The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge
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The dramatic and enthralling story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge at the time, a tale of greed, corruption, and obstruction but also of optimism, heroism, and determination, told by master historian David McCullough.
This monumental book is the enthralling story of one of the greatest events in our nation’s history, during the Age of Optimism—a period when Americans were convinced in their hearts that all things were possible.
In the years around 1870, when the project was first undertaken, the concept of building an unprecedented bridge to span the East River between the great cities of Manhattan and Brooklyn required a vision and determination comparable to that which went into the building of the great cathedrals. Throughout the fourteen years of its construction, the odds against the successful completion of the bridge seemed staggering. Bodies were crushed and broken, lives lost, political empires fell, and surges of public emotion constantly threatened the project. But this is not merely the saga of an engineering miracle; it is a sweeping narrative of the social climate of the time and of the heroes and rascals who had a hand in either constructing or exploiting the surpassing enterprise.
steam engine located on the Brooklyn side. “These two tracks, therefore, will be treated exactly like an inclined plane, an operation perfectly simple and perfectly well understood,” his father had written. “There is no novel feature and no experiment involved in its arrangement.” The elder Roebling had proposed an effective running speed of twenty miles per hour, but said that could be stepped up to thirty in the center of the bridge, or even forty, with absolute safety. Each train could have as
during Low’s flying visit to Newport? Semler answered that Roebling had indeed quoted from his conversation with Low, but Semler said he did not think he ought to repeat Roebling’s remarks for publication. As it was, very little more would be said for publication by anyone until the trustees gathered to cast their votes the following Monday, September 11. But between Semler’s return and the crucial meeting of the board, Roebling had still one more visitor at Newport—a reporter for the New York
was busily at work under a black hood. Arthur, it was said, “trod the pathway with an elastic step” and “looked with evident admiration at the structure opening up to view.” (The next day a Broadway shoe merchant took space in the papers to announce that his “easy walking” shoes, made on patented lasts, had been “tested” at the opening of the bridge by President Arthur.) Cleveland was described as having a “wobbling gait,” like a London alderman. Just before the New York tower the Seventh
cannon boomed. Bells rang, people were cheering wildly on every side. The band played “Hail to the Chief” maybe six or seven more times, and as the New York Sun reported, “the climax of fourteen years’ suspense seemed to have been reached, since the President of the United States of America had walked dry shod to Brooklyn from New York.” Under the arched roof of the great iron terminal some six thousand people were waiting. Enormous American flags hanging overhead were the only decorations but
a try, whatever the supposed risks involved. But Roebling had held off. In such a dense atmosphere, he reasoned, a violent concussion might rupture the eardrums of every man inside. Smoke from the explosions might make the air even more noxious and certainly more unpleasant than it already was. The doors and valves of the air locks might be damaged. His greatest fear, however, was the possible effect on the water shafts. The two immense columns of water that stood above the work chambers and