From School Library Journal
Grade 6- 10 This is an account of the Mohawk ironworkers who "toiled at the edge of the possible" in the construction of bridges and skyscrapers. It opens with a chapter on the cultural history of Southern New England's "People of the Flint." After decimation by European diseases in the 1600s, the Mohawks regrouped along the border of New York and Canada, where the men worked as boatmen transporting furs to trading posts. In 1886, construction began on the Victoria Bridge, with Mohawks supplying the timber and stone. With the construction of additional bridges, they made the shift from unskilled laborers to skilled ironworkers. As the steel industry expanded in the early 1900s, Mohawks were poised to be an invaluable workforce in the construction of taller and bigger bridges and buildings. Inevitably, there were some disasters, namely the Quebec Bridge collapse in 1907 that killed scores of men. Weitzman's depiction of this event is both moving and evenhanded. Mohawk ironworkers began branching out to construction sites in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and especially New York City, where they participated in the construction of the Empire State Building and other skyscrapers. Weitzman displays an obvious respect for his subject, and he deftly handles the more technical details of ironworking. Abundant archival photos and primary-source quotes lend realism and drama to the text. This winning blend of architectural history, anthropology, and American Indian achievement compares favorably to series such as "Building History" (Lucent). It will be especially useful for report writers. Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA
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*Starred Review* How did Mohawk men come to build America’s skyscrapers? The discussion begins with traditional Mohawk society as reported by colonial sources and fast-forwards to the 1800s, when the railways made wooden bridges obsolete and ushered in iron and steel technology. Hardworking and courageous, Mohawks learned ironwork on bridges. After a poorly designed steel bridge in Quebec collapsed during construction in 1907, killing many men from a single Mohawk community, those remaining began to work further afield on separate building projects. Many became ironworkers on skyscrapers in New York and other cities, a tradition that continues today. Quotes from primary sources are used very effectively throughout this well-written book, with an author’s note, glossary, source notes, and bibliography appended. Creating a sense of impending disaster, the chapter on the Quebec bridge collapse writes that the designer dismissed alarming reports by workers and engineers and includes a dramatic narrative of the final days. Later chapters trace the history and traditions of Mohawk ironworkers throughout the last century and consider myths and realities of their portrayal in the media. The choice of period photos is excellent. Few writers make engineering and construction as fascinating as Weitzman, the author-illustrator of Pharaoh’s Boat (2009). Grades 7-10. --Carolyn Phelan