Page 20 - Wire Rope News & Sling Technology - August 2018
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First page of the proposed plan and survey of the “Wheeling and Belmont Suspension Bridge” as it was called at the time.
         Photo courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC
         continued from page 18             Charles who??                      civil engineer  and later, Union Army
           On May 17, 1854 a strong wind-     Though the world is familiar with   brigadier during  the  Civil War.  Their
         storm destroyed the deck of the bridge   the Brooklyn Bridge’s designer John   grandfathers on both sides served in
         through  torsional  movement and ver-  Roebling, and its chief engineer, his   the American Revolutionary War.
         tical undulations that rose almost   son Washington, how many of us     Ellet worked  as a rodman, taking
         as high as the towers.  Its rebuilding   have the name Charles Ellet on the   measurements  and preparing draw-
         prompted 1856 litigation.  An  injunc-  tip of our tongues? Charles Ellet Jr.   ings  for  land  surveyor  and  engineer
         tion  was  issued  against rebuilding   lived just 52 years, but in that short   Benjamin Wright during the construc-
         the  bridge.  The  rebuilding  continued   span of time he accomplished enough   tion  of  the  Chesapeake and Ohio  Ca-
         anyway.  Ellet’s  workmen  made  tem-  for several lifetimes.         nal. Wright promoted him to Assistant
         porary  repairs  in  eight  weeks  –  al-  As an early American civil engineer,   Engineer  of  the  Fifth  Residency,  but
         though  further  improvements by Wil-  Ellet designed and constructed major   in  1830 he  resigned  to continue  his
         liam McComas would take another                                       schooling  in  Paris.,  where  he studied
         year. Meanwhile,  the bridge company   “Ellet was recognized by both   civil engineering at Ecole nationale des
         asked Congress to investigate whether   friend and opponent as a true   Ponts et Chaussees.
         the judge had been bribed (an investi-  genius, he had an inordinate    In 1832 he submitted proposals for a
         gation that was quietly dropped when    amount of imagination,        suspension bridge spanning the Potomac
         the case resolved) and complained that   originality and creativity.”  River. In 1842, he designed and built the
         the injunction violated both Congress’s                               first major wire-cable suspension bridge
         sovereignty and that of Virginia (which                               in the United States, spanning 358 feet
         had authorized  the  bridge). Plus,  the   canals,  bridges,  river  improvements   over the Schuylkill River at Fairmount,
         Ohio legislature petitioned Congress to   and railroads in Antebellum America.   Philadelphia,  Pennsylvania.  He  de-
         save the bridge, which the Virginia and   He also advocated using steam-powered   signed the record-breaking Wheeling
         Indiana legislatures (and some dissi-  vessels in naval warfare, volunteered to   Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River
         dent Pennsylvanians) joined.       serve in the U. S. Army Corps of Engi-  at Wheeling, West Virginia in 1848, and
           Through the efforts of Wheeling Con-  neers, received a commission as a colo-  a 770-foot suspension footbridge at Ni-
         gressman  George  Thompson  and  oth-  nel and commanded one of the new ram   agara Falls at the same time.
         ers, Congress passed a law that desig-  vessels he designed during the Union   His  other  civil  engineering  accom-
         nated the bridge a post. That December,   naval victory at the Battle of Memphis.  plishments  include  supervising  both
         the Supreme Court upheld the bridge as   Born at Penn’s Manor in Bucks Coun-  the James River and Kanawha Canal
         an exercise of Congressional power over   ty, Pennsylvania, Ellet was the son of   in Virginia and the Schuylkill Naviga-
         military and postal roads. The Wheel-  Charles Ellet Sr. and Mary Israel. His   tion Canal improvements in Pennsyl-
         ing Suspension Bridge was saved.   brother, Alfred W. Ellet, also became a             continued on page 22
         20     Wire Rope News & Sling Technology   August 2018
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