National Geographic : 1983 May
view-similar to the one Wash ington Roebling (left) had from his house a quarter mile south in Brooklyn Heights. In a home nearby, his father had died of tetanus in 1869 after his foot had been crushed by a ferry as he surveyed the tower site. Washington also paid his dues to the bridge. Twice he col lapsed after work in the cais sons, suffering horribly from the bends. Beset by a nervous disorder, he was confined to a sickroom for a decade, reading and writing with difficulty. But his mind was alert, and he su pervised every detail of bridge construction by dictating in structions to his wife. Emily also fought his battles with skeptical experts and dis honest contractors. Some defec tive wire went into the great cables before the contractor who had switched it for inspect ed materials was caught. Roeb ling decided that the cable, with a six-fold safety factor, would not have to be replaced. When Roebling was unable to attend the inaugural festivi ties, President Arthur led digni taries to his house. Perhaps no tribute was ever harder earned. Roebling recovered much of his strength and later ran the family wire factories in New Jersey until his death in 1926. Free-lance contributor John G. Morris, a former picture editor for Life and the New York Times, has also written for Harper'sand Holiday.