Great Projects: The Epic Story of the Building of America, from th

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9781451613018: Great Projects: The Epic Story of the Building of America, from th

Since the earliest days of the republic, great engineering projects have shaped American landscapes and expressed American dreams. The ambition to build lies as close to the nation's heart as the belief in liberty. We live in a built civilization, connected one to another in an enormous web of technology. Yet we have all too often overlooked the role of engineers and builders in American history. With glorious photographs and epic narrative sweep, Great Projects at last gives their story the prominence it deserves.

Each of the eight projects featured in this masterful narrative was a milestone in its own right: the flood-control works of the lower Mississippi, Hoover Dam, Edison's lighting system, the spread of electricity across the nation, the great Croton Aqueduct, the bridges of New York City, Boston's revamped street system, known as the Big Dig, and the ever-evolving communica- tions network called the Internet. Each project arose from a heroic vision. Each encountered obstacles. Each reveals a tale of genius and perseverance.

James Tobin, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, explains the four essential tasks of the engineer: to protect people from the destructive force of water while harnessing it for the enormous good it can do; to provide people with electricity, the motive force of modern life; to make great cities habitable and vital; and to create the pathways that connect place to place and person to person. Tobin focuses on the indi- viduals behind our greatest structures of earth and concrete and steel: James Buchanan Eads, who walked on the floor of the Mississippi to learn the river's secrets; Arthur Powell Davis and Frank Crowe, who imagined a dam that could transform the West; Thomas Edison, who envisioned a new way to light the world; Samuel Insull, the organizational mastermind of the electrical revolution; the long-forgotten John Bloomfield Jervis, who assured New York's future with the gift of clean water; Othmar Ammann, the modest Swiss-American who fought his mentor to become the first engineer to bridge the lower Hudson River; Fred Salvucci, the antihighway rebel who transformed the face of Boston; and J.C.R. Licklider, the obscure scientist who first imagined the Internet. Here, too, are the workers who scorned hardship to turn the engineers' dreams into reality, deep underground and high in the sky, through cold and heat and danger. In Great Projects -- soon to be a major PBS television series by the Emmy Award-winning Great Projects Film Company -- we share their dreams and witness their struggles; we watch them create the modern world we walk through each day -- the "city upon a hill" that became our America.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

James Tobin won the National Book Critics Circle Award for his first book, Ernie Pyle's War, and the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for his forthcoming biography of the Wright Brothers. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One: The Lower Mississippi

...[T]en thousand River Commissions...cannot tame that lawless stream...cannot say to it, "Go here," or "Go there," and make it obey.

- Mark Twain

...[E]very atom that moves onward in the river...is controlled by laws as fixed and certain as those which direct the majestic march of the heavenly spheres....The engineer needs only to be assured that he does not ignore the existence of any of these laws, to feel positively certain of the result he aims at.

- James Buchanan Eads

The river man watched as thunderheads blew in from the west, throwing the valley of the Ohio in purple shade. Soon rain fell. Now after months of drought the river would rise, and Henry Shreve could go down the great Ohio to the greater river in the West, and begin the job no one thought he could do.

He was forty-four in the summer of 1829, thick in the shoulders and upper arms from his early years of excruciating labor, but thickening at the belt now, too. His brown hair was wavy, his eyes gray. He was given to long contemplative silences interspersed with bursts of creative energy. Shreve had first seen the Mississippi as a boy, in 1799. By that year Americans west of the Alleghenies were already sending prodigious amounts of farm produce, whiskey, and furs down the river to New Orleans by raft, barge, and keelboat. Gravity supplied all the power needed for the downstream trip. But to go upstream, crews had no choice but to pull and push the boats themselves. Tapping the potential of the inner continent demanded that someone figure a way to drive boats up the river as well as down.

Then in 1816 Henry Shreve designed a river-worthy steamboat and proved it could beat the current. That craft, with its shallow draft and high-built decks, revolutionized western transportation and made Shreve's name famous. He married happily, built and ran more steamboats, made money.

Yet for nearly ten years he devoted much of his time and considerable mental powers to an engineering problem that nearly all the river men of his generation believed insoluble. Why would he undertake this new errand in the wilderness -- a fool's errand, nearly everyone said, even for a man of Shreve's achievements?

