James Buchanan Eads (1820-1887) was an American structural engineer and inventor. Eads made his initial fortune in salvage, by creating a diving bell for retrieving goods from the bottom of rivers that were sunk there by riverboat disasters, especially along the busy Mississippi River. In 1861, after the outbreak of the American Civil War he was contracted to construct the City class ironclads for the United States Navy, and produced seven such ships within five months. He continued to produce ironclad steamships throughout the war, which greatly aided the Union. Eads designed and built the first road and rail bridge to cross the Mississippi River, the famous Eads Bridge at St. Louis, Missouri, constructed from 1867 through 1874. He designed a gigantic railway system intended for construction at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which would carry ocean going ships across the isthmus from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean; this attracted some interest but was never constructed. In 1884 he became the first US citizen awarded the Albert Medal of the Society of the Arts.