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Bridges: Wheeling Suspension Bridge

Transportation in Wheeling Icon

▶ Wheeling Suspension Bridge

 ▼ Bridge Histories  |   ▼ Location  |   ▼ Photographs   |   ▼ Newspaper Articles   |   ▼ Additional Resources    

Suspension Bridge in Wheeling

W.C. Brown Photo #52: Suspension Bridge from Wheeling IslandIn 1836, a wooden bridge was built from Wheeling Island across the west channel of the Ohio River to the Ohio shore. But when a bill in Congress urged constructing a bridge from the city of Wheeling across the east channel of the river to Wheeling Island, it met opposition from Pittsburgh. Congress wanted to facilitate trade and travel on the historic National Road but Pittsburgh contended successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court that such a bridge would interfere with river navigation. Pittsburgh feared that chimneys on packet boats would not be able to pass under it. Despite a restraining order, the bridge was finished on October 30, 1849. Wheeling sought relief from Congress, which ordered the height of steamboat chimneys be governed by the clearance of bridges.

The completion of the National Road and its extension across the Ohio River enabled Wheeling to become the second largest city in Virginia prior to the Civil War.

In 1854, the bridge was destroyed by a wind storm and the legal battle began again as soon as work on a replacement was started. Pittsburgh again appealed to the Supreme Court but, this time, Wheeling won. The new bridge was completed in 1856. At the time, it was the first suspension bridge of its kind in the world and, until the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, was the longest in the country. Today, it is the oldest suspension bridge still in use and a National Landmark. The Historic American Engineering Record has called the Wheeling Suspension Bridge "the most important extant antebellum civil engineering structure in North America.''

Bridge Histories

▶ History and description of the bridge by Dr. Emory Kemp.
▶ Early history of the bridge from Wingerter's History of Greater Wheeling.
▶ A biographical sketch of bridge engineer Charles Ellet, Jr.
▶ The Wheeling Bridge Case in the Supreme CourtJames Morton Callahan, 1913 
Transcript of the 1956 dedication of the Bridge as a National Monument, D. B. Steinman, Consulting Engineer, May 20, 1956 


Spans the Ohio River from 10th Street in Wheeling to Virginia Street on Wheeling Island.


Suspension Bridge

Newspaper Articles

▶ Various newspaper reports on the building of the Bridge: The Daily Wheeling Gazette, August-December 1849
▶ Opening ceremonies [November 15, 1849]The Daily Wheeling Gazette, November 17, 1849
▶ Accounts of the Suspension Bridge collapse [May 16, 1854]: The Wheeling Intelligencer, May 17-22, 1854
Intelligencer's Response to Pittsburgh Gazette following collapseThe Wheeling Intelligencer, May 20, 1854
▶ The Suspension Bridge in 1886: The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, September 14, 1886
▶ $400,00 1957 "Facelift": The Intelligencer, August 2, 1957

Additional Resources

Materials in the Library's Non-Fiction Stacks: (circulating, can check out with a library card.)

▶ The Wheeling Bridge case : its significance in American law and technology, Monroe, Elizabeth Brand, 1992. Call#: 343.730942 M757w 1992  (Additional copies in the Wheeling Room)
▶ The Wheeling Suspension Bridge : a pictorial heritage, Kemp, Dr. Emory, 1999. Call#: 725.98 K32w 1999  (Additional copies in the Wheeling Room)
▶ America's greatest suspension bridges : a photographic essay, Alexander, R. Glenn, 2014. Call#: 624.23 Alex 2014  (Additional copies in the Wheeling Room)

Materials in the Library's Wheeling Room: (non-circulating, ask for access at the reference desk.)

Materials in the Library's Archives: (non-circulating, view by appointment only*) 
*Call 304-232-0244 or send an email to make an appointment to view archival materials.

▶ Archives vertical file: Wheeling Suspension Bridge. 
▶ Archives vertical file: Wheeling Suspension Bridge (Photographs). 
▶ Archival Collection: Beverly Fluty Papers, Boxes 13-19, Box 21 (Photographs)  |  View finding aid
▶ Archival Collection: Elizabeth Brand Monroe papers  |  View finding aid
Archives Collection: Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation (WNHAC) Records, Boxes 6 and 18.

Materials at the Library of Congress:

Bridges  |  Transportation in Wheeling  |  Wheeling History Home  |  OCPL Home  

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-Information on this page compiled by lhoracek and erothenbuehler
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