One of our most durable monuments and great works of art, New York City's Brooklyn Bridge, the first and most famous steel-wire suspension bridge in the world, was opened on this day in 1883.
"Beading thy path--condense eternity: And we have seen night lifted in thine arms," praised poet Hart Crane.
The amazing symbol of America's great city was designed by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling (1806–1869), who perfected the suspension form with bridges in Niagara, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.
Roebling died of injuries sustained at the construction site and his son Washington Roebling completed the job as chief engineer of the fourteen-year construction.
"And eyes look up to see the span – A poem stretched across the stream," wrote poet D. B. Steinman.
Joining Brooklyn and Manhattan across the East River, its 486-meter main span was the world’s longest at the time of its completion. In 1884, P.T. Barnum led a herd of 21 elephants to demonstrate the bridge's safety. Today the bridge carries six lanes of traffic and about 145,000 vehicles daily.
"(The Brooklyn Bridge's) position in American life is unrivaled," observed writer David McCullough. "(It is) an enduring symbol of much that is best about America."
What we create, endures.