Last night the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes aired Part Two of its mash note to America’s favorite historian, David McCullough. The piece started in Paris and ended at the Brooklyn Bridge, about which McCullough wrote a book that earned him the title of Herodotus of Hydraulics.
McCullough has called The Great Bridge America’s Eiffel Tower, and the 60 Minutes piece details the extreme difficulties of building it by hand in the 1860s and ’70s. Then correspondent Morely Safer says this:
McCullough’s pantheon of heroes includes Washington Roebling, who oversaw the bridge’s construction, and his father John, a German immigrant who designed it.
(McCullough: [Washington Roebling] was a new American, he was a very proud American, he wanted to show, this is what we can do, we Americans. And he certainly did.)
Helpful image of Roebling père et fils:
But they didn’t do it alone. What Safer and McCullough failed to mention: Washington’s wife, Emily, gave herself a crash course in engineering and finished overseeing construction of the bridge after the Mister was sidelined by the bends.
Fittingly, the Brooklyn Bridge features a plaque memorializing Emily Roebling’s extraordinary contribution to its creation.
Too bad 60 Minutes didn’t see fit to honor her as well.
How many died building it?
There were quite a few others that suffered life-long diabilities, too.
Absolutely, Mudge – that bridge was a breaker of men. Just to be clear: The Great Bridge is terrific book. I just wasn’t crazy about the interview.