Making a Fortune

Peter Cooper's I-Beam

In 1845 Cooper moved his iron works out of New York to a site in Trenton, New Jersey, at the very end of the Delaware Raritan Canal that takes water from the Delaware river. Just as railroading had led Cooper into the iron business, it gave way to his next great innovation as an iron maker. He looked at railroad rails and imagined that - put on end - they could be used as structural beams for construction. They were fireproof, could bear the weight of tall buildings, and allowed more space between load-bearing columns. He modified his rolling mill in Trenton to produce the i-beams, and they eventually became the construction standard for the modern skyscraper.

Trenton NJ Wire Mill

(* photo credits below)

John Steele Gordon, business Journalist & Author of 'A Thread across the Ocean'

* Courtesy of The Cooper Union Library Archives
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Animation still credit: Tim D’Amico