This Pic was taken on Father’s Day in Germany, which is also known as Männertag, which celebrates manhood (To learn more about it, click here to check it out). It’s a party of about eight people, having a great time on their day off, biking across the Wave located south of Glauchau. We don’t know what they talked about, but with some background music blaring on the wagon, smiles on their faces and a good Alsterwasser in the hand (lemon-beer mix), they talk about school, about girls and about politics. They talk about memories as well as they make them. They laugh together, cry together, show solidarity together as they ride on to a place unknown, what we call the future.
If we even have a future at all.
This photo was taken just days after the worst shooting in ten years, which happened in Uvalde, Texas. An 18-year old stormed an elementary school and shot dead 19 people- two of them teachers- before being gunned down by police who were pursuing him. The husband of one of the teachers died a broken heart at a vigil a day later. Families are devastated as with the rest of the country. We are all angry- angry that we have turned a blind eye for too long. Already 216 shootings have been reported this year alone in the US- far more than the number of days we’ve gone through. It’s time that this hatred and obsession with weapons stop. We must stop the carnage or we may not have a future at all. There are many ways to do so, arming society is not doing so. Banning guns in public and having strict regulations similar to what we have in Europe, Canada and Asia will put an end to this. We are tired of the excuses and of the lies. And if politicians turn a blind eye, there are the elections in November and we Americans have the right to vote for someone who is very serious about banning guns and making dire changes that are beneficial to the American people. It’s time that we Make America Safe Again.
This past weekend, as a way of paying respects to those who died in Uvalde and all the other places where the shootings took place this year, the Chronicles did a one day of silence where nothing is posted, not even our weekly podcast. This happened this past Saturday. We will have our next podcast during the weekend of June 11th. For the rest of the year, you will be seeing a new logo next to our original logo. It will also appear on our sister column The Flensburg Files. Feel free to share this logo wherever you go. As much as we would love to talk about bridges, we need to bring this issue to the very forefront. It is up to you to decide how to make America safe again, as long as we make it clear that we do it and not ignore it.
If we have a future at all, it must be through changes, no matter how painful they are. It’s time to Make America Safe Again.
The Firth of Forth is a Scottish estuary that divides Fife on the north from Lothian on the south. Firth is probably derived from the Norse word Fjord, meaning narrow inlet. And it’s fortunate that it narrows sufficiently at the town of Queensferry to allow not one or two bridges […]
A to Z Blogging Challenge It would be very remiss of me if I didn’t dedicate today’s letter to Thomas Telford (1757-1834), a Scottish engineer, and perhaps Britain’s greatest civil engineer whose nickname is the “Colossus of Roads”. His architectural and construction plans include canals, harbours and bridges of which there are 120 in Scotland. […]
This historic metal bridge is very close to the driveway leading to the Hays Cemetery in Hancock County, Indiana in the east central part of the state. Looking North on CR 675 E Looking south, entrance road to Hays Cemetery is on the horizon ID plaque with details of the history of the bridge […]
In our last installment in the series paying tribute to the winners of the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge Media and Genre, we look at the Great Bridge, the novel itself, by David McCullough. In June 2021, Essy Shapiro Dean wrote an extensive book review on this 500-page work of art, focusing on the bridge and serving as the springboard to the podcast that would be produced by Greg Jackson in October the same year. It was one of the series she wrote about the Brooklyn Bridge, as this structure has been part of her life.
I had a chance to interview her about the book review to learn more about the book and her connection with the bridge. Some of the answers will surprise you as the reader. Before you proceed with reading the interview, check out the two book reviews she did on the Brooklyn Bridge: The one by McCullough (click here) and the one by Tracey Wood called The Engineer’s Wife (click here). If you are still not so sure about the review, let alone the interview questions, I would read the books themselves. You will be amazed at the hidden treasures each book presents to the reader.
Enjoy the reviews and the interview that is presented:
1. What is your personal connection with the Brooklyn Bridge? Have you visited the bridge and if so when?
My grandmother first took me on the bridge when I was about five. I’ve walked across it several times and I never get tired of it. I’m looking forward to doing it again in 2022. Now, the East River has always been one of my favorite walking spots, and I always spend time looking at the bridge and how it was built. Emily Warren Roebling has also become one of my favorite historical women in recent years.