Shreve left no record of his deepest motives. But surely he was driven by the same westward imperative that had driven his father, a veteran of Valley Forge, to carve a wilderness farm from the Allegheny forest, and his older half-brother to seek his fortune on the western rivers. The revolutionary generation had made the new land their own. Now Shreve's generation would pry the land open to extract the prizes that lay within, and they quickly learned that the richest prizes lay in the valley of the Mississippi River. There they found agricultural land as fine as any in the world and a waterway that connected the nation's midsection with the ocean trade routes. But using the river for transport would not be easy. And the job of claiming and safeguarding the land -- and the works of civilization they built on it -- would be harder still. For of all the natural adversaries greeting Americans on the new continent, the lower Mississippi River was the most dangerous and the least tractable.

"TEETH OF THE RIVER"

Long before Henry Shreve first boarded a flatboat, his countrymen realized the Mississippi and its tributaries comprised one of the world's great systems of navigable water. The main stream is really two rivers -- the upper Mississippi, which flows from snow-choked headwaters near Canada to the center of the continent; and the broader, more baffling lower Mississippi, which carries the waters of the upper river, the Missouri, and the Ohio to the sultry salt marshes of the Gulf of Mexico. Together, the Mississippi and all its tributaries form a fifteen-thousand-mile web of waterways stretching from present-day New York to Montana, through nearly half the lands of the continental forty-eight states. Its shallow valley is so broad, a traveler once said, that "a native tribe from its eastern rim of the Alleghenies might spend a generation migrating through it before sighting the Rockies that walled it on the west."

The river came to be called "Father of Waters," but in geological age it was barely a toddler, and a defiant one at that.

It sprang into being as the glaciers of the last Ice Age lumbered northward, trailing swampy streams that became the Ohio, the Missouri, and a hundred others. Where these streams joined and ran south to the ocean, they dug a groove through the soft slab of clay and sand that became the American South. Every year, every droplet of spring rain that fell upon much of the continent ran downhill in the direction of that groove -- the Mississippi's riverbed -- each rill carrying a microscopic load of organic material and sand. Coursing southward, the water scoured more soft earth from the banks and bottom and whisked it along. Below the points where the Missouri and Ohio joined the master stream, uncounted tons of dirt swirled in the water like muddy clouds. (Farmers would say it was too thick to drink and too thin to farm.) The water and its burden of sediment determined the river's ever-shifting geography, and the geography challenged the ingenuity of the Americans who settled on the banks.

They soon learned that the river, like a creature of myth, possessed the power to change its shape, and did so again and again. Wherever the current slows, especially on the inside curve of a bend, sediment falls to the bottom. There a sandbar forms. The bar nudges the oncoming current toward the opposite bank. That bank crumbles under the current's pressure, sending more sediment downstream, where it collects elsewhere as a new sandbar. Mile after mile, century after century, the river undulates in a crazy squiggle of curves and horseshoes.

This process of geological transformation handed Henry Shreve his great challenge. In his era the trees of the original North American forest still stood guard up and down the Mississippi. Wherever the current assaulted the banks, these old giants lost their footing, slid into the river, and floated downstream as dangerous snags. Some blundered into sandbars or islands, catching other snags and blocking the watercourse. Some wandered free, their bobbing limbs beckoning to rivermen in slow, sinister gestures of invitation. (These were called "sawyers," for the way they appeared to saw the surface.) The deadliest snags were called planters -- trees whose roots caught in the silt floor and stuck fast. More silt would pile against the roots, embedding the tree, its shaft pointing to the surface like a battering ram. When a steamboat struck a planter, the murderous effects were instantaneous -- "a sudden wrench, the rush of sucking water, a clanging of bells, terrified screams, and the current would sweep over another tragedy."

The snags had been falling into the Mississippi since the Mississippi began. The early French settlers at New Orleans had called them chicots -- "teeth of the river." By the 1820s, American surveyors counted 50,000 of them. And those were only the ones they could see. As steam traffic mounted, so did the damage and loss of life. Fear of snags slowed commerce. Military men, including Generals Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison, said snags impeded their mobility in the War of 1812 and the Indian campaigns. Pleas for federal action rose. In the summer of 1818, the influential Niles' Register reported: "Three steam boats have been lost in five months...in consequence of running foul of great trunks of trees....Will not the increased navigation of this mighty stream soon justify an attempt to clear it of such serious incumbrances -- or is it practicable to do it?"

That was the question: Did any effort to clear the Mississippi of 50,000 snags even stand a chance?

