David McCullough was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a student at Yale he met the author Thornton Wilder, and after considering careers in politics and in the arts, was inspired to become an author.
After college McCullough moved to New York City and worked as an editorial assistant at Sports Illustrated. “Swept up by the excitement of the Kennedy era,” he moved to Washington and became an editor and writer at the United States Information Agency. In 1964, he became a full time editor and writer for American Heritage, the publisher he sometimes calls “my graduate school.”
He wrote his first book at night and on weekends while working full time. The Johnstown Flood, inspired by the great catastrophe that struck his native region in 1889, was an unexpected bestseller in 1968. Its success emboldened him to quit his job and commit to a full time writing career.
Since then he has published a series of distinguished works of history and biography, all of which have won enormous popularity with the reading public. His books have won numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award for History, Cornelius Ryan Award, Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and Francis Parkman Prize from the American Society of Historians.
He has also won notoriety for narrating his books and documentaries such as PBS’ The Civil War and Napoleon, as well as hosting The American Experience and Smithsonian World.
Here, then, is a list of some of his early books that have escaped the limelight in recent years and are every bit as interesting…
Description: A tragedy that became a national scandal, the Johnstown flood happened because an old earth dam had been hastily rebuilt at the end of the 1900s to create a lake above Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It was for an exclusive summer resort patronized by the tycoons of that same industrial prosperity, among them Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Mellon. When the dam burst May 31, 1889 after days of heavy rain, more than 2000 people were killed in the industrial town of Johnstown.
Description: This is the story of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, known in its time as the Eighth Wonder of the World and considered to be the greatest engineering feat of the 19th century. During that century, many bridges were built and many collapsed within a few decades or even a few years. The Brooklyn Bridge is now the only stone-pillared, steel-cabled suspension bridge in the world.
Description: A remarkable account of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific ocean is told in this sweeping narrative. It is a story of astonishing engineering feats, tremendous medical accomplishments, political power plays, heroic successes, and tragic failures. The engineering was spectacular; the locks still function flawlessly today.
Description: As McCullough’s third book, this is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. It is the story of a remarkable little boy, seriously handicapped by recurrent and almost fatal asthma attacks, and his struggle to manhood: an amazing metamorphosis seen in the context of the very uncommon household in which he was raised.
Description: Written to coincide with the Brooklyn Bridge centenary, this illustrated, oversized book on Brooklyn, the New York City borough, begins with a short history of the area through 1898, explores the various neighborhoods, takes a tour of the Brooklyn coastline and delves into what made Brooklyn famous—the Dodgers and Coney Island.
Watch this interview with David McCullough
Another interview with Mr. McCullough details how he writes his books and the small delights he takes in the process