Facts taken from the publications noted below:

(DBS) The Builders of the Bridge by D.B Steinman; Harcourt, Brace and Co., Inc.; 1945
(JGS) The Brooklyn Bridge: They Said It Couldn't Be Built by J. St. George; G.P. Putnam's and Sons, New York; 1982
(AT) Brooklyn Bridge: Fact and Symbol by Alan Trachtenberg; Univ. of Chicago Press; 1965
(MJS) A Picture History of the Brooklyn Bridge by Mary J. Shapiro; Dover Publications; 1983
(BM) The Great East River BRidge 1883 1983 by The Brooklyn Museum; Harry N. Abrams, Inc.; 1983

First settlement in Brooklyn - 1636 by Dutch Farmers
First ferry between Brooklyn and Manhattan - 1642, operated by Cornelius Dircksen, a row boat
Major historic site event - Incident during the Revolutionary War.
State Legislature receives petition to construct a bridge over the East River - 1802

John A. Roebling birthdate - June 12, 1806
John A. Roebling birthplace - Muehlhausen, Thuringia (Prussia)

First steam ferry between Brooklyn and Manhattan - May 1814, Nassau of the Fulton Ferry Line, 
               named after Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steam engine, offering service between   
               Fulton Street and Fulton Street
John A. Roebling education - Civil Engineering Royal Polytechnic Institute of Berlin, 1826
John A. Roebling immigrated - 1831 (to Pennsylvania intending to be a farmer)
Ship on which John Roebling immigrated - August Eduard, 1831 (25 years old)
Town founded by John Roebling - Saxonburg, Pa. 1832
John A. Roebling ultimate profession - civil engineer

South Ferry opened - 1835
Broadway Ferry - 1849, followed by
      Wall Street Ferry, Roosevelt Ferry (from Peck Slip), and the 23rd Street Ferry.

Roebling's family moves to Trenton - September 1849 First fortune missed by JAR -
      Oil discovered on Saxonburg property several years after Roebling sold out
      and moved to Trenton
Accident mangles Roebling's left hand - December 1849, testing machinery
      in new Trenton wire rope plant, ended Roebling's musical hobbies on flute and piano.

New York Legislature considers a bill to build a bridge over the East River - 1857
Brooklyn population 1860 - 266,000
Brooklyn population 1870 - 396,000 - 50% increase, the fastest growing city on the country
Bill passed by the New York State Legislature for construction - 1866

Bridge Design Engineers - John Augustus Roebling and Wilhelm Hildenbrand
"Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge" -
      John A. Roebling, appointed 23 May 1867, salary $8000 per year

"Report" to the New York Bridge Company September 1, 1867 -
      Plan and Details of Anchorage,Approaches, Towers, and Steel Cables.
      "The contemplated work, when constructed in accordance with my design, will not only
      be the greatest bridge in existence, but it will be the great engineering work
      of the Continent and of the age. Its most conspicuous feature - the great towers -
      will serve as landmarks to the adjoining cities, and they will be entitled to be
      ranked as national monuments. As a great work of art, and a successful specimen of advanced
      bridge engineering, the structure will forever testify to the energy, enterprise, and
      wealth of that community which shall secure its erection."

John A. Roebling's Fatal Accident - July 6, 1869 at the Brooklyn Fulton Ferry slip.
John A. Roebling's Death - July 22, 1869, of Lockjaw, an infection
      resulting from the accident in which his foot was crushed.
John A. Roebling's Cause of Death - accident during observations to
      determine the exact location of the Brooklyn tower.
How tough was John Roebling? -
      Declined anasthetic for the amputation of his toes crushed in the 9 July 1869 accident.
John A. Roebling's Age at Death - 63

John A. Roebling's successor as "Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge" -
     his son, Washington Roebling, appointed in August 1869

Brooklyn Bridge about 1920
Postcard from the collection of the webamster

Brooklyn Bridge 50th Anniversary
Postmarked Letter, Collection of the Webmaster

Bridge Construction Calamities:
        John A. Roebling's death
        Caisson Fire
        Steel Cable contractor fraud
        Illness and debilitation of Washington A. Roebling
        20-30 Deaths

