A Trust in the Truss

With last months entry we explored how a lack of any real framing configuration or behavioral similarities between Long and Paddleford trusses, made any real challenge to Peter from the Long camp, less than likely to succeed. ( The presumption that the choice not to patent was due to such pressure assumes Long’s agents somehow had inside information – Additionally, had they a case they still would’ve sued for royalties no matter what the truss was being called ) And while this does not mean there were no words exchanged, and that there was none of the bluff and bluster of empty threats. All the same, for me, none of this explains the choice which was made.

With why not explored, with this entry, I thought we would explore the potentials in why.

If I were to conjecturalize the whys as to Peter choosing not to patent his truss, this choice would not be for fear of a patent infringement challenge from Moses Long, sales agent to his patent holding brother – Though the Nineteenth Century was as or more litigious than our own period in time – Any such challenge would have been dismissed as groundless, as was the challenge to Howe. (which did and does share structural similarities) I think it more likely that the interest Paddleford had was in building bridges without paying patent royalties, not in any potential in collecting royalties from others – This wrapped around the failure of any realized return on an investment Peter made in patenting a spinning device decades earlier. The incentives to patent were perhaps, simply outweighed by the disincentives.

Long’s solid foothold in the area did lose much market share to the Paddleford, though I think that was maybe more about the typical norm that drove regional preference – Familiarity and area Bridgewright preference.

With some irony, the success the Truss Type enjoyed in the area is perhaps in part attributable to the type being patent and royalty free. The pattern of its area dominance suggests it also had to do with a willingness to work with others. A cooperative willingness, which created the very familiarity which drove acceptance and success. Both in towns willing to specify and purchase a trusted Truss, and an ability to assemble a trained and capable crew familiar with the complex joinery found in Paddlefords.

Many Intersections

From the beginning Peter partnered with Bridgewrights local to his contracts – Conway’s Jacob E. Berry, sometimes said to be participant in the first known Paddleford, would go onto specialize in the type, as would his namesake son. Both would help make Paddleford’s the dominant type in the Saco valley, and on over into Maine.

Peter’s own son, Philip “Henry” would go onto build his fathers truss with great regularity, in their home area on both sides of the river that forms the Vermont and New Hampshire border, and as far afield as the state Capitol. It is more than probable that he too collaborated with capable local framers.

The type continued to be built in numbers in its pockets of dominance, for decades after the two P. Paddleford’s time had passed, often with the use of even the unique detailing found only in Paddleford Bridges, unrelated to the trusswork.

At one time I wondered how the type had somehow not spread beyond a home range in which it enjoyed such huge success. Clearly it was none so much about a lack of patent royalties, as it was about trust and collaboration. Trust in a truss, both by the public, both in buying and and in choosing to trust their lives and livelihoods in daily crossing them, and also that of the carpenters who chose to frame them.

Even without the fine details, this is the stuff of fine story.

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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

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