The Iconic Brooklyn Bridge

Four years after the American Civil War, construction on the Brooklyn Bridge began in 1869. Fourteen years later in 1883 it was completed. Spanning the East River from Brooklyn to Manhattan in New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge is considered an engineering feat of the 19th century because it was the first bridge to use steel for cable wire, and during its construction explosives were used inside a pneumatic caisson for the first time.

While the Brooklyn Bridge was being constructed, here are a few key events that were going on in Manitoba and Canada:

  • The Prime Minister was John A. Macdonald.

  • Louis Riel lead the Metis in the Red River Rebellion in 1869, an attack against Fort Garry (the site of present-day Winnipeg) and occupied it.

  • The University of Manitoba was created by provincial legislation – the oldest university in western Canada.

  • In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made the first long distance call between Brantford and Paris, Ontario.

Perhaps a little known fact is the crucial role played by Emily Warren Roebling, the wife of the Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, in its completion. Author Tracey Enerson Wood provides a fascinating glimpse into the construction of the bridge as well as life in the second half of 19th Century America. You can round out Wood’s book by watching Ken Burn’s documentary and reading about the hipe and adventures associated with the opening of the Bridge celebrations.


The Engineer's Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood

Emily Warren Roebling refuses to live conventionally—she knows who she is and what she wants, and she's determined to make change. But then her husband, Wash, asks the unthinkable: give up her dreams to make his possible. Emily's fight for women's suffrage is put on hold and her life transformed when Wash, the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, is injured on the job. Untrained for the task, but under his guidance, she assumes his role, despite stern resistance and overwhelming obstacles. Lines blur as Wash's vision becomes her own, and when he is unable to return to the job, Emily is consumed by it. Based on the true story of the Brooklyn Bridge, The Engineer's Wife delivers an emotional portrait of a woman transformed by a project of unfathomable scale, which takes her into the bowels of the East River, suffragette riots, the halls of Manhattan's elite, and the heady, freewheeling temptations of P. T. Barnum. Learn More


The Brooklyn Bridge by Ken Burns

The "Great East River Bridge" was the largest bridge of its era, a technical achievement of unparalleled scope, marked by enormous construction problems, equally ingenious solutions and heroic human achievement. In unexpected and wonderful ways, the Brooklyn Bridge captured the imagination of all Americans, and in the process became a symbol in American culture of strength, vitality, ingenuity and promise. In Brooklyn Bridge, Ken Burns captures the physical majesty of this greatest of all achievements of the industrial age, the dramatic story of the larger-than-life men who imagined and built it, and the immense charm this granite and steel structure has exerted on generations of city dwellers. Learn More

Primary Resources

Brooklyn Bridge, Fanfare and Fatalities

Peruse this sampling of articles from historic newspapers which chronicle the building of the Brooklyn Bridge in its own time. Discover what the people of the time thought about this amazing achievement. Learn More

Thank you to Marianne Farag for curating this list of resources.