"If you love Brooklyn or bridges or New York City or cities or 19th-century marvels--or all of the above, as I do--Building the Brooklyn Bridge is a perfect feast, a would-be time-traveler's delight, overflowing with rare and evocative and fascinating images. It's a terrific book."
-Kurt Andersen, author of Evil Geniuses, Fantasyland, Heyday
"Jeff Richman is a born storyteller. He has pulled together a stunning book full of magical images and beautifully told episodes that help us better understand just how remarkable this engineering feat truly was. This is a joyful book-a celebration of one of America's iconic architectural achievements."
-Deborah Schwartz, president of the former Brooklyn Historical Society, 2006-2020
Building the Brooklyn Bridge is the story of how a structure of unprecedented size and technology was built over the East River, connecting, for the first time, the then independent cities of Brooklyn and New York, two of the most populous cities in America. This awe-inspiring bridge-built between 1869 and 1883 during an age of technological innovation-was not only a modern engineering feat of extraordinary imagination, fortitude, and skill, it also was a towering beacon of human triumph. Proclaimed the 'eighth wonder of the world' soon after its completion, the bridge provided a safe alternative to the unreliable ferry system. People could now travel high above one of the busiest waterways at the time, wonderstruck by the magnificent views as they journeyed across by foot, horse-drawn carriage, or railway. Owing to the ingenuity and foresight of chief engineers John and Washington Roebling-father and son-the Brooklyn Bridge still provides a vital link, with well over 100,000 people crossing over it every day.
Author Jeffrey I. Richman describes in engaging detail how the Brooklyn Bridge was built and explains the function of each of its complex parts, from the anchorages and elegant towers to the massive cables, and the challenges each presented. Richman reminds us how profoundly modern and groundbreaking the bridge was, in its use of new materials-steel-and pioneering construction methods-pneumatic caissons. His reader-friendly narrative tells the compelling tale of how a small group of dedicated engineers and thousands of workers toiled for more than a decade to construct what was then the largest suspension bridge ever built. Equally captivating are the superb nineteenth-century images Richman compiled from public archives and private collections, many never before published on the printed page, including engineering drawings, photographs, stereographs, woodcuts, cabinet cards, and colored lithographs. Richman also specially commissioned the creation of several anaglyphs-3D images generated from stereographs. When viewed with 3D glasses, these images place the reader at the construction site as the towers begin to rise over the neighboring cities, echoing how the enthusiastic public, more than one hundred and forty years ago, followed the bridge's progression by viewing newly printed stereographs in 3D from the comfort of their Victorian parlors. This book is a real treat for anyone who has ever crossed the Brooklyn Bridge or has been moved by its majesty from afar. It invites the reader to step back in time and discover why this iconic bridge-a National Historic Landmark since 1964-continues to hold such a special place in the hearts of so many.
Jeffrey I. Richman has been fascinated by New York City's history for as long as he can remember. In 2007, after thirty-three years of practicing law, representing indigent criminal defendants, he became the full-time historian at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. Since then, he has led Green-Wood's Civil War, World War I, and World War II projects which, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, have identified, written, and posted online biographies for thousands of veterans interred there. He is the author of three previous books, including Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery: New York's Buried Treasure (1998). He has also curated many exhibitions, including three on the Civil War and one on Coney Island. Driven by his passion for history in general and nineteenth-century New York in particular, Richman is an avid collector who has amassed an outstanding collection of stereoview and lantern slide photographs of New York City-including many of the Brooklyn Bridge under construction-which he has donated to The Green-Wood Historic Fund. One of his fondest memories is of attending the one-hundredth anniversary of the bridge's opening in 1983-just one milestone in his love affair with the Brooklyn Bridge.