John Roebling, the founder of Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, was a pioneer in more ways than one. Many people in architecture and engineering know him for his work on the design of suspension bridges. He came from Europe and founded a town but would later become a celebrated engineer. Keep reading for a look into the life of this interesting historical figure.
John Roebling’s early life and beginnings were spent in Mülhausen in what was then called Prussia, present-day Germany. He was born Augustus Johann Röbling. The young Roebling had a middle-class upbringing and was well educated. His studies in Berlin led him to an interest in suspension bridges. He became an engineer and began to dream of a better life in what was then a young country, America. At the age of 25 he left his home country to make his way in life.
John Roebling and the founding of Saxonburg Pennsylvania
The story of how Saxonburg, Pennsylvania was founded is one of ambition and hope. The young Roebling and his brother Carl left Prussia and formed a farming community. This Western Pennsylvania settlement was later called Saxonburg. The frontier life was not for John, and he began to grow restless in the role of a farmer. Though he left for the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg, he still was not satisfied. After his brother Carl died he would move his business and family.
The Roebling legacy: The Brooklyn Bridge
The reason John Roebling’s legacy is so important is the invention of his wire rope or cable. The idea for it came when he saw how hemp was being used to pull loads. The natural material of these ropes was not up to the task, and he created a rope of wires twisting over themselves.
He was working in the Allegheny Mountains when he invented this cable, drawing inspiration from the work he had seen in Germany before he emigrated. The first time he used it was in 1841, and it would be this rope that would carry him to fame and fortune. He eventually left his work on the Allegheny Portage Railroad and went north. The next phase of his life would occur in the state of New Jersey, a stone’s throw from New York City. His business manufacturing the rope went on to become very successful. Even after his death, his sons carried on his work and ran the factory building this famous cable.
His most lasting legacy, however, would be his design of suspension bridges. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the ongoing monuments to his work and life. The Golden Gate Bridge is another famous bridge he worked on.
The Roebling Museum in Roebling, New Jersey keeps this great man’s legacy alive today. In the town he founded, the Saxonburg Museum also carries a wealth of information about the town and its founder. There’s also a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge and his former workshop preserved for future generations.