Brooklyn Bridge opens

May 24, 1883

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After 14 years, the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River opens, connecting the great cities of New York and Brooklyn for the first time in history. Thousands of Brooklyn and Manhattan Island residents turned out to witness the dedication ceremony, which was presided over by President Chester A. Arthur and New York Governor Grover Cleveland. Designed by the late John A. Roebling, the Brooklyn Bridge was the largest suspension bridge ever built to that date. 10 Things You May Not Know About the Brooklyn Bridge John Roebling, born in Germany in 1806, was a great pioneer in the design of steel suspension bridges. He studied industrial engineering in Berlin and immigrated to western Pennsylvania at the age of 25, where he attempted, unsuccessfully, to make his living as a farmer. He later moved to the state capital in Harrisburg, where he found work as a civil engineer. He promoted the use of wire cable and established a successful wire-cable factory. Brooklyn-Bridge-Meanwhile, he earned a reputation as a designer of suspension bridges, which at the time were widely used but known to fail under strong winds or heavy loads. Roebling is credited with a breakthrough in suspension-bridge technology: a web truss added to either side of the bridge roadway that greatly stabilized the structure. Using this model, Roebling successfully bridged the Niagara Gorge at Niagara Falls, New York, and the Ohio River at Cincinnati, Ohio. Based on these achievements, New York State accepted Roebling’s design for a bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan–with a span of 1,595 feet–and appointed him chief engineer. It was to be the world’s first steel suspension bridge. Just before construction began in 1869, Roebling was fatally injured while taking a few final compass readings across the East River. A boat smashed the toes on one of his feet, and three weeks later he died of tetanus. He was the first of more than two dozen people who would die building his bridge. His 32-year-old son, Washington A. Roebling took over as chief engineer. Roebling had worked with his father on several bridges and had helped design the Brooklyn Bridge.

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