Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge

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Bloomsbury Publishing USA, Jun 27, 2017 - Biography & Autobiography - 364 pages

The first full biography of a crucial figure in the American story--Washington Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge.

"I know that nothing can be done perfectly at the first trial; I also know that each day brings its little quota of experiences, which with honest intentions, will lead to perfection after a while." --Washington Roebling


His father conceived of the Brooklyn Bridge, but after John Roebling's sudden death, Washington Roebling built what has become one of American's most iconic structures--as much a part of New York as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. Yet, as recognizable as the bridge is, its builder is too often forgotten--and his life is of interest far beyond his chosen field. It is the story of immigrants, of the frontier, of the greatest crisis in American history, and of the making of the modern world.

Forty years after the publication of The Great Bridge, David McCullough's classic chronicle of how the East River was spanned, Erica Wagner has written a fascinating biography of one of America's most distinguished engineers, a man whose long life was a model of courage in the face of extraordinary adversity. Chief Engineer is enriched by Roebling's own eloquent voice, unveiled in his recently-discovered memoir that was previously thought lost to history.

The memoir reveals that his father, John-a renowned engineer who made his life in America after humble beginnings in Germany-was a tyrannical presence in Washington's life, so his own adoption of that career was hard won. A young man when the Civil War broke out, Washington joined the Union Army, building bridges that carried soldiers across rivers and seeing action in many pivotal battles, from Antietam to Gettysburg-aspects of his life never before fully brought to light. Safely returned, he married the remarkable Emily Warren Roebling, who would play a crucial role in the construction of the unprecedented Brooklyn Bridge. It would be Washington Roebling's grandest achievement-but by no means the only one.

Elegantly written with a compelling narrative sweep, Chief Engineer will introduce Washington Roebling and his era to a new generation of readers.

 

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Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, the Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge

User Review  - Publishers Weekly

Wagner (Ariel’s Gift), former literary editor at the Times of London, celebrates the stunning achievement of Washington Roebling, an unlikely giant of the industrial revolution, in this engrossing ... Read full review

Contents

1 No one ever does just the right thing in great emergencies
1
2 The finest place in the world
19
3 Something of the tiger in him
36
4 I was not a chip off the old block
61
5 It is curious how persons lose their heads in times of excitement
77
6 The urgency of the moment overpowers everything
89
7 I am very much of the opinion that she has captured your brother Washys heart at last
113
8 All beginnings are difficult but dont give up
130
14 She goes everywhere and sees everything
247
15 The image of his wife floats before him
266
16 You cant desert your job
288
17 Time age cures all this
303
Cold Spring
310
Acknowledgments
313
Notes
317
Bibliography
347

9 I will have to go to work at something
151
10 Good enough to found upon
171
11 I have been quite sick for some days
189
12 Now is the time to build the Bridge
197
13 Trust me
219
Index
355
A Note on the Author
365
Color Plates
367
Copyright

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About the author (2017)

American writer and critic Erica Wagner was the literary editor of the London Times for seventeen years and is now a contributing writer for the New Statesman and consulting literary editor for Harper's Bazaar. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Economist, the Financial Times, and the New York Times, among others. She is the author of Ariel's Gift, Seizure, and the short story collection Gravity; she is the editor of First Light: A Celebration of Alan Garner. She was the recipient of the Eccles British Library Writer's Award in 2014, and she is a lecturer in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. She lives in London with her husband and son.

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