Edited by Gerald Boerner
Technology and engineering work together to construct amazing transportation and building projects. One of the early examples of this partnership resulted in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn across the East River. Prior to the bridge, pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicle (horse-drawn and motorized) traffic.
The Brooklyn Bridge also highlights the trials and triumphs of a German immegrant family. The Roeblings were not only engineers, but they brought to America the techniques of making wire ropes that permitted the construction of suspension bridges. The Brooklyn Bridge sat as the crowning achievement for this family that gave their lives to the task. And it should be noted that the project was overseen for the final eleven years by a woman!
The Brooklyn Bridge was initially designed by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling, who had previously designed and constructed shorter suspension bridges. The Brooklyn Bridge was completed thirteen years later and was opened for use on May 24, 1883. (Wikipedia)
So we will get our exploration started on the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, that symbol of the borough that could not be moved… GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2011 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
[ 3976 Words ]
Quotations Related to BROOKLYN:
“I’m just a simple kid from Brooklyn who landed into the most enchanted lifestyle imaginable.”
— Michael Musto
“I’m a Brooklyn boy. I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised there, and spent most of my childhood there.”
— Robert Jay Lifton
“I have made all my films for my children with the exception of my first film because my oldest daughter wasn’t born when I was making the film about the Brooklyn Bridge.”
— Ken Burns
“I learned a great deal doing Brooklyn Bridge. I was able to take a giant step into the terrible reality that was then. We saw the cattle cars that took folks away. Just knowing it was real, it would be impossible not to feel.”
— Marion Ross
“I’ve chosen not to live in Hollywood, and instead I live in Brooklyn, New York. It’s how I like to live. I’d rather hang out with my kids and family when I’m not working. Going to premieres is not my idea of a fun night out.”
— Jennifer Connelly
“In Manhattan, and its true on some level till this day; its a whole different mentality from the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, which I didn’t know at the time – because you basically just know your neighborhood.”
— Kool Moe Dee
“The job at Brooklyn is interesting because Brooklyn reflects what happened to university art departments everywhere. It might be the worst department now, and yet at one point it was the best in the country.”
— Ad Reinhardt
“I think that my interpretation of Italian was a lot more southern than what my husband cooks. You know, I grew up in Queens and in Brooklyn, and we – really, it’s more southern. It’s Naples and Sicily. It’s heavier. It’s over-spiced. And like most Americans, I thought spaghetti and meatballs was genius.”
— Debi Mazar
Industrial Wonders: The Brooklyn Bridge Opens for Traffic…
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. With a main span of 1,595.5 feet (486.3 m), it was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its opening until 1903, and the first steel-wire suspension bridge.
Originally referred to as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and as the East River Bridge, it was dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge in a January 25, 1867 letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and formally so named by the city government in 1915. Since its opening, it has become an iconic part of the New York skyline. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972
A suspension bridge is a type of bridge in which the deck (the load-bearing portion) is hung below suspension cables on vertical suspenders. Outside Tibet and Bhutan, where the first examples of this type of bridge were built in the 15th century, this type of bridge dates from the early 19th century. Bridges without vertical suspenders have a long history in many mountainous parts of the world.
This type of bridge has cables suspended between towers, plus vertical suspender cables that carry the weight of the deck below, upon which traffic crosses. This arrangement allows the deck to be level or to arc upward for additional clearance. Like other suspension bridge types, this type often is constructed without falsework.
The suspension cables must be anchored at each end of the bridge, since any load applied to the bridge is transformed into a tension in these main cables. The main cables continue beyond the pillars to deck-level supports, and further continue to connections with anchors in the ground. The roadway is supported by vertical suspender cables or rods, called hangers. In some circumstances the towers may sit on a bluff or canyon edge where the road may proceed directly to the main span, otherwise the bridge will usually have two smaller spans, running between either pair of pillars and the highway, which may be supported by suspender cables or may use a truss bridge to make this connection. In the latter case there will be very little arc in the outboard main cables.
The Brooklyn Bridge was initially designed by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling, who had previously designed and constructed shorter suspension bridges, such as Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, Waco Suspension Bridge in Waco, Texas, and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio.
While conducting surveys for the bridge project, Roebling sustained a crush injury to his foot when a ferry pinned it against a piling. After amputation of his crushed toes he developed a tetanus infection which left him incapacitated and soon resulted in his death, not long after he had placed his 32-year-old son Washington Roebling in charge of the project.
Washington Roebling also suffered a paralyzing injury as a result of decompression sickness shortly after the beginning of construction on January 3, 1870. This condition, first called "caisson disease" by the project physician Andrew Smith, afflicted many of the workers working within the caissons. After Roebling’s debilitating condition left him unable to physically supervise the construction firsthand, his wife Emily Warren Roebling stepped in and provided the critical written link between her husband and the engineers on site. Under her husband’s guidance, Emily had studied higher mathematics, the calculations of catenary curves, the strengths of materials, bridge specifications, and the intricacies of cable construction. She spent the next 11 years assisting Washington Roebling helping to supervise the bridge’s construction.
When iron probes underneath the caisson found the bedrock to be even deeper than expected, Roebling halted construction due to the increased risk of decompression sickness. He later deemed the aggregate overlying the bedrock 30 feet (9 m) below it to be firm enough to support the tower base, and construction continued.
The Brooklyn Bridge was completed thirteen years later and was opened for use on May 24, 1883. The opening ceremony was attended by several thousand people and many ships were present in the East Bay for the occasion. President Chester A. Arthur and New York Mayor Franklin Edson crossed the bridge to celebratory cannon fire and were greeted by Brooklyn Mayor Seth Low when they reached the Brooklyn-side tower. Arthur shook hands with Washington Roebling at the latter’s home, after the ceremony. Roebling was unable to attend the ceremony (and in fact rarely visited the site again), but held a celebratory banquet at his house on the day of the bridge opening. Further festivity included the performance of a band, gunfire from ships, and a fireworks display.
On that first day, a total of 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed what was then the only land passage between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Emily Warren Roebling was the first to cross the bridge. The bridge’s main span over the East River is 1,595 feet 6 inches (486.3 m). The bridge cost $15.5 million to build and approximately 27 people died during its construction.
One week after the opening, on May 30, 1883, a rumor that the Bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede, which crushed and killed at least twelve people. On May 17, 1884, P. T. Barnum helped to squelch doubts about the bridge’s stability—while publicizing his famous circus—when one of his most famous attractions, Jumbo, led a parade of 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge.
At the time it opened, and for several years, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world—50% longer than any previously built — and it has become a treasured landmark. Since the 1980s, it has been floodlit at night to highlight its architectural features. The towers are built of limestone, granite, and Rosendale cement. Their architectural style is neo-Gothic, with characteristic pointed arches above the passageways through the stone towers. The paint scheme of the bridge is "Brooklyn Bridge Tan" and "Silver", although it has been argued that the original paint was "Rawlins Red".
At the time the bridge was built, the aerodynamics of bridge building had not been worked out. Bridges were not tested in wind tunnels until the 1950s—well after the collapse of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge (Galloping Gertie) in 1940. It is therefore fortunate that the open truss structure supporting the deck is by its nature less subject to aerodynamic problems. Roebling designed a bridge and truss system that was six times as strong as he thought it needed to be. Because of this, the Brooklyn Bridge is still standing when many of the bridges built around the same time have vanished into history and been replaced. This is also in spite of the substitution of inferior quality wire in the cabling supplied by the contractor J. Lloyd Haigh—by the time it was discovered, it was too late to replace the cabling that had already been constructed. Roebling determined that the poorer wire would leave the bridge four rather than six times as strong as necessary, so it was eventually allowed to stand, with the addition of 250 cables. Diagonal cables were installed from the towers to the deck, intended to stiffen the bridge. They turned out to be unnecessary, but were kept for their distinctive beauty.
After the collapse in 2007 of the I-35W highway bridge in the city of Minneapolis, increased public attention has been brought to bear on the condition of bridges across the US, and it has been reported that the Brooklyn Bridge approach ramps received a rating of "poor" at its last inspection. According to a NYC Department of Transportation spokesman, "The poor rating it received does not mean it is unsafe. Poor means there are some components that have to be rehabilitated." A $725 million project to replace the approaches and repaint the bridge was scheduled to begin in 2009.
The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge is detailed in the 1978 book The Great Bridge by David McCullough and Brooklyn Bridge (1981), the first PBS documentary film ever made by Ken Burns. Burns drew heavily on McCullough’s book for the film and used him as narrator. It is also described in Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, a BBC docudrama series with accompanying book.
Pedestrian and Vehicular Access
At various times, the bridge has carried horse-drawn and trolley traffic; at present, it has six lanes for motor vehicles, with a separate walkway along the centerline for pedestrians and bicycles. Due to the roadway’s height (11 ft (3.4 m) posted) and weight (6,000 lb (2,700 kg) posted) restrictions, commercial vehicles and buses are prohibited from using this bridge. The two inside traffic lanes once carried elevated trains of the BMT from Brooklyn points to a terminal at Park Row via Sands Street. Streetcars ran on what are now the two center lanes (shared with other traffic) until the elevated lines stopped using the bridge in 1944, when they moved to the protected center tracks. In 1950 the streetcars also stopped running, and the bridge was rebuilt to carry six lanes of automobile traffic.
