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The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge
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The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  5,721 ratings  ·  672 reviews
First published in 1972, The Great Bridge is the classic account of one of the greatest engineering feats of all time. Winning acclaim for its comprehensive look at the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, this book helped cement David McCullough's reputation as America's preeminent social historian. Now, The Great Bridge is reissued as a Simon & Schuster Classic Edition w ...more
Published May 15th 2012 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 1972)
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James Van Duker
When I picked up this book, I was daring McCullough to get me to read the whole thing. How could a 562 page book about a bridge -- not to meantion an antiquated bridge, not the modern technological wonders of today -- keep me going that long, I thought? Yet I had heard reviews...I had to find out what they were talking about.

I finished the book in two weeks, and as it turns out, it's not just a book about a bridge (that really would be boring), it's a book about the people and events in one of
Sep 24, 2007 Jhopec rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in history, architecture, and New York City
As David McCullough is one of my favorite writers about history, I expected a lot from this book and was not disappointed. Aside from the immensely engaging story of the obstacles, both engineering and human, faced and overcome to build the bridge, I was struck once again by the cavalier way most of us take great accomplishments for granted. Thank goodness there are people like David McCullough who do not!

I've read this book and listened to it a couple of times on CD, and it never fails to fasci
Mike Tully
One of the best non fiction books I've read. David McCullough is an extraordinary historical writer. To understand that this bridge was built over 150 years ago without all the modern excavation tools and equipment that we have today is amazing. The Brooklyn Bridge is still standing and still a valuable asset to travelers to this day.
Ally A
The book The Great Bridge by David McCullough was a very detailed account of the long and troublesome building of the Brooklyn Bridge. It starts with John Roebling and his design and plans for the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. When he eventually passes away his son Washington Roebling takes over and continues where his father left off. Washington Roebling and his team encounter many different problems and political situation that add time and frustration to the total time it will take to buil ...more
I feel like I've accomplished something as big as the Brooklyn Bridge now that I've read this book. While the building of the bridge was fascinating, McCullough's attention to detail got a but much at times, although certainly not enough to make me stop reading. Washington Roebling and his father John both had a hand in the design. After John died, Washington took over and saw it through to the end which took 14 years. It was a spectacular accomplishment and at the time was considered the eighth ...more
David McCullough's "The Great Bridge" reveals to its readers the entire history of the Brooklyn Bridge, from the start of the construction in 1869 to its completion in 1883. The book contains little known facts about the lives of John A. Roebling, the engineer who originally developed the idea for the Brooklyn Bridge, and Washington Roebling, John's son, who continued directing construction on the bridge after his father died.

Overall, the book is thoroughly enjoyable. Especially impressive is
Thorough -- and I mean seriously thorough. Reading about the politics of the day was fascinating, but I found the discussion on the bridge's engineering to be tedious (it's not my thing). In the end, however, what really struck me was although the bridge was not without controversy, people got on board -- they wanted this thing built. This wonderful marvel of public works was built (and at great expense) so that generations could benefit. I wish the US would move more toward that sense of commun ...more
Seth Jenson
I liked the latter half of this book better than the first. I got tired of the stories of political corruption in New York during that time as well as all the details about the the technical aspects of the construction and lowering of the caissons used for the foundations on the bridge on the New York and Brooklyn sides of the river. At the same time, I don't know how the author could've left much of it out. I guess I wish he would've made a bit more concise for guys like me that just wanna get ...more
A big book for a big bridge! I enjoyed my first walk on the bridge with my daughter and I enjoyed reading the book. It provides a good blow-by-blow on construction- the story I was interested in. It also weaves through the personal lives, city politics, and people's behavior. My one observation is that each person in the story is either a good person or a bad guy (no bad women)! People and history are rarely one dimensional... I don't know what to make of this- although the good people did win a ...more
I listened to this story on audio book. There were a couple of spots where it was a little slow, but for the most part this was an intriguing story. One of the most interesting aspects, for me, was learning of the involvement of Emily Roebling. John Roebling was the man with the idea of the Brooklyn Bridge, but he died before the bridge had hardly taken off. His son, Washington, became the chief engineer, but he became very ill during the construction, so his wife, Emily, took over many of the r ...more
It is not easy to build bridges.

