The Brooklyn Bridge is celebrating its birthday

Work began in 1870 and was finally completed 13 years later (at a cost of $15 million and with more than 20 worker deaths). Now, the Brooklyn Bridge is marking its 138th birthday on May 24.

What better way to honor an icon than with a brilliant lithograph produced by a Pearl Street publisher depicting the fireworks, ship parade, and procession of 150,000 pedestrians walking across this engineering marvel for the first time on May 24, 1883? After politicians, including President Chester A. Arthur, gave speeches, the bridge was opened to the public just before midnight.

“From high water to roadway 120 ft—from high water to centre of span 135 ft—from roadway to top 158 ft—width of Bridge 85 ft—with tracks for steam cars, roadway for carriages, and walks for foot passengers, and an elevated promenade commanding a view of extraordinary beauty and extant,” the caption reads.

[Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art]

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19 Responses to “The Brooklyn Bridge is celebrating its birthday”

  1. boxwoodbooks Says:

    Roebling’s architectural and engineering plans for the bridge were stored in their chest in the old ferry house until rediscovered in C1975. They were supposed to have been relocated and preserved.

  2. Mykola Mick Dementiuk Says:

    I just read The Engineer’s Wife, a novel about the woman who got down to the real nitty gritty of building the bridge while the ‘builder’ was struck down with the bends and could hardly move. A fascinating tale of a woman’s role in the Brooklyn Bridge..

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Yes, that’s based on the real story of Emily Warren Roebling, who supposedly communicated for her husband, Washington, who was bedridden during most of the construction.

  3. beth Says:


  4. David Handelman Says:

    In 1983 I attended the 100th anniversary of the bridge – big fireworks display – watching from my grandfather’s downtown office windows. Found this clip when searching just now.

    • boxwoodbooks Says:

      Are you related to Donald Handelman?

    • Karen Nathan Says:

      I also saw the celebration, with my then new boyfriend (now my husband), who worked for the city at the time. We were high up in the Municipal Building, with a great view. The fireworks were truly spectacular.

  5. Blue Tram Says:

    I had no idea, that the Brooklyn Bridge celebrates its birthday, but I wrote the little reflection on my blog about this bridge. What a beautiful lithograph! Hopefully, one time I will pass the bridge through the wooden walkway, the best will be by bike 🙂

  6. VirginiaLB Says:

    My great-grandfather James Quinlan was there when the Brooklyn Bridge opened to pedestrians. The crowds were dense and packed tightly. A panic that the bridge was falling swept thru the crowd. He had ribs broken but others died in the crush.

  7. Bill Wolfe Says:

    I don’t know why my mind took a morbid turn, but I couldn’t help wondering when the first person jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge? On a happier note, when I moved to Manhattan in January of 1980, I lived in an apartment on the 14th floor of a building near the Fulton Street fish market. From my bedroom window, I had a perfect view of the Brooklyn Bridge. For a kid from a small town in Ohio, this was a thrill.

  8. Maxine Cady Says:

    Love pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge. I have several. But this is not one of my favorites.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I love it because of the celebration. But there are many more paintings and photos of the bridge that I agree are more enchanting!

  9. Jayvee Says:

    This lithograph was issued as a ginormous poster by the Met; it sold out very quickly. I bought one on eBay and had it framed to remind me of NYC.

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