To mark the 180th anniversary of its founding, The Inquirer is reprinting an article from its archives every Monday for 18 weeks. Today's offering, the fifth in our series, was published on May 20, 1868, and describes an early effort to build a bridge linking Camden and Philadelphia. That feat was accomplished 58 years later when the Delaware River Bridge, now the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, opened in 1926.
A large and enthusiastic mass meeting of the citizens of Camden was held last evening at the new Court House, to take action in reference to spanning the Delaware river with a bridge, at some point between Camden and Philadelphia.
The Court House was filled to its utmost capacity, and all the matters pertaining to the erection of the proposed bridge were discussed with vigor and listened to with deep interest. The meeting was organized at eight o'clock, and Mayor Charles Cox was called upon to preside.
The first business in order was the appointment of a Committee on Resolutions, as follows: P.C. Brink, Thomas S. Speakman, Dr. Thomas Cullen and Benjamin Tatem.
Mr. Reynold Coates was then introduced, and made some remarks in relation to the proposed bridge. He thought that the interests of Pennsylvania and New Jersey were identified, as far as the construction of the proposed bridge is concerned. He alluded to the great difficulty in crossing the river Delaware in the winter time. Camden has become a city, and it is absolutely necessary to have a bridge communication with Philadelphia.
The speaker spoke at length regarding the construction of bridges, and gave a history of bridges built in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The speaker stated that it was practicable to bridge the Delaware river between Philadelphia and Camden, without obstructing navigation, but it could only be done by means of adopting a plan which was submitted to the meeting, and the speaker called attention to a working model of the proposed plan which was presented for the inspection of the meeting, and its merits were duly explained.
The model explained by Mr. Coates is Speakman's patent double draw bridge. It provides for the erection of a very extensive pier in the main channel of the river, with a passage-way cut through it for vessels. Two draw bridges are attached to either end of this pier, and it is so constructed that while a vessel is passing through one end of the pier, carriages and passengers can be crossing and re-crossing at the draw at the other end, and after the vessel has passed the entrance to the passage-way in the pier the draw at that point is closed, and travel can be resumed over said draw while the vessel is passing out of the passage-way at the other end.
Thus, it will be seen, by means of these two draw bridges travel can constantly be going on over either one draw bridge or the other while vessels are passing through.
Mr. Coates thought the plan entirely feasible, and he had met with no hostility to it worth mentioning. The speaker made an earnest appeal for aid in the proposed work, and thought that the bridge would be commenced before another year has passed.
The Committee on Resolutions reported the following through their chairman, Mr. P.C. Brink:
Whereas, The spirit of improvement is abroad throughout the land, and is especially engaged in furnishing increased facilities for travel and transportation; and as that which may be simply a convenience in some situations becomes an absolute necessity when the highways leading from the great centres of population and commerce are concerned. And whereas, Practical plans for bridging the Delaware between Philadelphia and Camden, without embarrassment to navigation, have been recently presented for the first time to the public; therefore
Resolved, That it is the sense of this meeting that strenuous efforts should be put forth at once to give life, vitality and activity to this enterprise by the appointment of proper committees, in order to awaken, engage and direct a general interest in this important undertaking, by personal exertion and through the agency of the press.