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Brooklyn Bridge

Chester Arthur

Brooklyn Bridge: Chester Arthur was the 21st American President who served in office from September 19, 1881 to March 4, 1885. One of the important events during his presidency were the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge that spans the East River.

Definition and Summary of the Brooklyn Bridge
Summary and definition:
The Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world and was formally opened on Thursday, May 24th, 1883. The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge started in January, 1870 and completed in May, 1883.

It was originally called the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, then became known as the East River Bridge. It was officially given the name, we know and love, in 1915. This article contains interesting facts about one of the most famous landmarks in the United States of America.

Fast Facts about the Brooklyn Bridge
Fast, fun facts about the Brooklyn Bridge:

Location: The City of New York, New York, United States

It connects the cities of New York (Manhattan) and Brooklyn

Total length of Brooklyn Bridge is 5,989 feet (1825 m)

The Width of the Brooklyn Bridge is 85 feet (26 m)

The Height of the Brooklyn Bridge is 276.5 ft (84.3 m)

Date it was opened: May 24, 1883

Name of the Designer: John Augustus Roebling

The Brooklyn Bridge Fact Sheet for kids
Interesting, fun Brooklyn Bridge Facts for kids are detailed below.

The estimated total cost of the construction was $15 million dollars

It took fourteen years to build the Brooklyn Bridge and required the labor of over 600 men.

The construction crosses the river by a single span of 1,595 feet suspended by four cables. The cables are 15 inches in diameter and each cable is composed of 5,434 parallel steel wires.

Length of each land span, 930 feet. New York approach, 1,562 feet. Brooklyn approach, 971 feet

The Brooklyn Bridge was lighted at night by the United States Illuminating Co. with 70 arc lights of 2,000 candle power each. The blue-white arc lights cost $18,000, several thousand dollars less than the Edison Company bid for supplying incandescent lamps. The arc lights were the first use of electric light over a river. The vast majority of houses were still lighted by gaslight.

The workers represented a variety of trades including Engineers, Laborers, Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Masons and Stonecutters, Riggers, and Painters. The Blacksmiths, Masons and Stonecutters were the highest paid workers earning $3.50 to $4.00 per day. The laborers earned $1.75 per day.

John A. Roebling, was the designer who conceived the project and formulated the plan for the Brooklyn Bridge. He was aided by his son Washington A. Roebling, who directed the work from its inception to its completion.

The assistant engineers also played an important role in the Brooklyn Bridge project. The names of the assistant engineers were Charles C. Martin, Wilhelm Hildenbrand, Francis Collingwood, William H. Paine, George W. McNulty, and Samuel R. Probasco.

Other men who played an important, but often forgotten, role in the construction project were the foremen E.F. Farrington, Arthur V. Abbott, William Van der Bosch, Charles Young and Harry Tupple 

A caisson is a protective, watertight chamber used to carry out construction work under water. Men worked in compressed air in these caissons under the river. The men who worked on the construction were extremely brave working high up on the suspended wires and in the depths of the caissons.

More than 30 men died during the construction project, including the designer, John Roebling

John Roebling (1806 1869) started design work in 1867. In 1869 his foot was crushed by an arriving ferry. His toes were amputated but he developed tetanus 24 days after the accident and died on July 22, 1869.

Washington Augustus Roebling (1837 1926) became assistant engineer on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1868, and was named chief engineer after his father's death in 1869.

Washington Roebling designed the 2 large pneumatic caissons that became the foundations for the two towers.

In 1870 fire broke out in one of the caissons on the Brooklyn Bridge. Washington Roebling was fighting the fire in the caisson. Working in the compressed air under the river caused him to get decompression sickness (also known as "the bends" or "caissons disease")

Caissons Disease completely incapacitated Washington Roebling. He suffered from terrible joint pains, extreme tiredness and became bedridden. He was unable to visit the construction site again, but with the help of his wife, Emily, he directed the project to successful completion in 1883.

Mrs. Emily Warren Roebling (1843 1903) became known as the "first woman field engineer". Emily was the only person allowed to visit Washington and relayed messages and instructions to the site engineers. She worked tirelessly on the project and became an expert in its construction.

