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Archives & Special Collections: Squire Whipple "Father of the American Bridge"


Squire Wipple was born in Hardwick, Massachusetts on September 16, 1804, and graduated from Union College in 1830.  He worked on railroads for the next 20 years and had a distinct interest in design.  He began to study various engineering problems that dealt with tension/stress and bridge construction.  As a result of his work, Wipple received his first patent for a bridge truss on April 24, 1841. This action served a foundation for the "Whipple Truss" which was comprised of cast iron and wrought iron for tension.

Wipple was involved in the construction of 70-100 bridges over the Erie Canal. In 1847, he wrote A Work in Bridge Buildingwhich was the first publication in modern history to discuss bridge building.  Influenced by utopian ideals during the "Age of Reform," Wipple also wrote about vegetarianism and morality.  He died on March 15, 1888, leaving behind a legacy of ideas and a vision that helped shape modern bridge building. 

Primary Sources

Whipple, Squire, UC 1830. A Work on Bridge Building: Consisting of Two Essays, the One Elementary and General, the Other Giving Original Plans and Paractical Details for Iron and Wooden Bridges Utica, N.Y. UT W575e 1847 (Special Collections)

Alumni File for Whipple, Squire

Vertical File

Whipple, Squire, UC 1830. An Appendix [!] to Whipple's Bridge Building: Containing all Except the Original Publication, Or the Complete Work, which was Entered According to Act of Congress, in the Year 1869. Albany, N.Y., 1869. UT W575e (Special Collections).

Whipple, Squire, UC 1830.The Way to Happiness: Being an Essay on the Motives to Human Actions, and the Fundamental Principles of Mortality.Utica, N.Y: H.H. Curtiss, 1847. Call #: UT W575w (Only Available in Special Collections).

Whipple, Squire, UC 1830. An Elementary and Practical Treatise on Bridge Building: An Enlarged and Improved Edition of the Author's Original Work. 2nd, enl. and impr. ed. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1873. Call #: UT W575e 1873 (Only Available in Special Collections).


Google Patent Search--You can search here for Squire Whipple and it will take you to copies of his patents.

Secondary Sources

Billington, David P. The Innovators: The Engineering Pioneers Who Made America ModernNew York: Wiley, 1996. 

Lee, Kenny. Concordiensis, February 24, 1995 "The Father of American Bridge Building." 

Petroski, Henry. Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America. Squire Whipple, Class of 1830. Schenectady, N.Y: Union College, 1949. 

Walters, Ronald G., and Eric Foner. American Reformers, 1815-1860. Rev. ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 1997.