THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE: They Said It Couldn't Be Built by Judith St. George

THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE: They Said It Couldn't Be Built

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The story is familiar from other chronicles of bridge-building (such as Corbett's Bridges, 1975) or engineering feats (Olney's They Said It Couldn't Be Done, 1975); but St. George devotes an entire book, aptly illustrated with old prints, to the personal aspects and easy-to-understand technical wonders of the Roeblings' admired achievement. The project is depicted here as a real family affair: designed in the mid-1800s by engineering genius John Roebling, who died surveying the site, then directed by his capable son Washington Roebling, a Civil War colonel, who drove himself despite several attacks of the bends until he was finally incapacitated, and then coordinated by the Colonel's wife Emily who relayed her sick husband's messages and conferred with engineers, workers, and trustees. Like previous chroniclers, St. George finds the Colonel a monumental hero, and she frequently describes his behavior in terms of military leadership virtues: courage, command, cool head, quick action, etc. One wishes at times for a Jean Fritz to point up a lovable wart or two. However, the credit St. George gives to Emily will be appreciated. (Mrs. Roebling had ""such a good mind,"" we're told, that she later graduated from law school at age 55.) And the engineering story is an impressive and exciting one, from the lowering of the first caisson, the subsequent frightening fire and other crises, to the jubilant celebration with President Chester Arthur leading a procession across the promenade to a reception at the Roeblings'. This will be in time for a Centennial celebration planned for 1983.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1982
Publisher: Putnam