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The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge Paperback – January 12, 1983
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In the 19th century, the Brooklyn Bridge was viewed as the greatest engineering feat of mankind. The Roeblings--father and son--toiled for decades, fighting competitors, corrupt politicians, and the laws of nature to fabricate a bridge which, after 100 years, still provides one of the major avenues of access to one of the world's busiest cities--as compared to many bridges built at the same time which collapsed within decades or even years. It is refreshing to read such a magnificent story of real architecture and engineering in an era where these words refer to tiny bits and bytes that inspire awe only in their abstract consequences, and not in their tangible physical magnificence.
“After reading David McCullough’s account, you will never look at the old bridge in quite the same way again.”
—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
"The Great Bridge is a great book. . . . This is the definitive book on the event. Do not wait for a better try: there won't be any."
—Norman Rosten, Newsday
"The Great Bridge is a book so compelling and complete as to be a literary monument. . . . McCullough has written that sort of work which brings us to the human center of the past."
—Los Angeles Times
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In this case McCullough takes us back to 19th century New York City, comparing and contrasting Manhattan and Brooklyn. He explains the initial impetus for a bridge over the East River to connect the 2 cities, how it would affect the lifestyles and economies of both cities.
The book is covering an exciting time in America when large engineering projects were being accomplished which would lay an infrastructure which made the 20th century economy possible. He covers other bridge builders and their projects notably the Eads bridge over the Mississippi.
As a lot of people know the Roebling family sacrifices made the Brooklyn bridge possible. Mccullough
covers the life of German born Joeseph Roebling an educated engineer who emigrated to Pennsylvania and founded a community of Germans. After about a decade however Roebling went back into engineering and began a series of high profile suspension bridges, notably Roebling bridge in Cincinnati and a railroad bridge over the Niagara river.
When Roebling began work on the Brooklyn bridge his son was his main assistant – Washington Roebling. Unfortunately after his foot was injured in an on the job accident, Joeseph Roebling contracted gangrene and died. His son had to take over as the main engineer for the bridge and he accomplished it by using caissons to sink the foundation of the towers. At that time the medical issues associated with working in pressures greater than one atmosphere were not well understood. Washington Roebling basically sacrificed his life due to his becoming chronically ill from having worked in the caissons and suffering the bends repeatedly. He was bedridden for years, but still managed to manage the project from his home in Brooklyn.
There were some drawbacks to this book, mostly in the middle parts of it. I don't think that the book did a great job of describing the “how to” part of building the bridge. I had seen a special on the history channel on building the bridge. Without that I don't think the book would have made clear what was involved in the caissons and “spinning the wire” . Also the book gets a little bogged down in the politics behind building the bridge, the graft and corruption involved.
Overall though this was a good book to help you understand what went into building a great American landmark.