The Roebling Story is a classic American tale of immigration,
innovation, hard work, and entrepreneurship. The Roeblings designed
and built or erected the cables for several of the world’s greatest
suspension bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the George
Washington Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. Roebling
wire rope helped make possible some of the most important
technological achievements of the industrial age: telegraphs and
telephones, electrification, deep mines and big ships, elevators and
Born in 1806, John
Augustus Roebling studied engineering in his native land of
Prussia, where, he wrote after immigrating to America, “The study of
suspension bridges formed my favorite occupation.” In 1841, he
conceived the idea of making a rope of twisted wires to replace the
hemp ropes used to haul canal boats over the Allegheny Mountains.
Its success launched his wire rope business and brought him
commissions to build suspension bridges.
Roebling moved his business and family from Saxonburg, Pennsylvania
to Trenton in 1848, and he became famous in 1855 for building a
railroad suspension bridge over the Niagara Gorge. When he proposed
building the Brooklyn Bridge, he predicted that it would be “the
greatest engineering work of the continent and of the age.” But he
did not live to build it. He died in 1869 from an injury while
surveying for the Brooklyn tower. His oldest son, Washington A.
Roebling, completed the bridge in 1883 with help from his wife,
Emily Warren Roebling.
Roebling’s three sons, Washington, Ferdinand and Charles, built
their father’s company into the
world’s leading producer of wire rope, with four factories
and nearly 8,000 employees at its peak, inspiring the motto:
“Trenton Makes, the World Takes.’’ When competition pushed the
Roeblings to start making their own steel, they bought farmland here
in 1904 and built the Kinkora Works and the adjacent “industrial
village” for their workers. “Roebling’s” was a family business, with
a multi-generational ownership and workforce.
After World War II, the Roeblings faced massive costs for upgrading
their plants to remain competitive, but they were unwilling to take
on debt to pay for the upgrades. In 1953, the family sold the
business to the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, which operated it
With new awareness of the hazards of industrial waste, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency designated the Kinkora Works in 1983
as a Superfund site in need of cleanup. EPA completed renovating the
plant’s Main Gate for the Roebling
Museum in 2009, bringing new life to this historic building
and honoring the thousands of workers who once walked through its
Everyone Welcome -
Admission for members,
veterans and active military;
others, suggested donation $5