The New Student's Reference Work/Eads, James Buchanan

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Eads (ēdz), James Buchanan. Men with genius for mechanics, as for art, usually give indication of it very early in life. This famous engineer, who built the Eads bridge across the Mississippi at St. Louis, constructed models of saw-mills, fire-engines and steamboats before he was ten years old. He was born at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, in 1820. This was before the day of railroads. The commerce of the country was carried on over the waterways, and the Ohio swarmed with every kind of boat that was in use. Perhaps this is the reason the man came to be identified with rivers; the deepening of their channels, the bridging of them, the construction of boats, the protection of their banks from erosion.

When he was 13 the family moved to St. Louis, where river life was on a larger, more dramatic scale. One of the first things he did to attract attention was the raising of wrecked boats, for which work he invented improved hoisting-machinery. When the Civil War broke out, he was called to Washington and given a commission to build iron-clad gunboats to patrol the Mississippi. His feat of building and equipping eight such boats in 100 days gave him world-wide fame. From 1867 to 1874 he was engaged in bridging the Mississippi. The Eads bridge is still considered the finest example of metal-arch construction in existence. His next undertaking was the improvement of the South Pass of the Mississippi delta by the use of jetties. Congress approved of his plans to introduce the jetties all the way up to the mouth of the Ohio, but the cost was enormous and the work was never completed. Mr. Eads also proposed to build a ship-railway and then a ship-canal across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico. Had he lived, this route might have been adopted rather than Panama. He died at Nassau, Bahama Island, March 8, 1887. He received the Albert medal from Queen Victoria and many other decorations and honors from governments and universities. His ashes were scattered on the flood-waters of the Mississippi, according to his will, from the Eads bridge, his only monument.