2. There are dozens of materials about the Brooklyn Bridge, but you decided on the book by David McCullough. Why did you choose this book?
I had wanted to read The Great Bridge for a while. It first piqued my interest when I had to read another David McCullough book, 1776, for school. At the time I was fifteen and the minutia detail McCullough included bored me, so I didn’t read it. Then last year, for the anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge on 24 May I decided to make it a whole Brooklyn Bridge weekend on my blog, and this book was a part of that. I also wanted to read a nonfiction about the building of the bridge, which I haven’t done since I was a child.
3. Have you met Mr. McCullough in person?
No, I’ve never met David McCullough.
4. If you were to make a summary about the book, how would you describe it?
It’s the story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge with lots of minute detail that I now revel in.
5. What points in the book should the reader pay attention to?
The actual building, the problem-solving that had to happen, how much of a force Emily Warren Roebling was after her husband, and the chief engineer of the project, Washington Roebling, was unable to come to the building site.
6. What points in the book did you find interesting?
The points that I found interesting are the same as what I’d want future readers of the book to pay attention to.
7. What points can you mention that were quite difficult to read? Why is that?
I don’t think any of it was particularly complicated to read. The hardest bits were probably the nitty-gritty of spinning the wire for the cables, and trying to visualize various engineering processes, some of which I definitely got lost in.
8. On the scale of 1 to 10 (one being the best), how would you rate the book and why?
I usually rate my books on a 5-point scale (five is best), so a bit of conversion is needed here. I also have a hard time rating nonfiction. Probably somewhere between a three and four, maybe three and a half. I really liked it, but the book as a whole wasn’t something I loved. I love the things Emily Roebling stood for and that she took on so many of the tasks Roebling could no longer do.
9. Who would you recommend the book to?
Those who like nonfiction, New York City history, American history, building or want a good story.
10. If a person starts reading the book, what advice would you give to him/her?
Try not to get too bogged down by the minutia details, it’s McCullough’s writing style. The actual story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge is one of family, women taking a place in a man’s world, happiness, anger, struggle and success and is the type of story that can create great nonfiction.
11. Any future book reviews, especially on bridges, that we should look forward to?
There are book reviews going up on my main blog two to three times a month. I’m not sure about future reviews, that have to do with bridges, but during the anniversary weekend of the Brooklyn Bridge opening in 2021 I reviewed a historical fiction book about Emily Warren Roebling called The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood.
Thank you for answering the questions and also congratulations! 🙂
To summarize, we have six people that deserve recognition for winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Best Bridge Media and Genre. We have David McCullough for writing the 500-page biography The Great Bridge, Tracey Wood for writing about Emily Roebling in The Engineer’s Wife, Essy Dean for reviewing both and writing extensively on the Brooklyn Bridge in her column, Greg Jackson of History That Doesn’t Suck for the extensive research on the Roebling family and creating a very interesting podcast and lastly Dave Arnold and Kristen Bennett of Infrastructure Junkies for interviewing Jackson in a two-part series. Both can be found in an article and podcast here. Sometimes it takes a team to go into detail on how a structural wonder, like the Brooklyn Bridge and make it a work of art. The bridge is interesting not just as a civil engineer or historian, but also for everyone who wants to know how America was developing as a country during the Guilded Ages and how it has developed in terms of the country’s infrastructure, bridge building and American culture in general. The Brooklyn Bridge symbolizes America in a way that when you think it, when you design it and when you have the stamina to build it, you can make it a work of art for others to use and to take pride. When I cross the bridge next time when visiting New York, I will think of not only the Roeblings for actually building the bridge but the winners of the 2021 Awards for bringing the history to light, right down to the wire cable. 🙂
We now move on to the interview I had with the columnist who did the book review on the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough. Eloisa (Essy) Dean has spent some significant time with the subject which focuses not just on the bridge and its construction but also on the Roebling family, who built this masterpiece. One of the key players that helped make the bridge a reality was Emily Roebling, Washington’s wife who was also a self-taught engineer. And there is a book review that focuses directly on her as the person who was a shadow of her husband and father in-law in the past but eventually became a pioneer for the field, empowering women to become engineering greats. And with that, we have the book review on The Engineer’s Wife.
