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King Iron Bridge Company Scrapbook, 1892

 Collection
Identifier: SC MS 0206

Album measures 35mm x 45 mm x 3 mm (14.5 x 18 inches). It is bound in blue-grey buckram over board stock. The cover has the words Scrap Album in black and gold embossed among springs of flowers and surrounded by scrolls of gold and black edging. There are 25 leaves of heavy card stock. Inside the front cover on the fixed end paper is an inscription in handwritten ink “Presented to Miss [name erased] As an Easter gift 1892 By her uncle [name erased]” – there are paper cutouts of fruits and a bird glued in the corners “framing” the dedication. The uncle’s connection to the King Iron Bridge Company is unclear but there is the speculation that perhaps he could have been the photographer. There are 23 albumen photographs of assorted sizes generally large format 9.25 to 12 inches wide and 5.5 to 9 inches high. These photographs are of iron bridges believed to be built by the King Iron Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio in the 1880s and give an advantageous view of the bridge design. Many of the photographs are detailed enough to show clearly the manufacturer’s name and date as well as signs warning users of the rules of using the bridge. The 23 bridges indicate location in the states of Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. There are few people in the photographs and they seemed posed. The metal truss design of these bridges represents a distinctly American contribution of engineering and construction. The photographs are sloppily glued on the front pages of the album. Most of the photographs’ captions were written first in pencil and then in black ink over the pencil in a bold flowing hand.

The second half of the album has 40 nineteenth century calling/visiting cards and 15 calendar or trade card advertising patent medicine and perfume featuring beautiful chromolithograph illustrations with clever fold outs/overs known as “hidden name” cards. Based on the name assortment of calling cards, it is possible that the family name of the album’s owner was Street. The spine and pages are no longer attached to each other and the binding is in poor condition. Three photographs in the scrapbook are also found in “The King Bridge Company” catalog. These photographs are attributed to the Photo-Engraving Company of 67 Park Place, New York, N.Y. A.R. Hart, Sec’y and Mngr. Lithography and Engraving.

Dates

  • 1880s

Creator

Physical Description

1 album, 35mm x 45 mm x 3 mm (14.5 x 18 inches)

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Extent

1 album, 35mm x 45 mm x 3 mm (14.5 x 18 inches)

Overview

This scrapbook is an interesting contrast of nineteenth century ephemera – albumen photographs and chromolithographic trade cards and calling/visiting cards. The photographs present the metal truss design of bridges built by the King Iron Bridge Company in various places in the 1880s. The trade cards promoting patent medicines and perfume and the calling cards display the beautiful art of the chromolithograph printing process. The scrapbook seems to represent a popular Victorian Era family activity.

Biographical / Historical

In the 1880s when the ephemera in this collection were compiled, the King Iron Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio was the largest highway bridge manufacturer in the United States. The King Iron Bridge Company was important in the development and construction of metal truss bridges, a product of American engineering and construction technology nationwide during the late nineteenth century. Many of the Company’s bridges were used during America’s expansion in the West in the late nineteenth century. The King Iron Bridge Company was founded in 1858 by Zenas King (1818-1892) who had an earlier career in bridge building. The company name changed in 1871 to King Iron Bridge and Manufacture Company and organized in Cleveland, Ohio. When Zenas King died his sons, James A. and Harry W. subsequently managed the company and changed the name to King Bridge Company. A nephew, George E. King, was the company agent in the West contracting for bridges in Nebraska and Wyoming. Under grandson, Norman C. King, the company existed until the mid 1920s. In the 1880s it was the largest highway bridge works in the United States. The company manufactured Pratt through truss, bowstring, eyebar suspension, swing and beam girder bridges. Some of these bridges still exist. Among the most well-known was the Harlem River Swing Bridge now known as the University Heights Bridge at 207th Street Manhattan to the Bronx. The three swing bridges King built in Chicago were replaced by bascule bridges. In relation to Lehigh University’s interest in King bridges, a nearby city, Easton, PA., had a King through truss bridge built across the Delaware River. The King Bridge Company built bridges throughout the United States especially the Midwest as well as Canada and Mexico where most examples are still standing. The bridges featured in this collection all seem to have been erected during the Company’s peak years of building metal through truss bridges in the 1880s.

It is the collection of bridge photographs that is the main feature of this collection and it is presumed that perhaps the uncle who dedicated the album in 1892 to his niece was an employee or photographer for the King Bridge Company. However, there is nothing to indicate this statement in the album. The addition of the chromolithograph trade cards and calling cards to the collection are a puzzle. All the trade cards seem to represent a range of date from 1886 to 1890. During the Victorian Era, scrapbooking was a popular family activity. Victorian Era advertising trade cards were a “tool” used by savvy advertisers to encourage consumers to “collect them all” thereby promoting the products for sale. The use of calling/visiting cards was considered a form of high class etiquette especially among women whether married or unmarried, young or older there was a form of card to denote each status. Included in this collection are several forms of cards. This collection seems to have been made before the presentation year of the album. Whether or not the photographs were in the album on the presentation or added later, likewise for the trade cards and calling/visiting cards, it is speculation.

Arrangement

The second half of the album has 40 nineteenth century calling/visiting cards and 15 calendar or trade card advertising patent medicine and perfume featuring beautiful chromolithograph illustrations with clever fold outs/overs known as “hidden name” cards. Based on the name assortment of calling cards, it is possible that the family name of the album’s owner was Street. The spine and pages are no longer attached to each other and the binding is in poor condition. Three photographs in the scrapbook are also found in “The King Bridge Company” catalog. These photographs are attributed to the Photo-Engraving Company of 67 Park Place, New York, N.Y. A.R. Hart, Sec’y and Mngr. Lithography and Engraving.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Book dealer – 2011

Accruals

No additions anticipated.

Related Materials

The King Bridge Co. Cleveland, Ohio. Iron and Steel Bridges Structural Iron Work. Iron and Steel Bridges, Viaducts, Girders, Turntables, Roofs, Structural Work of all Kinds. [Advertising catalog from The King Bridge Co., 7 Water St. Boston, Mass.]

Tinker, George H. 1908. “The Cuyahoga Valley Viaduct of the ‘Nickel Plate’ Railroad. Transaction, The Cleveland Engineering Society, No. 2 (October 13).

Physical Description

1 album, 35mm x 45 mm x 3 mm (14.5 x 18 inches)

Creator

Title
Finding Aid of the King Iron Bridge Company Scrapbook 1892
Author
William Ying
Date
September 19, 2013
Language of description
English

Revision Statements

  • finding aid revision date not supplied: 2011 : Finding aid created -- September 16, 2013 : Finding aid revised -- September 19, 2013 : EAD created

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-4506
610-758-6091 (Fax)