The Great Bridge Book Summary


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

My Thoughts

Read this book because it relates to my current profession. It is a good book as far as research and clear writing. However, it is not that engaging or entertaining as a story, compared to similar historical books like The Power Broker. It would probably be more interesting for someone from New York.

For me the most interesting parts were the details on the bridge caissons and how they sunk the piers of the bridge.

My Favorite Quote

  • There remain yet many great works to build. – Washington Roebling, 1883
Time period: 1867-1883
Location: Brooklyn, New York

Key People

  • John Robeling
  • Washington Roebling
  • Emily Robeling
  • William Kingsley (General Contractor)
  • Charles Ellet Jr (another bridge  designer)
  • Henry Murphy
  • William Tweed (politician, business owner, president of Tammany hall)
  • Richard Connolly
  • Alfred Eli Beach (pneumatic tunnel)
  • James Buchanan Eads
  • Dr. Andrew H Smith
  • J Lloyd Hague (wire supplier)
  • Frank Farrington (master mechanic)
  • Seth Lowe mayor of Brooklyn at time of completion
  • James Stranahan
  • Abram Hewitt
  • C.C. Martin assistant engineer

Contemporary People, Places, and Events

  • Henry Ward Beecher (preacher)
  • Walt Whitman Brooklyn poet
  • John Henry
  • Civil War
  • Centennial Exhibition
  • Cardiff Giant hoax
  • Mark Twain
  • Tammany Hall
  • J Gould
  • Al Smith (child)
  • Grover Cleveland governor of New York at time of completion
  • Chester A Arther president at completion
  • P. T. Barnum
  • Robert B. Roosevelt, Uncle of Theodore Roosevelt
  • The telephone and electric light were introduced during the building of the bridge.

General Observations

  • At that time (1867) people had never imagined cities being built vertically. They thought Manhattan and NYC would be full soon and need to expand into Brooklyn.
  • Will we be building downward underground in the future like Elon Musk wants to do with tunneling?
  • Using steel was controversial at the time of the bridge building.
  • 1878 design of Bridge trusses changed from iron to steel.
  • The bridge was finished in the early spring of 1883.
  • 14 years to build
  • $15M total cost
  • 20-40 men died during the building
  • Grand opening ion May 24, 1883
  • Keywords describing the bridge and building progress: Science, Commerce, Courage
  • When asked if he might retire after the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, Washington Roebling said in 1883 there remained yet many great works to build. He was a visionary. Imagine how many works have been built since 1883.

Hope you enjoyed this and got value from my notes.
This is the 1st book read in my 2019 reading list.
Here is a list of my book summaries.

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