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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Urban Planet Weird Wednesday: That’s elephants over the bridge

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Weird Wednesdays on Urban Planet takes a look at obscure, absurd, and curious things about cities around the world.

One year after it was opened, the Brooklyn Bridge was still a topic of skepticism for New Yorkers—many still believed that it would crumble into the East River under the weight of commuters.

In 1884, P.T. Barnum organized a publicity stunt to show off the structural integrity of the bridge. With much spectacle, he held a procession of elephants and other circus animals across the bridge. Below is an exerpt from the following day’s New York Times.

“At the order of the Superintendent of Tolls no fare was collected… The question of how much an elephant of a dromedary should pay stumped the Superintendent, and until his has solved the problem Barnum will enjoy the use of his money…”

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One comment

  1. From comes this note:

    In 1907, 426,000 people crossed Brooklyn bridge daily, while only 341,000 crossed it when it opened in 1902. However, by 1989, the daily crossing was only 178,000. The reason, the bridge was built with only one traffic lane in each direction for private vehicles, which at the time were drawn by horses. The rest of the space is given over to tracks for streetcars, elevated railroads, and pedestrians. Today it has 3 lanes of automobile traffic (not 1) running on either side (No buses or trucks run over the bridge).