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High Steel: The Daring Men Who Built The World's Greatest Skyline
by Jim Rasenberger
Publisher: HarperCollins 2004
Category: Non-fiction19th century20th centuryArchitecture/Built Environment
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With the birth of the steel-frame skyscraper in the late nineteenth century came a new breed of man, as bold and untamed as any this country had ever known. These "cowboys of the skies," as one journalist called them, were the structural ironworkers who walked steel beams — no wider, often, than the face of a hardcover book — hundreds of feet above ground, to raise the soaring towers and vaulting bridges that so abruptly transformed America in the twentieth century. Many early ironworkers were former sailors, new Americans of Irish and Scandinavian descent accustomed to climbing tall ships' masts and schooled in the arts of rigging. Others came from a small Mohawk Indian reservation on the banks of the St. Lawrence River or from a constellation of seaside towns in Newfoundland. What all had in common were fortitude, courage, and a short life expectancy. "We do not die," went an early ironworkers' motto. "We are killed." High Steel is the stirring epic of these men and of the icons they built — and are building still. Shifting between past and present, Jim Rasenberger travelsback to the earliest iron bridges and buildings of the nineteenth century; to the triumph of the Brooklyn Bridge and the 1907 tragedy of the Quebec Bridge, where seventy-five ironworkers, including thirty-three Mohawks, lost their lives in an instant; through New York's skyscraper boom of the late 1920s, when ironworkers were hailed as "industrial age heroes." All the while, Rasenberger documents the lives of several contempor-ary ironworkers raising steel on a twenty-first-century skyscraper, the Time Warner building in New York City.

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