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Washington A. Roebling Autographs, Memorabilia & Collectibles

WASHINGTON A. ROEBLING
Born: May 26, 1837 in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania
Died: July 21, 1926 in Trenton, New Jersey
Biography | show moreshow less
Washington A. Roebling (1837-1926) was educated at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, then the leading school of professional engineering in the country. Upon receiving his degree, Roebling started to work in his father's wire rope mill in Trenton, New Jersey, where the family had moved. He spent 1868 abroad conferring with the leading engineers of England, France and Germany. He studied their principles and practice of caisson foundations in order to help his father in the newly projected Brooklyn Bridge, of which the elder Roebling had been appointed Chief Engineer. Immediately on his return from Europe, he entered his father's office as Principal Assistant and prepared the detailed plans and specifications for the great bridge. After the elder Roebling died just as the field work was beginning, his son succeeded him as Chief Engineer. The foundations of the great towers were built by the caisson method, under compressed air, and Washington Roebling spent long hours in the damp high-pressure of the caisson chambers. Caisson disease, the dreaded "bends", attacked the laborers. At that time little was known of methods of treatment. One afternoon in the spring of 1872, Roebling was taken almost unconscious from the caisson on the New York side, but in a few days he was back on the job. By the end of the year, however, his health had been seriously and permanently affected, and he did not visit the bridge site again. From that time until the bridge was finished in 1883, except for six months abroad in a vain attempt to regain his health, he directed the work from his house in Brooklyn, too sick to leave it, with the significant assistance of his wife Emily Warren Roebling (1843-1903). Despite this permanent illness, Roebling did not pass away until he was at the ripe old age of 89.

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