Book Review Thursday: The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“In another time and in what would seem another world, on a day when two young men were walking on the moon, a very old woman on Long Island would tell reporters that the public excitement over the feat was not so much compared to what she had seen ‘on the day they opened the Brooklyn Bridge.’”

As nineteenth century achievements go, building the bridge across the East River between New York City and Brooklyn deserves consideration as one of the most amazing American accomplishments.  Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough tells the story – and I mean the whole story – in explicit detail from conception to opening day and beyond.

The bridge, originally designed by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling, was engineered by his son Washington after John died from injuries received while surveying the project.  With a well-publicized track record of building short-span suspension bridges, the Roeblings were imminently qualified to undertake this monstrously huge project.

Thousands and thousands of details, both large and small, had to be considered, managed, re-tooled and successfully completed, a process which took fourteen years to complete.  Some of the more difficult aspects of the project turned out to be the political chicanery on both sides of the river and public criticism fanned by local newspapers.

Because David McCullough is always thorough in his research I found myself a bit overwhelmed at times with some of the minutia, but it didn’t deter me from thoroughly enjoying this great book about the history of the Brooklyn Bridge.  I might have skimmed through some parts, but it still was a fabulous read and chock-full of interesting historical details and tidbits.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Washington Roebling’s wife played a significant role during the project after he was stricken with decompression sickness.

It reminded me of a similar book I read recently and reviewed here – Erik Larsen’s Devil in the White City which detailed another astounding accomplishment, Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair.  Anyone interested in nineteenth century history will find this a great read – just don’t expect it to be a quick one!

Rating:  ★★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2015.


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