Guide to the John A. Roebling Collection
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0981
Creators:
Roebling, Charles Gustavus, 1849-1918
Roebling, Ferdinand W. (Ferdinand William), 1842-1917
Mechanical and Civil Engineering, Division of [former name], NMAH, SI.
John A. Roebling's Sons Company
History of Technology, Division of, NMAH, SI
Roebling, John Augustus, 1806-1869
Roebling, Washington Augustus, 1837-1926.
Work and Industry, Division of, NMAH, SI
Dates:
1836-1975
bulk 1930-1950
Languages:
English
Some materials in German, French, Italian, and Spanish.
Physical Description:
18.5 Cubic feet
62 boxes
Repository:
Collection documents the work of the John A. Roebling's Sons Company, builders of bridges. The materials consist primarily of photograph albums documenting some of the bridges, tramways, ski lifts and chair lifts that Roebling's Sons Company was involved with. The documentation also includes specifications, patents, and reference materials about the engineering process of building bridges and bridges in general.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection documents the work of the John A. Roebling's Sons Company, builders of bridges. The materials consist primarily of photograph albums documenting a variety of bridges, mostly in the United States. The documentation also includes specifications, patents, and reference materials about the engineering process of building bridges and bridges in general.
Series 1, Historical background materials, 1895-1958, is divided into two subseries: Subseries 1, John A. Roebling's and Sons Company materials, 1895-1949 and Subseries 2, Newsletters, 1929-1931.
Subseries 1, John A. Roebling's and Sons Company materials, 1895-1949, contains a variety of items related to the company such as historical narratives, correspondence, price lists, testing data, and a ledger with cost estimates. The correspondence is partially bound (pages 1 to 104) from a letter press book (handwritten and typescript) belonging to John A. Roebling's and Sons Company. William Hildebrand and Charles G. Roebling are the chief correspondents. The correspondence documents daily activities related to the design and erection of bridges as well as finances and supplies. Charles G. Roebling's notebook, undated, contains calculations and notes about various bridge projects.
Subseries 2, Newsletters, 1929-1931, contain copies of Blue Center and Wire Engineering, which were John A. Roebling's and Sons Company publications intended for employees. The newsletters were apparently used as scrapbooks, with black-and-white photographs pasted into the pages. Found among the pages of Blue Center are photographs of the Hudson River Bridge and in Wire Engineering, there are photographs of the Maysville, Kentucky Bridge.
Series 2, Photographs, 1926-1975, comprises the largest series in the collection. The photographs are primarily black-and-white and document aerial tramways, tramways for logging or mining, chair lifts, ski lifts, floods, and bridge construction projects. The latter makes up the majority. Most photographs were assembled into albums with corresponding captions and dates, and almost all of the photographs document bridges in the United States. There is one exception, the Yauricocha Tramway in Peru. In some instances, the captions are recorded on the back of the photographs, and others were recorded on album pages. The series is arranged alphabetically by name of bridge and/or project.
Series 3, Specifications, 1855-1962, consists of printed textual documents (both bound and loose) that contain information for bidders, proposals, contracts, and bonds, and the detailed specifications. This series is arranged alphabetically by bridge name.
Series 4, Reports, 1928-1938, contains bound reports (both progress and final) detailing problems, requirements, research, manufacture, plant installation, cable equipment, strand adjustments, and Roebling Company developments. This series is arranged alphabetically by bridge/and/or project.
Series 5, Patent materials, 1849-1952, consists of issued patents (to a variety of individuals) for cable and cable appliances, cables, and cable apparatus, cableways and tramways, and grips. The patents are arranged by subject area, then by patent number.
Series 6, Reference materials, 1836-1964, contains a wide range of materials—articles, biographical files, drawings, photographs, newspaper clippings, advertising, correspondence, notes—documenting all aspects of bridges. This series is arranged alphabetically by topic.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into six series.
Series 1, Historical background materials, 1895-1958, undated
Subseries 1, Biographical, 1900-1958, undated
Subseries 2, John A. Roebling's and Sons Company materials, 1895-1949
Subseries 3, Newsletters, 1929-1931
Series 2, Photographs, 1926-1975
Series 3, Specifications, 1855-1962
Series 4, Reports, 1928-1938
Series 5, Patent materials, 1849-1952
Series 6, Reference materials, 1836-1964

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
John Augustus Roebling (1806-1869) was the founder and proprietor of John A. Roebling's Sons Company. Born in Mühlhausen, Germany, he was a civil engineer famous for his wire rope suspension bridge designs, in particular, the design of the Brooklyn Bridge. Roebling married Johana Herting in 1836 and they had nine children: Washington A. Roebling (1837-1926); Laura R. Methfessel (1840-1873); Ferdinand W. Roebling (1842-1917); Elvira R. Stewart (1844-1871); Josephine R. Jarvis (b. 1847); Charles Gustavus Roebling (1849-1918); Edmund Roebling (1854-1930); William Roebling (b. 1856, d. 1860); and Hannah Roebling (died in infancy). Roebling's three sons, Washington Augustus Roebling; Ferdinand William Roebling and Charles Gustavus Roebling, worked for the company.
Roebling's Sons Company was active in the design and manufacture of wire rope used in the erection of suspension bridges since the 1840s. Roebling devised a system of spinning the wires together where weights and swivels turned the wire coils in the opposite direction from the twisting, thereby removing kinks. Method of and Machine for Manufacturing Wire Rope (US Patent # 2,720) issued on July 16, 1842. Roebling would adapt this wire rope to his suspension bridge principle. In 1848, he established a company—John Roebling's Sons Company—in Trenton, New Jersey, to manufacture his wire rope. Roebling manufacturing plants were sold in 1952 to the Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) Company of Pueblo, Colorado. In 1968, the Crane Company purchased the CF& I.

Administration
Processing Information
Processed by Beatrice Kelly (intern) and Alison Oswald (archivist), August 2009.
Author
Beatrice Kelly and Alison Oswald
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection was donated by Blair Birdsall, former chief engineer at John A. Roebling's Sons Company in 1981.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research use.
Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves.
Preferred Citation
John A. Roebling Collection, dates, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Related Materials
Materials in the Archives Center
George S. Morison Collection (AC0978)
Modjeski and Masters Company Records (AC0976)
Materials at Other Organizations
The Rutgers University, Special Collections and University Archives
Papers of Mary G. Roebling and Roebling Family Papers, 1821-1960 (MC 654.1).

Custodial History
Custodial History
This collection was formerly known as the Blair Birdsall Collection. It was transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Work and Industry in 2007.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Photograph albums Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Specifications Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Reports Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Price lists Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- 20th century Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Newsletters -- 1920-1940 Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bridges -- New York (N.Y.) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bridge construction industry -- United States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Letterpress books Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bridges -- Design and construction Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Iron industry and trade -- United States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Iron industry and trade -- Colorado Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wire industry -- New Jersey Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Suspension bridges -- Design and construction Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ski lifts Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wire-rope industry -- New Jersey Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Blueprints Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ledgers (account books) Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Genealogies Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Notebooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Patents Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mechanical and Civil Engineering, Division of [former name], NMAH, SI. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
History of Technology, Division of, NMAH, SI Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Work and Industry, Division of, NMAH, SI Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives