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James Eads

engineer, inventor
Born: 5/23/1820
Birthplace: Lawrenceburg, Ind.

With little formal education, he began his career as a purser on a Mississippi River steamboat in 1838. He began a business in 1842 recovering salvageable materials from sunken steamboats. He made a fortune in this venture, enabling him to spend time inventing engineering and navigating improvements for Mississippi River travel. The Eads Bridge, which spanned the Mississippi at St. Louis (1867–74), was the first major bridge made entirely of steel, contained a 520-foot-long center span, and several other engineering innovations. He played a critical role in the Civil War when he supplied ironclad gunboats that helped ensure Union control of the Kentucky–Tennessee River Systems.

Died: 3/8/1887

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