It’s All in a Name

Things Trussed Arch are still building and burgeoning on the coming horizon, though this entry holds a brief diversion…

A recent comment on an earlier bio-piece entry I had put up on a New Hampshire born Truss patent holder, ( See New Beginnings ) from a friend and fellow bridge historian, pointed to an error made in spelling of the surname of an associate of the subject of the bio-piece. In my reply, I defended with reason my decision to use the variation I did.

Being that I pride myself with an accuracy relayed in the histories found here on the weblog, and not just the simple rehashing of the work of others. And being that there is also an undercurrent here of working to solve the occasional mysteries sometimes found to be lost or mixed up in the details of history. Particularly when those details twisted or lost have to do with someone’s name, (as in the needless confusion surrounding Nichols Powers) a deeper look demanded attention and as always, more was there for the finding.

The subject of this ramble was a partner in a Cleveland Ohio bridge building firm and agent of the subject Patent Trusses described in New Beginnings, and himself a patent holder of a variation of a deep area of interest for me. He holds No. 47,395 a “Splice for Timbers” And though his name appears in ample written records spelled two ways, in almost equal numbers, it was the seeming spelling found in his own signature in his letters patent which drove my earlier decision. A deeper look said more about him, his partner and their bridge building concern. Also revealed was the proper spelling of the mans name.

Both partners served the Union in the war, all of their time in bridge building units, and with a seeming common story of others described here in these pages, this shared war-time service became the basis of lifelong relationships. Like these others they served under the command of fellow patent holder, Daniel Craig McCallum Military Director and Superintendent of the Union railroads.

In the the years immediately following the war Henry assumed an owners share of Albert McNairy and partners bridge building firm of Thatcher, Burt & Co which then assumed the mantle of McNairy Claflen & Co. Within the decade the company was said to have three hundred and fifty men in their employ and reaching two millions of dollars of business annually. In Cleveland Past & Present published in 1869, NcNairy Clafen is described as “From 1851 to a recent date, the Howe Truss Bridge was nearly the only bridge made by the concern. They now are largely engaged in the construction of iron and combination bridges. The concern has built three thousand two hundred and eighty-one bridges–about sixty miles in the aggregate. The streams of nearly every State east of the Rocky Mountains are spanned by their bridges, and it is a historical fact that not one bridge of their construction has fallen.”

This fits all that was found in the dismantling of the Bell Ford, an amazingly sophisticated construction for 1875. Both the foundry work found in the iron, the castings, and the wrought eyebars, but also in the woodwork. Thatcher & Co’s decade of Howe Truss construction showed itself both in the Shear Block joined Top Chords with their patent Claflen Splices, and also in the compression diagonals (Braces) which swell to a greater dimension at mid-length, something I contend because of amazingly uniform mill & tool marks, are a product almost out of time, and were completely produced by some sort of duplicating machine.

In the Bell Ford even the simple joints joining the Braces to the Cast Sockets which received them were remarkably consistent and lacked any appearance of having been worked by hand - Suggesting a wholly mechanized approach to production

In the Bell Ford even the simple joints joining the Braces to the Cast Sockets which received them were remarkably consistent and lacked any appearance of having been worked by hand – Suggesting a wholly mechanized approach to production

From his time, both a description of the the mans life’s work, his likeness, and his signature.


About Will Truax

I'm a timberframer and preservation carpenter, and regularly work on Covered Bridge restoration projects. Bridgewrighting can be a tough row to hoe, for a myriad of reasons. From scheduling issues to differing opinions and philosophies on what is appropriate in methods and materials, to multiple jurisdictions still not sufficiently vetting bidders resumes - Which is to say, just because a company is on that state approved list and capable of building that seven figure overpass, this does not mean they are capable of restoring a wooden bridge... So, I have much to say about all this and more - And despite my tough row observation, I promise not to whine. View all posts by Will Truax

Replies welcome and encouraged

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: