What Builders These Mortals Be: Puck's View of the Brooklyn Bridge
- American Periodicals: A Journal of History & Criticism
- The Ohio State University Press
- Volume 29, Number 1, 2019
- pp. 43-62
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From 1877 to 1883, Puck magazine—whose motto was "What fools these mortals be!"—responded to the building of the Brooklyn Bridge with graphics and commentary that ranged from pointed satire to lighthearted puns and humor. Its ongoing record of the complexities involved with the bridge's construction, celebration, and everyday use provides a historical perspective that has gone largely unexamined. As Puck dealt satirically with the way the Great Bridge changed the skyline and affected Brooklyn/ Manhattan dynamics on municipal, economic, and social levels, it provided a glimpse into the personal implications of those sweeping changes. It offered serious admonitions about the way political machinations affected construction, vehicle and pedestrian accessibility, and safety, and it grieved with its readers over the tragedies that occurred while the bridge was being built and after. Puck's graphics, while often humorous, were fearless in criticizing those in power, alerting readers to underlying issues that would affect them on a day-to-day basis. Its satirical humor helped shape public opinion, making what seemed to be an impracticable project a household word. In so doing, Puck effectively created a new motto: "What builders these mortals be!"