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Engineering America: The Life and Times of John A. Roebling

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About the Event

The New York Landmarks Conservancy
In partnership with The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York
cordially invites you to:

Engineering America: The Life and Times of John A. Roebling
With Professor Richard Haw

This will be an in-person and online lecture on September 29th, 6:00 pm
This lecture will be followed by a book signing



In this lecture, Professor Richard Haw, will discuss his book, Engineering America: The Life and Times of John A. Roebling. John Roebling was one of the nineteenth century’s most brilliant engineers, ingenious inventors, successful manufacturers, and fascinating personalities. Raised in a German backwater amid the war-torn chaos of the Napoleonic Wars, he immigrated to the US in 1831, where he became wealthy and acclaimed, eventually receiving a carte-blanche contract to build one of the nineteenth century’s most stupendous and daring works of engineering: a gigantic suspension bridge to span the East River between New York and Brooklyn. In between, he thought, wrote, and worked tirelessly. He dug canals and surveyed railroads; he planned communities and founded new industries.

Like his finest creations, Roebling was held together by the delicate balance of countervailing forces. On the surface, his life was exemplary and his accomplishments legion. As an immigrant and employer, he was respected throughout the world. As an engineer, his works profoundly altered the physical landscape of America. He was a voracious reader, a fervent abolitionist, and an engaged social commentator. His understanding of the natural world, however, bordered on the occult and his opinions about medicine are best described as medieval. For a man of science and great self-certainty, he was also remarkably quick to seize on a whole host of fads and foolish trends. Yet Roebling held these strands together.

John Roebling was a complex, deeply divided yet undoubtedly influential figure, and this talk will provide an overview of not only his works, but also the world of nineteenth-century America. Roebling’s engineering feats are well known, but the man himself is not; for alongside the drama of large-scale construction lies an equally rich drama of intellectual and social development and crisis, one that mirrored and reflected the great forces, trials, and failures of nineteenth-century America.

Richard Haw is a Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. He is the author of The Brooklyn Bridge: A Cultural History and Art of the Brooklyn Bridge: A Visual History.

The book can be purchased in person at the lecture or online through the following link
General Admission: $10
Advance registration is required.

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