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.
“He wrote at least a hundred letters to friends in and about Mühlhausen, extolling the virtues of the place—its fine climate—the freedom from restraint—the certainty of employment, etc. Many accepted and came. To each one was sent exact directions how to come, what to take—what to bring along, and what to leave behind. Most tools were to be left behind, because American tools were so much better, such as axes, hatchets, saws, grubbing hoes—nobody could cut down a tree with a German ax.” The
Tammany, “Honest John” Kelly, was letting it be known that the city of New York just might refuse to spend anymore money on the bridge. The move was seen by many as nothing more than a political maneuver to replace some of the bridge trustees with Tammany men and to subjugate Boss McLaughlin. No one had taken Kelly very seriously at first. But an installment from New York of half a million dollars was already three months overdue. (Brooklyn had met its obligation of one million dollars right on
point in life, thoroughly prepared. Having determined at the start of the séance that the spirit was indeed that of his wife, Roebling asked for Willie and Mary, their two dead children, for his own mother and father, and for Frederick Overman, a renowned German metallurgist from Philadelphia who appears to have been the one real friend he had ever had time for since leaving Saxonburg. Overman, dead for fifteen years by this time, once told Roebling that life was a result of movement and death
he is powerless to push Sellers: WAR to HCM, July 19, 1882, RPI; also New York Sun, August 17, 1882. “Newport has never looked more attractive”: Eagle, July 3, 1882. WARs “cottage” at Newport: The house still stands; it is now a Catholic convalescent home and is located, ironically, beside the Newport end of the gigantic new suspension bridge over Narragansett Bay. WAR will not “dance attendance on the Trustees”: Draft of a long letter to Comptroller Campbell, undated. RPI. It is not known
“very earnest in manner, a little severe even.” Everybody respected him, it appears, and it is not hard to see why. According to Stiles, “no public man has, probably, passed thus far through the trying ordeal of a legislative career, so entirely free from the taint of corruption.” Once upon a time, as some of his other admirers liked to tell, Henry Murphy had nearly become President of the United States. John Murphy, his father, a “thorough Jefferson Democrat,” had been a Brooklyn judge, a man