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Summer Beam Books

Theodore Burr and the Bridging of Early America: The Man, Fellow Bridge Builders, and Their Forgotten Timber Spans. Hardcover.

Theodore Burr and the Bridging of Early America: The Man, Fellow Bridge Builders, and Their Forgotten Timber Spans. Hardcover.

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 Authors: Ronald G. Knapp, Terry E. Miller

Publisher: Ron & Terry, 2023



Theodore Burr (1771-1822) was the most prominent of America's three early nineteenth century timber bridge-building pioneers, the others being Timothy Palmer (1751-1821) and Lewis Wernwag (1769-1843).

All three built superlative long-span timber bridges in the Northeast.

A transplant from northwestern Connecticut, Theodore Burr moved to Oxford, New York in 1792-1793. In less than thirty years, he erected timber bridges over major rivers-the Hudson, Schoharie, Mohawk, Delaware, Potomac, and Susquehanna rivers-in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, District of Columbia, and Maryland.

In addition to being the first full study of the most prominent timber bridge builder-Theodore Burr-that links him to other bridge builders, this book narrates the significant role of covered timber bridges and associated turnpikes in the westward expansion of the new nation, a subject never before written about. The book should help refocus scholarship on advances in transportation infrastructure during one of the most important periods in American history-the early 19th century.

Based on archival research with newly discovered primary source materials, the book is richly illustrated more than 200 lithographs, paintings, and both historic and modern photographs, most of which have never been published before.

Anyone today who has visited America's covered bridges and examined the structural features within is likely familiar with the variant forms of Burr's 1817 patented "Burr arch-truss" design- a multiple kingpost truss with an added segmented timber arch. Of the more than 1100 timber bridges using Burr's design that were erected over the past two hundred years, more than a hundred still stand in Pennsylvania, Indiana, New York, and other states.

Burr claimed to have built forty-five bridges. These however were not like the ordinary covered bridges commonly seen today that are identified with his patent but include some of the most challenging and superlative bridges in American history.

Despite Burr's herculean efforts, part of his legacy sadly includes an obscure and ignominious demise in 1822 at the age of 51, possibly by then penniless and without even an obituary lauding his work. He was buried in an unknown grave. Burr deserved better.

This book is strongly supported by the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges whose purpose is "To preserve covered bridges. To gather and record knowledge of the history of covered bridges. To collect and preserve pictures, printed, and manuscript matter and other articles of historical interest concerning covered bridges."

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ISBN: 9781916787834

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