Organization chartered to build the Brooklyn Bridge - The New York Bridge Company
President signing bill approving the Broolkyn Bridge plan, 1869 - Ulysses S. Grant

Date work began on Bridge - 2 January 1870, clearing the site for the Brooklyn Tower
Depth of Brooklyn caisson - 44'-6" feet below mean high tide,
      bearing on consolidated materials (bedrock at 90 feet) (DBS)
Design weight supported by Brooklyn Caisson - 80,000 tons (DBS)
Thickness of top of Brooklyn wooden caisson - 15 feet of yellow pine. (DBS)
Brooklyn caisson launched from Greenpoint shipyard (5 miles North) - 19 March 1870
Launching Size of Brooklyn Caisson - 168' x 102' x 14'
Launching Weight of Brooklyn Caisson - 3000 tons

Holes in the top of the Brooklyn caisson -
        (2) water shafts
        (2) man shafts
        (2) supply shafts
        Pipes for gas, air and water. (DBS)

Weight necessary to sink caisson - (3) courses of tower masonry (DBS)

Methods of excavation -
    Shovel, pick, wheelbarrow, steel bar stone breakers, winches and ten ton hydraulic jacks,
    eventually blasting after a serise of experiments conducted in the caisson
    by Washington Roebling (DBS)

Initial rate of caisson excavation and lowering - 6 inches per week (DBS)
Workforce on Brooklyn Tower - 360 (DBS)
Maximum air pressure in Brooklyn Caisson - 23 psig
Height achieved by stones and mud from "Big Blowout" in Fall 1870 - 500 feet (DBS)
Fire discovered smouldering in top of Brooklyn Caisson - 2 December 1870 (DBS)
Brooklyn Caisson completed - March 1871 (DBS)

Detail of Caisson drawn by Washington Roebling
D.B. Steinman The Builders of the Bridge)

Depth of New York caisson - 78 feet, bearing on sand

Thickness of top of New York wooden caisson - 22 feet of yellow pine. (DBS)
Launching Size of New York Caisson - 172' x 102' x 14 (JSG)'
Launching Weight of New York Caisson - 3250 tons (JSG)
New York caisson launched from pier at 6th Street - 8 May 1871 (DBS)
New York caisson placed and grounded on bottom of river - November 1871 (DBS)
New York Caisson completed - May 1872.

Streets bounding New York Anchorage - Cherry, Dover, Roosevelt, Water (DBS)
Notable parcel under NY anchorage -
        1 Cherry Street, home of George and Martha Washington
        from 1789 to 1790 when New York was the capital of the US. (DBS)

Date W.Roebling is stricken by caisson disease, becoming an invalid - Early summer 1872
Location from which he supervises the building of the Bridge - his bedroom
Liason between Washington Roebling and the Construction Site - his wife Emily

Brooklyn Bridge is made public - 1874 (interest paid to subscribers)
Brooklyn tower completed - June 1875
New York tower completed - July 1876
Temporary footbridge between towers is built - 1877

Size of each anchorage at base - 129 x 119 feet (JSG)
Size of each anchorage at top - 117 x 104 feet (JSG)
Height of each anchorage in front - 89 feet (JSG)
Height of each anchorage in rear - 85 feet (JSG)
Weight of each anchorage - 60,000 tons (JSG)
Scandal over the supply of faulty wire - 1887

The Brooklyn Bridge opened - May 24,1883, 2:00 PM

Reason for protest on Opening Day -
        Irish workers dissatisfied that Opening Day coincided with Queen Victoria's birthday. (DBS)
Initial Bridge Toll - 1 cent on Opening Day, 24 May, 1883, 3 cents thereafter

Facts from WGBH, Boston More at their website
        People crossing the bridge on opening day - 150,300
        Bridge opened to vehicles - May 24, 1883, 5:00 p.m.
        Total number of vehicles crossed on the first day - 1,800
        Vehicles charge on Opening Day - 5 cents

