5 Fascinating Facts About The Brooklyn Bridge

Today marks the anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge which opened to traffic on May 24, 1883.  To celebrate, the Trivia Today team put together these five fascinating facts you may not know about the Brooklyn Bridge...

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Bribery Got the Construction of The Brooklyn Bridge Started Like any monumental city project, construction of the Brooklyn Bridge required the support of local politicians. In this particular case, one man, William M. Tweed, more commonly known as “Boss” Tweed, was the corrupt politician with the clout to make it happen. Much as he had done with other city projects, Tweed latched onto the bridge project, buying favors (at a cost of $65,000) in hopes of holding stock in the bridge and profiting by skimming from construction contracts. His grand scheme failed, as he was jailed before he could see it to fruition, but the backing for the bridge he bought from other politicians did help kick the project off the ground.

The Name of the Bridge Changed Over The Years It seems almost incomprehensible that the Brooklyn Bridge would be called anything but the Brooklyn Bridge. However, before the construction of the bridge began some of the names thrown around were “Great East River Bridge” and “”Great East River Suspension Bridge.” Even at the time of the 1883 dedication it was referred to by a more official-sounding name, “New York And Brooklyn Bridge.”  Brooklyn civic pride led to the name officially changing to the “Brooklyn Bridge” in 1915.

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A Stampede Occurred On The Bridge Shortly After it Opened The Brooklyn Bridge opened to the public on May 24, 1883 and everything ran smoothly for the first five days of operation. However, on May 30, disaster stuck when either a woman tripping or a rumor of a pending collapse sparked a panic among the crowd of pedestrians who were crossing the bridge. A frantic race to get off the bridge caused a massive stampede which resulted in the death of 12 people and 36 serious injuries.

21 Elephants Walked Across The Bridge in 1884 How do you convince New Yorkers that its newest bridge is safe? Elephants. The city called upon the legendary showman P.T. Barnum to prove the safety of the Brooklyn Bridge. A parade of large animals did the trick.  P.T. Barnum marched 21 elephants and 17 camels across the the Brooklyn Bridge in May of 1884 to show just how sturdy the span was.

There's a Bunker And Wine Cellar Built Into The Bridge Those looming towers aren't just for show—inside, there are several secrets from the bridge's 138-year-long history. Up until World War I, the city rented out space within one of the towers for wine storage. And in 2006, maintenance workers discovered a Cold War-era fallout shelter still fully-stocked with supplies. Workers found large canisters of water, boxes of crackers, medical supplies, and paper blankets all intended to protect a select few in the event of a nuclear attack.