The metal truss was the go-to bridge design in Texas for more than 50 years. County courts, city governments, and private companies built thousands of these structures across Texas in their heyday from 1880 to 1930. As they age, many metal truss bridges are replaced or bypassed. There are at least 50 abandoned truss bridges in Texas, usually in rural areas, which receive limited care. Learn more about the engineering of these unique structures below. Sources for content and images can be downloaded here.
Clairvoyants, Fortune Tellers, Cock Fighters, and Bridge Salesmen
Until the 1910s and '20s, almost all metal truss bridges were manufactured outside of Texas. Huge Eastern foundries like the King Bridge Company of Ohio and the American Bridge Company, consolidated by J.P. Morgan in 1900, dominated the truss bridge market. These companies employed small armies of salesmen to hawk their standardized bridge designs to county and city governments. All parts were made out of state and then shipped in pieces to the bridge site, where they were assembled by a local crew. Texans so resented this dependence that in 1879 the state legislature created a special tax for “clairvoyants, fortune tellers, cock fighters,” and bridge salesmen. Texas did not have its own bridge manufacturer until the Austin Brothers Bridge Co. set up shop in 1910.
Read on to learn about lenticular trusses and shady salesmen.