My interview questions to follow in the next article. Enjoy! 🙂
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m not usually one to purchase ebooks for full price, sometimes there are books that stick out when you’re searching for a kitchen utensil for a gift and you can’t resist a spontaneous purchase for yourself. That’s what happened to me with this book and it took reading the cover for my love for Emily Warren Roebling to come back.
In The Engineer’s Wife, Tracey Enerson Wood tells the story of Emily Warren who dreams of being involved in the fight for women’s suffrage. She was born into a upper middle class family and she constantly tries to reconcile her dreams with what’s expected of her.
When her older brother G.K. comes home from the Civil War to attend a ball, Emily meets one of the men under him, Washington Roebling. When she overhears Roebling taking to a group of men about the bridge…
After talking about the podcast History that Doesn’t Suck (click here if you haven’t read the interview yet), we’re going to move on with the interview with Prof. Jackson about his masterpiece on the Brooklyn Bridge and the family that left their mark on its construction, from the planning to the realization of the historic landmark. Born in Mühlhausen in the German state of Thuringia, John Roebling had already established a reputation for his perfectionism and his inventions. He had already invented the wire suspension bridge and prior to building the bridge in Brooklyn, he had already left his mark with the Cincinnati-Covington Suspension Bridge as the longest of its kind in the world and the suspension bridge at Niagara Falls as the first suspension bridge with double-decking. Little did he realize that designing the Brooklyn Bridge was easy, building it presented more obstacles than necessary and after he died in 1870, the responsibility fell to his son, Washington and his wife Emily, who would complete the job even though the bridge opened in 1883.
This is just a summary. Yet the juiciest details would come in the form of a podcast Jackson created in June of 2021. It was then followed by a two-part interview with Dave Arnold and Kristen Bennett of Infrastructure Junkies in October. Both of these can be found in part 2 of the interview I did with Prof. Jackson. The first will start with the actual podcast which is enclosed below. It will then be followed by my questions and lastly, the two-part series by Infrastructure Junkies.
We hope you enjoy the show and will get an appreciation of how people come together to build a bridge that not only crosses a river but a landmark that helped America be what it is today. 🙂
And so, without further ado, here we go:
After listening to his podcast, here are the questions I had for him and his responses:
1. What got you interested in the topic on the bridge and with that, the Roebling family?
Well, the Gilded Age is often thought of as kind of a “downer” in US history. I wanted to tell some stories that highlighted the good in the era too. Among those, in my mind, are the magnificent construction projects undertaken in the time. I’d call the Brooklyn Bridge one of the most outstanding among those.
It also has such a compelling story in terms of its construction. It is Roebling family’s multi-generational work! The blood and tears in that thing (literally) makes it a compelling tale.
2. Have you visited any of the Roebling sites, including bridges, historic residences, and even the birthplaces including John’s in Mühlhausen, Germany?
Alas, I’ve only been to the Brooklyn Bridge. But you can bet I walked it, both ways, slowly, admiring every Roebling cable spanning the bridge and running into the anchors.
3. Did you have an opportunity to read the novel by David McCullough on the Brooklyn Bridge or any of the works about the bridge?
I have read David McCullough’s most excellent history of the Bridge. In researching the episode, I also read Roebling biographies, histories of Gilded Age New York, Boss Tweed, looks at maps, plans, etc. Every episode is rigorously researched. It isn’t uncommon for me to have dozens of primary and secondary sources. If you visit my website you can see the sources I used in that episode (HTDSpodcast.com).
4. You mentioned a lot about the engineer John Roebling and his character in your podcast. What are two things that you know about him that many of us don’t know about him?
Two things most people probably don’t know about John Roebling: 1) he loved his family. He worked so hard and was such a serious person, I think this is lost sometimes. But under that tough skin was a loving heart, even if he failed to show it as often as he should’ve. 2) John wasn’t just an engineer, he was an inventor. Though I might say a successful engineer is and must be an inventor. I’m slow to speak to what engineers should do when I’m not one, but as a historian who’s studied a lot of engineers and their incredible works, I’ve noted that the greats don’t just build; they build things others said couldn’t be done: like the Brooklyn Bridge. Generations of Americans said it couldn’t be done. John never asked “if” a thing could be done. He just started figuring out the “how” on his own.
