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Our Rich History: Turning 150 in style — the Roebling Bridge and Don Heinrich Tolzman’s new book

By Paul A. Tenkotte
Special to NKyTribune

Residents of our region call one of our favorite icons by various names: The John A. Roebling Bridge; the Suspension Bridge; the Covington and Cincinnati Suspension Bridge; and the “Singing Bridge.” Officially opened 150 years ago, in 1867, the bridge is still being used today, by both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

But the John A. Roebling Bridge, connecting Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington Kentucky, is much more than a bridge. It’s a work of art. Its graceful suspension cables beckon us to cross over the mighty Ohio River.

Likewise, Dr. Don Tolzmann beckons us to cross over into the fascinating history of the bridge with his new book entitled, The Roebling Suspension Bridge: A Guide to Historic Sites, People, and Places (Cincinnati, OH: Archivarium Press, 2017).

Tolzmann, a preeminent historian known for his books about German-Americana, is the official historian of the Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge Committee. His previous books about the bridge have included John A. Roebling and His Suspension Bridge on the Ohio River (Milford, OH: Little Miami Publishing, 2007) and his editing of E.F. Farrington’s The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, a Full and Complete Description, with Dimensions and Details of Construction (Milford, OH: Little Miami Publishing, 2016).

Tolzmann’s latest work is divided into short, very readable chapters well-suited to the busy reader of today. Chapters include a “Roebling Heritage Tour,” and the latest research relating to Amos Shinkle, Washington Roebling, Wilhelm Hildenbrand, Charles Stolzenburg, and others. The Appendices contain “Bridge Statistics,” a list of Roebling’s suspension bridges, information on the Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge Company, and other details. The 102-page book is richly illustrated with historic black-and-white photographs.

Our region’s majestic John A. Roebling suspension bridge. Source: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 17 Aug. 1867.

Tolzmann includes a fascinating account of the Cincinnati branch of the Roebling family, led by Henry C.P. Roebling. Tolzmann’s research has included the Roebling Collection in the Folsom Library at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, as well as the Bruce Family Papers in the Special Collections and Archives of the Steely Library at Northern Kentucky University.

As always, Tolzmann is a seasoned storyteller, able to bring history to life. And further, he does so at a very affordable price. The Roebling Suspension Bridge: A Guide to Historic Sites, People, and Places (Cincinnati, OH: Archivarium Press, 2017) is available at amazon.com for only $7.95.

We want to learn more about the history of your business, church, school, or organization in our region (Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky). If you would like to share your rich history with others, please contact the editor of “Our Rich History,” Paul A. Tenkotte, at tenkottep@nku.edu. Paul A. Tenkotte is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Public History at Northern Kentucky University.

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