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