Ralph Modjeski (1861-1940)

Polish Immigrant Becomes Famous Engineer and Bridge Builder

Ralph Modjeski, considered "America's greatest bridge builder", was born in Bochnia, near the city of Krakow, Poland on January 27, 1861. He immigrated to America at the age of 15 with his mother, famous Shakespearean actress, Helen Modjeska, in July, 1876. Even though Modjeski seemed destined to become an accomplished concert pianist, he went on instead to become a highly successful civil engineer and "one of the twentieth century's most famous designers and builders of bridges". In 1929, Modjeski was awarded the John Fritz Gold Medal, the highest American engineering medal, with a citation for his genius in combining strength and beauty. He was also honored by the Pennsylvania state legislature in 1966 by a resolution citing him as one of America's "greatest inventors".

Bridge Image
Despite his busy engineering career, he found time to relax playing the piano for several hours daily. He remained professionally active until 1936 and died in 1940. The bridge engineering consulting firm established by Modjeski in 1893 continues to operate under the name of Modjeski and Masters, with offices in Pennsylvania and several other states.
Ben Franklin Bridge(click here for larger size)

Ben Franklin Bridge

(click here for larger size)

 Modjeski's Major Accomplishments Include:
  • Thebes Bridge over the Mississippi River at Thebes, Illinois - opened in 1904
  • Benjamin Franklin Bridge between Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey - opened in 1926
  • (Considered Modjeski's greatest achievement)
  • Tacony-Palmyra Bridge over the Delaware River in Northeast Philadelphia - opened in 1929
  • Trans-Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland, California - opened in 1936
  • Blue Water Bridge connecting Port Huron, Michigan with Sarnia, Ontario, Canada - opened in 1938


The Polish Bridge Builder - by Kaya Mirecka Ploss, PhD

Modjeski and Masters Consulting Engineers

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