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Bridge load limits of 1901

A look back at some of the laws of 1901.

JSSP KN Column

Different situations called for different laws 120 years ago.

Take, for example, you wanted to spend a quiet evening at home reading a magazine or book in your easy chair.

Back in 1901, that reading would have been done in the glow of a kerosene lamp. The problem was that low-quality kerosene would make that kerosene lamp sputter and maybe even go out altogether.

L.C. L’Moore, local veterinarian and sometimes law enforcement officer, as well as father of Western author Louis L’Amour, had such problems.


He told The Jamestown Alert that he had installed a new wick just to test some kerosene he purchased and found that “in less than two hours, the light went out.”

L’Moore wrote a letter to the state oil inspector, who vowed to come to Jamestown to investigate the problem of low-quality kerosene in Jamestown.

The technology of lighting a home and obviously we no longer have a state oil inspector to make sure our kerosene lamps keep the home parlor in a well-lit glow in one change of law in the past 120 years.

The city of Jamestown passed some new ordinances regarding the use of the city’s bridges in December of 1901.

Evidently, there were no rules on how to cross a bridge in Jamestown prior to 1901.

The first part of the ordinance prohibited riding or driving a horse across a bridge in Jamestown at a pace faster than a walk. No more trotting your horse and buggy across any bridge in Jamestown at breakneck speeds.

The second part of the ordinance placed a weight limit for the bridges in Jamestown. Weight limits are still in place on some bridges and might be 10,000 pounds or higher, depending on the bridge condition.

Weight limits placed on bridges in Jamestown in 1901 did not specify a specific maximum weight for safely crossing a city bridge.


Instead, the limit was placed at 20 horses or cows or 200 sheep.

I’m not sure when the weight limits for Jamestown bridge’s changed from animals to pounds but it probably was after trucks and trailers became more common than driving a herd of animals through town.

But, keep in mind, in Jamestown in 1901 it was legal to drive a herd of 199 sheep through Jamestown even if you had to cross a bridge to get to your destination.

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Related Topics: HISTORY
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