Invitation to the Opening Ceremony

Opening Day - Thursday, May 24, 1883
Box office opens on Brooklyn side to sell toll tickets - 11:20 PM (5/23)
New York ticket office opens - 11:30 PM (5/23)

Barricades taken down and replaced by line of policemen - 9:00 AM
Official Opening to the public 2 o'clock (1883)
New York and Brooklyn businesses close, bells tolled around town - Noon
Opening reception closes - 7:00 PM
Fireworks started - 8:00 PM, Finale - 9:00 PM

Number of workers dying during construction - 20-30 Deaths
Means of Foundation Excavation - pneumatic caisson

Bridge Style - Suspension Bridge.
Tower Structure - Stone masonry

Distance of roadbed above water - 135 feet
Height of Towers above high water- 276 feet (JSG)
Height of tallest building in New York in 1883 - 281 feet
       The Spire of Trinity Church
Height of Towers above roadway - 159 feet (JSG)
Height of Tower Arches above roadway - 117 feet (JSG)
Source of Granite - Quarries of J.R. Bodwell, Hallowell, Maine. (1872).
        (The same stone was used in Tombs prison and the reservoir in Central Park)

Suspension Cables - four 15 3/4" diameter wire ropes.
Number of Strands in each cable - 19 (JSG)
Total Length of Wire in cables - approximately 3600 miles (JSG)
Miles of wrapping wire on each cable - 243 miles 943 feet (JSG)

Number of Suspenders - 1520 (JSG)
Number of Diagonal Stays - 400 (JSG)

Inventor and manufacturer of steel wire cable - John A. Roebling
Tested cable wire strength - 160 ksi
Dead weight of deck and suspenders - 13,240 kips - 3,410 kips per cable.
Maximum load on single cable (Live and Dead Load) - 6,000 kips

Ultimate strength of cables - 24,600 kips
Cable factor of safety - 24,600/6,000 = 4.1
Maximum cable sag - 130 feet

Brooklyn Bridge East River Span - 1595.5 feet
Supported land span - 930 feet.
Length of Brooklyn Approach - 971 feet
Length of New York Approach - 1562 feet
Official Length end-to-end - 5,989 feet, 1.13 miles.

Width of Bridge Floor - 85 feet (JSG)
Width of Elevated Promenade - 15 feet 7 inches (JSG)
Height of Promenade above roadway - 11 feet (JSG)
Thickness of wooden walkway boards - 1 inches
Grade of roadway - 3 in 100 feet (JSG)

Total Weight of Bridge, excluding caissons, towers, anchorages - 14,680 tons (JSG)

World Record Status at Time of Completion:
(Thanks to Don Sayenga for Clarifications):
Fifty percent longer than any suspension bridge (total length)
First use of pneumatic caissons
First Steel Cable Suspension Bridge

Date New York saloonkeeper Steve Brodie claimed to have made a daredevil
     plunge from the Bridge into the East River - July 23, 1886

Number of participants in the 4th Annual Brooklyn Bridge Beer Run - 150
Year Bike Lane Added to Boardwalk - 1984

Nearest Tourist Points in Manhattan (distances approximate):

  The Empire State Building - 3 miles North
  Pier 17 and the South Street Seaport - Adjacent South
  Little Italy - 3/4 mile North
  Fraunces Tavern - 1 mile South
  Wall Street - 3/4 mile South
  Washington Square - 1-1/2 miles North

Nearest Tourist point in Brooklyn: River Cafe

Brooklyn Bridge Traffic: - 144,000 Vehicle Crossings (average weekday in 1998)
By comparison:
     Queensboro Bridge - 192,000 vehicles
     Williamsburg Bridge - 110,000
     Manhattan Bridge - 78,000

- Average Daily Bike traffic - 1115 (1998), 1698 (1997), 1613 (1996), 1717 (1995)
     High since 1979 - 1717 (1995); low, 623 (1980)

- Average Daily Pedestrian traffic - 2001 (1998), 2902 (1997), 2821 (1996), 3562 (1995)
     High since 1979 - 3562 (1995); low, 1190 (1980)

