-fourths of the flooring. The entire foot-way is composed of ordinary inch plank, nailed to cross pieces which are suspended from the cables by wire stirrups. The structure was rude and temporary, but was throught abundantly strong to answer its design -- which was to assist in bringing the main cables across. The wind coming with tremendous force against the pendant flooring, caused it to swing with such violence as to wrench a large portion of the stirrups apart, and to dislodge about three-fourths of the flooring. The accident will soon be repaired without much loss or delay.

Our Pittsburgh neighbors might say that this occurrence is ominous, in as much as it shows which way the wind blows. A little further acquaintance with the facts however, would convice them that though it was a great blow which came down the river, blowing no person any good, it certainly did very little harm. The flooring though loosened on one side, clung firmly to its fastenings on the other, and the cables swung as proudly and securely at their dizzy height, as if a breath of air had never broken against them.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Sept. 21, 1849, p. 2

The temporary foot way of the north side of the Bridge has been completed and the first main cable was brought across the river yesterday.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Oct. 1, 1849, p. 2

The Wheeling Bridge

The last one of the cables destined for centuries to come, to span the majestic and beautiful Ohio, was brought over and anchored on Saturday last. We think that this bridge will be passable in three weeks from this time, at farthest, the only process now necessary to its completion, being the wrapping, suspending the timbers and laying the floors.

To us who, as Edie Ockletree would say, "ken the bigging o't," this great work conveys but half its actual grandeur. We have seen the stones laid one upon another, and like the workman who builds himself to the top of the highest tower, we scarcely appreciate the work we have done, and seem still near the ground; but the stranger, who sees it for the first time, looks up with awe and wonder to those immense towers and gigantic gables, spanning a river hitherto unchained, more than a 1,000 feet span. Wonderful as the age is, this is truly one of its most wonderful and majestic works, combining alike the power of art and of science.

Nor is it less useful than beautiful and grand. Heretofore, the same means of transit across this river, have been used as when the whole west was a forest, instead of a mighty nation peopled by millions, demanding a more sure and easy access to their eastern brethren. The torrent may now roll and the icebergs plunge upon the bosom of the swollen river; but above it unharmed and fearless will pass the traveler, without delay or toil. The produce of the west, and the commerce of the east will join hands in gratitude to the builders of this great public work, while emigration to the far west, will lose half its terrors to the timid heart.

Nor is this a work for a day. Centuries will roll away, another and another chain will be thrown over the Ohio and the Father of Waters, yet this work will stand, and throw a halo of glory around the names of those who executed it, and the people in whose midst it was constructed, as the pioneers in the species of improvement.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Oct. 4, 1849, p. 2

The Bridge.

The last cable of this immense structure having been swung across the river, and permanently anchored, the workmen are now engaged in wrapping each cable with wire to secure them from the action of the atmosphere and the consuming hand of time for ages yet to come. The workmen climb out along the cable and puruse their way with the utmost ease and fearlessness, though they seem to be in a dangerous state of Suspense. Elevated in the air astride of the wires, high above the rolling flood beneath, they dwindle into pigmies to an observer on the river. The workmen are also now building heavy stone masonry over the anchors at their junction with the wires. This is the only thing we see about the Bridge which looks like an in-junction. The cables at this point are in a junction which nothing less than an earthquake can ever divide.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Oct. 11, 1849, p. 2


The first timber up the great suspension bridge was swung to its place yesterday. It will strike many that the support of the flooring is light compared with the strength of the other works. This impression will be removed when it is remembered that the suspended wires are the supporters each, of but a small weight. -- The weight of the timber did not straighten the wire, small as it looks.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Oct. 17, 1849, p. 3

The Bridge.

About sixty of the timbers for the flooring of the Bridge had, last evening, been attached to the stirrups. The workmen progress so rapidly that all the timbers will probably be swung and the flooring laid in a condition to be crossed by heavy vehicles, this week.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Oct. 20, 1849, p. 3

The Bridge.

It is hoped that the timbers and plank will be so fair laid on the floor of the bridge that the structure may be used to a lmited extent, after to-day. While adjusting the beams and side-railing, it is not desirable to have many persons on the platform. We are, therefore, requested to state that the entrance to the bridge will be closed, and tolls collected from those who go on while this work is in progress.

In the course of a very short time, when the bridge is in a better condition to receive a crowd, it is the intention of the Directors to throw it open for a day or two for the free use of the citizens.

Parents, keep your boys away from that Bridge, if you don't wish their necks broken. The planks are as yet but loosely thrown upon the timbers, and we shuddered yesterday at seeing little boys, too young to be sensible of their danger, running and wrestling on this dangerous scaffolding, when the tilting of a plank, or a single misstep would have dashed them from their dizzy height through the awful distance below! It is a miracle that this structure has progressed thus far without any material accident, and we should regret now that this good fortune should be marred by some frightful occurrence resulting from gross and wilful neglect. 

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Oct. 22, 1849, p. 3

First Crossing of the Suspension Bridge.

We announced on Saturday that the last timbers for the floor of the Bridge would probably be swung sometime during the day, and the Bridge be crossed by a heavy vehicle. We were thus indefinite because the crowd which would be attracted by the certainty of witnessing the last link added to this wonderful thoroughfare through the air, would probably interfere with the workmen, and occasion accidents which it is now a special object to avoid.

