The first of two companies named American Bridge Company, this company was founded in 1870 in Chicago by Lucius B. Boomer with some of his former associates from other projects.
Boomer had founded L.B. Boomer and Company in 1849 in Chicago. He was joined in 1851 by his brother-in-law Andros B. Stone, and the company changed to Stone and Boomer. Amasa Stone Jr, brother of Andros, also had some affiliation with the company during the early 1850s. Amasa was the bother-in-law of William Howe, developer of the widely popular Howe Truss. The Stone Brothers had built numerous examples of this design, due to the family relation.
One of the most significant projects that Stone and Boomer worked on was the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River, at the Rock Island Arsenal. L.C. Boyington, one time partnered with Boomer, worked on the Rock Island bridge, as did Moritz Lassig. After this project was a resounding success, Stone and Boomer built numerous railroad bridges throughout the Midwest, including supplying steel for bridges designed by Amasa, who had moved to Cleveland to become a railroad contractor.
After the shop in Chicago was destroyed by fire in 1857, Andros Stone left to join his brother in Cleveland, while Lucius Boomer created the Boomer Bridge Works. Boomer Bridge Works continued to work extensively with Boyington and Lassig.
Fort Leavenworth Bridge at Leavenworth, Kansas (Built 1871, removed 1962)
When Boomer founded the company in 1870, he brought L.C. Boyington in as the general agent, former employee H.A. Rust as the vice president, and Moritz Lassig as the general superintendent. In addition, W.G. Coolidge was one of the lead engineers for the company. Some sources say that Lassig left to begin his own practice in 1871, although an obituary for Lassig suggests he stayed with the company until 1876.
Located on a plat of land near the corner of present day Pershing Road and Stewart Avenue in south Chicago, the shop sat on approximately 32 acres of land, and had about three acres that was enclosed by buildings. A foundry was also included in the shops, and pile drivers, barges and cofferdam material was also maintained, as oftentimes the company would be contracted to do substructure work.
Boomer retired in the early 1870s, and Boyington left the company under unknown circumstances. Andros B. Stone took over the company as president, although remained residing in New York City. When Lassig left, H.A. Rust took over duty of general superintendent.
Throughout the 1870s, the company grew in size, building numerous large bridges. These bridges included Missouri River crossings at Omaha, Atchison, Ft. Leavenworth and Boonville. In addition, Mississippi River crossings were built at La Crosse and Hastings, Minnesota.
Advertisement from approximately 1875
The company ran into significant financial trouble after attempting to construct a railroad bridge over the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, New York. After receiving the contract in 1876, a cofferdam for a pier failed. Combined with other financial troubles, the company was forced into liquidation the following year.
Upon closure, H.A. Rust and W.G. Coolidge joined to form Rust & Coolidge, purchasing the former shops in Chicago. This company manufactured several railroad bridges, some of which still exist. The company leased the plant to Chicago Forge and Bolt Company in 1885. Rust then joined John Alden in 1888, for a very brief partnership.
In 1891, a new company known as American Bridge Works leased the shop from Chicago Forge & Bolt, outright purchasing the shop in 1895. Oddly enough, this new American Bridge was merged into American Bridge Company in 1900, as part of a deal including numerous other bridge builders.
Boonville Bridge, built in 1873
Today, very few examples exist from the American Bridge Company of Chicago. The shops appear to have been mostly demolished in the 1990s, and the land has since been redeveloped for a new metal works. At the height of the company, it was producing nearly as much tonnage as major firms in Pittsburgh.
Unfortunately, no plaques have been found on any bridge. At this time, only one bridge confirmed to have been built by this company has been documented, and a second is reported to have been built by this company.