Bird's Eye View of New York City ca. 1885
(Collection of Webmaster)

Facts from Steve Anderson's Crossings of New York:

Type of bridge Suspension
Construction started January 3, 1870
Opened to traffic May 24, 1883
Length of main span 1,595 feet, 6 inches
Length of side spans 930 feet
Length, anchorage to anchorage 3,455 feet, 6 inches
Total length of bridge and approaches 6,016 feet
Width of bridge 85 feet
Number of traffic lanes 6 lanes
Number of cables 4 cables
Height of towers above mean high water 276 feet, 6 inches
Clearance at center above mean high water 135 feet
Length of each of four cables 3,578 feet, 6 inches
Diameter of each cable 15 inches
Number of wires in each cable 5,434 wires
Total length of wires 14,060 miles
Total masonry in towers 85,159 cubic yards
Weight of suspended structure 6,620 tons
Total weight of bridge 14,680 tons
Cost of original structure $15,100,000

Brooklyn Bridge Paint Facts:

According to Wyoming Almanac (1996), the first paint used on the Brooklyn Bridge was a mineral based paint "Rawlins Red." The mineral used in the pigment was from a mine near Rawlins, Wyoming.

Source: Roberts, Phil; Roberts, David L. & Roberts, Steven L. (1996).
Wyoming Almanac. Laramie, Wyoming: Skyline West Press, p. 98.
Thanks to Lori Olson, Reference Archivist, American Heritage Center

1879: Rawlins, Wyoming: the town's chief claim to fame was an 1874 shipment of a carload of pigment from its Red Paint mines to be used in painting the Brooklyn Bridge.

Source: Tom Russ (December 2000)

Directions to the Bridge

By Subway. Take the 4,5 or 6 subway to the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall Station, the N or R subway to City Hall, or the 2 or 3 subway to Park Place.

Or by Taxi. Many drivers do not understand "I want to go to the Brooklyn Bridge". It is usually better to say "Old City Hall Plaza" or "City Hall Park", or "Centre Street at Spruce".

The entrance to the footbridge is at the traffic median, about midway on the East side of Old City Hall Plaza.


Old Fulton St (Between Cadman Plaza W and Front St)
Brooklyn, NY 11201

The Brooklyn Anchorage served the Arts Community
for 18 years as a meeting/practice/performance space.
The City closed the Anchorage in 2001 for security
reasons. There are no plans to open it again.

Inside the pilings on the Brooklyn side of the bridge at the intersection of Hicks Street and Old Fulton Street at Cadman Plaza West in Brooklyn.

About the Anchorage
Art in the Anchorage offered public access to one of New York's most spectacular and evocative landmark structures. Visitors to the soaring cathedral-like chambers have compared the vaults to Piranesi's "Carceri," to catacombs, and to the austere intimacy of a monastery. These arched spaces, framed by the piers which support the bridge, are a series of eight barrel-vaulted masonry and brick halls with ceilings nearly 50 feet high.

John Roebling, the bridge's engineer, envisioned this space as a double-tiered commercial arcade, or vault for the national treasury. In actuality, the spaces were used for an open air farmers' market, children's playground and then were walled off from the street as a WPA project in the 1930s. They were used for municipal storage until 1983 when the Borough of Brooklyn invited Creative Time to mount an exhibition in conjunction with the Brooklyn Bridge Centennial activities.

The Anchorage,under the eaves of the bridge on the Brooklyn side, hosted popular art and music events. The Anchorage's majestic archways, huge vaulted spaces and vertiginous catwalks created a stunning stage for the summertime multimedia program, Art in the Anchorage.

For the Art in the Anchorage summer series, artists employ advanced new technologies to explore contemporary issues, such as the ways in which technology affects our lives. Music in the Anchorage combined art and music and featured unusual combinations of artists as well as American debuts and premiere performances.

The Anchorage was closed in 2001 due security concerns. There are no plans to open it again.

