Cable-stayed bridges have been known since the 16th century and used widely since the 19th. Early examples often combined features from both the cable-stayed and suspension designs, including the famous Brooklyn Bridge. The design fell from favor through the 20th century as larger gaps were bridged using pure suspension designs, and shorter ones using various systems built of reinforced concrete. It once again rose to prominence in the later 20th century when the combination of new materials, larger construction machinery, and the need to replace older bridges all lowered the relative price of these designs.
Cable-stayed bridges date back to 1595, where designs were found in Machinae Novae, a book by Venetian inventor Fausto Veranzio. Many early suspension bridges were cable-stayed construction, including the 1817 footbridge Dryburgh Abbey Bridge, James Dredge's patented Victoria Bridge, Bath (1836), and the later Albert Bridge (1872) and Brooklyn Bridge (1883). Their designers found that the combination of technologies created a stiffer bridge. John A. Roebling took particular advantage of this to limit deformations due to railway loads in the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge.
The earliest known surviving example of a true cable-stayed bridge in the United States is E.E. Runyon's largely intact steel or iron Bluff Dale Suspension bridge with wooden stringers and decking in Bluff Dale, Texas (1890), or his weeks earlier but ruined Barton Creek Bridge between Huckabay, Texas and Gordon, Texas (1889 or 1890). In the twentieth century, early examples of cable-stayed bridges included A. Gisclard's unusual Cassagnes bridge (1899), in which the horizontal part of the cable forces is balanced by a separate horizontal tie cable, preventing significant compression in the deck, and G. Leinekugel le Coq's bridge at Lézardrieux in Brittany (1924). Eduardo Torroja designed a cable-stayed aqueduct at Tempul in 1926. Albert Caquot's 1952 concrete-decked cable-stayed bridge over the Donzère-Mondragon canal at Pierrelatte is one of the first of the modern type, but had little influence on later development. The steel-decked Strömsund Bridge designed by Franz Dischinger (1955) is, therefore, more often cited as the first modern cable-stayed bridge.
Other key pioneers included Fabrizio de Miranda, Riccardo Morandi, and Fritz Leonhardt. Early bridges from this period used very few stay cables, as in the Theodor Heuss Bridge (1958). However, this involves substantial erection costs, and more modern structures tend to use many more cables to ensure greater economy.
Cable-stayed bridges may appear to be similar to suspension bridges, but in fact, they are quite different in principle and in their construction.