Officials Used A Parade Of Elephants To Prove To The Public The Brooklyn Bridge Was Safe To Cross

Shortly after the bridge’s construction, rumors spread that it wasn’t safe. To combat the rumors, a parade of 21 elephants was led across the bridge to showcase its durability.

Ryan Socash of It’s History loves providing historical context for those who need it and we love him for it.

In this particular clip, he is looking to educate those who wish to learn more about the Brooklyn Bridge. This bridge, which is responsible for connecting downtown Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn, is one of the most iconic pieces of infrastructure that the Big Apple has to offer.

Photo: Pixabay/Monica Volpin

The bridge was designed by John Roebling but was completed by his son, Washington, after his untimely death. Sadly, Washington was also forced to bow out due to his bout with decompression sickness (the bends). His wife, Emily, was the next in line to pick up the question once he fell ill.

Once the bridge was built, a horrific incident took place on Memorial Day in 1883. The bridge was experiencing some major overcrowding and a near-stampede occurred. As the incident started to take on a life of its own, the story spread around the city and led to some major concerns about the bridge’s safety level. This is where the late, great P.T. Barnum stepped in to help out.

Photo: New York Public Library

He came up with the coolest idea for testing the bridge’s durability. He wanted to show the public that there was nothing to worry about, so he had 21 elephants cross the bridge as a means of assuaging their fears. When the bridge did not collapse, people started to worry a bit less, which makes all of the sense in the world.

If the bridge could hold up to the structural demands created by 21 elephants, the average person should not have anything to worry about.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“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,” Socash explained.

He continued, saying, “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.” Check out the video below to learn more about the Brooklyn Bridge and it’s complex history: