Sepia Saturday - The Strongest Link

This bridge is known as the Chain Bridge or the Essex-Merrimac Bridge. It spans the Merrimack River from Newburyport to Deer Island. There is another bridge from Deer Island to Amesbury which I wrote of in my "Bridge to Freedom" post. The bridge is one of the two detour bridges I wrote about in my "Bridge of Death" post.
Postmark: August 25, 1910 4:30 PM Cushing Beach (Salisbury Beach)
Message: "Here is were you see the classy fellows - Lara"
The postcard is the Chain Bridge's original 1810 design making it the oldest and first suspension bridge in the US. There was an earlier bridge here, dating back to 1792, made of wood in the form of an arch making it the first bridge to span the Merrimack River. George Washington crossed the Merrimack River by ferry not far from here on his tour of the New England states in 1789.
In 1827 after a heavy winter snow the bridge collapsed under the weight of snow and an ox cart. All five chains of one side snapped sending six oxen, two horses, and two men to the river below. The men and horses survived the long fall into the frigid water but the oxen drowned. The bridge was rebuilt with six chains per side instead of the original five.
The lower photo, taken from the same vantage point, shows the Chain Bridge's second conception dating from 1910. The towers are made of concrete and steel. You probably notice that cables are used instead of chains but its still called the "Chain Bridge." Traditional names never die. I did find some research in the design documents from the Library of Congress stating that the old chains were to be used decoratively on the new 1910 bridge but there is no evidence that was ever done.
Photo: L.Bograd CrazyasaCoolFox Staff Photographer
The "Chain" Bridge was closed in 2002 to be completely renovated. New steel cables were strung and the old steel grate deck was replaced with concrete.

The name Merrimack derives from an Algonquin Indian name meaning "place of strong waters." There are two spellings of the word "merrimack." The river is spelled with the "k" at the end. The bridge, and the Town of Merrimac drop the "k." I have another postcard with the steamer seen above, spelled without the "k." Life is very confusing around here!


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