In 1863, the Detroit Bridge & Iron Works were formed near the lake front in Detroit by Charles Kellogg of Charles Kellogg and Company.
Kellogg previously had his own firm, Charles Kellogg and Company, from 1857 until 1863. Little is known about Kellogg's ventures prior to 1863.
The firm rapidly grew, and William Smith Pope joined in 1866. By 1869, Kellogg relinquished control of the company to Pope to found his own company, the Kellogg Bridge Company in Buffalo, New York. The concentrations of the company were nearly exclusively railroad bridges. During the early years, the company seems to have focused exclusively on large bridges.
During the 1860s, Detroit Bridge & Iron Works built some of the first and largest iron railroad bridges in the United States. This includes the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad bridges over the Mississippi River at Burlington, Iowa (1868) and Quincy, Illinois (1868).
During the 1870s, additional bridges were built, such as the Wabash Bridge over the Mississippi River at Hannibal, Missouri (1872) and the CB&Q bridge across the Missouri River at St. Joseph, Missouri (1873).
By 1876, the company claimed to have built a bridge in every state in the United States. While this cannot be proven, the company was well regarded for building large railroad trusses.
Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, the company gradually had more competition for larger structures, so the focus was shifted to small and medium sized spans. As plate girders became commonplace, the company provided numerous railroads with such spans.
While not immediately merged into the newly formed American Bridge Company, the company was bought out by 1902. American Bridge Company closed the shops in 1920, and the buildings were demolished. The location of the former shops is now where Joe Louis Arena is.
Historically, many railroads seemed to have used the company to build bridges. In the Midwest, the Wabash Railroad, the Chicago & North Western Railway, the Missouri Pacific Railway, the New York Central Railway and the Toledo, Peoria & Western all are known to have ordered multiple spans from the company. However, it appears that no company exclusively used products by Detroit Bridge & Iron Works. To demonstrate this point, the author has added a count of how many known bridges were built for each company, updated to March 2021. Out of all users of DB&IW products, Pere Marquette Railroad and Wabash Railroad appear to have used them the most.
A sample of plaques and projects completed by Detroit Bridge & Iron Works can be seen below. It appears that the plaque had not changed since the early 1880s, and featured a decorative oval shape with a small overall size. Because of the small size, occasionally it is difficult to read the dates on the plaques.
Des Moines Red Bridge (Des Moines, Iowa)
Gotch Park Trail Bridge (Rogerton, Iowa)
Oral Rail Bridge (Oral, South Dakota)
Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge (Moline, Illinois)
Wabash Bridge (Ottumwa, Iowa)
White Cloud Trail Bridge (Malvern, Iowa)