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Secrets of a Master Builder

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Teacher's Guide: Hints for the Active Learning Questions


1. Cartoons should use easily recognizable symbols of Eads' career, such as his bridge at St. Louis, and should convey a message about his character.

2. Some people may argue that personal information should be irrelevant to history's judgment of a person. Others may argue that such information is relevant; of these, some may claim that Eads deliberately neglected his family, while others may claim that this neglect was forced upon Eads by the demands of his career.

3a. Construction drawings help explain the work of structural engineers and designers. They show the many details that go into building a bridge, and the hours of work, revisions, and calculations to make the structure sound. The demonstration of building a bridge pier makes the process of constructing supports for the bridge easier to understand, and highlights the risky efforts of the construction crew. The video footage shows the bridge in its final incarnation, giving a sense of its scale and its position.

3b. Looking for different types of information can help create a fuller picture of a subject. The various types of resources on Eads contribute to a broader understanding of his character than any one of the resources can provide alone.


1a. St. Louis's geographic disadvantage was its location on the far (western) side of the Mississippi; Eads' bridge linked the city with the eastern side of the river. New Orleans' disadvantage was the buildup of silt south of the city, at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico; Eads' jetties deepened the channel and thereby improved the city's access to the gulf.

1b. While a Central American canal would have become necessary in any event, in the meantime Mexico presumably would have derived significant economic advantages from the building and maintainance of the railway.


1. Fact sheets should include the location, purpose, and timetable of the project.

2. Places to annotate include St. Louis, New Orleans, the sites of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson (on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, respectively), and possibly the Tehuantepec isthmus of Mexico.


1. Speeches may argue that Eads has a proven ability to "get things done," that he has the courage to risk his fortune and his prestige on projects he believes in, and that he has played a significant role in the nation's economic growth.

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