The Great Bridge: The Epic Story Of The Building Of The Brooklyn Bridge

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story Of The Building Of The Brooklyn Bridge

Synopsis

The Great Bridge by David McCullough
Reader's Group Guide
1. In 1869, conversations about the Brooklyn Bridge took a more serious tone and there was much opposition. "The bridge... was a monumental extravagance, a wild experiment, nothing but an exercise in vanity." If a less expensive medium for transportation, such as a tunnel, would adequately increase transportation between Brooklyn and Manhattan, why build a bridge of this magnitude? Is there something to be said for grandiose monuments and landmarks?
2. John A. Roebling did not practice organized religion. Like many intellectuals of the time his beliefs were based in spiritualism. Why do you think spiritualism appealed to "practical men of learning"? Do you feel that science and religion is mutually exclusive? How does spiritualism relate to Scientology and other alternative forms of spiritual practice?
3. Prior to the completion of the bridge, you get a sense that Brooklyn is a strong, self-sufficient town. "New York [City] employed considerably less than half of Brooklyn's wage earners, perhaps even as few as one in three." If that is the case, what is the strongest argument for building the bridge? What are the pros and cons of further developing Brooklyn into the "biggest city in the world"?
4. William Tweed was arguably the most powerful and influential man in New York politics. His "Tweed Ring" was built on a system that exorbitantly inflated public expenditures on construction contracts. How were Tweed and the Tweed Ring brought to justice? Can you site similar examples of his organized embezzlement in current local and national politics?
5. The "bends", drastically took its toll on the bridge workers who sunk the New York caisson. What explanations of the disease were the most far-fetched? After the New York caisson was dropped, Colonel Roebling claimed that, "just two deaths could be charged directly to the effects of pressure." Why do you think Roebling botched his final report? If you were in Roebling's position would you have interrupted the project until developing a mechanism such as the "hospital lock" to ensure the safety of the bridge workers?
6. In January of 1875, Henry Ward Beecher, pastor of Plymouth Church was accused of committing adultery with Theodore Tilton's wife. Although it was clear to the general public that Beecher was guilty, the functions of the church continued as usual, and no one was reported to have abandoned the church. McCullough writes, "a great many people who thought Beecher might be guilty after all would continue to regard him as an extraordinary human being and felt he suffered more than enough." What is your opinion on the sexual misconduct of political and/or religious figures, and the public's treatment of such scandal? Should political and/or religious figures be held to a higher standard of morality? Explain.
7. William Roebling's health began to deteriorate to the extent that he rested at home and conducted his responsibilities as Engineer-in-Chief through correspondence via his wife. With mounting medical and person expenses that outweighed his $10,000 salary, what is Roebling's driving motivation and commitment to the bridge? Have you or anyone you know been so dedicated to a passion that hard work led to the denial of health and personal wellbeing? Share your experience. Is that kind of dedication frowned upon or encouraged by today's culture?
8. After E.F. Farrington was the first to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, his pioneering effort became a huge spectacle and he became a media sensation. Do you think he felt guilty receiving so much attention when Roebling was working from his sickbed? Why did the act of being the first to cross the bridge garner more media attention than the individual whose expertise carried the bridge to fruition?
9. In a dispute over the Bessimer steel contract, why was Hewitt personally invested in discrediting Roebling despite his attempt to remain out of the public arena?
10. When workmen were digging foundations for the Brooklyn approach, the Eagle published an essay on the bridge as "the coming place for the truly artistic suicide." During this time, what did the bridge symbolize in terms of birth, death, triumph, and spectacle?
11. In 1882, the bridge was just about complete. McCullough writes, "for the first time since his father's death... Roebling could relax a little... his services were no longer vital." At this point, why didn't Roebling step down from his position as Engineer-in-Chief, and name a successor to complete the bridge? What did he have to loose?
12. In 1883, the bridge was finally complete. As a response to Hewitt's presentation of the bridge as a great symbol of progress, Roebling writes, "the advantages of modern engineering are in many ways balanced by the disadvantages of modern civilization." What are those disadvantages? Do you agree with this statement? Explain.

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Chapters

  • TheGreatBridge 01 Open
    Duration: 37s
  • TheGreatBridge 02 Preface
    Duration: 18min
  • TheGreatBridge 03 Epigraph
    Duration: 30s
  • TheGreatBridge 04 Part 1 Chapter 01a
    Duration: 29min
  • TheGreatBridge 05 Chapter 01b
    Duration: 29min
  • TheGreatBridge 06 Chapter 02a
    Duration: 20min
  • TheGreatBridge 07 Chapter 02b
    Duration: 20min
  • TheGreatBridge 08 Chapter 02c
    Duration: 18min
  • TheGreatBridge 09 Chapter 02d
    Duration: 19min
  • TheGreatBridge 10 Chapter 03a
    Duration: 25min
  • TheGreatBridge 11 Chapter 03b
    Duration: 24min
  • TheGreatBridge 12 Chapter 03c
    Duration: 24min
  • TheGreatBridge 13 Chapter 04a
    Duration: 29min
  • TheGreatBridge 14 Chapter 04b
    Duration: 28min
  • TheGreatBridge 15 Chapter 05a
    Duration: 21min
  • TheGreatBridge 16 Chapter 05b
    Duration: 25min
  • TheGreatBridge 17 Chapter 05c
    Duration: 14min
  • TheGreatBridge 18 Chapter 06a
    Duration: 25min
  • TheGreatBridge 19 Chapter 06b
    Duration: 23min
  • TheGreatBridge 20 Chapter 06c
    Duration: 21min
  • TheGreatBridge 21 Chapter 07a
    Duration: 29min
  • TheGreatBridge 22 Chapter 07b
    Duration: 28min
  • TheGreatBridge 23 Chapter 07c
    Duration: 27min
  • TheGreatBridge 24 Part 2 Chapter 08a
    Duration: 25min
  • TheGreatBridge 25 Chapter 08b
    Duration: 23min
  • TheGreatBridge 26 Chapter 08c
    Duration: 21min
  • TheGreatBridge 27 Chapter 09a
    Duration: 22min
  • TheGreatBridge 28 Chapter 09b
    Duration: 20min
  • TheGreatBridge 29 Chapter 09c
    Duration: 18min
  • TheGreatBridge 30 Chapter 10a
    Duration: 27min
  • TheGreatBridge 31 Chapter 10b
    Duration: 25min
  • TheGreatBridge 32 Chapter 11a
    Duration: 22min
  • TheGreatBridge 33 Chapter 11b
    Duration: 22min
  • TheGreatBridge 34 Chapter 11c
    Duration: 23min
  • TheGreatBridge 35 Chapter 12a
    Duration: 24min
  • TheGreatBridge 36 Chapter 12b
    Duration: 23min
  • TheGreatBridge 37 Chapter 12c
    Duration: 18min
  • TheGreatBridge 38 Chapter 13a
    Duration: 23min
  • TheGreatBridge 39 Chapter 13b
    Duration: 23min
  • TheGreatBridge 40 Chapter 13c
    Duration: 18min
  • TheGreatBridge 41 Chapter 14a
    Duration: 26min
  • TheGreatBridge 42 Chapter 14b
    Duration: 17min
  • TheGreatBridge 43 Part 3 Chapter 15a
    Duration: 24min
  • TheGreatBridge 44 Chapter 15b
    Duration: 21min
  • TheGreatBridge 45 Chapter 16a
    Duration: 27min
  • TheGreatBridge 46 Chapter 16b
    Duration: 23min
  • TheGreatBridge 47 Chapter 17a
    Duration: 24min
  • TheGreatBridge 48 Chapter 17b
    Duration: 28min
  • TheGreatBridge 49 Chapter 18a
    Duration: 27min
  • TheGreatBridge 50 Chapter 18b
    Duration: 27min
  • TheGreatBridge 51 Chapter 18c
    Duration: 27min
  • TheGreatBridge 52 Chapter 19a
    Duration: 24min
  • TheGreatBridge 53 Chapter 19b
    Duration: 23min
  • TheGreatBridge 54 Chapter 19c
    Duration: 15min
  • TheGreatBridge 55 Chapter 20a
    Duration: 27min
  • TheGreatBridge 56 Chapter 20b
    Duration: 29min
  • TheGreatBridge 57 Chapter 21a
    Duration: 29min
  • TheGreatBridge 58 Chapter 21b
    Duration: 28min
  • TheGreatBridge 59 Chapter 21c
    Duration: 26min
  • TheGreatBridge 60 Chapter 22a
    Duration: 26min
  • TheGreatBridge 61 Chapter 22b
    Duration: 28min
  • TheGreatBridge 62 Chapter 22c
    Duration: 25min
  • TheGreatBridge 63 Chapter 23a
    Duration: 21min
  • TheGreatBridge 64 Chapter 23b
    Duration: 24min
  • TheGreatBridge 65 Chapter 23c
    Duration: 15min
  • TheGreatBridge 66 Chapter 24a
    Duration: 29min
  • TheGreatBridge 67 Chapter 24b
    Duration: 27min
  • TheGreatBridge 68 Epilogue a
    Duration: 22min
  • TheGreatBridge 69 Epilogue b
    Duration: 21min
  • TheGreatBridge 70 Epilogue c
    Duration: 21min
  • TheGreatBridge 71 Credits
    Duration: 01min

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