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This is a single suspension bridge from my historical inventory of suspension bridges. Follow the Inventory link for more information about the inventory.
1810 Chain (Essex-Merrimack)
Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA (Merrimack River - Deer Island)
Bridgemeister ID:14
Structurae ID:0001418
Coordinates:N 42.833167 W 70.90645
Maps:Acme, Google, MapQuest
References:AAJ, BBR, CAB, GBD, HBE, POPE, PTS2, RDH
Principals:John Templeman
Use:Vehicular (two-lane light)
Status:Replaced
Main cables:Chain (iron)
Suspended spans:1
Main span:243f
Deck width:30f (2 roadways of 15f)
Notes
  • John Templeman built several bridges (like this one) using James Finley's design.
  • Repaired in 1827 after 5 of 10 chains snapped under weight of a team of oxen.
  • The complete description from Thomas Pope's 1811 Treatise (POPE):
    "The chain Bridge lately thrown over the Merrimack, three miles above Newburyport, in the state of Massachusetts, is now in constant use. This Bridge consists of a single arc, two hundred and forty-four feet span. The abutments are of stone, forty-seven feet long, and thirty-seven high; the uprights, or framed work, which stand on the abutments, are thirty-five feet high, over which are suspended ten distinct chains, the ends of which on both sides of the river are buried deep in pits and secured by large stones: each chain is five hundred and sixteen feet long; and, where they pass over the uprights, they are treble, and made in short links, which is said to be more secure than saddles made of plates of iron. The four middle joists rest on the chains; all the rest are suspended to the main chains to equalize the floor. This Bridge has two passage-ways of fifteen feet in width each, and the floor is so solid as to admit of horses, carriages, etc. to travel at any speed, with very little perceptible motion of the floors. The railing is stout and strong, which adds much firmness to the floor. There are three chains in each range on each side, and four in the middle range: they are calculated to support nearly five hundred tons. From the surface of the water to the middle of the floor is forty feet; and from the top of the abutments to the top of the uprights is thirty-five feet high, making seventy-two feet. The magnitude and power of the abutments, the width and length of the floors, the elevation of the work, the evident powers of the chains, etc. all conspire to make it a wonderful work. Every expense attending it did not amount to twenty-five thousand dollars. The abutment being of stone, the uprights covered, and the chains painted to prevent rust, leaves nothing but the flooring to decay. This Bridge was constructed by John Templeman, Esq. of the district of Columbia, whose talents for the productions of such work, and the various improvements suggested and used by him, have been highly beneficial, and do him great credit."
  • Gregory W. Buff sent a transcription of an article describing the 1827 failure. The article was in the Saturday, February 24, 1827 issue (Volume IV, Number 31) of the Canadian Spectator (Montreal, Quebec) newspaper:
    "Newburyport, Feb 9. Disastrious [sic] Accident. - On Tuesday morning last, the Essex Merrimack Bridge gave way in the centre, from the parting of the chains that support it. On the Bridge, at the moment, was a loaded team, drawn by six oxen and two horses, driven by two men, Messrs. Garlton [sic] and Jackman, all of whom were precipitated, forty feet, into the river beneath. The teamsters preserved themselves by means of swimming, and the support of fragments of the bridge; the team were all of them except one of the horses, swept beneath the ice a few rods below, and drowned. Five of the ten chains which supported the Bridge, were snapped in different places, and now remain upholding the broken and shattered timber altogether as sad a wreck as we ever witnessed. At the moment of the crash, the light evolved from the friction of the chains resembled the the vivid streaming of a meteor. Various excuses are assigned for the accident, and none, with more probability, than the united effect of the incumbent pressure of the immense body of snow lying upon the bridge, and the frost which had contracted the particles of iron. These produced a tenseness in the chains, which was incapable of resisting the additional pressure of the loaded team, and the whole gave way. The estimated expense of repairing the breach is about 4000 dollars; and the Directors, as we understand, plan to set about it immediately. It will be built up as before. To those who have been losers by this accident the corporation intend to make generous inumeration. The traveling will be uninterrupted, as the solidity of the ice above the bridge forms a safe passage way - and for the conveyance of carriages and heavy baggage the proprietors have promptly provided suitable boats. If any aversion to chain bridges has been produced by this accident, we should be sorry, for ourselves we feel yet unshaken faith in their superior security. The misfortune in this case was no doubt owing to the causes above stated, and not to any defect in the construction of the bridge. Probably hundreds of individuals, including each sex and all ages, have visited the ruins of the bridge. They present a sad and melancholy appearance - crushed and broken timbers suspended by the massy chains, which hang lazily from the pyramidical abutments, while the beholder instinctly shrinks back in terror at the reflection of the situation of the two human beings who were precipitated into the abyss beneath. The preservation of these two men is almost miraculous. Although hurled down 40 feet amid crashing and falling timber, entangled with their cattle, they fell without receiving the least injury, and attained the shore, after being for nearly half an hour, immerse in water chilled to the freezing point. Mr. Jackman is far advanced in years - and suffered somewhat from the exposure to the cold. Mr. Carlton [sic], escaped unhurt. The Chain Bridge has been built for about fifteen years, the span is 220 feet. We believe this was the second or third Chain Bridge built in the United States; and this is probably the first that has met with a similar accident. We understand the proprieters of the Rooks Bridge intend to rebuild theirs as a Chain Bridge."
  • Replaced by 1909 Chain - Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA. The 1909 structure was almost entirely new (except for portions of the piers and abutments).
Stereoview, collection of David Denenberg Glass slide, collection of David Denenberg

Do you have any information or photos about this bridge that you would like to share? Please email aspan@bridgemeister.com.

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