Guide to the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission Records, 1848-1946, bulk 1890-1929

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.1060
Creators:
Niagara Falls International Bridge Company and Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company
Dates:
1848-1946
bulk 1890-1929
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
8 Cubic feet
22 boxes, 1 oversize folder
Repository:
Correspondence, bridge construction and condition reports, financial records, and other materials created by or concerning the Niagara Falls International Bridge Company and the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company (NFSB). The main focus of the collection is company administration and the daily operation of a series of bridges connecting the U.S. and Canada over the Niagara Gorge.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection is comprised of paper-based documents, created from 1848 to 1946 (with the majority created between 1890 and 1929), that relate to the business affairs of the Niagara Falls International Bridge Company and the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company. The bulk of the collection was created by or addressed to the Niagara Falls International Bridge Company, but as the two companies are interconnected, there are documents created by or for the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company. This collection provides data on topics such as business administration; bridge development, construction, and maintenance; and the early careers of two important engineers—John A. Roebling and Leffert L. Buck. John A. Roebling designed several famous bridges, most notably the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. Leffert L. Buck co-engineered the Williamsburg Bridge, also in New York City. At the time of its completion, the Williamsburg Bridge was the longest bridge in the world.[1] The collection has been divided into series based on a reconstruction of the original order, which appears to have been based on subject. In cases where the original order has been lost, subject divisions have been created. Most series and subseries are arranged chronologically, although there are some departures from this arrangement. The collection is divided into five series: Series 1, Company Governance, 1848-1926; Series 2, Bridge Construction and Maintenance, 1851-1946; Series 3, General Correspondence, 1885-1946; Series 4, Financial Records, 1848-1941; and Series 5, Miscellaneous Published Materials, 1892-1920s.
[1] Wikipedia. 2007. Leffert L. Buck. 20 June 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leffert_L._Buck (accessed 23 July 2007).

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into five series.
Series 1, Company Governance, 1848-1926
Series 2, Bridge Construction and Maintenance, 1851-1946
Series 3, General Correspondence, 1885-1946
Series 4, Financial Records, 1848-1941
Series 5, Miscellaneous Published Materials, 1892-1920s

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
[1] In 1846 the Niagara Falls International Bridge Company and the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company were formed to construct, maintain, and manage the affairs of a bridge connecting the United States and Canada over the Niagara Gorge. The Niagara Falls International Bridge Company formed the American component of the joint venture, and the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company formed the Canadian component. The companies were governed by a joint board and managed by elected presidents. A superintendent was employed for daily activities such as cash accounting, employee interaction, and bridge supervision. The first suspension bridge was built in 1848, but less than ten years later a stronger bridge was needed due to heavy traffic. John A. Roebling designed and oversaw construction of the Railway Suspension Bridge. The new bridge officially opened in 1855 and supported pedestrian, carriage, and train traffic. Increasing use and heavier loads warranted the construction of a bridge with higher load capacity. The Third Suspension Bridge was completed in 1885, under the direction of engineer Leffert L. Buck. The demand for a bridge capable of accommodating increasingly heavier loads and traffic led to the construction of the Lower Arch Bridge (sometimes referred to as the Steel Arch Bridge and renamed the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge in 1939). Once again, Leffert L. Buck designed and managed construction of the bridge, which was completed in 1897. The Lower Arch Bridge was built around the skeleton of the Third Suspension Bridge, without disrupting travel. The Lower Arch Bridge supported pedestrian and carriage traffic. A separate level carried train traffic, and the bridge companies maintained contractual relationships with various rail carriers, including the Grand Trunk Railway, Michigan Central Railroad, and the Canadian National Railway. This bridge is still in use today. George L. Burrows (1836-1921) was president of the Niagara Falls International Bridge Company from 1885 until his death, and was supported by Superintendent Thomas Reynolds for the majority of his tenure. During a portion of the time covered by this collection Charles Riordan was president of the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company, with J.H. Ingersoll acting as Secretary-Treasurer (and later president). The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission was created in 1938, and bought the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge in 1959. The Board of Commissioners consists of citizens of both the United States and Canada, and the main function of the organization is to oversee the management of the Whirlpool Rapids, Rainbow, and Lewiston-Queenston Bridges.
[1] In addition to sources from within the collection, historical information on the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, the Niagara Falls International Bridge Company and the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company was taken from:
Berketa, Rick. 2006. Bridges over Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls Thunder Alley. http://www.niagarafrontier.com/index.html (accessed 27 July 2006).
Niagara Falls Bridge Commission. 2006. Niagara Falls Bridge Commission. http://www.niagarafallsbridges.com/index.php3 (accessed 27 July 2006).

Administration
Processing Information
Processed by Nicole Kenney, (intern), July/August 2006 and July 2007; supervised by John Fleckner, archivist.
Author
Nicole Kenney, (intern); supervised by John Fleckner, archivist.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Unknown.

Using the Collection
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.
Preferred Citation
Niagara Falls Bridge Commission Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research. Unprotected photograph must be handled with gloves.

Accruals
Accruals
Additional materials were added to the collection.
Five volumes (business records relating to the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission were purchased from Dunacan McLaren, in May 2013.
Four volumes of letterpress copybooks of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission were purchased from Margaret Dobrzensky in June 2014.
One cash book of the Niagra Railway Arch Bridge Company was purchased in May 2015 from Margaret Dobrzensky.

Custodial History
Custodial History
Collection transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Work and Industry (formerly known as the Division of Mechanical and Civil Engineering) in 2007.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Contracts Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Blueprints Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Niagara Falls (N.Y. and Ont.) Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bridge maintenance Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ledgers (account books) Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- Black-and-white negatives -- Glass Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bridges -- New York (N.Y.) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Suspension bridges Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Arch bridges Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Roebling, John Augustus, 1806-1869 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Niagara Falls International Bridge Company Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Reynolds, Thomas Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Niagara Falls Arch Bridge Commission Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Burrows, George L. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Buck, Leffert L. Personal 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