James Buchanan Eads (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Eads revolutionized long-span bridge construction; the Eads Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River at St. Louis, is the only such structure bearing an engineer’s name. He was a highly successful capitalist and an inventor of note, with more than fifty patents credited to him.
James Buchanan Eads was born on May 23, 1820, in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, an Ohio River town. His family was of moderate means, moving in search of better fortune to Cincinnati, Ohio, then to Louisville, Kentucky. As a result of economic difficulties, between the ages of nine and thirteen Eads had only minimal formal education. Nevertheless, by the time he was eleven years old, Eads, working from observations made during family moves on steamers, had already constructed a small steam engine and models of sawmills, fire engines, steamboats, and electrotype machines.
In Louisville, Eads’s father experienced serious business reverses, so at only thirteen Eads traveled to St. Louis, working passage on a river steamer and seeking employment. After suffering hardships, Eads found well-paying work in a St. Louis mercantile establishment. Recognizing Eads’s abilities, an employer opened his library (reportedly one of the Mississippi Valley’s finest) to him, and Eads used it intensively to study civil engineering, mechanics, and machinery. When he was nineteen, his family moved to Dubuque, Iowa, where young...
(The entire section is 1801 words.)
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