15+ quotes from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough

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

David McCullough ·  608 pages

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“Roebling rejoined the Army of the Potomac in February 1863 back at Fredericksburg, where he was quartered late one night in an old stone jail, from which he would emerge the following morning with a story that would be told in the family for years and years to come. The place had little or no light, it seems, and Roebling, all alone, groping his way about, discovered an old chest that aroused his curiosity. He lifted the lid and reaching inside, his hand touched a stone-cold face. The lid came back down with a bang. Deciding to investigate no further, he cleared a place on the floor, stretched out, and went to sleep. At daybreak he opened the chest to see what sort of corpse had been keeping him company through the night and found instead a stone statue of George Washington’s mother that had been stored away for safekeeping.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“But even if a person were ignorant of such things, the sight of a moving train held aloft above the great gorge at Niagara by so delicate a contrivance was, in the 1860’s, nothing short of miraculous. The bridge seemed to defy the most fundamental laws of nature. Something so slight just naturally ought to give way beneath anything so heavy. That it did not seemed pure magic.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“It so happens that the work which is likely to be our most durable monument, and to convey some knowledge of us to the most remote posterity, is a work of bare utility; not a shrine, not a fortress, not a palace, but a bridge. —MONTGOMERY SCHUYLER IN HARPER’S WEEKLY, MAY 24, 1883”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“For some people the experience of crossing by carriage was positively terrifying. “You drive over to Suspension Bridge,” wrote Mark Twain, “and divide your misery between the chances of smashing down two hundred feet into the river below, and the chances of having a railway-train overhead smashing down onto you. Either possibility is discomforting taken by itself, but, mixed together, they amount in the aggregate to positive unhappiness.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“But Brooklyn, in fact, was the third-largest city in America and had been for some time. It was a major manufacturing center—for glass, steel, tinware, marble mantels, hats, buggy whips, chemicals, cordage, whiskey, beer, glue. It was a larger seaport than New York, a larger city than Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, and growing faster than any of them—faster even than”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“One of the first problems to be faced at Niagara was how to get a wire over the gorge and its violent river. Ellet solved that nicely by offering five dollars to the first American boy to fly a kite over to the Canadian side. The prize was won by young Homer Walsh, who would tell the story for the rest of his days. Once the kite string was across, a succession of heavier cords and ropes was pulled over, and in a short time the first length of wire went on its way. After that, when the initial cable had been completed, Ellet decided to demonstrate his faith in it in a fashion people would not forget. He had an iron basket made up big enough to hold him and attached it to the cable with pulleys. Then stepping inside, on a morning in March 1848, he pulled himself over the gorge and back again, all in no more than fifteen minutes’ time, and to the great excitement of crowds gathered along both rims.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“The disaster at Johnstown was one that need never have happened and a powerful reminder that it can be terribly dangerous, even perilous, to assume that because people hold positions of responsibility they are therefore acting responsibly.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“He was the first one on deck in the morning and generally the last to leave at night, and once, when nearly every passenger was miserably seasick and lay groaning in his berth, Roebling, his head spinning, his stomach churning, was resolutely walking the deck. The malady, he rationalized, “involves no danger at all,” noting that “a cheerful carefree disposition and a manly, vigorous spirit will have great influence on the sickness.” For”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“was a deep melancholic disillusionment growing out of what John Roebling thought he saw happening to the country since the war. The great dynamic of America, he had always said, was that every man had the opportunity to better himself, to fulfill himself. Now the great dynamic seemed more like common greed.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“John Roebling was a believer in hydropathy, the therapeutic use of water. Come headaches, constipation, the ague, he would sit in a scalding-hot tub for hours at a time, then jump out and wrap up in ice-cold, slopping-wet bed sheets and stay that way for another hour or two. He took Turkish baths, mineral baths. He drank vile concoctions of raw egg, charcoal, warm water, and turpentine, and there were dozens of people along Canal Street who had seen him come striding through his front gate, cross the canal bridge, and drink water “copiously”—gallons it seemed—from the old fountain beside the state prison. (“This water I relish much . . .” he would write in his notebook.) “A wet bandage around the neck every night, for years, will prevent colds . . .” he preached to his family. “A full cold bath every day is indispensable”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“Later that same spring of 1872, in his own annual report, Roebling would write that most men got over their troubles either by suffering for a long time or "by applying the heroic mode of returning into the caisson at once as soon as pains manifested themselves.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“Among those who were about to stake so very much on him and his bridge, or who already had, there was not one who could honestly say he knew the man.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


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― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“by a Scotch-Irish preacher, a Presbyterian named James Finley, in the year 1801, or before John Roebling was born. Finley had been a versatile and ingenious man. His “chain bridge” had a seventy-foot span, cost about six hundred dollars, and in the next ten years he built some forty more of them, including one over the Potomac above Washington.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


“Washington had been the one member of the family ever to go off and work with John Roebling at bridgebuilding.”
― David McCullough, quote from The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


About the author

David McCullough
Born place: in Pittsburgh, The United States
Born date July 7, 1933
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