This week, Gaynor Parent Kristian Roebling brought history to life for Silver Cluster students as he described his ancestor, John Augustus Roebling, and his role in the design and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Mr. Roebling’s account chronicled the path John Roebling followed from Germany to the United States, and how he influenced everything from transportation of goods on canals, to elevators, to the construction of one of the most famous bridges in the world.
Mr. Roebling peppered his oral history lesson with personal artifacts from John Roebling to bring the story to life for the students. He showed students John Roebling’s personal journal, which included detailed drawings of Gothic churches and suspension bridges, passed around a sample of the multi-wire cable that was an integral step to creating both suspension bridges and safer elevators, and presented a display of the very drafting tools John Roebling used to design the Brooklyn Bridge.
Mr. Roebling also enthralled the students with the very dramatic turn of events that saw John Roebling die from an accident on the waterfront, and his son Washington Augustus Roebling’s takeover of the Brooklyn Bridge construction project. This led to the promotion of Washington Roebling’s wife Emily Warren Roebling to chief engineer of the project after Washington fell ill and was incapacitated from “caisson’s desease” (now known as decompression sickness, or “the bends”).
The students asked many insightful questions, and certainly left the discussion with a far deeper understanding of the familiar New York landmark.