RSE History

John F. Alden, Class of 1872- Published in The Polytechnic, April 1, 1917

John F. Alden died at his home 50 Meigs Street, Rochester, N. Y., on February 27, 1917. He was born in Cohoes in March, 1852, and was a direct descendant in the eighth generation of John Alden of Plymouth Colony. He received his education in private schools in Albany, and then at the Institute, from which he graduated in 1872.  He was a member of the Pi Eta Scientific Fraternity while at the Institute.  (Editors Note"  Pi Eta was later renamed The Rensselaer Society of Engineers.)

His first position was as assistant engineer on the construction of the New York Central Railroad Bridge over the Hudson at Albany. In 1875, however, he moved to Rochester and took a position as assistant engineer at the Leighton Bridge and Iron Works. Three years later, he was made chief engineer and a member of the firm.  Then, in 1880, he formed a partnership with Moritz Lassig of Chicago and established the firm of Alden and Lassig, with establishments both in Chicago and Rochester. 

This firm continued for five years when the partners separated and Mr. Alden reorganized the Rochester plant under the name of the Rochester Bridge and Iron Works.  He was sole proprietor of this from 1885 to 1901, in which year he sold out to the American Bridge Company of which he had been a director and with which he was connected at the time of his death.  He was very well known in his profession for he built many bridges which have been widely spoken of. His most notable achievement was the successful construction of the Driving Park Avenue Bridge in Rochester which others had twice attempted and failed. He also built the bridge over the Columbia River at Paseo, Washington, two large viaducts at Los Angeles, California, the upper suspension bridge at Niagara Falls, several bridges for the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad, and other bridges throughout the country.

The structural steel work which he did for the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893 is also noteworthy.  He was formerly director of the Traders National Bank and the Genesee Valley Trust Company both of Rochester, so that his prominence was not in industrial circles alone. He was also president of the Locke Insulator Company of Victor and a member of several societies,—Rochester Society of Civil Engineers, the Chamber of Commerce, the Alden Kindred of America, and third vice-president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.