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 2017, American Bridge Company provides the same quality and reliability with a well known brand. The dream of the founders 117 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.
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.
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.
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. Known bridges have also been identified as being constructed by A&P Roberts Company and Pencoyd Bridge & Construction Company.
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.
Groton Iron Bridge Company of Groton, New York
This company was founded as the Groton Iron Bridge Company in 1877. It built exclusively road bridges and was not known to ever work on any railroad bridges. It separated from American Bridge Company in 1902, again becoming independent.
Pittsburgh Bridge Company
Little is known about this obscure company, other than it built few bridges. Only two railroad built spans of this company survive, located in St. Paul, Minnesota. It is believed that the plant was shut down in 1900.
Youngstown Bridge Company of Youngstown, Ohio
Youngstown Bridge Company was founded in approximately 1889. It was not known to build any railroad bridges. American Bridge Company closed the Youngstown Shops in 1903.
Elmira Bridge Company of Elmira, New York
The Elmira Bridge Company was founded in 1889, and built only a few bridges. However, two of these are extant railroad bridges. American Bridge Company shut down the plant 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 Company 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 early 1902. 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. Several pieces of the Winona Bridge have been relocated to South Dakota. Trusses built were almost exclusively constructed with pinned connections.
American Bridge Company kept the manufacturing plant open until 1903.
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. Dealing in a mix of railroad and road bridges, very few continue to exist. American Bridge Company continued to operate the Rochester plant until 1903.
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 1903.
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 1903. Only a couple of railroad bridges continue to exist. 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.
Other Bridge Builders With Unknown History
Carnegie Company of Pittsburgh
Post & McCord of Brookyln, New York
Manufacturing works opened 1877, closed by American Bridge Company in 1903. Did not construct railroad bridges.
J.B. and J.M. Cornell Company of Cornell, New York
Opened plant in 1897, closed by American Bridge Company in 1909. Not known to build bridges.
Shiffler Bridge Company of Pittsburgh
Opened plant in the 1870s, closed by American Bridge Company. Employees and owners formed McClintic-Marshall Company of Chicago in 1900. Did not construct railroad bridges.
J.G. Wagner and Co. of Milwaukee
No history known, likely did not build bridges.
Schultz Bridge and Iron Company of Pittsburgh
Opened plant 1890, Closed by American Bridge Company 1900. Did not construct railroad bridges.
Buffalo Bridge & Iron Works of Buffalo, New York
Opened plant 1893, closed by American Bridge Company 1903. Did not construct railroad bridges.
Bellefonte Bridge Company of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
No history known.
Coke and Iron Works of St. Louis
No history known.
Hilton Bridge and Construction Company of Albany, New York
Plant opened 1880, closed by American Bridge Company 1903. Did not construct railroad bridges.
Horseheads Bridge Company of Horseheads, New York
Plant opened 1890, closed by American Bridge Company 1903. Did not 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.