Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Emily Warren Roebling

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1873. East River Bridge (Brooklyn Bridge): The New York Tower.
1873. East River Bridge: The New York Caisson.

Mrs. Emily Roebling was the wife of the engineer Washington A. Roebling and was largely responsible for the construction of the East River Bridge in New York.

1843 Born daughter of Sylvanus Warren, a sister of General G. K. Warren, of the U.S. Engineer Corps, U.S. Navy; she belonged by birth to a great engineering family.

1870 Washington Roebling succumbed to "caisson disease", leaving him unable to physically supervise the site work. He then had to supervise the project from his apartment, supported by his wife. She embarked on intensive civil engineering studies, and for 11 years paid a key role in supervising the bridge's construction.

An illustration of her proficiency in engineering was the ordering of the steel and ironwork for the structure - when the requirements were advertised, it was found that entirely new shapes would be required, such as no mill was then making. This necessitated new patterns, and representatives of the mills desiring to bid went to New York to consult with Mr. Roebling. By her knowledge of engineering Mrs Roebling helped them out with their patterns, and cleared away difficulties that had for weeks been puzzling them.

1883 Mrs Roebling had the honour of driving the first team over the bridge when it opened.

1903 Died in Trenton, New Jersey


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Sources of Information

  • The Engineer 1883/06/22]