The story of its amazing construction has been told many times. Yet one small moment during those 13 years deserves a shout-out: the day the bridge was crossed for the first time.
It wasn’t on foot but by rope. The man who took the plunge was E.F. Farrington, the bridge’s “master mechanic.”
In summer 1876, in preparation for building the steel-wire cables, a wire traveler rope was carefully looped around the anchorages built on each side of the river.
On August 25, after the rope had been secured in place, Farrington gave his workers a demo of how they would be getting from one side to the other, reports The Complete History of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, published in 1883.
“A boatswain’s chair—a board slung at the four corners by ropes uniting in a ring overhead—was attached to the traveler at the Brooklyn anchorage, and Mr. Farrington took his place in it at 1 o’clock p.m. on that day, and was drawn across to New York, his chair being lifted over the towers; the time from anchorage to anchorage, 22 minutes.”
A New York Times article from May 24, 1883 notes that thousands watched Farrington zip-line his way across from Brooklyn to New York:
“The firing of cannon, the blowing of whistles by the river craft, and the shouts of the spectators went up in a vast greeting to the man who sat in the boatswain’s buggy, waving his hat in one hand and clinging to the ropes with the other.”