James B. Eads James Buchanan Eads was born in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, on May 23, 1820. He came to St. Louis when he was 13 years old. The boat trip to St. Louis ended in disaster when the boat caught fire. The family was left with only the clothes on their back. The financial needs of his family required young Eads to work, but he studied mechanics and other scientific books at night. In 1842, Eads developed a partnership with Case & Nelson boatbuilders. Their business involved rescuing wrecked boats and cargo from the Mississippi River. This was quite profitable as insurance companies would often pay a large portion of what was recovered to Eads and his company. In addition, freight that had been wrecked for five years belonged to whoever found it. At the age of 26, Eads married Martha Dillon, the daughter of a wealthy St. Louisan. After a brief run at establishing a glass factory, Eads continued and expanded his wreck recovery business, making him very wealthy. In 1857, he retired from the wreck recovery business because of his poor health. His wife passed away about the same time. Two years later he married the widow of his first cousin.