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Back in the Day: Brooklyn Bridge opens to traffic

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Back in the Day: Brooklyn Bridge opens to traffic

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May 24, 1883. One of New York’s most famous landmarks, the Brooklyn Bridge, is inaugurated 13 years after construction began. With a main span of 486.3 metres across the East River it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time and the first overland passage linking Manhatten Island and Brooklyn. The bridge was designed by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling but he died of tetanus while carrying out surveys for the work after a barge crushed his toes, requiring them to be amputated. He was the first of 27 people to lose their lives completing the project. Roebling’s son Washington oversaw the construction although he too was seriously incapacitated, suffering ‘the bends’ while carrying out underwater work. Washington Roebling’s wife Emily was the first person to cross the Brooklyn Bridge at a ceremony attended by President Chester A. Arthur on May 24.

Also on May 24: Samuel Morse sends the first commercial telegraph message, reading ‘WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT’ (1844); the first Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Lugano, Switzerland (1956); Eritrea becomes independent of Ethiopia (1991).

Born on May 24: Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686), Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (1819), Bob Dylan (1941), Eric Cantona (1966).