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  • Writer's pictureCatrina Hull

8 Intriguing Facts About the Brooklyn Bridge

Updated: Feb 6, 2019

Brooklyn Bridge - New York
Photo: Brooklyn Bridge - Lukas Schlagenhauf via Flickr
Since it's opening, the Brooklyn Bridge has been a New York icon. With a history that dates back to the Gilded Age, it has inspired and piqued the interest of millions all over the world.

Check out these 8 intriguing facts about the

Brooklyn Bridge...

1. It was the 1st bridge in the world to use steel wire suspension cables instead of iron.

The Gilded Age was a time filled with all kinds of technological advances. So, of course, bridges like many other things were constantly being pushed to the next technological limits. But just to be safe, John Roebling (the German immigrant who designed the bridge) made plans for the bridge to be 6 times stronger than necessary.

Brooklyn Bridge
Photo: Brooklyn Bridge - Mike Sinko via Flickr

2. John Roebling, the designer of the bridge, died from a tetanus infection before the construction started.

While he was surveying, his feet were injured in a ferry accident that left him with a tetanus infection that incapacitated him and ultimately killed him. The tetanus vaccine wouldn't be invented for another 55 years. John put his son, Washington, in charge of the project shortly before he died. Construction was successfully started and completed, overseen by Washington Roebling.

John Roebling
Photo: John Roebling - Brooklyn Museum Collection [public domain] via Wikimedia

3. At the time of its opening in 1883, it was the world's longest suspension bridge.

It held this world record for two decades. It was about 50% longer than any other suspension bridge previously built. The nearby Williamsburg Bridge broke the record in 1903.

brooklyn bridge
Photo: Brooklyn Bridge via Flickr

4. It wasn't always called the Brooklyn Bridge.

In fact, when it was first built it was called the "New York and Brooklyn Bridge", but it was widely referred to as the "East River Bridge" because it was the first bridge over that area. The official name change to the Brooklyn Bridge came in 1915 - 32 years after it opened.

Photo: Brookyln Bridge - Angela N. via Flickr

5. It once was prepared to be a fallout shelter during the Cold War.

During routine checks in 2006, a Cold War era shelter was found in an abandoned area under one of the arches. Emergency Supplies had been stocked up in case of Soviet Union nuclear attack.

under brooklyn bridge
Photo: Under Brooklyn Bridge - Jeffrey Zeldman via Flickr

6. Cannons were fired during its opening celebration.

It almost seems like a funny thing to even say that. Cannons and suspension bridges were used at the same time at one point in history. But it's true. President Chester Arthur and Mayor Franklin Edson crossed the world's longest suspension bridge together to the celebratory blast of cannons.

Photo: Cannon ball - The British Museum [public domain] via Wikimedia

7. P.T. Barnum's famous elephant, "Jumbo", led 21 elephants in a parade across the bridge.

A year after the Brooklyn Bridge had opened, people were still a bit scared of this impressively long bridge. They were uncertain about its stability. Barnum saw his chance to publicize his show and offered to prove the bridges strength and safety by parading his elephants over. The stunt was a success for all.

PT Barnum
Photo: PT Barnum [public domain] via Flickr

8. One of the world's largest airplanes was flown under the bridge.

In 1919, Giorgio Pessi (WWI flying ace) flew a Caproni Ca. 5 under the Brooklyn Bridge. The Caproni Ca. 5 was an Italian heavy bomber used during World War I.


Brooklyn Bridge New York
Photo: Brooklyn Bridge Panorama - John Cunniff via Flickr



TIME Magazine - "Man Made Wonders" edition

New York Times - "The Building of the Bridge.; Its Cost and the Difficulties Met With -- Details of the History of the History of a Great Engineering Triumph"

CBS NEW - "Cold War Time Capsule Found in NYC"

New York Times - "When Barnum took Manhattan"


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#PTBarnum #brooklynbridge #newyork #suspensionbridge #gildedage #nyc #placestovisit #traveltuesday

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