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Alonzo C. Mather & Buffalo's "Signature Bridge" - 1893 | Community Spirit

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Alonzo C. Mather & Buffalo's "Signature Bridge" - 1893
Alonzo C. Mather & Buffalo's "Signature Bridge" - 1893

 "Half the wealth of the continent is wasted in allowing  the energy stored in the Great Lakes to run as waste through the Niagara River."

  For a number of years Alonzo C. Mather has held the idea that the rush of water in the Niagara River off the City of Buffalo can furnish a great deal of motive power. Many citizens of Buffalo had the same idea, and years ago they offered a prize of $100,000 for a practical method of utilizing this motive power, but nothing came of it. Mr. Mather did not hold out for the prize. He is a man of means, and he offered to test his idea himself, paying all the expense for such test, and finally, on top of that, if his scheme proves practical, to pay to the city a percentage of the revenue derived from it.

  Buffalo people have thought, pretty unanimously, that Mr. Mather should have a chance, because his offer is too good to throw away. Nevertheless, he has had a hard time in trying to get the opportunity to spend his money to test his idea. At least two Mayors, in previous years have formally approved a bill giving him power to experiment and practically all the organized business associations have supported it; nevertheless, the measure did not become law. But Mr. Mather did not give up. This spring the legislature passed the bill anew, and on May 9th Mayor Diehl signed it and sent it to Albany for final consideration by Governor Roosevelt.

    Mr. Mather's plan is that of a bridge, the spans of which shall support undershot waterwheels turned by the Niagara River. Bridge and wheel will each be of steel. The total weight of a single span of the bridge would be 545 tons, and of the wheel 230 tons. On the bridge would be dynamos, run by belts from the wheels. Mr. Mathers purpose is to erect one experimental span, at the cost of at least $100,000. If that succeeds, he purposes to go on and build the remainder of the bridge. There would, of course, be a broad  drawbridge at the channel of the river, and the wheels would be hung only in the spans at the sides of the river. Both bridge and wheels are expected to yield a revenue, according to his plan.

  The Mather Bridge, it will be seen, will not divert any water from the river. The wheels merely swing in the current, and the water that propels them passes on unabated in volume. The plans are subject to approval by the State Engineer and Surveyor and what is more important, of the War Department of the United States. Unless Mr. Mather is able to convince the War Department that the bridge will not obstruct navigation, he will be unable to go ahead. Not only are the plans subject to veto by the War Department, but the inventor is required to give a liberal bond as indemnification against possible damage to others. Five percent of the revenue from the bridge is to be devoted to the City of Buffalo....

Story Continues in The Buffalo History Gazette (click here)

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