Ferdinand William Roebling was a superb entrepreneur like his father, and the business manager and public face of the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company for nearly five decades. He had the largest family among the Roebling brothers and the only one to have sons who joined and eventually ran the Company.
Ferdinand was born in 1842, and was seven when the family moved to Trenton. Like his brother, Washington, he attended the Trenton Academy. When he was sixteen his father sent him to Columbian College, now George Washington University. He returned home a year later and commuted to the Polytechnic College of Philadelphia while starting to learn the wire rope business from Charles Swan, his father’s company manager since 1849.
After the death of John A. Roebling in 1869, Ferdinand gradually assumed the financial management of the business. When the Roebling brothers incorporated the Company in 1876, Ferdinand became Secretary-Treasurer. He used his financial and marketing acumen to expand the Company to more than fifty times its size when the brothers inherited it.
Ferdinand served on the boards of companies including Otis Elevator, a major Roebling customer, and he chaired civic committees that built Trenton City Hall in 1902 and the Trenton Public Library in 1910. In 1885, he built eight Romanesque townhouses on West State Street in Trenton that today are known as “Roebling Row.”
He and his wife, Margaret Allison Roebling, bought a house at 222 West State Street in Trenton and raised two daughters, Margaret Roebling Perrine and Augusta Roebling White, and two sons, Karl G. Roebling and Ferdinand W. Roebling, Jr. Both sons went on to serve as Presidents of the Company after Ferdinand died in 1917 at the age of 75. His grandson Joseph M. Roebling later became chairman of the Company and his grandson Ferdinand W. Roebling III later became Vice President.