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THE TRENTON MAKES THE WORLD TAKES BRIDGE AND SIGN

  • n/a
  • Trenton, NJ 08608
  • Artwork Creator: Theodore Burr, (bridge); Hutchinson Signs, Inc. (sign)
  • Hours: Any
  • Access: Open to public
  • Sponsor/Project: n/a
  • Project Date: 1806 (bridge); rebuilt 1928 (bridge); 1935 (sign); replaced 1981 (sign)

“The Lower Trenton Toll Supported Bridge, also known as the ‘Trenton Makes The World Takes Bridge,’ carries Bridge Street traffic from Trenton, New Jersey to Morrisville, Pennsylvania, one of three bridges connecting these two communities. The original Lower Trenton Bridge was the first bridge to span the Delaware River and opened to traffic on January 30, 1806. It was located on the same site as now occupied by the present structure. Prior to the opening of the bridge, river crossings were made by ferry, a means of travel made uncertain by floods and ice stages in the river with travel frequently delayed for weeks at a time. The original bridge was constructed completely of wood and was covered by a roof of red cedar shingles. Both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania ends of the bridge featured high and elaborate fronts, with great arched doorways over the carriageways and foot-walks. The piers and abutments were constructed of stone masonry designed to be high enough to clear the highest flood. As a result of floods reaching a level higher than expected during the construction period, the masonry was raised to a new high level. Because of this precaution, the bridge was not swept away during the 1841 flood that destroyed five other bridges over the Delaware north of Trenton. Several years later, the bridge was remodeled to permit passage of locomotives and became the first bridge in the United States to be used for interstate railroad traffic. The present bridge is a five-span Warren Truss built in 1928, with a total length of 1,022 feet. The roadway consists of two lanes, one lane in each direction separated by the center truss. The substructure, originally built in 1874, consists of stone masonry. The downriver truss displays the ‘Trenton Makes The World Takes’ sign which is mounted to the truss members; hence the nickname for the bridge. The original sign was erected in 1935 and replaced in 1981.” – Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission

“One of Trenton's most notable landmarks is the Delaware River bridge with the enormous neon slogan, ‘Trenton Makes - The World Takes,’ affectionately called the ‘Trenton Makes Bridge.’ The bridge itself rests on stone piers that have been continually supporting the bridge since 1806. The slogan was adopted by the Trenton Chamber of Commerce in 1910 to represent Trenton's leading position in the manufacturing of a multitude of goods, most notably steel, rubber, wire rope, linoleum and ceramics. Several brochures were printed during the 1910s and 1920s extolling the virtues of Trenton as an industrial center, and listed all the benefits of locating business and manufacturing there. The Trenton Chamber of Commerce felt the need to proclaim the slogan to the traveling world that so greedily partook of Trenton's labors. In 1911, the slogan, in giant, shimmering metallic letters, was affixed to the steel bridge spanning the Delaware River between Trenton, NJ and Morrisville, PA. This was an excellent location, as the slogan was seen by thousands of passengers daily on the Pennsylvania Railroad's Main Line connecting New York and Washington, DC. By 1917, the slogan was enlarged and electrified, illuminated with 24,000 incandescent lamps. This sign shone on the river for over ten years until the bridge was replaced with the current structure in 1928, and the incandescent sign was removed. The bridge remained without a sign during the early years of the depression, until 1935 when the slogan was installed again, this time in glowing neon! The following excerpt was published by the Chamber of Commerce in 1936:

‘In 1935 the Trenton Chamber of Commerce erected a mammoth electric sign on the vehicular bridge crossing the Delaware River at Trenton. This sign was built by a Trenton firm: Hutchinson Signs, Inc. Believed to be one of the largest neon community signs in the world, it is 330 feet long and has letters seven feet high, with capital letters nine feet. The entire cost of erecting, maintaining, and operating this sign is paid out of the Chamber's treasury. Thousands of passengers traveling on the Pennsylvania Railroad trains can see it from the nearby railroad bridge. Thus Trenton's widely known slogan, "Trenton Makes -- The World Takes," was flashed before the public day and night throughout the year 1936’

Over the years, the great neon sign had suffered neglect and fallen to disrepair. As part of Trenton's renaissance and revitalization, the neon sign was restored in 1981 with new steel and neon letters more immense than the original. The slogan now stands today greater than before, proclaiming Trenton's heritage and future.” – stanglpottery.org

“Before there was a bridge here, at the navigable head of the Delaware River, crossing to the Pennsylvania side was made by ferry. According to Lida Newberry, the first ferry was chartered in 1726 to James Trent, son of the city’s namesake, William Trent. The first bridge, which opened in January 1806 (construction began in 1804), was a wooden covered bridge built at a cost of $180,000 at the time. It stood on the same site as today’s bridge. According to Eleanor Shuman, this first bridge at the state’s capital city ‘was dedicated with elaborate ceremonies,” and it was regarded as ‘one of the architectural wonders of the New World . . . The writer of the first American book devoted to bridge construction, Thomas Pope, agreed. In A Treatise on Bridge Architecture (1811), he discussed important bridges in history . . . Julius Caesar’s timber bridge and various bridges in Tibet, China, Italy, Switzerland, Africa, Norway, France, and England. The bridge at Trenton was one of fewer than a dozen American bridges he mentioned. A major reason for its significance was its builder, Theodore Burr, one of the preeminent and sought-after bridge builders of the day.” – Steven Richman, The Bridges of New Jersey

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