The memories of the Roebling family are still honored today by a plaque on the Brooklyn Bridge dedicated to Emily, her husband Washington, and her father-in-law John Roebling

The suspension construction contains 6,740 tons of material, and is able to sustain 7 times its own weight. a tubular bridge for the same span would contain ten times the weight of metal, and though costing twice as much money

On August 24, 1876, E.F. Farrington, Master Mechanic of the Brooklyn Bridge, made the first crossing across the East River on a wire.

The opening of the Brooklyn Bridge was an extremely grand affair that was held on May 24, 1883.

  • It was known as "The People's Day". The date chosen for the opening coincided with the birthday of Queen Victoria.

  • This incensed Irish immigrants who did not want to appear to celebrate anything to do with the British. Newspapers reported that Irish-American nationalists they called "Dynamite Patriots" would attempt to blow up the construction.

The Opening Ceremony: The buildings in the town were draped with banners and flags of red, white and blue. A procession of carriage with important guest and politicians, including the president, paraded through the streets of New York from Madison Square, passing through Fifth Avenue and Broadway

The Opening Ceremony: Most people were given a holiday to celebrate the event and vendors sold different types of memorabilia to commemorate the event - commemorative medals and buttons were sold for 15 cents.

Loud cannon fire accompanied President Chester A. Arthur and Mayor Franklin Edson as they crossed to the Brooklyn-side tower where they were greeted by the Mayor of Brooklyn, Seth Low

The official ceremony and speeches were given under the arched roof of the great iron terminal building. 6000 people crowded the area to hear the speeches - that went on for hours!

The Opening of the Brooklyn Bridge: The opening ceremonies featured music by  the 23d Regiment Band and the 7th Regiment Band. A prayer was offered by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Littlejohn followed by a Presentation Address on behalf of Trustees by William C. Kingsley, the Vice-President.

The Opening: Acceptance Addresses were then made by Mayor Seth Low on behalf of the City of Brooklyn, and by Mayor Franklin Edson on behalf of the City of New York

Thousands of people watched the opening ceremonies which concluded in the evening with a massive firework display.

On the very first day it opened, 1800 vehicles crossed the bridge, consisting of horse-drawn traffic, with a separate elevated walkway pedestrians and bicycles.

The major types of city transport at the time were Streetcars, Horse Cars, horse drawn carriages, and trains. Now, 150,000 vehicles make the crossing every day.

The  bridge-trains started running in September. The trip across on the bridge-train took five minutes and cost 5 cents. The trains were two 300 horsepower steam engines. By 1885 the bridge-trains had carried over 20 million passengers - many visited Central Park.

Just six days after the opening, on May 30 1883 (Memorial Day), a widespread panic engulfed the massive crowd and a rumor spread that the structure was unstable and was going to collapse. The crowd panicked, people were crushed and several were killed.

To help quash doubts about the stability of the structure, and promote his show, circus owner P.T. Barnum organized a fantastic publicity stunt. On May 17, 1884, Jumbo the Elephant led a parade of 21 elephants across the bridge.

The initial charge to make the Brooklyn Bridge crossing was one penny to cross by foot, 5 cents for a horse and rider to cross and 10 cents for a horse and wagon. The price charged for farm animals were 5 cents per cow and 2 cents per hog or sheep

Stunts: The two towers are 275 feet above the water. The first person to jump off the bridge was Robert E. Odlum, a swimming instructor, who died as a result. He was the brother of the brother of women's rights activist Charlotte Odlum Smith.

Stunts: Steve Brodie jumped off and survived on July 23, 1886 - his stunt made him into a famous actor.

A man made the leap wearing large canvas wings, hoping he would be able to fly. He failed to fly but sailed 1000 feet upstream and survived the attempt

Stunts: Stuntmen flew airplanes under the structure in attempts to gain publicity for companies and products.

In 1944 the elevated trains stopped running and the old iron terminals were pulled down

The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge was called one of the wonders of the Industrial Revolution, a wonder of science and was heralded as one of the greatest engineering feats of all time

US American History
1881-1913: Maturation Era

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