A History of Wire Rope in America

Wire rope is an invention that we take for granted today, but its impact on America’s major industries can’t be overstated. Its textured history has led to a more innovative, productive and efficient country. Let’s explore how wire rope became such a behemoth here in our country.

The Origin of Rope

It is impossible to talk about wire rope in America without first understanding the rich, layered history of rope in early civilizations. The oldest ropes date back to approximately 12000 BC, and remnants of old rope have been found in Finland and Egypt, dating back 4000+ years.

Since its creation, rope has allowed us to pull and lift incredible loads that would otherwise be impossible. In 1586, the builder Frederico Fontana supervised the erection of an obelisk in Rome that took 900 men, 75 horses and many reeving systems to lift, but only through the power of rope.

Wire Rope’s Invention in Germany

In the early 19th century, the German mining official, Wilhelm Albert, developed the modern wire rope as we know it. His goal was to create a rope that was superior to hemp rope, and improve transportation within mines. When Albert’s rope was tested in 1834, it had six times the load capacity of hemp rope. Wire rope’s quality was further refined and its popularity quickly spread to Europe and North America.

Wire Rope in America

The most notable early use of wire rope in America came in 1841, when John A. Roebling used it to build suspension bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge in 1869. Many mining and railroad companies sought to capitalize on Roebling’s success, and a number of railroad initiatives were spearheaded in 1830 and 40s Pennsylvania.

Deep shaft mining grew in popularity over the next several decades, and with it, the use of wire rope to hoist loads on inclined plane railways. The German engineering company Adolf Bleichert & Co. dominated globally in the 1870s, building aerial tramways that used wire rope and extending its reach to systems across America.

Wire rope also had a profound impact on San Francisco in the 1880s. Horses and steam engines struggled to pull trams up the city slopes, so an early version of the cable car that utilized wire rope was used instead.

Wire Rope Today

In 1983, Southwest Wire Rope’s “Gold Strand” wire rope was introduced, recognizable for its distinctive gold-colored strand. For over 40 years, Gold Strand wire rope has been synonymous with quality and innovation, and is recognized by professional rigging companies worldwide.

In coming years, wire rope will continue to aid industries across America as a powerful rigging tool in mining, manufacturing and construction. At Southwest Wire Rope, we pride ourselves on 50+ years as a quality wire rope provider. 

Explore our products online or contact us to learn more.