America’s greatest self-taught civil engineer was born in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, on the Ohio River. He is best known for engineering the splendid bridge in St. Louis that bears his name today. The Eads Bridge, when completed in 1874, contained what then was the longest load bearing arch ever constructed. It was the first major bridge to use steel in its construction.
Eads arrived in St. Louis in 1833. While still a young man, he went into business as an underwater salvage contactor. He made a fortune raising sunken riverboat cargos, and in the process pioneered the use of the diving bell. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Eads obtained a contract to construct seven ironclad river steamers, known as the “City Class” gunboats. The first of these that was launched, the U. S. S. St. Louis, was the first ironclad warship constructed in the western hemisphere. It beat its east coast counterparts Virginia and Monitor by several months.
(reprinted with permission, Friend and Foe Alike: A Tour Guide to Missouri’s Civil War)