A year later, Meyer was applying similar
expertise to the construction of an international railway bridge across the Niagara River.
In each case, it is interesting to note that the
genius behind these innovative projects was
supplied by European emigre engineers—
German John Augustus Roebling in Brooklyn
and the Russian-born Pole Casimir Gzowski
in Canada. Although Roebling had died in
1869, one wonders whether young Meyer drew
inspiration from these architects of modern
industrial America. Certainly, he continued to
regard engineers as the master builders of the
New World. In 1921, some years after his death,
the New York Port and Terminal Publishing Company published Meyer’s engineering
magnum opus under the workmanlike title of
Pier and Wharf Units of the United States. Time
ashore in the early 1870s also served to establish a domestic foundation: in 1873, Meyer
married Mary Anna Stonebanks, daughter of a
well-placed Long Island family with hereditary
ties to the Earl of Lumley in England. Meyer
thus married well above his station.
But the sea continued to beckon. Meyer
returned to his oceanic ways, captaining
vessels out of the east coast of America. In
1874, on a voyage from New York to China
his vessel was dismasted off Bermuda, where
it was towed for repairs. St. George thrived
on such windfall business. Distressed ships
were unavoidably at its mercy for repairs or, as
the steamship began to dominate the seas, for
coal to replenish their bunkers. With time on
his hands while his ship was being repaired,
Meyer took work with William C. Hyland,
a linchpin of local business. Hyland not only
dominated ship provisioning, but was a cog in
the town’s politics, religion and fraternal orga-
nizations. As master of the waterfront, mayor
and Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge, he
presented Meyer with a model of success in
the tiny colony. The young German-American
liked what he saw and decided to stay.
Meyer prospered in Bermuda. He became a
shipping broker, arranging for the movement
of vessels frequenting St. George’s Harbour.
At the same time, he stockpiled coal for
ships seeking to continue long voyages across
the Atlantic. He also became a ship owner
in his own right and launched his own ship
repair business. His small fleet of tugs pulled
crippled vessels off the Atlantic into the
safety of St. George’s Harbour. When ships
proved beyond repair, Meyer bought the hulks
and scavenged them for parts. Over time,
these derelict vessels constituted a maritime
graveyard. All this, Meyer orchestrated from
his wharf—Meyer’s Wharf to this day—at the
east end of the harbour.
back in Rhode Island and out of uniform.
Still a young man in his early twenties, Meyer
turned to the opportunities of peace. Education
seemed the key to a better future.
y the time the Civil War ended in
April 1865, Meyer was a student
at the Providence Conference
Seminary in East Greenwich,
Bridge, where he specialised in constructing the
huge wooden caissons which provided a sure
footing for the cement, granite and limestone
towers which supported the great suspension
bridge. The work was dangerous—underwater
tunnelling released noxious gases that fre-
quently led to explosions and asphyxiation.
IN THE 1870’S AS AN ASSISTANT ENGINEER, MEYER HELPED TO BUILD THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE, WHERE HE SPECIALISED IN CONSTRUC TING THE HUGE WOODEN CAISSONS WHICH PROVIDED
A SURE FOO TING FOR THE TO WERS WHICH SUPPORTED THE GREAT SUSPENSION BRIDGE.