SKU: P00143 Category:


Description: This fascinating collection of photographs documents the construction of the Manhattan Bridge from a December 13, 1907 photo of the erection of the steel tower at the Manhattan end of the bridge on through to the late-stage work on the trusses and anchorings on May 6, 1909. They also provide views of the skylines of Manhattan and Brooklyn and some interesting perspectives on the surrounding docklands and neighborhoods. Each photograph is numbered in the negative and dated on the mount, in the margin below the photo.

As you page through the collection, you can see the lower halves of the towers rise in December and January, then skip ahead to June, as the uppermost section of the Brooklyn tower and the cable anchoring point are built, and view a staging point for the materials. In July, you can see the footwalks being built on the temporary cables, and the machinery, crates, and blocks ready to build on the June staging area. Skipping ahead again to March of 1909, you can see that suspender cables have been hung and travelers are being used to lay the girders for the deck, while on land the masonry is being laid for the approaches. At the start of April, travelers are used over both water and land to continue construction, and later in the month a group of men in suits pose on the bridge with workmen around the edges of the shot, derricks move stone at the Manhattan anchoring, and you see a few different views of how the construction is affecting local citizens and businesses along the roadway and approaches. The collection concludes in early May with a view of blocks of stone ready for laying at the Manhattan anchoring and of the work being done to complete the trusses.

Opened officially on December 31, 1909, construction on the Manhattan Bridge was first begun in 1901 with the caissons used to build the towers’ foundations. Construction of the suspension bridge itself was expected to begin in 1904, but was delayed due to several changes to the plans and designs for the bridge, and the vast majority of the construction was completed between December 1907 and December 1909. Well-known firms Terry & Tench and the Phoenix Bridge Company both contributed to the work.

Designed by Leon Moisseiff, the bridge adapted some elements of an earlier design by NYC Bridge Commissioner Gustav Lindenthal. It was the third longest suspension bridge of its time, after its two neighbors – the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges. Moisseiff incorporated two significant innovations in its architecture: he adapted Josef Melan’s deflection theory regarding lateral movement in concrete arch bridges to this suspension bridge, which changed  the view of how the cables and deck worked together to carry the load. This, in turn, allowed for the first use of a lighter Warren-style truss, based on equilateral triangles, in a suspension bridge. These innovations made the Manhattan Bridge a model for long-span suspension bridges over the next several decades.

Unfortunately, the placement of the subway/elevated rail tracks at the outer portion of the bridge, with the original 35 foot roadway span in the middle (an upper deck roadway was added in 1922), provided extra torsional stresses on the bridge which, combined with a prolonged period of insufficient maintenance, led to deterioration and then a decades-long strengthening and reconstruction process beginning in the 1980s.

There are small variations in the measurements of the photographs, but on average they measure approximately 7.38″ x 9.38″ and are laid onto cards measuring approximately 10.75″ x 13.75″ There is one photo on the recto and one photo on the verso of each card. Many of these mounts retain part or all of the linen strips that were used to bind these into an album, increasing the width up to an additional 1.75″.

Condition: The photographs have very good contrast and resolution, and are overall in very good condition with light soil, but particulars vary from photo to photo; there is some silvering and a couple of very small spots of loss; one photo has tears that could be neatly repaired. Many of the mounts are bumped and chipped along the edges and have some losses, particularly at the corners. A striking record of an important civil engineering project.