The Bridge

Today is the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. Nice piece about it in the New York Times

The opening of the Brooklyn Bridge on May 24, 1883, was a joyous occasion with “two great cities united.” That 125th anniversary is being marked with a series of celebrations over the holiday weekend. But few remember that the bridge’s public debut was marred days later by a stampede in which a dozen people were crushed to death, and 35 others injured. The May 30 mayhem was exacerbated by a false rumor that the bridge was going to collapse.

The traffic that surged onto the Brooklyn bridge as soon as it opened was overwhelming and dominated by pedestrians who were charged one cent to pass. There was room for 15,000 people on the footpaths at any one time (though overcrowding sometimes drove it to as high as 20,000).

On the second day, there was “a crush of foot passengers from 11 o’clock in the morning to 7 o’clock at night.” The pedestrians “collected at the entrance, compressed themselves into a funnel about 15 feet in width and then ran the gantlet, one by one, of the tolltakers.”

One of the best works of engineering history I’ve read is David McCullough’s The Great Bridge, a wonderful account of how the bridge was built.