7 Brooklyn Bridge Facts New Yorkers Don’t Even Know

A Lower East Side Guide

7 Brooklyn Bridge Facts New Yorkers Don’t Even Know

January 16, 2020 Brooklyn Bridge Facts 0

An Early Chronology of Brooklyn Bridge Facts

Possessing a history both sordid and bizarre, the Brooklyn Bridge is a fascinating landmark that has been facilitating transportation and skyline views since 1883. We recently named it the best bridge in New York, and for good reason. This bridge is more than just a land connector. It’s a living, breathing link to the past. Our timeline explores the origin, tragedies, and ingenuity that shaped one of the United States’ most iconic structures.

1867

The Origins of New York’s Most Famous Bridge Relied on Corruption

Image result for william boss tweedThe Brooklyn Bridge was planned by veteran bridge engineer John Roebling, an immigrant from Prussia. Enthusiasm for the idea was not shared by all in the city government, and so Roebling enlisted Tammany Hall kingpin William “Boss” Tweed to help secure funds. Documents showed that Tweed paid out over $60,000 in bribes to secure a $1.5 million bond for the bridge’s construction. After many delays and redesigns the project was ready to launch in 1869.

1869

John Roebling Wouldn’t Live to See The Opening

Once the contract was granted, Roebling got to work. In June of 1869 he was conducting preliminary surveys when a ferry crushed his foot against a piling. His toes were swiftly amputated, and as a result, developed tetanus. He died on July 22nd, just 28 days after the injury and 14 years before the completion of the bridge.

1869 – 1883

A Bridge With a Body Count

The construction of the bridge featured scenes that would have fit in any Final Destination movie. Workers were maimed, crushed, bludgeoned, and succumbed to falls from over 200 feet. If that weren’t bad enough, countless others suffered from “the bends“, a phenomena where rapid pressure change causes nitrogen in the blood to bubble. This resulted in three deaths and the permanent impairment of Roebling’s son (who took over the project).

May 1883

It Was An Engineering Marvel

At the time of its opening on May 24th, 1883 the Brooklyn Bridge was the first Steel Wire Suspension Bridge in the world. It featured a span of over 6,000 ft and included 19 strands comprised of 5,434 steel wires. These wires took over two years to construct due to the tediousness of assembly. It was deemed safe by the city, although that reputation wouldn’t last long.

May 1883

A Memorial Day Stampede Claimed Twelve Lives

Just one week after its inauguration, the bridge hosted 20,000 people for a Memorial Day celebration that quickly turned tragic. Chaos ensued when a woman fell down a staircase, resulting in twelve casualties and dozens of injured bridge-goers. The city was shook, and so too was the reputation of their new bridge.

May 1884

The Greatest Show on Earth (on a Bridge)

Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Parade 1884The year is 1884 and people are still skeptical about the sturdiness of the bridge. Enter circus tycoon PT Barnum. Upon its opening in 1883, Barnum had offered to showcase a parade of elephants and camels in exchange for $5000. They declined. With public perception wavering, the city finally agreed to the deal, hoping it would offer a much needed morale boost. On May 17th, 1884 the Brooklyn Bridge played host to a parade of 21 elephants and 17 camels. It was a success for all parties involved and faith in the bridge was reinforced.

1883 -1891

It Was More Expensive to Cross the Bridge in 1884 Than It Is Today

The very first day saw the prices as follows:

Bridge TransportationToll Price
Pedestrian1 cent
Horse 5 cent
Horse-Drawn Wagon10 cent
Cows5 cent
Pigs/Sheep2 cent

In 1891 public pressure ended the foot traffic toll, and 20 years later all tolls were removed from all New York bridges (including the Williamsburg Bridge). This has given New Yorkers and tourists from all over the world free access to one of New York’s most enduring landmarks for over one hundred years.

A Timeline of our Brooklyn Bridge Facts

April 1867

A Bridge is Born

With the help of New York kingpin William “Boss” Tweedy, John Roebling’s innovative design is approved by city legislators.

Disaster Strikes

John Roebling contracts tetanus after crushing his feet in an on-site accident. He died three weeks later.

June 1869
1869 -1883

The Death Toll Rises

Many workers died during the Brooklyn Bridge’s 14 year construction. Estimates range from 20-50 casualties.

Suspended Belief

The Brooklyn Bridge becomes the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge

May 24th, 1883
May 31st, 1883

Stampede!

Just one week after the opening 12 people are killed in a Memorial Day stampede caused by overcrowding.

Barnum & Brooklyn

Circus tycoon PT Barnum puts the strength of the bridge on display with a parade of elephants.

May 17th, 1884
1883-1891
 

For Whom the Bridge Tolls

Today, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the few free attractions in NYC. But for the first 8 years of existence this wasn’t the case. You could pay as much as 10 cents to cross the bridge.