Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 133,103 pages of information and 210,773 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
The earliest suspension bridges to depend on iron in their construction used the iron in the form of chains. Chains with loop-type links were used in China c.1500. Later, forged bars with looped ends were favoured, followed by flat bars with enlarged ends to accommodate the connecting pins. The earliest suspension bridges of the 'industrial age' were constructed in the USA using wrought iron chains.
In the early 19th century, French and Swiss engineers were attracted by the advantages of multi-stranded wire cables over chains, and went on to construct hundreds of iron wire cable suspension bridges. There were many obstacles to be addressed. The main difficulty, and probably the one which discouraged British engineers, was the risk of corrosion of the thin wires. The French appeared to have overcome this problem, but a disastrous failure in 1850 showed that this was not the case. The rate of construction slowed down, but development continued, particularly in the USA, and eventually wire cables (ultimately using steel wire) came to totally dominate suspension bridge construction.
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