Kansas City’s Hannibal Bridge: a bridge to the city’s future

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News


This week we offer a circa 1913 Detroit Publishing Phost-Tint postcard showing the original Hannibal Bridge over the Missouri River, taken during a period of high water, given the lack of a defined river bank and the height of the water on the bridge pylons. One could guess either the 1903 or 1908 floods.


The original Hannibal Bridge was designed by world-renowned engineer Octave Chanute and, at the time of its construction, was the first railroad bridge across the Missouri River. Its completion ultimately decided the fate of other river towns competing for the same bridge, those being Leavenworth and Atchison, Kan., and St. Joseph, Mo.


At that time, those cities were growing at a faster rate than Kansas City in not only population but also in livestock trading receipts. Thanks to the quick thinking of Congressman Robert Thompson Van Horn who introduced legislation on the House Floor that secured the funding for the bridge in Kansas City.


The bridge was a marvel of modern engineering that allowed one span of the bridge to swing aside to allow for the passage of river boat traffic. The bridge opened on July 3, 1869 to much fanfare and excitement. The festivities included brass bands, a hot-air balloon ascension and speeches by dignitaries announcing a great link for North and South trade.


In the foreground can be seen a giant knob of earth, a remnant of one of the rocky bluffs that existed prior to the construction of downtown. Two power poles can also be seen, their bases in the flood waters swirling over the railroad tracks at the edge of the river. What look like shanties stand at the base of the bluff adjacent to another set of railroad tracks barely visible in the bottom of the postcard.


By the mid-1910’s, however, the original span was fast becoming obsolete. The growth of Kansas City and the advent of the automobile made it imperative that a new bridge across the Missouri be constructed.


At the time, construction of the ASB (Armour, Swift and Burlington) Bridge was stalled, leaving the partially constructed bridge piers standing in the middle of the river like massive stone monoliths. Growth of the city meant a substantial growth in rail traffic across the old Hannibal Bridge, as well as the Chouteau Bridge farther east. To that end, an upgrade to the old bridge was needed.


The “new” Hannibal Bridge that opened in 1917 met this need, constructed with two levels, the upper portion designed for automobile traffic and the lower span designed for the railroad.


In 1956, when the “new” Broadway Bridge was opened, the upper deck of the old Hannibal was mostly dismantled and auto traffic was rerouted over the new span. The lower deck of the “old” Hannibal Bridge is still used extensively for railroad traffic across the river. In the modern chrome postcard, both the circa 1917 Hannibal Bridge is seen next to the new Broadway Bridge, now named for noted Negro Baseball League and Kansas City Monarch John “Buck” O’Neill.


Currently, construction is under way for a new bridge, slated for completion in 2024.


This card was mailed on July 21, 1913 to Miss Angie Blair of Medicine Lodge, Kan. The message reads: “Dear Friend, all well and doing fine. Pratt is on the boom of the chautauqua this week and the fair next. All send love and Mattie is well and sends love and everybody is getting along fine. A little warm but they are winding up harvest. Yours, M.J. McCleary.”

Want Northeast News articles sent straight to your inbox each week? Subscribe below!
Enter your email address and click on the Get Instant Access button.
We respect your privacy

Comments are closed.

  • Remember this? Turkey Salt and Pepper Shakers

    November 24th, 2021
    by

    By Dorri Partain This poultry pair is ready to offer up seasonings for the season. With tom turkey offering salt, […]


    Giving thanks amid a pandemic

    November 24th, 2021
    by

    By Michael Bushnell What Americans celebrate today as Thanksgiving is traditionally tied to a three-day feast involving the Pilgrims after […]


    Mid-Continent Airlines, The Chief Route North and South

    November 17th, 2021
    by

    By Michael Bushnell In today’s world of multi-billion dollar airline mergers and acquisitions, it’s difficult to conceive of a small […]


    Remember this? Gum wrapper chains

    November 17th, 2021
    by

    By Dorri Partain For a fun recycling project that’s suitable for all ages, save your chewing gum wrappers. While other […]


    NEKCHS visits Tiffany Castle

    November 17th, 2021
    by

    Members of the Northeast Kansas City Historical Society (NEKCHS) gathered at Tiffany Castle, 100 Garfield Ave., in the Pendleton Heights […]


    Help him through the game, 10¢ a day will do it.

    November 10th, 2021
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News In observance of Veteran’s Day, we bring you this circa 1919 postcard dedicated to raising funds […]


    Remember This?

    November 10th, 2021
    by

    Dorri Partain Contributor “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row…” This poem penned by Lt. […]


    A century of service

    November 3rd, 2021
    by

    Michael Bushnell Publisher These two black and white postcards from roughly 1940 show Assumption Parish and Convent located in the […]


  • Remember this?

    November 3rd, 2021
    by

    Dorri Partain Contributor Compared to mini-size chocolate bars, the popcorn ball is probably the last item in the Trick-or-Treat bag […]


    Historic Northeast’s American Legion Fountain

    October 27th, 2021
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News This is the second Historic postcard in a two week series spotlighting the American Legion Convention […]


    Remember this?

    October 27th, 2021
    by

    Dorri Partain Contributor Blast off with three stages of flavor with this aerodynamic confection. The Astro Pop debuted at the […]


    Remember This?

    October 20th, 2021
    by

    Dorri Partain Contributor It’s the peanut butter bar that wears the Texas star. Like many during the Depression, Basil Atkinson […]


    Centennial approaches for Liberty Memorial site dedication

    October 20th, 2021
    by

    Michael Bushnell Publisher This week we begin a two-card Historic Postcard series that centers on the dedication of the Liberty […]


    Remember This?

    October 13th, 2021
    by

    Dorri Partain Contributor In 1847, Americans did not have the vast array of chocolate-covered, nut-centered, colorful candies we enjoy today. […]


    The quality of mercy is not strained

    October 6th, 2021
    by

    Michael Bushnell Publisher General Hospital, or City Hospital as it was originally referred to, got its start in 1870 on […]


    Remember This?

    October 6th, 2021
    by

    Dorri Partain Contributor This sweet and crunchy candy was created by Salvatore Ferrara in 1924 as a new variety for […]


  • Faces Of Northeast


  • Remember This?

    Remember This?

    September 29th, 2021
    by

  • retorts illustrated by bryan stalder


  • Want articles sent directly to your inbox each week? Subscribe below!
    We respect your privacy and will not distribute your information.