American Bridge Company was officially formed in 1900 through the consolidation of 28 steel and bridge building companies. These companies were combined through a merger engineered by JP Morgan & Company. After one year, the company again was reorganized as a subsidiary of United States Steel Company, where it was incorporated in the State of Delaware. After the merger, American Bridge Company (Ambridge) began a program to centralize production and modernized older plants. A fabrication plant was completed in 1903 in Pennsylvania in the new town of Ambridge.
With a new set of resources, American Bridge Company set out to be a leader in design and fabrication of all sorts of structures. The company has been extensively involved with manufacturing steel for many major bridges built after 1900. In 2021, American Bridge Company continues to provide the same quality and reliability with a well known brand. The dream of the founders over 100 years ago continues to live on, as many of the bridges built continue to exist. In terms of railroad bridges, American Bridge Company completed a majority of bridges built after 1900. Approximately one quarter of all bridges on this site have at least some connection to American Bridge.
28 companies made up the original merger, with a 29th being added later. Brief histories of significant companies can be seen below:
Keystone Bridge Company of Pittsburgh
Founded in 1865 by Andrew Carnegie, the company was famed for bridge building. The Keystone Column, a column made of channels crimped together was a popular method of construction for early railroad bridges. The company is likely best remembered for the Eads Bridge, completed in 1874. The shops closed and the property was sold in 1904.
Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio
Wrought Iron Bridge Company was a company founded in 1864. It employed engineering and bridge construction for numerous 19th century truss bridges, but built virtually no bridges exclusively for railroad use. The shops closed in 1930.
Berlin Iron Bridge Company of Berlin, Connecticut
This company was founded in Berlin, Connecticut in 1868 as the Corrugated Metal Company; which originally produced roofing. After shifting to bridges in 1878, the company received patents for the lenticular truss. A name change brought the company to the Berlin Iron Bridge Company in 1885. This company built few railroad bridges; all of which exist in the companies home state.
Pencoyd Iron Works of Pencoyd, Pennsylvania
In 1683, John Roberts acquired 150 acres of land in Pennsylvania, naming the town Pencoyd. The Pencoyd Iron Works was the creation of Algernon and Percival Roberts, who named the creation A&P Roberts Company, manufacturing specialty equipment for a local railroad. In 1859, the company officially began producing bridge components, mainly for railroad use. Becoming a leading bridge producer over the next 41 years, their structures gained international recognition. Many railroad bridges designed and built by jointly Pencoyd Iron Works and A&P Roberts continue to exist across the United States. The bridge shop continued to survive until 1937, when it was sold to Carnegie. The shops closed in 1943, although as of 2021, the buildings still exist.
Union Bridge Company of Athens, Pennsylvania
Union Bridge Company was founded in 1884 as a merger of the Central Bridge Company of Buffalo, New York as well as Kellogg and Maurice of Athens, Pennsylvania. The company was another leading bridge builder at the time, building almost exclusively railroad bridges. Many structures built between 1880 and 1899 still exist. Union Bridge Company also had a manufacturing facility in Buffalo, New York. Shops of this facility closed in 1907.
Groton Bridge and Manufacturing Company of Groton, New York
This company was founded as the Groton Iron Bridge Company in 1877. changing to the Groton Bridge and Manufacturing Company in 1887. It is known to have built many highway bridges, although it is unknown if the company was involved in heavy railroad bridge work. It reportedly also built punches, straightening machines and other wood working machinery. It separated from American Bridge Company in 1902, again becoming independent.
Pittsburgh Bridge Company
Established in 1878 and incorporated in 1881. The company built at least two large Mississippi River bridges (Frisco Bridge at Memphis and the Rock Island Bridge at St. Paul). The plant was closed in 1903 and the property sold.
