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Roebling collection

Identifier: MC 4

Scope and Contents

The Roebling collection documents the personal and professional activities of John A. Roebling and Washington A. Roebling, and business activities of the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company. The material dates from 1824 to 1926 with the bulk of the material dating from 1844 to 1883, the period of time when John A. Roebling and Washington A. Roebling were active in the design and construction of suspension bridges and the manufacture of wire rope.

The collection consists of manuscript correspondence, technical notes, design drawings, notebooks, account books, reports, legal documents, patents, maps, newspaper and magazine clippings, published items, photographs and lithographs. Especially significant are the extensive records documenting the planning and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1883. Documents include correspondence of both John and Washington Roebling, small and oversize drawings of construction plans and machinery, specifications of work to be done, and reports on construction progress and the completed structure. Also in the collection are smaller quantities of similar records for other bridges built by the Roeblings including the Allegheny Aqueduct, Niagara Railroad Suspension Bridge, Covington & Cincinnati Bridge and the Delaware and Hudson Canal Aqueduct. Records for bridges proposed, but not built by the Roeblings include the Kentucky River Bridge, Tripartite Bridge and the St. Louis River Bridge. Records of John A. Roebling’s wire rope manufacturing business (eventually named the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company or JARSCO) include drawings of wire rope machines designed by John A. Roebling.

Pocket notebooks contain rough sketches and field notes on many of the engineering projects and on business and personal matters. Several design notebooks contain similar information in greater detail, as well as cost estimates and copies of related correspondence. The 151 notebooks, which often contain multiple subjects, have been numbered and arranged in the most relevant series.

A small amount of personal records include John A. Roebling’s notes on spiritualism, financial and legal records, and his will. Washington A. Roebling’s personal papers document his interest in the First World War and include a collection of tourist maps. A small amount of material belonging to Emily Warren Roebling, Charles G. Roebling, and Gouverneur Warren are also included in this collection. Scrapbooks purportedly kept by Emily Roebling chronicle the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. An additional book documents family interest in theater and opera.


  • Created: 1824-1926
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/1958



55.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Roebling Collection documents the personal and professional activities of John A. Roebling and Washington A. Roebling; and business activities of the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company.  The material dates from 1824 to 1926 with the bulk of the material dating from 1844 to 1883.

Arrangement Note

The Roebling Collection was originally processed in time for the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1983. AGuide to the Roebling Collections was published at that time and has been widely distributed. The collection has been divided into nine series, five of which are further subdivided. Records are arranged by creator and where there is overlap, by project or material type such as the Brooklyn Bridge and Images series.  Bridge proposals begun or submitted by John Roebling, but also involving Washington Roebling, have been arranged in the John A. Roebling series.  The contents of each series are arranged alphabetically with some subseries arranged chronologically.  Oversized materials and framed art works are housed separately.

Method of Acquisition

The Roebling Collection was donated by the John A. Roebling II estate in 1958.  The collection was split between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the alma mater of Washington A. Roebling, Charles G. Roebling and John A. Roebling II, and Rutgers University in New Jersey, the home state of the Roebling family.  In general, the more technical materials were donated to RPI and the more personal materials were given to Rutgers.  Subsequent donations have been made to both institutions by family members.

Related Materials

The Roebling Library at Rensselaer consists of several hundred nineteenth-century books and pamphlets on engineering, science, business and other subjects collected by John A. Roebling and Washington A. Roebling.  A significant number of these works were published in German.  The Roebling Library also contains official reports relating to particular bridges and their construction.  The contents of this library can be searched in the Rensselaer Libraries’ catalog.  To locate titles within the Roebling Library, limit searches by location to Archives (SCIT Roebling). The Washington A. Roebling Student Notebooks collection (MC 64) contains sixteen notebooks for courses taken at Rensselaer from 1854-1857.  Courses include physics, geology, rational dynamics and zoology. The Special Collections and University Archives of Rutgers University also hold Roebling Collections.  The Roebling Family Collection includes correspondence, writings, journals, scrapbooks, account books, receipts, legal documents, photographs, maps, drawings, reports, genealogies, publications, newspaper clippings and ephemera documenting four generations of the Roebling family of Trenton, New Jersey.  The collection at Rutgers overlaps the collection at Rensselaer in the area of wire rope manufacture and bridge construction including the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, Niagara Railway Suspension Bridge, and the Covington and Cincinnati Bridge.  A guide to this collection and its microfilm surrogate is available upon request. Rutgers University also holds the records of the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company (JARSCO).  These records include minutes of JARSCO (1876-1952) and the Roebling Securities Corporation (1953-1960), letter books of Ferdinand W. Roebling, Secretary/Treasurer of JARSCO, financial records, scrapbooks, company publications, and engineering drawings and work orders pertaining to the Roebling “Kinkora” Works in Roebling, New Jersey.

Processing Information

A Guide to the Roebling Collections was published at that time and has been widely distributed.  Cross references to locations of material in the original arrangement are included in this finding aid. Please note, the scrapbooks listed in Series V: Emily Roebling, 1867-1883, were acquired with the rest of the Roebling family papers but we cannot say for sure that they were created by Emily Warren Roebling. Each scrapbook includes newspaper clippings from before and during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge but there is no indication of EWR's hand on any of the pages in all three scrapbooks. We can only speculate the scrapbooks may have been created by her. Furthermore, there are only a couple of places in the entire collection that reveal her hand and in each instance EWR speaks only of her husband, Washington Augustus Roebling.

Amy Rupert
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Revision Statements

  • The collection was reprocessed in the early 2000's.: The Roebling Collection was originally processed in time for the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1983.

Repository Details

Part of the Institute Archives and Special Collections Repository

110 8th Street
Institute Archives and Special Collections
Rensselaer Libraries, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy NY 12180-3590 US
518 276 8340