Brooklyn Bridge 1906
Postcards from the collection of the webmaster

Brooklyn Bridge ca.1915

Brooklyn Bridge ca.1915

History of Construction

After sixty years of political, financial and technical discussions (including a 6 lane tunnel proposal in the 1830's), John Roebling's plan was approved, the New York Bridge Company was formed and, in 1869, construction of the bridge finally began.

The bridge was built over 14 years in the face of enormous difficulties. Roebling died as a result of an accident at the outset; a fire in the Brooklyn Caisson smoldered for weeks; Roebling's son, Washington, who took over as chief engineer, suffered a crippling attack of the bends during the construction of the Manhattan Caisson, and continued to direct operations, sending messages to the site by his wife, Emily. After the towers were built, a cable parted from its anchorage killing two people; there was fraud perpetrated by the cable contractor.

In the end, John Roebling's prediction that the promenade above the deck will be "of incalculable value in a crowded commercial city" was justified, together with his perhaps most noted statement, claiming that "the great towers...will be ranked as national monuments. ...As a work of art, and a successful specimen of advanced bridge engineering, this structure will forever testify to the energy, enterprise, and wealth of that community which shall secure its erection."

On May 24, 1883, with schools and businesses closed, the Brooklyn Bridge, also referred to as the "Great East River Bridge", was opened. Scores of people attended this spectacular ribbon cutting event. Over 100 years later, its renowned beauty & stature is still admired by many New Yorkers & tourists alike.

Brooklyn Bridge Construction Accidents
Some of the worst accidents of the bridge construction happened during the cable rigging. In June of 1878, a cable strand secured at the New York anchorage broke loose during adjustment. The strand flew over the New York tower and into the East River, taking off the top of one rigger's head and knocking another off the anchorage along the way. Another rigger was guiding wire onto a drum. He kicked at it to keep it in line, and his foot was caught. His leg was wrapped around the drum, killing him almost instantly. Several others died due to falls or falling equipment. At least three men died of the bends (caisson disease) during the caisson work. A couple of men were crushed by blocks being swung into place. All told, roughly 27 people died during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Information about fatalities during the Bridge Construction

Caisson Disease (Bends)
The nemesis of all compressed-air workers was the bends. At the time of the Brooklyn Bridge construction, little was known about the causes of these painful attacks--and little could be done to prevent them. Nearly all caisson laborers were inflicted with the bends to a certain extent.

In the case of the Brooklyn Bridge, three people died and fifteen percent of those who got the bends were paralyzed to some degree. Some success with fighting the bends was acheived by a Dr. Janimet, on the St. Louis Bridge. He was the first American to hit upon the idea of slow decompression (the British and French had known it for years). Unfortunately, James Eads, the builder of the St. Louis Bridge, had a falling out with Washington Roebling and never imparted his discovery. Fear of the bends was what caused Roebling to halt the excavation of the New York caisson; he estimated that upwards of eighty men would die if he tried to excavate any further.

Washington Roebling himself did not escape the construction of the caissons unharmed. He had always been a man who liked to be on site during the construction, and often he could be found inside the caisson instructing others what to do and many times doing manual work himself. Washington Roebling actually spent more hours in the working chamber than anyone else for fear that any slip might prove to be disastrous. One afternoon in the summer of 1872, Washington Roebling had to be carried out of the caisson with caisson disease. From this point on, he remained painfully paralyzed and became known as "the man in the window," for he never returned to the site of the Brooklyn Bridge, but watched it through a spyglass from his townhouse. Roebling was determined to see the construction of the bridge to completion. He directed the construction from his townhouse; his wife Emily Roebling acted as an intermediary between the Colonel and his bridge.

Wire Rope Cables
Building the Brooklyn Bridge not only required designing the bridge, but also inventing key materials, their means of manufacture and the means to put them in place. In the 1840's John Roebling started America's first wire rope manufacturing company. This got him involved in engineering projects that involved the use of his wire rope and eventually in the design of suspension bridges.

Wire rope is made from strands of metal precisely organized to move together under load so as to maximize the working strength of the metal. Before the Brooklyn Bridge, the individual wires that make up the rope were made from iron. Roebling developed stronger cast steel wires for the Brooklyn Bridge and spun them on site to make them of sufficient length.

