During their stay in New York the delegates made a trip north toward the Canadian border to visit Niagara Falls. Kunitake Kume made detailed descriptions of the falls in his diaries, mentioning the waterwheel and two suspension bridges that had been built over the Whirlpool Gorge downriver. The delegates crossed one of the suspension bridges, high and narrow above the water. Kume exclaimed, “When the bridge shook, we were all terrified!”
The first of the suspension bridges, the Niagara Railway Suspension Bridge, was designed by John A. Roebling and completed in 1855. The bridge could support enough weight for trains to cross, previously thought impossible for suspension bridges. It was a major engineering feat! The second bridge was the Niagara Falls and Clifton Suspension Bridge, completed in 1869. Roebling’s success wasn’t over – he went on to build the Brooklyn Bridge only a few years later.
The delegates’ impression of the incredible bridges has lived on, and today Japan possesses the longest central-span suspension bridge in the world. The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, connecting Kobe and Awaji Island, spans more than 1.2 miles between its towers.