St. Louis Mercantile Library Special Collections
Celebrating James Buchanan Eads
 
Eads Bridge: Invitation to the Opening of the Bridge "St. Louis, June 1874. The Citizens of St. Louis. Cordially invite you to be present at the Formal Opening, by the President of the United States, of the Illinois and St. Louis Bridge on the fourth day of July 1874. The Committee on Invitation Geo. N. Morgan, Secretary. Chauncey I Filley, Chairman."
Pott Library Special Collections
No figure related to the history of the Mississippi has ever cast a fuller shadow over its waters than this innovative genius of engineering. Eads (1820-1887) grew up in St. Louis, and although reared in poverty, was able to be self educated with the help of generous merchants and others who were impressed with the boy and encouraged his ideas, dreams and overall vision, so that he was able to distinguish himself in innovative design, from diving bells for river salvage, to ironclad war vessels for the Union, and the construction for the first time, with steel, for bridges. The great span of the Eads Bridge in St. Louis, still standing and at work as faithfully as the day it was built, in many ways saved the city from strangling ferry rates and backward thinking politicians. It was the true door to St. Louis for generations and marvel to the viewer, and a narrative of its builder in metal and stone. 
Eads Bridge cloaked in fog, 1954, St. Louis Globe-Democrat Collection
St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis
In a time of severe crisis like we are all in today, to have a timeless memorial like the great St. Louis Bridge of James Eads, helps the human spirit. Eads’ brilliant, innovative mind, the sacrifice of many individuals who built the span, its artistic beauty in every arch and stone, are all historical facts that we are fortunate to have and to treasure. The stories of history and history itself are consolations and needed hope in bad times. They are lessons for the future that we can all share. The Mercantile Library has been in a faithful alliance with its community for 175 years in preserving the stories of history and art for the resilience and strength they provide. 

nota bene: More images of Eads will be available in the upcoming, early 2021 exhibition and publication,  A Nation, A City and its First Library: Americana as a Way of Life at the St. Louis Mercantile Library for 175 Years
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