Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Great Bridge, by David McCullough

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge, by David McCullough

I have an interest in biographies, but this one is a bit different; instead of detailing the life of a person, this tells the tale of the Brooklyn Bridge. A father and son were the main architects of the project; first the father, John A. Roebling, and then when he dies his son, Washington Roebling takes over. At the time, the techniques these two used to erect the bridge were revolutionary and McCullough spares no details when discussing how it was all done. The largest caissons ever built were used for the tower foundations and the cables and anchors were constructed using ingenious arrangements never before seen. Many people were terrified that the bridge would collapse because of these untried technologies, but as the bridge still stands obviously these fears were unfounded.

The late 1800’s was the time of much political corruption, and McCullough covers this thoroughly as well. (Quotes such as, “No Democrat can be trusted, they are all disloyal and treacherous, more or less;” made me smile.) Boss Tweed, Chester Arthur, and Grover Cleveland were a few of the famous names that were involved—names I recognized but didn’t know much about. One of the joys of reading this was the added research that came along about this era in American history. The story of the bridge is interesting, but the view into the political and social times is fascinating.

First Sentence:
They met at his request on at least six different occasions, beginning in February 1869.

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