Henry Shreve believed so. As an owner of steamboats, he found the sodden driftwood hindering his every trip, costing him money and threatening the safety of passengers and crews. The great logs became a personal challenge, even a mild obsession. At home and on the river, he sketched plans for a strange new river craft.

Then, in 1824, the glowering South Carolina statesman John C. Calhoun, as secretary of war, invited river men to submit ideas for snag clearing. Shreve offered his plan for a twin-hulled steamer rigged with an apparatus for sawing off snags underwater and hauling them out with a manually operated windlass. Calhoun never responded. Yet no other river man produced a practical idea.

Soon a second plea issued from Washington. This time Shreve kept quiet, and the War Department hired John Bruce, a Kentuckian like Shreve, to clear all snags from the Ohio and the lower Mississippi for $65,000. Bruce tried his own twin-hulled design, failed, then attacked the Ohio snags with teams of men armed only with saws and chains. After two years they had barely begun on the Ohio, let alone the Mississippi, and Bruce's money was gone.

Under increasing pressure from the West, the new secretary of war, James Barbour, cast about for some new plan. He spoke to Calhoun, now John Quincy Adams's vice president, who recalled Shreve's ideas. Though Shreve was well-known as an Andrew Jackson man -- and thus a natural enemy of Adams, who had defeated Jackson for the presidency in 1824 -- the administration set aside its partisan reservations and hired Shreve as superintendent of western river improvements under the army engineers, at a salary of six dollars per day.

Shreve had to send a stream of beseeching letters before Washington would authorize construction of his snagboat for $12,000. Finally, after he reported success with a model -- "The machine is beautifully simple and most powerful in its operation and produces the effect intended in the most admirable manner" -- the army agreed to pay, but told Shreve that if his experiment failed, he would bear the cost himself.

At New Albany, Indiana, a few miles down the Ohio River from Louisville, Shreve's idea took on solid form. Two steamboat hulls 125 feet long lay side by side, each with a paddle wheel on its outer edge. Beams connecting the hulls supported an overhead pulley-and-windlass apparatus for lifting snags from the water. At the bow was a wedge-shaped beam made of heavy timber and sheathed in iron. This was the weapon Shreve would thrust at snags. He named the boat Heliopolis.

Few on the rivers believed it would succeed. Some even stooped to political sabotage. A fellow river captain wrote the War Department: "It is said that the present Superintendent has it in contemplation to construct a large and powerful steamboat, for the purpose of cutting out the snags, and pulling them out by the force of steam. Now, those projects are only calculated to get through the appropriation, without anything like the object contemplated. All machinery, whatever, whether used by lever or steam power is considered by persons who are well-acquainted with the Mississippi river navigation, as a useless expenditure of time and money." But other captains signed petitions on Shreve's behalf. They wanted action against the rotting obstacles, however unlikely the result.

In the spring of 1829, the Heliopolis was finished. But a drought had drained the Ohio to its lowest level in years, keeping Shreve in port. He waited. In mid-August heavy rains fell and the river swelled. The Heliopolis made its way down the Ohio, then the Mississippi, to Plum Point, Tennessee, a place studded with snags, one of the most dangerous places on the entire river. Shreve arrived at midnight on August 19.

In the morning, as he got ready, other boats stood at a distance, their crews expecting the first collision with a snag to jolt the snagboat's boilers into explosive fury. Shreve chose a planter and turned the boat toward it. The Heliopolis gathered speed and closed in. At full steam the iron wedge crunched into timber. The tree snapped. Windlasses whirled and chains clanked, and the planter emerged, dripping, from the brown depths. The trunk had broken several feet below the surface of the sandy bottom. In moments, Shreve's men sawed it into small pieces.

Eleven hours later, the entire Plum Point channel was clear.

"I am proud to say," Shreve soon wrote the chief of engineers, "that the performance far exceeded my most sanguine expectations."

That fall Shreve roamed the western rivers. By 1830 his triumph was known throughout the country. "Capt. Shreve has perfectly succeeded in rendering about 300 miles of river as harmless as a mill-pond," one newspaper reported. A second snag boat was commissioned, then a third and fourth, all virtually identical to the Heliopolis. Soon the Ohio and Mississippi were all but free of snags, then the Arkansas. Finally, in his most remarkable achievement, Shreve cut through the immense log blockage of the Red River in Louisiana known as the Great Raft, 150 miles long, all the way to a place that would soon be called Shreveport. From Texas to Pennsylvania, the rivers were clear.

