How a Parade of 21 Elephants Convinced the Public That the New Brooklyn Bridge Was Safe to Cross

Ryan Socash of It’s History dives deep into the history of the historic Brooklyn Bridge that connects downtown Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn. He particularly makes note of the time that P.T. Barnum paraded 21 elephants across the bridge in 1884.

Socash explains that the bridge, which was designed by the famous John Roebling, who built a number of bridges across the United States, including the Roebling Bridge over the Ohio River connecting Cincinnati, Ohio with Covington, Kentucky. After John’s death due to tetanus, his son Washington took over. After Washington was disabled due to a bad case of decompression sickness (the bends), Washington’s wife Emily took the reins.

After the bridge was built, an incident occurred on Decoration Day (Memorial Day) where a near-stampede occurred due to overcrowding on the bridge in 1883. The incident took on a life of its own uptown and many people became concerned about the bridge’s safety. In order to dissuade the public of this belief, famed showman P.T. Barnum paraded 21 elephants across the length of the Brooklyn Bridge. It held.

The rumors  of the Brooklyn Bridge’s supposed instability were  categorically false. They ran rampant over the  following year and the fact that the Brooklyn  Bridge was the longest in the world and the first of its kind to use steel cables didn’t help …it wasn’t until 1884 when the famed  American showman PT Barnum…led an incredible parade of 21  elephants across the bridge to prove its strength  reassuring the public and bringing a spotlight  to his circus.

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