Four 15 3/4-inch cables are the backbone of the bridge. The decision to use steel instead of standard iron wire was a revolutionary proposal. Steel was regarded as a suspect material, not yet proven over time as was iron. In fact, at the time of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, the use of steel in any structure in Great Britain was illegal. Steel would be vindicated as a tensile material in the Brooklyn Bridge, and, at the same time, as a compression material in the St. Louis Bridge.

Washington Roebling specified a tested wire strength of 160 ksi (twice that of iron), and required that the wire be galvanized, to resist corrosion by the salt air. Unfortunately, much of the wire that was actually used was not to specifications. The wire contractor had been substituting weaker (and cheaper) Bessemer steel for the desired crucible-cast kind. While justifiably outraged at the scam, Roebling had initially designed the cable to be six times stronger than necessary. He calculated that the condemned wire was still five times stronger than it had to be, and there was no need to remove the strands already in place.

The four cables support a dead weight (the deck and suspenders) of 13,240 kips--3,410 kips per cable. Each cable has an ultimate strength of 24,600 kips, but the maximum load on a single cable rarely exceeds 6,000 kips. This gives us a present-day factor of safety of about our. The river span is 1,595.5 feet, and the maximum sag over the river is about 130 feet. The length of each supported land span is 930 feet.

Caisson Waterproofing
Seams caulked with oakum; airtight varnish applied to timbers, lower three feet, inside and out, clad in boiler plate; hot pitch poured between all the courses of the roof; and tin sheath laid between the fourth and fifth courses of timber and the entire perimeter of the caissons was wrapped. In the case of the New York caisson, Washington Roebling knew that the caisson would have to be sunk to a much greater depth to reach stable ground.

Because of the increased depth of the caisson, two other safety precautions were taken: first the entire inside of the caisson was lined in iron boiler plate to protect against fires and second the inside walls were white-washed to reflect more light.

Timeline of Brooklyn History
from the Brooklyn Historical Society

1524    Giovanni da Verrazano explores New York Bay.
1646    Town of Brooklyn (Breuckelen) chartered by Dutch West India Company.
1654    Coney Island (Conye Islant) acquired from the Indians.
1683    Towns of Brooklyn, Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, Gravesend and New Utrecht form Kings County.
1698    First census of Kings County is taken - 2,017 (1,721 white; 296 of African descent).
1776    George Washington retreats across the East River and Brooklyn is occupied by British soldiers.
1776-1783    The British occupation of Brooklyn.
1814    Steamship Nassau begins ferry service between Brooklyn and New York.
1816    Village of Brooklyn, present-day downtown area, is incorporated within the Town of Brooklyn.
1834    Town of Brooklyn incorporated as City of Brooklyn.
1854    City of Brooklyn formed merging cities of Brooklyn, Williamsburgh, and Bushwick.
1860    Brooklyn becomes the third largest city in America. Its population is 279,122.
1883    The Brooklyn Bridge opens. The Brooklyn Dodgers is organized as minor league team.
1885    Brooklyn's first elevated railroad is completed. It runs from the Brooklyn Bridge to Broadway.
1894    The Towns of Flatbush, Gravesend and New Utrecht are annexed to the City of Brooklyn.
1898    The City of Brooklyn is consolidated into Greater New York City.
1903    The Williamsburg Bridge opens.
1908    IRT, New York's first subway, connects Manhattan to Brooklyn through the Joralemon Street tunnel.
1909    Manhattan Bridge opens.
1964    The Verrazano Narrows Bridge is completed.
1983-1984   The centennial of the Brooklyn Bridge is celebrated.

Brooklyn Bridge about 1920
Postcard from the collection of the webamster

Brooklyn Bridge Facts, History, and Information
Brooklyn Bridge Web Links and News
Brooklyn Bridge Gallery
Brooklyn Bridge Poetry
Brooklyn Bridge Fatalities
Questions from Visitors to the Brooklyn Bridge Website

This page maintained by
Gary Feuerstein

This site initiated 29 May 1998