Brooklyn BridgeThe Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, spanning the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
|Brooklyn Bridge, 1890|
Nearly 1.3 miles long, it was opened for use on May 24, 1883, after 14 years of construction. On that first day a total of 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed. The bridge cost $18 million to build and approximately 27 people died during its construction. A week after the opening, on May 30, a rumor that the Bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede which crushed twelve people.
At the time it opened, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, and has become a treasured landmark. Since the 1980s, it has been floodlit at night to display its architectural features. It will be interesting to add that the Roebling Bridge in Cincinnati was an experiment for the engineering design.
The bridge was designed by John Augustus Roebling. As construction was beginning, Roebling's foot was seriously injured in an accident; within a few weeks, he died of tetanus. His son, Washington, succeeded him, but was stricken with caisson disease (bends), due to working in compressed air with the sand hogs, and was unable to talk or move. Washington's wife, Emily Warren Roebling, trained herself in engineering so she could communicate his wishes to the builders. Washington Roebling was unable to leave his home and watched the construction via binoculars.
At the time the bridge was built, the aerodynamics of bridge building had not been worked out. It would take until the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the technology of the 1950s before bridge models could be tested in wind tunnels. Roebling solved the problem that collapsed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge by designing a bridge truss system that was six times as strong as he thought it needed to be. Because of this, the Brooklyn Bridge is still standing when many of the bridges built around the same time have vanished into history and had been replaced.
At various times, the bridge has carried horses and trolley traffic; at present, it has lanes for motor vehicles, and a separate level for pedestrians and bicycles.
References to "selling the Brooklyn Bridge" abound in American culture, sometimes as examples of rural gullibility but more often in connection with an idea that strains credulity. For example, "If you believe that, I have a wonderful bargain for you . . ." However, see also Victor Lustig.
The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge is detailed in a film by Ken Burns.
view from the pedestrian path of the Brooklyn Bridge
(photo taken 2002)