Newell Toll Bridge is a private wire suspension bridge over the Ohio River between Newell, West Virginia and East Liverpool, Ohio. It was the first suspension bridge built entirely of steel as opposed to wrought iron.
The Newell Toll Bridge’s inception is linked to the development of the Homer Laughlin China Company (HLC). The HLC was established by Homer and Shakespeare Laughlin as the Ohio Valley Pottery Works in East Liverpool. 1 In 1897, the Laughlins sold control of the company to W. E. Wells, Louis I. Aaron and his sons, Marcus and Charles.
Wells and the Aarons raised significant capital and began expanding the company, building two new works (Nos. 2 and 3) in East Liverpool between 1897 and 1903. 1 Finding no suitable sites on the Ohio side of the river, they chose to expand in West Virginia.
On November 7, 1902, an agreement was reached by the Aaron’s, Wells, Edwin Knowles, John N. Taylor, George W. Clarke and Joseph G. Lee in the organization of the North American Manufacturing Company in Hancock County, West Virginia. 2 The company’s purpose was to build and establish the company town of Newell for the pottery company.
Ohio Valley Pottery applied to the War Department for a permit to build over the Ohio River, a navigable waterway, in 1903 and was granted the permit shortly after. 1 2 The permit was modified in 1904 when the alignment of the bridge was shifted 75 feet north due to difficulty in acquiring a clear title on the Ohio approach.
Designed by the consulting engineer Edwin Kirtland Morse of Pittsburgh, the bridge included a wire suspension design with riveted double-intersection Warren stiffening trusses. 1 Construction contracts were awarded in May 1904 with steel work handled by the American Bridge Company of Pittsburgh and substructure work to C. M. Driver of Pittsburgh. Construction began on June 2 and was completed on July 4, 1905 at a cost of $250,000. 2
Marcus Aaron and W. E. Wells were the first to cross the new bridge, followed by a thousand residents. 2 The first interurban, the Newell Streetcar Line, crossed on July 14, connecting East Liverpool and Newell.
The Newell Toll Bridge was operated by the Newell Bridge and Railway Company, chartered on July 10 under the laws of West Virginia. 2 It was controlled by the North American Manufacturing Company and later by the HLC.
The new crossing was well used. HLC’s Newell Works was expanded five times with between 1906 and 1929, the last built in 1929 exclusively for pottery sold by Woolworths. 1 It then abandoned its East Liverpool factories to consolidate all work under one roof.
The North American Manufacturing Company sold its property to the Newell Bridge and Railway Company on December 31, 1913. 2 HLC then filed to abandon its interurban in 1938.
The river crossing’s wood deck was replaced in 1923 with a new wood deck and replaced in 1954 with a steel grid deck at a cost of $213,090. 2