William H. Paine: assistant engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge
May 24th marks the 128th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. While the name John Augustus Roebling is widely associated with the bridge’s design and production, the contributions of the six other men involved in the bridge’s engineering is rarely acknowledged in popular history.
Paine (believed to be second from right), pictured on the Brooklyn Bridge during construction, undated. (William H. Paine Papers, MS 475)
One of those men is William H. Paine, an assistant engineer for the project, whose papers reside at the New-York Historical Society. For 14 years, Paine worked on the engineering and construction of the bridge’s cable railway system, obtaining 14 patents for new or improved technologies.
In 1848 Paine began a career as a land surveyor in the young state of Wisconsin and shortly after, tried his hand at gold mine engineering in California at the height of the Gold Rush.
“Map of the Gold Regions of California”, 1852. (William H. Paine Papers, MS 475)
He joined the Union Army in 1861, as a topographical engineer and served in this position for the entirety of the Civil War, mapping land in Washington D.C. and Virginia. Post-war, Paine settled in Brooklyn and worked as a consulting engineer for major projects, including the Niagara Suspension Bridge, the 10th Avenue Railway line and the Hudson River Tunnel.
Paine in military uniform, undated. (William H. Paine Papers, MS 475)
Taken as a whole, the Wi