Of course, even a clear river is only as safe as its channel. Shreve's ingenious boats had made the river safe during normal seasons. But the Mississippi is capable of frightening departures from the normal.

AN ENDLESS WALL

[Y]ou hardly ever see the river, but the levee is always close by, a great green serpent running through woods, swamps, and farms, with towns nestling close to its slopes. The levee is unobtrusive, since its slope is green and gradual, but in fact it is immense -- higher and longer than the Great Wall of China, very likely the biggest thing that man has ever made....It was the principal human response to the titanic power of the great river.

-- Alan Lomax, The Land Where the Blues Began

A band of mosquito-ridden Spanish soldiers were the first people of European origin to see the Mississippi in flood. In 1543 they crossed a bewildering inland sea that drowned all but the tallest trees, and they paddled like hell to leave it behind.

What they saw was simply the lower Mississippi being its natural self. The river rises with the rains every spring and often spills out on the land. Through the millennia since the last Ice Age, the spreading floodwaters have dropped layer upon layer of sediment, the heaviest sediment nearest the river, thus creating a rich cake of soil up and down the banks. The land sloped away from these natural mounds and turned swampy, but under the swamps the land was highly fertile, too.

The French, who came a century and a half after the first Spanish explorers departed, weren't so easily scared off. They built a town, New Orleans, on the broad mound of sediment between the river and Lake Pontchartrain. To keep the spring high water out of their streets, they constructed a dike along the river. They called it a levée, from the verb lever, to raise. By 1727 it was three feet high, eighteen feet across the top, and a mile long. If they had known what Herculean labors they were setting in motion by building that little wall, they might have packed their bateaux and followed the Spanish. For one levee inevitably begat another levee, and so on ad infinitum.

This the Americans discovered soon after President Thomas Jefferson bought the vast, unexplored territory of Louisiana -- essentially the entire western drainage basin of the Mississippi -- from the French in 1803. They learned that if you built a three-foot-high levee on the east bank of the river, while on the west bank there was no levee, then the next flood crest would overflow the west bank. So...

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.Since the earliest days of the republic, great engineering projects have shaped American landscapes and expressed American dreams. The ambition to build lies as close to the nation s heart as the belief in liberty. We live in a built civilization, connected one to another in an enormous web of technology. Yet we have all too often overlooked the role of engineers and builders in American history. With glorious photographs and epic narrative sweep, Great Projects at last gives their story the prominence it deserves. Each of the eight projects featured in this masterful narrative was a milestone in its own right: the flood-control works of the lower Mississippi, Hoover Dam, Edison s lighting system, the spread of electricity across the nation, the great Croton Aqueduct, the bridges of New York City, Boston s revamped street system, known as the Big Dig, and the ever-evolving communica- tions network called the Internet. Each project arose from a heroic vision. Each encountered obstacles. Each reveals a tale of genius and perseverance. James Tobin, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, explains the four essential tasks of the engineer: to protect people from the destructive force of water while harnessing it for the enormous good it can do; to provide people with electricity, the motive force of modern life; to make great cities habitable and vital; and to create the pathways that connect place to place and person to person. Tobin focuses on the indi- viduals behind our greatest structures of earth and concrete and steel: James Buchanan Eads, who walked on the floor of the Mississippi to learn the river s secrets; Arthur Powell Davis and Frank Crowe, who imagined a dam that could transform the West; Thomas Edison, who envisioned a new way to light the world; Samuel Insull, the organizational mastermind of the electrical revolution; the long-forgotten John Bloomfield Jervis, who assured New York s future with the gift of clean water; Othmar Ammann, the modest Swiss-American who fought his mentor to become the first engineer to bridge the lower Hudson River; Fred Salvucci, the antihighway rebel who transformed the face of Boston; and J.C.R. Licklider, the obscure scientist who first imagined the Internet. Here, too, are the workers who scorned hardship to turn the engineers dreams into reality, deep underground and high in the sky, through cold and heat and danger. In Great Projects -- soon to be a major PBS television series by the Emmy Award-winning Great Projects Film Company -- we share their dreams and witness their struggles; we watch them create the modern world we walk through each day -- the city upon a hill that became our America. Bookseller Inventory # AAV9781451613018

