Shortly after the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, rumors that it was structurally unsound sparked a human stampede that left a dozen people dead. The bridge’s owners had previously turned down a $5,000 offer from Barnum to let him parade his circus animals across it as a publicity stunt, but they changed their minds after the accident. On the night of May 17, 1884, he marched 21 elephants and 17 camels over the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn. The famous Jumbo was part of the procession, as was “Toung Taloung,” a white elephant Barnum had recently acquired from Thailand. The parade was a priceless piece of advertising for Barnum’s circus, and the combined weight of the elephants—many of which tipped the scales at over 10,000 pounds—helped put to rest any worries about the bridge’s stability.
Barnum once used his circus animals to test the strength of the Brooklyn Bridge and of course gain publicity for his circus.