Hurd V. Rock Island Bridge Company
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Hurd V. Rock Island Bridge Company

Hurd v. Rock Island Bridge Company (1857) is a landmark American civil case which won Abraham Lincoln fame as a lawyer.


America's expansion west, which Lincoln strongly supported, was seen as an economic threat to the river trade, which ran north-to-south, primarily on the Mississippi river. In 1856 a steamboat collided with a bridge, built by the Rock Island Railroad, between Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, the first railroad bridge to span the Mississippi. The steamboat owner sued for damages, claiming the bridge was a hazard to navigation. Lincoln argued in court for the railroad and won, removing a costly impediment to western expansion by establishing the right of land routes to bridge waterways.

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