All such precaustions, however, did not prevent the news from spreading abroad, and by an early hour in the day the city was alive with strangers, and people from the surrounding country, thronging the shore on either side of the river, anxious to behold th magnificent ceremony of joining Virginia and Ohio in perpetual union, by means of the longest and most beautiful span ever projected in the world.

A 10 o'clock A. M., the stars and stripes were planted upon the highest tower on the Virginia side, and in another moment a flag bearing the insignia of Ohio was seen floating from western tower. The crowd on the shores now anxiously awaited the joining of the floor in the middle of the span, the workmen having commenced at both ends and proceeded in laying the timbers toward the centre. At half past 10 o'clock, MR. CHARLES ELLET, the talented and accomplished engineer and superintendant of this structure, and Mr. I. Dickinson, superintendant of the stone and iron work, seated in a one-horse carriage, drove upon the Bridge. The last timber was then swung and covered with planks, and the carriage proceeded onward amid the breathless anxiety of the assembled multitude who watched it rolling like a triumphal chariot at its dizzy height, through the air. The roar of cannon soon announced its safe arrival at the western shore, and a long, loud and triumphant shout broke from the thousands of delighted spectators.

In the afternoon the first heavy two horse vehicle crossed the Bridge. This was nothing more nor less than the fairy equipage of Gen. Tom Thumb, consisting of the carriage and Shetland ponies presented to him by Queen Victoria. We regret that the General did not arrive in time for this trip, but his Aiddecamps and footmen were there and proceeded with the most admirable grace and dignity.

The day was beautiful, a brighter one never shone, and certainly never smiled on a scene more triumphant for American genius, skill and enterprise. The longest span ever projected for a bridge, has thus proven successful and, we repeat, it is a triumph of which the people of Wheeling, and indeed of which those in all parts of the United States, may justly feel proud.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Oct. 24, 1849, p. 3

The Bridge.

The planks for the flooring are being fastened permanently and preparations making for adjusting the side railing of the foot ways. The workmen are now engaged in completing the extensive wing wall at the west end, and in doing some other stone work which was deferred until the cables were stretched.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Oct. 31, 1849, p. 3

A Six horse team, one of the National Road wagons, heavily laden, crossed on the Bridge yesterday afternoon. The structure would have borne a train of such vehicles, besides all the people that could have been crowded upon it, without flinching. It was constructed for such purposes, and "40 wagons a day" may 96 now come in to Wheeling without distracting an Editor or producing much excitement.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Nov. 2, 1849, p. 3

No More Ferry delays.

Zane's ferry, from the Wheeling shore to the Island, which has plyed to and fro for a period of years as far back as the "oldest inhabitant" can recollect, was yesterday discontinued and all rights pertaining to it transferred to the Suspension Bridge, in accordance with the purchase made by the Company. During the day all the market wagons from Ohio, in returning, passed over the Bridge, with perfect safety. We were not a little amused by contrasting the cool and satisfied manner in which our country friends drove upon this immense platform swung in the air, with the incredulous feelings which prompted many of them to declare a few months ago, that they "would not risk their lives on such a thing for the world." The greatest creations of genius, when succesfully completed, appear simple, however complex and incomprehensible they may have previously seemed. Such a simple, though huge and magnificent structure does the Wheeling Suspension Bridge now appear to the observer. The light and fairy step of timid women, the heavy tramp of the burthened horse or the crushing wheels of the ponderous car may alike traverse this structure, with the assurance that the platform beneath them is firm, safe and enduring as the rock-ribbed and everlasting hills. 

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Nov. 6, 1849, p. 3

The Side Railing of the Bridge is being attached to its designed position, presenting by its style and arrangement, a beautiful and symmetrical appearance. Its height from the floor is five feet, affording ample protection to passengers.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Nov. 21, 1849, p. 3

Popularity of Wheeling Manufactures.

Messrs. J. Bodley & Co., of this city, who manufactured all the wire for the cables of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, have closed contracts for the manufacture of the wire for the cables of the Nashville Suspension Bridge, now in progress of construction. This is of itself most conclusive evidence of the success and popularity of this branch Wheeling manufactures, but when we add that the wire is not only to be manufactured here, but that the wires are to placed together, or in other words, that the cables, over 600 feet in length are to be made in Wheeling and transported in their immense and completed form to Nashville, it shows that this comparatively new species of manufacture in our city has met with unprecedented success.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Dec. 4, 1849, p. 3

The Side-Railings of the Bridge have been extended along their entire course, presenting, by their beautiful and symmetrical arrangement an appearance like the gleaming fronts of long lines of embattled infantry, and we guess they will be quite as impregnable to the small grape shot of their enemies. We have heard it suggested that the huge iron cables are to be painted white; we hope not. Apart from the consideration that such is the very worst color for the coal smoke, it would not be a bit more appropriate than to white-wash the rocks of Gibraltar.

- The Daily Wheeling Gazette, Dec. 11, 1849, p. 3

Fatal Accident

Christian Velder, a German stone mason employed in the completion of the wing wall at the west end of the Suspension Bridge, was instantly killed yesterday by the falling of the boom of the large crane; the crane breaking while a large stone was being swung to its place, and the boom striking him with tremendous and fatal force on his head and back. He was aged about 31 years, unmarried and has no relatives in this city.

We regret exceedingly this sad accident, for the sake of the deceased, who was a worthy and faithful man; and because it is the first accident of any moment which has occurred during the entire progress of the stupendous and often perilous work which has been performed in the erection of the Bridge.

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