Let me bring up a local case, of a bridge between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Canada, has led to years of heartache, political opposition from stubborn 80-year old billionaires, controversial political deals with the devil, and years of time spent. And the thing hasn't even been built yet.

McCullough covers not only the political side of Bridge-building, but the technical side well. This is arguably his most famous book, and with good reason. He makes the dulles
Although I had to renew this book from the library, I could not stop talking about it to anyone who would listen. The story of this bridge begins with the father and his life in Germany, and how he came to America. Then there are the bridges he built. And the idea he had for spanning the East River (not a real river after all) from Brooklyn to New York City.

I had no idea it was built a few years after the Civil War or that it was built in a time when so many other important events were happenin
James Christensen
The Great Bridge
The Great Bridge by David McCullough (Hist) '08 the story of the design and building of the Brooklyn Bridge by John and Washington A. Roebling (father and son).

Fascinating story of the building of something never built prior to that day on that scale, the incredible sacrifices made, the political graft, the honour of the designer and builder, and the ingenuity of two very brilliant minds.


"Mark Twain said of New York, 'Every man seems to feel he has got the duties of two li
Erik Graff
Apr 27, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: McCullough fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
McCullough has improved as a writer since this book came out in 1972, but he was writing well enough even back then to carry this reader through almost seven hundred pages in three days.

One of the first grownup books I remember reading was a history of scams involving the sale of the Brooklyn Bridge. Now, finally, I've read about the construction of the thing, years after having lived in Manhattan and driven across it repeatedly and unappreciatively.

Of course McCullough, a social historian, wri
CV Rick
Amazingly good, and completely engaging. I didn't have high hopes for a history of the Brooklyn Bridge, but I've liked other books by the author so I picked it up and once started I couldn't stop reading.

This is one of those history books where the reader discoveries unique treasures on page after page - from the early research and treatment of the bends to the amazing story of Washington Roebling who supervised and created the bridge engineering from his bed where he was infirmed for most of th
Jill Hutchinson
Now wouldn't you think that a book about the building of a bridge would be rather dry and uninteresting? Not if it is written by historian David McCullough, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. An amazing amount of research has gone into this history of the Brooklyn Bridge.....from the dream of a father (John Roebling) to a reality by the son (Washington Roebling). We sometimes take for granted such icons as this bridge spanning the East River and never realize what it takes to make an idea a reali ...more
Alec Glucksman
Put simply, David McCullough could make reading about grass growing sound like a fascinating and profound topic. The Great Bridge is the first book of his that I have read, and I am interested in reading more--when I can devote proper time to getting through another of his tomes.

The book chronicles the entire history of the Brooklyn Bridge, from the history of suspension bridges to the backgrounds of the architects and engineers to the political machines on the board of the bridge... all that,
This book almost pursuaded me to become a civil engineer! It was great. The technical aspects of building the bridge were facinating. I am amazed at what Washington Roebling was able to accomplish on such a grand scale. Here I am playing with little antennas and electronics on a day to day basis, and here he is sinking huge caissons deep below the river to build a giant bridge on which people, automobiles, animals and trains will travel.

The engineering technicalities were only half of what made
This was one of David McCullough's earliest works. His writing style apparent in his later works is also apparent in this. The story is incredible and heartening. I became scuba certified last year and had no appreciation for the knowledge gained by those early caisson workers in the areas of effects of excess atmospheric pressure on the human body.