Youngstown Bridge Company of Youngstown, Ohio
Youngstown Bridge Company was founded in approximately 1889, from the ashes of the burned Morse Bridge Company plant. The company is known to have built part of the 1886 Kentucky and Indiana Bridge at Louisville. American Bridge Company closed the Youngstown Shops in 1903.
Elmira Bridge Company of Elmira, New York
The Elmira Bridge Company was founded in 1889 by Charles Kellogg, who had prior worked for Union Bridge Company in Buffalo. This Charles Kellogg was not the same who had founded Kellogg Bridge Company, also in Buffalo. Elmira built a mix of railroad and highway bridges. Famous examples not on this site include the Kinzua Bridge in Pennsylvania. American Bridge Company shuttered the shop in 1900.
American Bridge Works of Chicago
American Bridge Works was founded in Chicago in 1891. The company built a number of bridges in the midwest, particularly railroad spans. The company is known for working on the famed Kate Shelley Bridge in Boone, Iowa; prior to being consumed by American Bridge Company. It is believed that American Bridge Company shut down the plant in 1900.
Edge Moor Bridge Works of Wilmington, Deleware
The Edge Moor Iron Company was organized in 1869 by Eli Garrett and William Sellers, a pair of mechanical engineers. They built a plant along the Delaware River near Wilmington. The company was reorganized as the Edge Moor (Edgemoor) Bridge Works in 1873. One of the most notable projects was the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. The company began expanding in 1882, and desired a rolling mill. Due to financial constraints, this was completed in 1897. Many of the remaining bridges designed by Edgemoor Bridge Works were constructed for railroad use. Midwestern railroads, as well as eastern railroads found this contractor highly popular. American Bridge Company continued to operate the Wilmington plant until 1921.
Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago
Lassig Bridge & Iron Company was founded in Chicago by Moritz Lassig in 1881. Partnering with John Alden, the two built bridges together until 1886 when they split. Lassig continued to build bridges and became a favorite of Midwestern railroads. By the 1890s, Lassig was producing a vast majority of new bridges for the Chicago & North Western Railway. The trusses produced by Lassig varied by which railroad preferred the structures. The Quadrangular Lattice Through Truss was preferred by the C&NW, and Lassig was the preferred manufacturer.
Despite the slow start, the 1890s proved to boom for the company. One of the most significant railroad bridge builders at the time, they were quickly consolidated into American Bridge Company. The Chicago manufacturing plant continued to be used by American Bridge Company until 1928. Many prime examples of the work completed by Lassig continue to exist exclusively in the Midwest.
Detroit Bridge & Iron Works/Company of Detroit
Detroit Bridge & Iron Works was founded in 1861 in Detroit, Michigan. The company built exclusively railroad bridges, particularly large scale river crossings. This company built relatively few bridges, due to the nature of the structures it did complete. It has been known to complete 5 Mississippi River crossings (Winona, Clinton, Burlington, Quincy and Hannibal) as well as 2 Missouri River crossings (Bismarck and St. Charles). Many bridges continue to exist today. Trusses built were almost exclusively constructed with pinned connections.
American Bridge Company kept the manufacturing plant open until 1920.
Rochester Bridge & Iron Works of Rochester, New York
Rochester Bridge & Iron Works began production of iron bridges in 1886 at a plant located in Rochester, New York. This company was formed by John Alden after his partnership with Moritz Lassig was dissolved. The Rochester plant was leased to Alden & Lassig in 1881, although Alden retained control when the pair split. Prior to this, it was the Leighton Bridge & Iron Works plant.
The company built some railroad bridges, and the plant was closed in 1903, and the property sold.
Toledo Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio
Toledo Bridge Company opened a plant in Toledo, Ohio in 1890. It built a mix of railroad and road bridges, some of which continue to exist. American Bridge Company continued to operate the Toledo plant until 1901. The "new plant" reportedly stayed open far longer.
