Smith, Latrobe & Co. History

Charles Shaler Smith – or “Shaler”, as he was called – was credited with introducing the use of Phoenix Columns in railroad trestles.  Shaler was considered the greatest American engineer of his day, responsible for an enormous amount of work, including four bridges over the Mississippi, one over the Missouri, and one over the Saint Lawrence. His company advertisements boasted of 13 miles of bridges, together with many other works such as roofs, depots, foundations, roundhouses, piers, etc. Shaler was most famous for his daring and innovative solutions to difficult engineering problems. Shaler died in St. Louis, Missouri in 1886 as the result of a fall while directing the erection of machinery at an exposition building. At his funeral, an elaborate model of a truss bridge with a railroad train, constructed of flowers stood at the altar rail.

Other members of this company included Benjamin Latrobe, whose greatest achievement was overseeing the extension of the B&O across the Allegheny Mountains, an undertaking considered impossible. Benjamin’s son, Charles Latrobe, was also a member of the company. He was famous for his work on the Arequipa Viaduct and the Verrugas Bridge in Peru, which at that time was the highest structure of its kind in the world.

The least known member of the firm was Frederick Henry Smith, probably a brother to Shaler. Frederick was appointed Engineer of Bridges for the City of Baltimore in 1873. He was also a consulting engineer for the Seaboard Air Line and held seven different patents.

Latrobe, Pennsylvania was named for Benjamin Latrobe of Smith, Latrobe & Co.  

A profile of the B&O Railroad drawn by Albert Fink when Benjamin Latrobe was the B&O’s Chief Engineer >

Smith, Latrobe & Co. Pamphlet

Pictured below is the only known surviving pamphlet published by the Smith, Latrobe & Co. 

These pictures are furnished courtesy of the Morrison Family Collection and the Ohio Historical Society.