Several years ago, my wife and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge while on a short trip to New York City. It was "neat" but I had no understanding
Finally got to this one! Epic story of 14 year struggle to erect the Brooklyn Bridge and of the remarkable Roebling family who were chiefly responsible. There is a fair amount of engineering and financial complexity in here that is over my head but it's still a terrific story. Author handles the efforts of politicians to throw Washington Roebling out as chief engineer as equitably as he can. It's astonishing how many bridges collapsed worldwide in the 1870s. No wonder so many people made the con ...more
Shae Johnson
Though it took me a long time to finish reading, I really enjoyed learning about the 14 years of building the Brooklyn Bridge. It is hard to believe that the building began in 1869, just 4 years after the Civil War! And, while the building was going on, Custer is having his last stand!
There were places where many details are beyond my comprehension, having to do with the construction, so that made the reading a bit tedious in places. I especially enjoyed the human interest and historical refer
Fascinating read, but would have been improved with photographs, the more the better. Often times it was very challenging to visualize a process in the construction of the bridge with only the author's words to imagine something I know very little about. I would have loved period photographs and contemporay photos, and reproductions of the architectural drafts. I guess I could say that this book will make me seek out the images that were not in the book, and therefore, it encourages me to contin ...more
Evan Hays
This is mostly my fault, but I listened to the audiobook version of this, which was an abridged version. Credit @storiesandthyme for helping me realize how funny it is that I read an abridged version of a book about a bridge. Anyway, I loved what there was of this book, but there were certainly gaps. In other words, I am fairly sure the missing pieces of the book were not entirely the fault of the abridgment, and that some of it was the author's fault. But I think it was mostly the abridgment.

David Mclaughlin
I've read several other works by David McCullough but this one has been by far the most enjoyable to read. At first I was ambivalent about reading a 560 page book on the building of bridge; how could this be anything but a dull and tedious treatise? However, this proved to be completely unfounded. McCullough employs his typical flair for matching historical insight with a prose and narrative style that is exceedingly readable; one can almost feel the earnestness of the author and is instantly in ...more
David McCullough's richly detailed account of the inception and building of the bridge is an expertly compiled history.

Not only does the reader learn what the Bridge meant to New York but also, we experienced the history and the politics around it.

McCullough takes his readers through the difficulty in engineering the project. John Roebling and his Brooklyn Bridge team had to get Albany's blessing and then Congress had to approve the project since they were concerned that it might affect the navi
Top on my agenda for my next trip to New York City:
1. Dinner at the Red Rooster in Harlem: I read Yes, Chef! and my mouth is watering for the opportunity to dine at Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant.
2. Brooklyn Bridge: I plan to spend a significant amount of time walking, gazing, inspecting and admiring. I will also peer down at the East River and think about the caissons down there, and what it took to lay those foundations. I will think about the men who toiled day in and day out in horrid
One third politics, one third engineering, one third biography ... 100% the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Fascinating. Now I Can't wait to go and see the bridge again ... This time with a different perspective.
John-Paul Pizzica
This is the first McCullough book I've read and though I think I may have wanted to start with [i]1776[/i] or [i]John Adams[/i], this was an excellent read nevertheless. It was full of bittersweet feelings. The success of mankind in bridging an area like the East River was tempered by the loss of lives during its construction (though to be fair, the amount of lives lost was nowhere near most undertakings of its scope at this time). The triumph of Washington Roebling was juxtaposed with the physi ...more
Don LaFountaine
I very much enjoyed this book. Having never read anything about the Brooklyn Bridge, I was not sure what to expect. A historical account of the building of the bridge is provided, but so much more is also within the pages of this book.

It starts with talking about the designer of the bridge, John A. Roebling, his background and how various theories of how and why he wanted to build the bridge. His son Washington Roebling ended up being the Chief Engineer of the project after the untimely death of
How the bridge was built, and how John Roebling conceived of the bridge before his death from lockjaw, and how his son Washington Roebling designed and supervised its building, despite being too ill for most of 14 yrs of construction, to supervise it personally after getting the bends in one of the cassions.
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David Gaub McCullough is an American author, narrator, historian, and lecturer. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, McCullough earned a degree in English literature from Yale University. His first book was The Johnstown Flood (1968); a
More about David McCullough...
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