M930.50.1.204 | Iron bridge

Iron bridge
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
About 1860-1870, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
4.9 x 13.5 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , bridge (558) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

The industrial output resulting from the use of machines and the new extremely strong metal alloys is as vast as it is impressive. Some creations of the period are seen as evidence of the genius of human beings. The Victoria Bridge, constructed in the middle of the 19th century to span the St. Lawrence River, and link Montreal with St. Lambert, is known as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

After 1856, railway rails are produced using Bessemer's process, which means they are very durable and may be produced in large quantities at low cost. This is critical in Canada where huge numbers of rails are needed between 1873 and 1885 to lay the 3,200 km of track between Montreal and Vancouver.

And, in 1886, the process of electrolysis is discovered, opening the way for the production of aluminum, a material that will be used extensively in the construction and transportation industries. Aluminum production becomes one of Canada's leading industries in the 20th century.

The invention of dynamite in 1866 by the Swede Alfred Nobel changes fundamentally the nature of mining and building construction - or demolition. Whole communities of Montreal are demolished to make way for more modern buildings.

Many professions are transformed by the technological revolution: engineers, stone masons and carpenters see their old way of working disappear.

Source : Brand New and Wonderful: The Rise of Technology [Web tour], by Jacques G. Ruelland, Université de Montréal (see Links)

  • What

    Cast iron structures, similar to this one, were built in the 1870s by the American firm Clark, Reeves and Co. of Phoenixville.

  • Where

    A prefabricated bridge of "beams assembled using pins" is erected in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in 1870.

  • When

    Three prefabricated bridges, similar to the one illustrated, were ordered from a catalogue by Sandford Flemming, chief engineer of the Intercolonial Railway. They are used to span the Miramichi River in New Brunswick.

  • Who

    Sandford Flemming refuses to use wooden bridges when building the Intercolonial Railway. To win his case, he has to go all the way to the Canadian prime minister, John A. MacDonald, then to the Privy Council in London, England.