The Brooklyn Bridge is accessible from the Brooklyn entrances of Tillary/Adams Streets, Sands/Pearl Streets, and Exit 28B of the eastbound Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. In Manhattan, motor cars can enter from either direction of the FDR Drive, Park Row, Chambers/Centre Streets, and Pearl/Frankfort Streets. Pedestrian access to the bridge from the Brooklyn side is from either Tillary/Adams Streets (in between the auto entrance/exit), or a staircase on Prospect St between Cadman Plaza East and West. In Manhattan, the pedestrian walkway is accessible from the end of Centre Street, or through the unpaid south staircase of Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall IRT subway station.
The Brooklyn Bridge has a wide pedestrian walkway open to walkers and cyclists, in the center of the bridge and higher than the automobile lanes. While the bridge has always permitted the passage of pedestrians across its span, its role in allowing thousands to cross takes on a special importance in times of difficulty when usual means of crossing the East River have become unavailable.
During transit strikes by the Transport Workers Union in 1980 and 2005, the bridge was used by people commuting to work, with Mayors Koch and Bloomberg crossing the bridge as a gesture to the affected public.
Following the 1965, 1977 and 2003 blackouts and most famously after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the bridge was used by people in Manhattan to leave the city after subway service was suspended. The massive numbers of people on the bridge could not have been anticipated by the original designer, yet John Roebling designed it with three separate systems managing even unanticipated structural stresses. The bridge has a suspension system, a diagonal stay system, and a stiffening truss. "Roebling himself famously said if anything happens to one of [his] systems, ‘The bridge may sag, but it will not fall.’" The movement of large numbers of people on a bridge creates pedestrian oscillations or "sway" as the crowd lifts one foot after another, some falling inevitably in synchronized cadences. The natural sway motion of people walking causes small sideways oscillations in a bridge, which in turn cause people on the bridge to sway in step, increasing the amplitude of the bridge oscillations and continually reinforcing the effect. High-density traffic of this nature causes a bridge to appear to move erratically or "to wobble" as happened at opening of the London Millennium Footbridge in 2000.
The Roeblings: A Family of Engineers
John Augustus Roebling (born Johann August Röbling, June 12, 1806 in Mühlhausen – July 22, 1869) was a German-born American civil engineer. He is famous for his wire rope suspension bridge designs, in particular, the design of the Brooklyn Bridge.
On May 22, 1831, Roebling left Prussia with his brother Karl and visionary Johann Adolphus Etzler. Economic mobility and career advancement were difficult for engineers in Prussian society. This unfortunate state of affairs had been brought about by the Napoleonic Wars, which lasted until 1815. This period in European history left Prussia with political unrest, as authoritarian governments took the places of democratic ones. Etzler had ideas about creating a utopia in the United States, but disputes arose en route, and the group split. John and Karl purchased 1582 acres (6.4 km²) of land on October 28, 1831, in Butler County, Pennsylvania with the intent to establish a German settlement, called Saxonburg. Most of the other settlers remained with Etzler.
John Roebling and his brother arrived in the United States at an interesting time. The nation was in the latter stages of an economic boom, which ended in the Panic of 1837. Farmers were deeply affected by it. A dominant mode of thought in America would be called manifest destiny by the 1840s. Transportation between eastern industrial hubs and frontier farming markets had become a matter of both national and popular interest. Many transportation projects were underway near the location he chose for his colony, but instead of continuing an engineering profession, he took up farming. After five years he married Johanna Herting, a tailor’s daughter, and they had nine children.
Roebling’s first engineering work in America was devoted to improving river navigation and canal building. He spent three years surveying for railway lines across the Allegheny Mountains, from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, for the state of Pennsylvania. In 1840 he wrote to suspension bridge designer Charles Ellet, Jr., offering to help with the design of a bridge near Philadelphia:
The study of suspension bridges formed for the last few years of my residence in Europe my favorite occupation … Let but a single bridge of the kind be put up in Philadelphia, exhibiting all the beautiful forms of the system to full advantage, and it needs no prophecy to foretell the effect which the novel and useful features will produce upon the intelligent minds of the Americans.
Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge
From mid-1865 to 1867, Roebling worked with his father on the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge (now the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge). While traveling in Europe to research bridges and caisson foundations, his only son, John A. Roebling, II, was born. After returning in 1868, Washington became assistant engineer on the Brooklyn Bridge, and was named chief engineer after his father’s death in mid-1869. He made several important improvements on the bridge design and further developed bridge building techniques. Thus, he designed the two large pneumatic caissons that became the foundations for the two towers. In 1870 fire broke out in one of the caissons, and Roebling being in the caisson directed the fight against it. Working in compressed air in these caissons under the river caused him to get decompression sickness ("the bends") shattering his health and rendering him unable to visit the site, yet he continued to oversee the Brooklyn project to successful completion in 1883. Beside the bends, he may have had additional afflictions, possible neurasthenia, side effects of treatments, and secondary drug addition. His wife, Emily Warren Roebling, becoming his nurse, companion, and confidant took over the day-to-day supervision and site visits, and successfully lobbied for retention of him as chief engineer. McCullough remarked that "nowhere in the history of great undertakings is there anything comparable" Roebling conducting the largest and most difficult engineering project ever "in absentia".
Roebling would battle the after-effects from the caisson disease and its treatment the rest of his life.
Emily Warren Roebling (September 23, 1843 – February 28, 1903) was married to Washington Roebling, a civil engineer who was Chief Engineer during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. She is best known for her contribution to the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband contracted caisson disease.
The Brooklyn Bridge
On their return from their European studies, Emily and Washington were greeted with a turn of fate. Washington’s father died of tetanus, and Washington immediately took charge of the Brooklyn Bridge’s construction. As he immersed himself into the project, Washington developed caisson disease. The disease affected Washington so badly that he became bed ridden. It was at that point where Emily stepped in as the “first woman field engineer” and saw out the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge.
As the only person to visit her husband during his sickness, Emily was to relay information from Washington to his assistants and report the progress of work on the bridge. She developed an extensive knowledge of strength of materials, stress analysis, cable construction, and calculating catenary curves through Washington’s teachings. For the next fourteen years, Emily’s dedication in aiding her husband in the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge was unyielding. She dealt with politicians, competing engineers, and all those associated with the work on the bridge to the point where people believed she was behind the bridge’s design.
In 1882, her husband’s position as chief engineer was in jeopardy due to his sickness. In order to allow Washington to complete the work, Emily went to gatherings of engineers and politicians to defend her husband. To the Roeblings’ relief, the politicians responded well to Emily’s speeches and Washington was permitted to remain Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge.
With Washington still on as Chief Engineer, the Brooklyn Bridge was finally completed in 1883. In advance of the official opening carrying a rooster as a sign of victory Emily Roebling was the first to cross the bridge by carriage. At the opening ceremony, Emily was honored in a speech by Abram Stevens Hewitt who said at the bridge was
…an everlasting monument to the sacrificing devotion of a woman and of her capacity for that higher education from which she has been too long disbarred.
Today the Brooklyn Bridge holds a plaque dedicating the memory of Emily, her husband, and her father-in-law.
Please take time to further explore more about Brooklyn Bridge, Seven Wonders
of the Industrial World, Suspension Bridge, John Augustus Roebling, Washington
Roebling, Emily Warren Roebling, Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and Golden Gate
Bridge by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below. In most cases, the
text in the body of this post has been selectively excerpted from the articles;
footnotes and hyperlinks have been removed for readability…
Other Events on this Day:
The B&O Railroad, the first passenger railroad in the United States, begins service between Baltimore and ellicott’s Mill, Maryland.
In a long-distance demonstration of his telegraph, inventor Samuel Morse sends the biblical quote “What hath God wrought” by Morse code from a telegraph machine in the U.S. Capitol to his assistant Alfred Vail, waiting in Baltimore. It is the first message sent over a commercial telegraph line.
Antislavery leader John Brown leads an attack against pro-slavery settlers at Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas, killing five.
In a horse-drawn carriage, Emily Roebling, wife of chief project engineer Washington Roebling, becomes the first person to cross the just-completed Brooklyn Bridge, while President Chester A. Arthur and New York Gov. Grover Cleveland are among the thousands who walk across the bridge that day. The bridge—connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn across the East River—has a main span of 1,595 feet, making it (then) the longest suspension bridge in the world.
The Cincinnati Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, in the first Major League Baseball night game, for which President Franklin D. Roosevelt symbolically switches on the field’s lights from Washington, D.C.
Astronaut Scott Carpenter, in Aurora 7, becomes the second American to orbit the earth.
Dates and events based on:
William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)
Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: Brooklyn Bridge…
Wikipedia: Seven Wonders of the Industrial World…
Wikipedia: Suspension Bridge…
Wikipedia: List of Longest Suspension Bridge Spans…
Wikipedia: John Augustus Roebling…
Wikipedia: Washington Roebling…
Wikipedia: Emily Warren Roebling…
Brainy Quote: BROOKLYN Quotes…
Other Posts on related Topics:
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Industrial Wonders: Verrazano Narrows Bridge Completed…
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Industrial Wonders: Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge…