John Roebling

A German immigrant, and graduate of the Royal Polytechnic School of Berlin, Roebling came to the United States in 1831. It was not until 1845 that he built his first suspension structure. From 1845 until his death in 1869, he designed five major suspension bridges. Two — the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge — are still standing.

John Roebling designed four suspension aqueducts for the D & H Canal: the Lackawaxen and Delaware Aqueducts, the Neversink Aqueduct (Neversink Valley Area Museum in Cuddebackville, NY), and the High Falls Aqueduct (D & H Canal Historical Society and Museum in High Falls, NY). After the canal closed in 1898, three were abandoned. The Delaware Aqueduct's strategic location and value as a road bridge prevented its demolition.

John Augustus Roebling (June 12, 1806 - July 22, 1869)

  • 1806 - Born in Muhlhausen, Prussia.
  • 1826 - Graduates from Royal Polytechnic School of Berlin (Civil Engineer).
  • 1831 - Arrives in U.S.; Establishes utopian farming community, Butler Co., Pa.
  • 1836 - Marries Johanna Herting.
  • 1837 - Works for the State of Pennsylvania surveying for railway lines across the Allegheny Mountains.
  • 1842 - First successful use of Roebling's wire rope: Allegheny Portage RR.
  • 1845 - Completes first suspension bridge: Allegheny Aqueduct for Main Line Canal in Pittsburgh (removed 1861).
  • 1846 - Smithfield Street Bridge, Pittsburgh ( replaced 1883).
  • 1847—1851 - Builds four D&H Canal aqueducts (three removed after 1898).
  • 1850 - Founds wire rope factory in Trenton.
  • 1855 - Bridge at Niagara Falls (removed 1897).
  • 1860 - Sixth Street Bridge, Pittsburgh (removed 1893).
  • 1867 - Cincinnati Bridge completed. Begins plans for Brooklyn Bridge.
  • 1869 - Dies of tetanus from accident at Brooklyn Bridge site. Son, Washington Roebling, carries on John Roebling's work.
  • 1883 - Brooklyn Bridge completed under the direction of Washington Roebling and his wife Emily.

For more information about the Roebling family and the history of the factory in Trenton, New Jersey, visit

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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