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Interpreting the Evidence

Brooklyn Bridge, c. 1900

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York City
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Brooklyn Bridge, c. 1900 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A pedestrian walkway on the top level of the Brooklyn Bridge, circa 1900.
Historical Context
Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge started in 1869 but was not completed until 1883.  The complete construction of the bridge cost $15 million; it served as the first bridge across the East River and connected Brooklyn and New York City. It was the first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world and was the world's longest suspension bridge at the time of its completion.

It opened to such fanfare that within twenty-four hours an estimated quarter-million people had crossed over it using an elevated walkway designed to give pedestrians a dramatic view of the city.  Now it can take from twenty minutes to an hour to walk across the bridge, depending on how much sightseeing you are doing.  Sites from the bridge include Ellis Island and Governors Island (a former Coast Guard installation). Today, approximately 5,000 pedestrians and 2,500 bicyclists commute daily across the Brooklyn Bridge, along with close to 140,000 vehicles.

Essential Question
How does the availability of transportation affect the economic and cultural aspects of a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact of the Brooklyn Bridge on the local communities.
Historical Challenges
The builders of the Brooklyn Bridge used a device called a caisson for underwater construction. What is a caisson, and what were some of the dangers of using it?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Knowing how many pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles usually cross the Brooklyn Bridge daily, approximately how many of each are likely to cross the bridge in one hour?
English Language Arts: Create a brochure for people to use when sightseeing on the Brooklyn Bridge. Include information for Ellis Island and Governors Island.