Five things you may not know about the Brooklyn Bridge

And this 1877 Currier and Ives print of the bridge seems to back him up. Note the red cables on the left side of the picture.

Everyone loves the Brooklyn Bridge, but there’s a lot you don’t know about the fabled span. Such as:

• The bridge, completed in 1883, was built without with the aid of electricity.

• After several workers died after spending long stretches in caissons under the East River, scientists started studying the condition — now known as “the bends” — helping to improve safety for deep-sea divers.

• The bridge began as a privately financed project — funded by the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Company. But the work went over budget, and investors were bailed out by the state, which financed the remainder of the $15-million project — more than $2.5 billion in today’s money.

• A week after the bridge opened, a rumor spread that the span could collapse — prompting a stampede that killed 12 people. But to reassure bridge users of the bridge’s strength, PT Barnum marched 21 “Jumbo” elephants across it (successfully, by the way).

• And those stories of people “buying” the Brooklyn Bridge? Well, they’re true. One con man, George Parker, sold the bridge to several unlucky marks, once for as little as $50. And another, William McCloundy, spent two and a half years in Sing Sing for hawking the bridge in 1901.

— Colin Mixson

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