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Since the earliest days of the republic, great engineering projects have shaped American landscapes and expressed American dreams. The ambition to build lies as close to the nation s heart as the belief in liberty. We live in a built civilization, connected one to another in an enormous web of technology. Yet we have all too often overlooked the role of engineers and builders in American history. With glorious photographs and epic narrative sweep, Great Projects at last gives their story the prominence it deserves. Each of the eight projects featured in this masterful narrative was a milestone in its own right: the flood-control works of the lower Mississippi, Hoover Dam, Edison s lighting system, the spread of electricity across the nation, the great Croton Aqueduct, the bridges of New York City, Boston s revamped street system, known as the Big Dig, and the ever-evolving communica- tions network called the Internet. Each project arose from a heroic vision. Each encountered obstacles. Each reveals a tale of genius and perseverance. James Tobin, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, explains the four essential tasks of the engineer: to protect people from the destructive force of water while harnessing it for the enormous good it can do; to provide people with electricity, the motive force of modern life; to make great cities habitable and vital; and to create the pathways that connect place to place and person to person. Tobin focuses on the indi- viduals behind our greatest structures of earth and concrete and steel: James Buchanan Eads, who walked on the floor of the Mississippi to learn the river s secrets; Arthur Powell Davis and Frank Crowe, who imagined a dam that could transform the West; Thomas Edison, who envisioned a new way to light the world; Samuel Insull, the organizational mastermind of the electrical revolution; the long-forgotten John Bloomfield Jervis, who assured New York s future with the gift of clean water; Othmar Ammann, the modest Swiss-American who fought his mentor to become the first engineer to bridge the lower Hudson River; Fred Salvucci, the antihighway rebel who transformed the face of Boston; and J.C.R. Licklider, the obscure scientist who first imagined the Internet. Here, too, are the workers who scorned hardship to turn the engineers dreams into reality, deep underground and high in the sky, through cold and heat and danger. In Great Projects -- soon to be a major PBS television series by the Emmy Award-winning Great Projects Film Company -- we share their dreams and witness their struggles; we watch them create the modern world we walk through each day -- the city upon a hill that became our America. Bookseller Inventory # AAV9781451613018

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Book Description Free Press. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 336 pages. Dimensions: 9.8in. x 7.9in. x 0.9in.Since the earliest days of the republic, great engineering projects have shaped American landscapes and expressed American dreams. The ambition to build lies as close to the nations heart as the belief in liberty. We live in a built civilization, connected one to another in an enormous web of technology. Yet we have all too often overlooked the role of engineers and builders in American history. With glorious photographs and epic narrative sweep, Great Projects at last gives their story the prominence it deserves. Each of the eight projects featured in this masterful narrative was a milestone in its own right: the flood-control works of the lower Mississippi, Hoover Dam, Edisons lighting system, the spread of electricity across the nation, the great Croton Aqueduct, the bridges of New York City, Bostons revamped street system, known as the Big Dig, and the ever-evolving communica- tions network called the Internet. Each project arose from a heroic vision. Each encountered obstacles. Each reveals a tale of genius and perseverance. James Tobin, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, explains the four essential tasks of the engineer: to protect people from the destructive force of water while harnessing it for the enormous good it can do; to provide people with electricity, the motive force of modern life; to make great cities habitable and vital; and to create the pathways that connect place to place and person to person. Tobin focuses on the indi- viduals behind our greatest structures of earth and concrete and steel: James Buchanan Eads, who walked on the floor of the Mississippi to learn the rivers secrets; Arthur Powell Davis and Frank Crowe, who imagined a dam that could transform the West; Thomas Edison, who envisioned a new way to light the world; Samuel Insull, the organizational mastermind of the electrical revolution; the long-forgotten John Bloomfield Jervis, who assured New Yorks future with the gift of clean water; Othmar Ammann, the modest Swiss-American who fought his mentor to become the first engineer to bridge the lower Hudson River; Fred Salvucci, the antihighway rebel who transformed the face of Boston; and J. C. R. Licklider, the obscure scientist who first imagined the Internet. Here, too, are the workers who scorned hardship to turn the engineers dreams into reality, deep underground and high in the sky, through cold and heat and danger. In Great Projects -- soon to be a major PBS television series by the Emmy Award-winning Great Projects Film Company -- we share their dreams and witness their struggles; we watch them create the modern world we walk through each day -- the city upon a hill that became our America. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9781451613018

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