The Kansas City Bridge
July 3, 1869 is the day Kansas City became the dominant city in the Missouri River valley. Up to that time Leavenworth, Kansas and St. Joseph, Missouri were much better known cities. That, according to a Harper's Weekly of the time. What changed?
Well, for you scoring at home, 7-3-69 is the day "The Hannibal Bridge" opened and dominance shifted. The Hannibal was the first railroad bridge over the Missouri River. With the opening of the bridge, now all the trains and commerce came through Kansas City. Prior to that time, three railroads dead-ended on the north side of the Muddy Mo. Four rails ended on the south side. To cross the river pre-bridge, you had to unload the train, ferry the cargo and passengers across and reload another train. HOW SLOW WAS THAT? HOW HEAVY WAS THAT? HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU DROP IT ON YOUR TOE? With the bridge, you could now cross the river in two minutes.............with all your toes.
The civil engineer/bridge builder who tamed the "...turbulent and unstable stream..." was Octave Chanute. Chanute (yes Chanute, Kansas) went on to international fame as the expert in flight during the 1890's. He also mentored the Wright Brothers after Wilbur wrote to him in 1900 seeking advice. The photo attached to this article is of The Hannibal Bridge (click on it to enlarge) with The Broadway Bridge in the background. The pictured Hannibal is not Chanute's original. His was replaced in 1917. Why? Better materials. Better engineering techniques. And a few floods. But the present day bridge serves the same purpose as the original, and has virtually the same alignment. The 1917 bridge was built with an upper level for automobiles. That level was removed in 1954 when The Broadway Bridge was built to carry autos.
Happy Anniversary Hannibal!!! And if I may speak for Kansas City; Thank you Octave Chanute for taming the turbulent and unstable Missouri and for putting KC on the map.