Tom Paine’s Iron Bridge: Building a United States

Edward G. Gray. Norton, $26.96 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-24178-5
Many Americans think of Tom Paine as a great champion of independence from Britain, and as a skilled firebrand. Gray (Colonial America: A History in Documents), professor of history at Florida State University, brings the radical pamphleteer alive as an architect of iron bridges. He makes a good case that Paine’s hopes for the infant United States went beyond its political independence. Wanting also to help unite the country, Paine applied his amateur design skills to the idea of physically knitting together the American territory. Understanding that the nation’s many rivers were obstacles to commerce as well as avenues of transportation, he saw the need to bridge them. Unfortunately, hard luck, ideological battles, difficulties with public authorities (in the U.S., Britain, and France), and an inveterate penury thwarted Paine’s schemes. But as he’d proved in his political writings, his visions were sound even if his execution of them was not. Others in the U.S. and elsewhere eventually erected iron bridges, some at least modestly influenced by his designs and models. Gray’s prose is lively; the solid tale he tells may be of no major significance to a broader historical understanding, but it adds to the body of knowledge about a passionate man and the tumultuous era in which he lived. Illus. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-393-24855-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-68168-014-9
Show other formats
Discover what to read next