Frank Farrington and the First Cable across the Bridge
Once the towers were in place, cabling the bridge became a major event. All river traffic stopped. Huge crowds watched as the workers labored to connect the cables across the East River. On August 14, 1876, the first slender wire was strung from tower to tower. The headline in the Brooklyn Eagle proclaimed: “Wedded!” while the New York Tribune considered it “an engagement.”
To this single strand, other wires would be added. Emily Roebling selected Frank Farrington, the master mechanic, to do the bridge crossing by cable. Farrington showed the untrained workers how safe it would be to work so high in the air. [He had given a number of highly popular lantern-slide lectures at Cooper Union and the Brooklyn Music Hall.] On August 25, he rode in a boatswain’s chair tied to a wire rope. At one point, he tipped his hat to the crowd of 10,000 people below. His trip took 22 minutes. Today, you can walk across the bridge in 20 minutes or jog across in eight minutes.
Part VI: The Grand Opening
On May 24, 1883, the formal opening of the “Eighth Wonder of the World” took place. The bridge was illuminated by electricity for the occasionCthe first time this had ever been done. It was the biggest celebration New York had seen since the opening of the Erie Canal or the New York Water Works. Tiffany invitations were sent. Both cities went on holiday to the great joy of the school children. Fourteen tons of fireworks were set off. Bands played on excursion boats. The Atlantic Squadron steamed and sailed up the river. Harper’s Weekly reported “A festival …unique…New York has seldom seen….”
President Chester A. Arthur of the United States, Governor Grover Cleveland of New York State, and Mayor Franklin Edson of New York City, the United States Marine Band, and the United States Army Seventh Regiment walked across from the Manhattan side. They were greeted by Mayor Seth Low of Brooklyn on the Brooklyn side. The bridge was opened to the general public at midnight. The first day 153,300 people crossed the bridge; a record number of 165,500 people strolled across two days later. Today, the bridge is lucky to have 1,000 people cross over it on a Sunday. Mrs. Roebling invited 1,000 guests to a private reception at their family home in Brooklyn Heights. The physical act of joining New York and Brooklyn helped to pave the way for the political unification of both cities in 1898 to form Greater New York.
The Brooklyn Bridge is more than a bridge. It is a monument that has become a legend C to American Can-Do Technology. We believe that we can do anything. Let us walk.
NYC Blog 73 The Brooklyn Bridge, Part 5 Frank Farrington and Part 6 the Bridge Opening © 2017 by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg