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7 Odd But True Facts About the Brooklyn Bridge

Black and white illustration of a large crowd gathered for a nighttime celebration with fireworks near a bridge and old buildings, possibly depicting the historical opening of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Brooklyn Bridge opening celebration, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, c. 1883.

At Brooklyn Org, we love all things Brooklyn—and what’s more Brooklyn than our iconic bridge? Standing as a marvel of engineering and a timeless symbol of our borough, the Brooklyn Bridge celebrates its 141st birthday this year.

Here are 7 odd by true facts about the Brooklyn Bridge you might not know:

1. A Popular Commute For Pedestrians, Cyclists — and Cows?

The Brooklyn Bridge sees around 116,000 vehicles, 30,000 pedestrians and 3,000 cyclists cross each day—over 42M vehicles, 11M pedestrians, and 1M cyclists annually!

When it first opened, farm animals were allowed to cross at a price of 5 cents per cow and 2 cents per sheep or hog.

2. Going to Great Lengths… Literally

When completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, 20% longer than any built previously—and seven times taller than any other structure in New York.

A sepia-toned photograph showing people walking and standing on the Brooklyn Bridge, with the bridge’s cables and arches visible in the background.
Source: Brian Merlis, c. 1895

3. “I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell to you”

George Parker scammed immigrants and tourists at the turn of the 20th century by “selling” local landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, leading to the phrase, “If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you,” a reminder of the city’s history as a hustler’s paradise.

4. Pigeons aren’t the only birds around town

Once driven out by commercial insecticide DDT, Peregrine Falcons, the world’s fastest-flying birds, now nest atop the Brooklyn Bridge and city skyscrapers, thriving once more in NYC’s concrete jungle.

A peregrine falcon chick with wings partially spread stands on a rooftop ledge, with a blurred urban background.
Source: “Peregrine Falcon on the Brooklyn Bridge” ©️ 2009 by David Schenfeld / Flickr is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

5. P. T. Barnum’s Elephantine Feat: Bridging Fear and Marketing

In 1884, P.T. Barnum’s circus paraded 21 elephants and 17 camels across the Brooklyn Bridge, cleverly marketing the circus while dispelling the public’s fears about the bridge’s stability and demonstrating its enduring strength.

6. It’s always been crowded.

A mere few years after the bridge opened, the New York Times described the chaos of crossing it, stating, “No man of adult dignity enters the human maelstrom with even a chance of preserving his back and stomach from desecration by extraneous elbows.”

7. It’s been a popular protest route for decades.

The Brooklyn Bridge has witnessed numerous historic protests, from the suffragette marches for women’s rights in the early 20th century to the fights for civil rights in the 1960s, and more recently, the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements.

Black and white image of a group of people walking together near a bridge, holding signs with messages, one sign reads "Our Anger is Power.
Source: Madison Swart, Rally and march organized by Unite NY, July 4, 2020, 2020, digital image, SWAR_0015; Madison Swart photograph collection, Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History.

With its Gothic pointed arches spanning not only the East River but also the arc of history, the Brooklyn Bridge stands as a timeless symbol of our beloved borough.

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