Spotlight Artifact: Niagara Gorge Suspension Basket

Basket, Suspension 610

Basket, Suspension Iron Judge T.G. Hulett Ca. 1847

In 1846, New York State granted a charter to the International Bridge Company to build a suspension bridge across the Niagara River. At the same time, Canada granted a charter to the Niagara Falls Bridge Company of Canada West for the same purpose. The two companies came together to form a joint board of directors and hired Charles Ellet, Jr., a noted engineer and bridge builder from Philadelphia to build a wire railroad suspension bridge across the Niagara river about two miles below the Falls. It was Charles Ellet, Jr. who approached Theodore Graves Hulett about overseeing the iron works for the bridge and came to him with the first task of establishing a convenient means of communication across the gorge.

The Niagara gorge suspension basket has always drawn visitors’ attention. Constructed to carry people, with their tools and messages, across the Niagara gorge below the Falls, Ellet originally planned for this car to be made of wood. He wanted to build two towers on either bank with a wire cable stretched between and a car or basket suspended from the cable, large and strong enough to carry at least two people.  T.G. Hulett eventually convinced Ellet that a basket made of iron, with wooden seats, would be light enough to cross the wire with the use of iron rollers, but be strong enough to support passengers. The first passage was in the spring of 1848 and was made by Charles Ellet, Jr. This basket carried workmen and civilians alike, and it is estimated that approximately three-fourths of the passengers were women.

Rebecca Justinger
Registrar

*This article was featured in The Buffalo History Museum‘s Fall 2015 issue of The Album.

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