It turns out to be taking more time than expected to turn up substantive information on Mr. Childs and his bridge business partners and brothers, Enoch & Warren. There are plenty of honorable mentions and brief bios, but little in the way of hard information or a sense of just who he was…
Though a prolific builder, with other long span bridges beyond the “New Bridge” pictured in Long’s pamphlet to his credit, (See archive entry – A Name Unknown and a Face to a Name) most notably the former Granite Street Bridge in Manchester, and the famed railroad Triple Bridges at Hooksett Village, and Boscawen’s Rainbow a two span McCallum Truss, these all bridging the Merrimack, and many many other bridges of varying truss types to their credit. Somehow the singular example to still exist is a Long Truss, the Rowell’s at Hopkington. The Rowell’s is an interesting Long variant which has intrigued bridge historians for years because it sports a Childs improvement of encased arches in both trusses. I find myself wondering if they built other solid encased arch examples, and with their railroad contracts providing work over a wide geographic area, perhaps a Childs arch variant Long might have influenced Vermont’s Nichols Powers, who used this same detail in the middle truss of his New York masterpiece, the Old Blenheim.
Sadly and strangely, no examples of his own patent truss still exist here in his home region, though there are a pocket of Childs Truss bridges in Ohio, all built by the bridgewright Everett Sherman. He is said to have chosen this truss type after reading the following announcement in 1882 in the Engineering News and American Contract Journal, that the patents for several truss types had slipped into the public domain, and royalties would no longer be charged of those who chose to make use of them.
Horace is said to have walked long distances in his youth to avoid paying to ride the stage, so he might well have admired Mr. Sherman’s Yankee like thrift.
New Hampshire is still home to a continuing tradition of wooden bridge building and people who specialize in bridge restoration and preservation work. And somehow, in a very real way, I feel that any of us who have ever taken a chisel to a bridge bound timber are all, the children of Childs.