5. When John died from tetanus as a result of his foot injury, his son Washington took over. If you were to compare him with his father, what are some differences you can find between them in terms of their character, how they handled building the bridge, etc. ?
Both were brilliant men and excellent engineers. John was more stern in his demeanor. Washington displayed more emotional intelligence than his father.
Yet, John was the genius than Washington wasn’t. And I don’t mean that as an insult, I think “Washy” would agree with me. He was an excellent engineer, but if we reserve “genius” for the top 1%, the out-of-the-box thinkers, John is the one of the two who hits that mark.
6. Then there’s Washington’s wife, Emily. She basically took over when he fell ill and became bed-ridden. What role did she play in helping finish the bridge project?
Oh, Emily is a hero! She taught herself engineering so she could be the relay between her bed-ridden husband and the ground. She was the co-Chief Engineer in my book.
7. There are some in the history community that say that Emily should have been credited for building the bridge, but in the end, Washington’s name was mentioned. Why was she fully left out and should there be something to honor her for she was Washington’s eyes and guidance?
Frankly, I think it’s a damn shame that the plaques on the Brooklyn Bridge listing the big shots who built it and made it happen do not list her. I think it should be updated.
The reason why she got left off … I have no sources that I’ve seen in which the decision makers explain their rationale. As a historian, I want those documents first and foremost. In their absence, however, I would say it is fair to speculate the reason comes down to US attitudes on gender roles in the 19th century. And I am all for her receiving the proper recognition she deserves in our present.
8. Since the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, there have been improvements in safety standards regarding bridge building. Can you elaborate further on this?
Thankfully, John Roebling over-engineered it. The bridge was designed to hold far more weight than it was expected to. That’s why it didn’t need much change for the first few decades. But as the population increased and cars became a thing, concrete and steel-reinforced roadway had to be added in the 20th century. The bridge has been renovated (painted, cleaned, etc.) a number of times. Like anything you want to last, it needs care and attention.
Though perhaps one of the most important things New York has done was simply building other bridges, which cut down on traffic and weight on the bridge each day!
9. Last year, you did a two-hour podcast on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Roebling family through Infrastructure Junkies. Your original podcast was about an hour. What are some differences between the two podcasts?
The key difference is that HTDS’s episode was the story of the Brooklyn Bridge told as a single-narrator. I got int the drama of the Roebling family a bit more and the intrigue of New York politics. With Infrastructure Junkies, not only was the story’s telling through a conversation, it was focused very much on the nuts and bolts (literally). Still a good time, just a different flavor.
10. What was your reaction to winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Best Bridge Media and Genre?
Honored, of course! Thank you again for the acknowledgement. It’s always good to know one’s work is appreciated, and I’ll add that I was particularly proud of that episode. I really enjoyed it. I obsessed over getting the engineering details right. So getting a nod for my telling of the Brooklyn Bridge was great.
11. Are you planning on doing some further podcasts on American bridges and if so, which ones?
Likely going to do Golden Gate and Bay Bridges at least. Others … we’ll see!
12. If you have some advice for people doing podcasts on bridges, what would you give them?
I would say know your audience. Are you telling the history of bridges or the infrastructure? Not that they are mutually exclusive but figure out what your primary goal is and make sure your product matches your intentions.
And now the two-part interview about the Brooklyn Bridge done by the crew at Infrastructure Junkies. Each part is approximately 40 minutes.
And before we close it on the series on the Brooklyn Bridge, we have one person to interview because of the book review on David McCullough’s work on the bridge. That will come in the next article. Stay tuned! 🙂
Teaching history is about the same as walking a tightrope. There are some subjects that are considered boring to many and the teacher who is presenting it may talk about it as if the content is dry, the passion is gone and it feels like a chore just to talk about it. For such topics, if one cannot find a creative way to at least entertain the audience and make it interesting, the teacher will be tossed off the tightrope and into a pool of boos and hisses.
Then there are subjects that teachers present that are very interesting and is taught in such a way that it brings the audience to their feet. Most of the time, by looking at one aspect that we don’t talk about on a regular basis, and by telling a story about it in a creative way, it will build an audience that will ask for more stories like that. It’s like telling a bedtime story with something that we’ve never heard of before but it is interesting to listen to.