Gillette-Herzog Manufacturing Company of Minneapolis
The Gillette-Herzog Manufacturing Co. began fabrication of bridges in 1891. American Bridge Company shut down the Minneapolis plant in 1905. Only a couple of railroad bridges continue to exist, although the former owners opened the Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company in 1907.
Canton Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio
Canton Bridge Company opened a shop in Canton, Ohio in 1892. Founded by Canton native John Reed, the company dealt exclusively in road bridges. Reed left the company in 1900, and successfully sold his business into the American Bridge Company after the original merger. American Bridge Company reportedly left this plant open until 1921. Canton Bridge was incredibly prolific in designing road bridges.
Shiffler Bridge Company of Pittsburgh
Company was incorporated 1893, and operated two plants. Walker Works Plant in Pittsburgh closed in 1904, while the 48th Street Plant closed in 1921. Employees and owners formed McClintic-Marshall Company of Chicago in 1900. This company built a number of railroad bridges for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad during the second half of the 1890s.
Other Bridge Builders With Unknown History
Carnegie Company of Pittsburgh (18??-1900)
Believed to have been a subsidiary of Keystone Bridge Company.
Post & McCord of Brookyln, New York
Manufacturing works at Green Point, Long Island City, New York City opened 1877, closed by American Bridge Company in 1915. This company built at least one railroad bridge.
J.B. and J.M. Cornell Company of Cornell, New York
Opened plant in 1897, closed by American Bridge Company in 1909. The company dates to 1847, when it began creating cast iron building facades. This company is not believed to have built bridges.
J.G. Wagner and Co. of Milwaukee
Proprietors of the Milwaukee Bridge and Iron Works from 1895 until it was merged into American Bridge in 1900. Mostly built road bridges, although some railroad bridges were built in the late 1890s, including unusual "lattice girders" for the Northern Pacific Railway.
Milwaukee Bridge & Iron Works was originally founded in 1875, with Cunningham and Keepers as the proprietors until 1880, when Keepers and Riddell took over. The plant seems to have lasted until 1909, when a fire destroyed it and American Bridge did not rebuild.
Schultz Bridge and Iron Company of Pittsburgh
Opened plant 1890, and the plant was destroyed in a fire in 1903. American Bridge Company did not rebuild. Built some railroad bridges, although no known examples remain.
Buffalo Bridge & Iron Works of Buffalo, New York
Established 1891 and opened plant in 1893; closed by American Bridge Company 1903. Little is known about this company, and no known railroad bridges were built.
Bellefontaine Bridge and Iron Company of Bellefontaine, Pennsylvania
Originated as the Buchanan Bridge Company in 1890, and changed to Bellefontaine Bridge and Iron Company in 1894. There are very few bridges remaining from this company, and no railroad bridges. Shops likely closed within a couple of years of American Bridge Company merger.
Coke and Iron Works of St. Louis
No history known.
Hilton Bridge and Construction Company of Albany, New York
Started 1880 by Charles Hilton, who had worked extensively with the New York Central Railroad, as well as Leighton Bridge & Iron Works. Hilton first created the well known Quadrangular Lattice Through Truss while working with the NYC under bridge engineer Howard Carroll. Carroll had originally a similar design from Europe, where dozens of similar structures were built for railroads.
After Thomas Leighton retired in 1880, Hilton opened this shop, and continued to turn out dozens of Lattice trusses of varying sizes and designs. Hilton died in 1884, although the company would continue until being merged into American Bridge Company in 1900. The plant was closed in 1904.
It is unknown how many railroad bridges may still exist from Hilton, although there may be dozens yet to be discovered.
Horseheads Bridge Company of Horseheads, New York
Plant opened 1890, closed by American Bridge Company 1904. Not believed to construct railroad bridges.
A sample of plaques and projects completed by American Bridge Company can be seen below. In 2017, American Bridge Company continues to produce high quality structures and do rehabilitations to bridges built years ago. Some projects worked on by the company can be seen above. The photo at the top is a photo of a bridge in Joliet, Illinois.