Skywalkers: Mohawk Ironworkers Build the City / by David Weitzman

Title: Skywalkers: Mohawk Ironworkers Build the City
Author: David Weitzman
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
ISBN: 978-1-59643-162-1
Year: 2010

Concepts: human resources, capital resources, technological change, jobs, apprenticeship, production costs, innovation, occupations

Review: Since the mid 1800s when they took part in building a new Canadian railroad bridge, members of the Kannawake people, more commonly known as Mohawks, have played an integral role in the construction of North American bridges and skyscrapers. As technological change led to increasingly heavier trains and vehicles, engineers had to design stronger bridges out of sturdier materials, from wood to iron and then steel. Mohawk ironworkers kept pace with these changes as they used their formidable skills in framing, raising, riveting, welding, and balancing. The work paid well, but it came with high risks, especially at a time when safety nets and harnesses were unheard of and construction workers wore little if any protective gear.

This historical narrative presents a fascinating look at innovations in the construction of bridges and buildings over time, as well as the role of Mohawk ironworkers in actually building these ever bigger and taller structures. The author does a nice job in combining the engineering-oriented explanations of ironwork together with lessons in economics related to production costs, innovation, apprenticeships, and occupations. The book makes a useful addition to any collection on North American industrial and economic history.

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children


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