This is where Professor Greg Jackson comes in. A professor of history at Utah Valley University, Mr. Jackson created such a set of bedtime stories about the history of the United States and focusing on the aspects we don’t talk about much, in the podcast “History That Doesn’t Suck” (HTDS). This bi-weekly podcast looks at certain areas of history and focusing on one topic of interest, turns it into an one-hour show which shed some light and some thought on how things happened the way they did. We have one example worth showing you in the Transcontinental Railroad (the first of a three-part series), which you can click on below:
From my own personal point of view, listening to HTDS takes you away from the stresses of teaching life, counting the daily commutes and traffic jams, into the unknown, where you just have one story teller who takes you on a tour of the past. It’s a perfect escape but you have the opportunity to take a bit of knowledge with you and this speaking from a historian’s point of view.
I had a chance to interview Prof. Jackson about his podcast on the Brooklyn Bridge and the family that built the first structure over the East River in New York City in the Roebling Family. I had a lot of questions for him about his podcast and the bridge, especially because his work landed him with the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards Winner in the Category Bridge Media and Genre. Therefore, I’ve decided to divide this interview up into two parts. Today we will focus on HTDS itself, while tomorrow we will get to the meat of the subject, which is the bridge that helped pave the way for the development of America’s infrastructure, which we know today.
And so, without further ado, here is the interview. Enjoy! 🙂
Questions about History that Doesn‘t Suck (HTDS) in General:
1. How long have you hosted the podcast HTDS?
4.5 years. It will be 5 years this October.
2. What was the concept behind HTDS? And in simpler terms, why the title?
To explain the concept behind HTDS I think I have to first point out that I’m a university professor. My professional life is dedicated to the study and teaching of history. To that end, I wanted to create an engaging, entertaining, yet academicallyrigorous way for Americans of all walks of life to be able to learn their history; the stuff that we should pick up in K-12 or general ed courses in college (and very well may have but could now use a refresher). So that’s what I set out to do. HTDS is designed to be––and I think and hope it is––rigorous as a dull textbook yet entertaining enough that you come to it for fun. That’s the sweet spot I’m going for.
Ah, the name! I went with “History That Doesn’t Suck” because even though I love history and do not believe it sucks at all, I know that, for many, formal education can suck the joy out of learning. I’m trying to conveying to that specific listener, to the person who thinks history is boring, that I get what their experience has been, but that it doesn’t have to be that way. History isn’t just names and dates. It’s real people and their stories. And with this podcast, you’ll get the latter.
3. Who’s your general audience?
I have a broad audience. The old school fans of all things history listen, sure, but per my goal, I’ve got a number of listeners who tell me they’ve always hated history until now.
I have AP history students, college students, and homeschooling students listening. I also professionals listening, white and blue collar. People who just want to brush up on things.
I kids listening; have retirees listening.
I’m all over the place!
4. Some history teachers and professors present their topics and they are boring. Yours provide some deeper insight with a little spice that garners attention and very positive feedback from the audience. How do you make the topics so interesting to the audience and what is your secret recipe for success?
Well, thank you for the kind compliment! The key here is easy to explain but hard to do: make history a story! No one cares about a name and a date until you bring it to life. So rather than bore you with the details of colonial taxation policy and mention that Patrick Henry was involved the fight, I take you into Patrick Henry’s fight. Show you his spirit. His Tenacity. And of course … the trouble he gets himself in. When I do that first, then I can tell you about colonial tax policy and you’ll care. Because you’re invested in Pat’s story. History teachers who do this day in and day out will find their students far more invested.
5. What topic presented in HTDS has become the most successful and talked about and why?
Oh, that’s hard to answer. I’d say the Revolution is a big hitter, but partly because that’s just where people start the podcast (at the beginning). Honestly, my audience doesn’t really cherry pick. I have consistent listens through the whole “story” of America that I’m telling.
6. What topics are you planning to present in the future? They can include some on your wish list.
Well, since I conceive of this podcast more as an audio textbook delivered in story mode, I will continue from where I am now (Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency) right through the 20th century. I’ll hit all the major events. I’m really looking forward to getting to World War I though. I wrote my dissertation partly on it, so it will be rewarding to revisit the subject.
