top of page
You are a 16-year-old construction worker on the Brooklyn Bridge. If the project succeeds, it will be the longest suspension bridge in the world.
Building the bridge is dangerous work, and several people have already been injured in accidents. When your boss offers you a more dangerous job for extra pay, will you take it?
After the dilemma:
What really happened
Before the bridge, residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan would take boats and ferries across the East River. The Brooklyn Bridge provided the first fixed crossing for pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles.
The construction of the bridge was dangerous, and over two thousand people worked in the boxes beneath the river. The boxes are called caissons, and the caisson on the Manhattan side of the river is 78 feet underwater. It was built with 22 layers of wood to withstand the great force of pressure at that depth.
In the caissons, the workers experienced headaches, and several people became very sick when they returned to the surface. This sickness is called "the bends" and it happens when people ascend too quickly from deep underwater. Many workers experienced joint pains, dizziness, and vision problems. Three workers died from this disease while building the caissons, and 27 workers died while building the bridge.
Eventually the caissons were filled with concrete, and they became the foundation of the bridge towers. This was long before the famous skyscrapers of New York City, and most buildings were only two or three stories tall. The Brooklyn Bridge towered 30 stories above the river, and its giant size was breathtaking.
When the bridge opened in 1883, there was a grand ceremony that was attended by President Chester Arthur. Over 150,000 people crossed the bridge on the first day. The Brooklyn Bridge is still used today, and it has received several renovations over the years.
bottom of page