The Demand for our paper containing an account of the falling of the Suspension Bridge exhausted the daily edition early in the morning; and when our weekly appeared the rush was so great that the edition was totally inadequate to supply the demand, and despite the remonstrances of clerks and carriers, many of our subscribers were deprived of their papers, while hundreds who called at our offices could not be supplied. There seems to be a deep and universal feeling awakened by the destruction of this noble edifice and many of the papers containing an account of the disaster are now on their way to Europe. Had we known a few hours before we wrote the article that the Bridge was going to fall, we might have ordered a much larger edition; but in order to remove all dissatisfaction, and in compliance with numerous requests, we shall on Monday republish the account of the destruction of this great structure -- the largest and most beautiful structure of the kind in the world -- and shall add thereto a description of its dimensions and plan and a history of many interesting circumstances connected with its erection.
--The Intelligencer, v.2, no. 227; May 20, 1854, p. 3.
The Intelligencer reprinted the original story of the fall of the bridge from the May 18 paper on May 22, along with the following:
The Ruins -- We yesterday visited the ruins of the magnificent Bridge which recently spanned our river and found that the account we gave yesterday morning of the disaster was full and correct in ever[y] material particular. Much of the remains can be used again.
The towers are uninjured, with the exception of a few fractures at the top. They constitute, we suppose, an item of one-third the cost of the bridge.
All the flooring, cross timbers, railing, and iron suspenders were precipitated into the river, where they are now lying.
Only two cables remain stretched on the towers. The others are either broken from the anchorage, or dragging the bottom of the river.
Only two cables, the small one on the South side, and large one on the north side, were broken between the towers.
On the Island, all the cables remain firmly anchored, and only one is broken between the anchors and the tower.
An idea of the tremendous force which dashed the structure in pieces, may be obtained from looking at the position of the one cable on the Island which is snapped asunder. It is composed of 550 strands of No. 10 wire. When it broke it gyrated around in almost every imaginable direction, and the huge thing is now coiled and twisted, and looks much like a serpent grown stiff in the act of striking a mortal blow.
We stated yesterday, that as near as we could perceive at any one time the position of the flooring when the whole body of the wood work and suspenders was leaping and lunging in the air, there was once or twice a twist along the whole span, and that a part of the flooring was turned bottom upward. We discover that such was really the case. The whole body of the flooring and railing was broken into three sections before it fell. The section at the west end is about 250 feet long, and fell with the bottom down. The section at the east end was about 560 feet long, and also fell with the bottom down; but the middle section, where the twist occurred, fell with the bottom up.
This bridge was commenced by authority of the act of 1847, incorporating the WHEELING AND BELMONT BRIDGE COMPANY, was erected under the management of that distinguished civil engineer, CHARLES ELLET, Jr., and completed in November 1849. The length of the span was greater than that of any other suspension bridge in the world.
The span was 1010 feet between the summits of the towers, leaving the entire width of the river unobstructed for the passage of vessels beneath. The towers on the Wheeling side were 153 1/2 feet above low water level of the river. The Western towers, on Zane's Island, were 132 1/4 feet high.
The flooring and side railings were suspended on iron cables extending from the towers on each side of the river. There were ten cables, each composed of 550 strands of No. 10 wire, and two smaller cables composed of 140 strands of wire.
The cables were anchored in strong walls of stone cemented around them on each side of the river. They were 1380 feet long from anchor to anchor. The flooring was attached to the cables by wire suspenders three-fourth of an inch in diameter. The highest elevation of the flooring was immediately over the channel of the river, 212 feet from the Wheeling shore, where the top of the flooring was 93 feet above low water.
The strength of the bridge as completed by Mr. Ellet, was sufficient to sustain 297 tons, or 32 laden road wagons, 172 horses and 500 people, a which equal to 4000 men.
The result of the proceedings against this bridge on account of its alleged obstruction to the free navigation of the Ohio river, is well known to the public. It never materially obstructed the navigation, and the slight obstruction which it did cause to the largest vessels was during unusually high waters, which lasted but for a few hours, or a day. While the suit against it, instituted and maintained by the citizens of Pittsburgh alone, was pending in the United States Supreme Court, the Legislature of Virginia legalized the structure, and Congress declared it a portion of a post route, and the suit was withdrawn by the plaintiffs. The effort to destroy a work contributing so largely to the necessities of the public, and so eminently national in the purpose which is subserved, was an utter failure. A lamentable accident has accomplished that which the enemies of this great work could not accomplish, but the same imperative wants which demanded this structure, and the same public spirit and enterprise which erected it, will, we are assured, replace it in the shortest possible space of time.
The whole cost of the bridge was about $170,000. It is estimated that the damage cannot exceed $100,000.
The Intelligencer, v. 2, no. 228, Monday, May 22, 1854, p. 3.
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