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The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge (Touchstone Books)by David McCullough
Synopses & Reviews
This monumental book tells the enthralling story of one of the greatest accomplishments in our nations history, the building of what was then the longest suspension bridge in the world. The Brooklyn Bridge rose out of the expansive era following the Civil War, when Americans believed all things were possible.
So daring a concept as spanning the East River to join two great cities required vision and dedication of the kind that went into building Europe's great cathedrals. During fourteen years of construction, the odds against success seemed overwhelming. Thousands of people were put to work. Bodies were crushed and broken, lives lost, notorious political empires fell, and surges of public doubt constantly threatened the project. But the story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge is not just the saga of an engineering miracle; it is a sweeping narrative of the social climate of the time, replete with heroes and rascals who helped either to construct or to exploit the great enterprise.
The Great Bridge is also the story of a remarkable family, the Roeblings, who conceived and executed the audacious engineering plan at great personal cost. Without John Roebling's vision, his son Washington's skill and courage, and Washington's wife Emily's dedication, the bridge we know and cherish would never have been built.
Like the engineering marvel it describes, The Great Bridge, republished on the fortieth anniversary of its initial publication, has stood the test of time.
"The impact of the soaring structure upon the American imagination and American life has now been measured with sagacity and style by David McCullough....The Great Bridge is a book so compelling and complete as to be a literary monument, one of the best books I have read in years. McCullough has written that sort of work which brings us to the human center of the past." Robert Kirsch, Los Angeles Times
"After reading David McCullough's account, you will never look at the old bridge in quite the same way again." Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times
"The Great Bridge is a great book....What David McCullough has written is a stupendous narrative about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, with a cast of thousands (give or take 100), whose major characters come alive on the page as authentically, as creatively, as would their fictional counterparts if one had the imagination to dream up such a yarn. Once again, truth is not only stranger than fiction but a hell of a lot more entertaining. Get your hands on The Great Bridge.... This is the definitive book on the event. Do not wait for a better try: there won't be any." Norman Rosten, Newsday
"David McCullough has taken a dramatic and colorful episode out of the American past and described it in such a way that he sheds fresh light on a whole era in American history." Bruce Catton
"McCullough is one of our most gifted living writers." Marie Arana, The Washington Post
Published on the fortieth anniversary of its initial publication, this edition of the classic book contains a new Preface by David McCullough, 'one of our most gifted living writers' (The Washington Post).
Built to join the rapidly expanding cities of New York and Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge was thought by many at the start to be an impossibility destined to fail if not from insurmountable technical problems then from political corruption. (It was the heyday of Boss Tweed in New York.)
But the Brooklyn Bridge was at once the greatest engineering triumph of the age, a surpassing work of art, a proud American icon, and a story like no other in our history. Courage, chicanery, unprecedented ingenuity and plain blundering, heroes, rascals, all the best and worst in human nature played a part. At the center of the drama were the stricken chief engineer, Washington Roebling and his remarkable wife, Emily Warren Roebling, neither of whom ever gave up in the face of one heartbreaking setback after another.
The Great Bridge is a sweeping narrative of a stupendous American achievement that rose up out of its era like a cathedral, a symbol of affirmation then and still in our time.
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.
About the Author
David McCullough has been called a "master of the art of narrative history." His books have been praised for their exceptional narrative sweep, their scholarship and insight into American life, and for their literary distinction.
In the words of the citation accompanying his honorary degree from Yale, "As an historian, he paints with words, giving us pictures of the American people that live, breath, and above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement, and moral character."
Author of 1776, John Adams, Truman, The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, The Path between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, and Brave Companions, he has received the Pulitzer Prize twice (in 1993, for Truman, and, in 2001, for John Adams), the Francis Parkman Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and has twice won the National Book Award.
For his work overall he has been honored by the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the National Humanities Medal, the St. Louis Literary Award, the Carl Sandburg Award, and the New York Public Library's Literary Lion Award. None of his books has ever been out of print.
In a crowded, productive career, Mr. McCullough has been an editor, essayist, teacher, lecturer, and familiar presence on public television — as host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience, and narrator of numerous documentaries including The Civil War and Napoleon. He is a past president of the Society of American Historians. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received 31 honorary degrees.
A gifted speaker, Mr. McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, as well as at the White House, as part of the White House presidential lecture series. He is also one of the few private citizens to be asked to speak before a joint session of Congress.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, Mr. McCullough was educated there and at Yale, where he was graduated with honors in English literature. An avid reader, traveler, and landscape painter, he lives in West Tisbury, Massachusetts, with his wife Rosalee Barnes McCullough. They have five children and 15 grandchildren.
Table of Contents
1. The Plan
2. Man of Iron
3. The Genuine Language of America
4. Father and Son
6. The Proper Person to See
7. The Chief Engineer
8. All According to Plan
9. Down in the Caisson
11. The Past Catches Up
12. How Natural, Right, and Proper
13. The Mysterious Disorder
14. The Heroic Mode
15. At the Halfway Mark
16. Spirits of '76
17. A Perfect Pandemonium
18. Number 8, Birmingham Gauge
19. The Gigantic Spinning Machine
20. Wire Fraud
22. The Man in the Window
23. And Yet the Bridge Is Beautiful
24. The People's Day
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