7. How many episodes have you produced to date? How many topics have you presented?
Episodes to date: Number 112 will come out in a few days. Topics … wew, that depends on how you break it down. A lot! The Revolution, the early Republic, slavery, women’s history, military history, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Indian Wars, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Gilded Age. Basically, if an event was important to US history and happened between 1754 and 1908, I’ve covered it.
8. Of which, how many have dealt with American infrastructure and of course, historic bridges?
The obvious answers are the Brooklyn Bridge and Transcontinental Railroad episodes but frankly, I engage with infrastructure all the time! Infrastructure might not be sexy or glamorous enough for people to think about it (when they aren’t involved in it), but nations have to deal with at all times. Going all the way back to episode one, poor infrastructure (having to cut roads) is part of why George Washington lost to the french as a 22-year-old lieutenant colonel! Poor roads delayed the Constitutional Convention. The Industrial Revolution required and brought about more infrastructure. It’s littered throughout most if not all episodes.
In tomorrow’s article we will take an in depth look at his masterpiece on the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge and with that, the life of the Roebling Family and how they turned a dream of a crossing in New York into more of a reality- a landmark that has become one of America’s prized treasures.
Bridge photos are good. Sunrise and sunset photos are also good. Combining them is better, But when looking at this week’s Pic of the Week with this stunning photo of the twin cable-stayed suspension bridge, this one is more than awesome. This photographer not only centered the sun between the suspension spans, but it was photographed in a way that instead of 50 shades of red, we have several shades of red, pink and purple, making it a very unique photo to take. The twin bridges, which are around 20 years old, are located in Nagoya City in the Aichi Perfecture in Japan.
Can you match this photo with something unusually gorgeous? If so, feel free to share on the Chronicles’ facebook and twitter pages. Enjoy! 🙂
The next bridge in the Mystery Bridge series is the second of two installments of the bridges in Jackson County, in eastern Iowa. Yet one can look at it as two bridges, because each one has the same problem: looking for the bridge builder. And judging by the identical length these structures have, it may appear that they came from a multiple span structure that had been cut up into spans before shipping them.
After looking at the now extant Caven Bridge, we have this bridge at Iron Bridge Road. It spans the Maquoketa River on the road bearing the bridge’s name, approximately 8-10 miles NW of Spragueville. It’s at the junction of Miller Access Road. The bridge is a Pennsylvania through truss bridge with riveted connections, I-beams and M-frame portal bracings. It has a total length of 420 feet but the truss bridge’s length is 250 feet, thus making it the longest single-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge built in the state. It’s even longer than the Traer Street Bridge in Greene (in Butler County), which was replaced in 1981 after 79 years in service.
According to records in bridgehunter.com, the bridge was built by the Iowa State Highway Commission, which today is the Iowa Department of Transportation. It was established in 1904 and was one of the first highway institutions to have made firsts in the field of transportation, which included traffic signs, like the No Passing Zone sign, as well as paved highways made of tar and later concrete, and finally bridge designs. Yet despite the claims that the State Highway Commission was responsible for building the bridge, it can only be credited for making the design of the standardized truss bridges, which were introduced from 1910 on. What is missing is having the bridge builder who is in charge of constructing the bridge as well as the company that fabricated and transported the steel from the steel mills. It is a foregone conclusion that a highway agency would not have a bridge building firm with steel mills on their lots unless the agency had vast amounts of land to build the steel mills. That would have taken up half of Ames, where the highway agency is still located today.
This leads us to this question: If the highway designed the truss bridge, like the one on Iron Road, where did the steel come from, and who oversaw the construction of the bridge?
These are the two key questions not only for the Iron Bridge here but also its twin bridge, the Damon Bridge, spanning the same river but on 435th Avenue (County Hwy. Z 34), six miles north of Preston. The bridge has the exact same form as the Iron Bridge but was built six years later, in 1956. If you have any information on the two bridges and their predecessors, feel free to comment in the Chronicles directly online, but also in bridgehunter.com under their respective pages.
Your bridge matters! Best of luck in the research. 🙂