Day 64/365 of Steel – David Barnard Steinman

David Barnard Steinman (June 11, 1886 – August 21, 1960) was an American civil engineer. He was the designer of the Mackinac Bridge and many other notable bridges, and a published author.

Mackinac Bridge from the air
Fig 1: Mackinac Bridge from the air

It is said that he designed the Mackinac Bridge to withstand winds of 365 mph. It is considered by many to be his most significant work, although, perhaps not by Steinman himself, who expressed a personal preference for the St. Johns bridge, saying, “If you asked me which of the bridges I love best, I believe I would say the St. Johns bridge. I put more of myself into that bridge than any other bridge.”

St. Johns Bridge
Fig 2: St. Johns Bridge
©Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

Steinman also wrote poetry late in life, publishing a volume of poems in 1955, to some acclaim. Hereunder you can find a poem dedicated to the Mackinac Bridge (or ‘Big Mac’). I think his bridge engineering was more impressive, but it’s pleasant enough to share it with you.

Ice forms in the Straits of Mackinac, underneath the Mackinac Bridge
Fig 3: Ice forms in the Straits of Mackinac, underneath the Mackinac Bridge
©PA3 George Degener

“The Bridge at Mackinac
In the land of Hiawatha,
Where the white man gazed with awe
At a paradise divided

By the straits of Mackinac
Men are dredging, drilling, blasting,
Battling tides around the clock,
Through the depths of icy water,
Driving caissons down to rock.

Fleets of freighters bring their cargoes
From the forges and the kilns;
Stones and steel – ten thousand barge-loads –
From the quarries, mines, and mills.

Now the towers, mounting skyward,
Reach the heights of airy space.
Hear the rivet-hammers ringing,
Joining steel in strength and grace.

High above the swirling currents,
Parabolic strands are strung;
From the cables, packed with power,
Wonder-spans of steel are hung.

Generations dreamed the crossing;
Doubters shook their heads in scorn.
Brave men vowed that they would build it –
From their faith a bridge was born.

There it spans the miles of water,
Speeding millions on their way –
Bridge of vision, hope and courage,
Portal to a brighter day.”

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

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