Friday, September 16, 2011

Bridge Game

Darwin D. Martin's journal (Memorandum of Events in the Life of Darwin D. and Isabelle R. Martin) records a number of modern marvels observed by the inquisitive Martin, including his first encounters with a typewriter, "aeroplane," and, perhaps most vividly, a New York landmark seen during his brief time in the city working for the Larkin Soap Company:
Saw "Brooklyn Bridge" a-making:  reels of wire rolling from main pier to its mate across East River accumulating the main cables. (June, 1879)
Brooklyn Bridge - Annette V. Leach
John and Washington Roebling's famous span was one of a series of suspension bridges that would captivate spectators in post-Civil War America.  John Roebling's first masterpiece completed after the War was the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge spanning the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio to Covington, Kentucky.  Its design, with two prominent masonry towers, prefigures its Brooklyn descendant in many ways.  But the more refined design of the Brooklyn Bridge would become iconic not only of New York itself, but of American suspension bridges in general - surpassed in the collective consciousness only by the Golden Gate Bridge, fifty years later.

Today, a new contender for best-known American bridge is taking shape over San Francisco Bay:  the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (below). Its engineering claim to fame is that the East span will include the world's largest Self-Anchored Suspension Span. But it's the "Made in China" label on the Bay Bridge's steel components that's raising eyebrows with made-in-America proponents - a fact of globalization that would likely have Darwin Martin scratching his head in disbelief as well.

1 comment:

Carl Schmitter said...

Similar issues are present at the new World Trade Center being built in NYC. Stainless steel from Germany, glass from China!