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The Opening of the Brooklyn Bridge

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54.     [BIRD’S-EYE VIEW]. FRANKLIN SQUARE LITHOGRAPHIC COMPANY. Bird’s-Eye View of the Great Suspension Bridge, Connecting the Cities of New York and Brooklyn—From New York Looking South-East. The Bridge crosses the river by a single span of 1595 ft., suspended by four cables 15½ ins. in diameter; each cable consists of 5,434 parallel steel wires, ultimate strength of each cable 11,200 tons. The approach of the New York side is 2,492½ ft., approach on the Brooklyn side 1,901 ft., total length 5,989 ft. Size of towers at high water line 140 x 59 ft., total height of Towers 277 ft. From high water to roadway 120 ft.,—from high water to centre of span 135 ft.,—from roadway to top 158 ft.,—width of Bridge 85 ft., with tracks for steam cars, roadway for carriages, and walks for foot passengers, and an elevated promenade commanding a view of extraordinary beauty and extent. Cost, $15,000,000. [below image] Franklin Square Lithographic Co., 324-28 Pearl St. | Commenced January 3, 1870. | Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1883, by the Franklin Square Lithographic Company, in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. Brooklyn Tower. Finished May 24, 1883. [left and right of title, roster of names of those connected with building the bridge] John A. Roebling, C.E. Designer of Bridge…. New York, 1883. Tinted lithograph with blue shading; printed on heavy paper, a very detailed depiction of the entire bridge on the day of its inauguration with a military parade crossing its length and a flotilla of steamers, sailing ships and other watercraft in the river below; image: 45 x 92 cm; image and title: 52.6 x 92 cm. Left and top margins trimmed to image, right margin trimmed close to neat line, light chipping at lower blank margin which is slightly browned (not affecting text or image), some light staining to image (but better than usually found). Professionally restored (washed and neat repairs to verso). Matted, framed, and under Plexiglas.

     First edition. Reps, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America 2744. Deák, Picturing America 868:

Not since the tower of Babel and the great pyramid of Egypt had construction been conceived in such massive proportions—so went excited talk about the projected Brooklyn Bridge. As an engineering feat, the bridge was the achievement of John and Washington Roebling, father and son.

Designs for the bridge were conceived nearly two decades before actual construction began. Once construction got under way, the ingenious devices by which the Roeblings were making the high suspension bridge possible were examined by the public with interest and awe at the Philadelphia Centennial fair in 1876. But the operation was plagued with mishaps: the money ran out; the older Roebling died; and hesitations, jealousies, and accidents shattered the nerves of the son. Yet, by 24 May 1883, as the lettering to the lithograph tells us, all that wire, stone, steel, and wood so long shuffled in random piles on the shores of the East River had at last been cunningly woven into a soaring arch. Multitudes attended the opening ceremonies, which lasted the full day. President Chester A. Arthur and Governor of New York Grover Cleveland took an active part in the ceremonies, while the chief engineer, Washington Roebling, suffering from a debilitating ailment, watched from his bedroom window. In the evening, the series of electric lights that illuminated the bridge were turned off and a solitary rocket burst in the air over Columbia Heights. So began an hour-long display of fireworks—provided by the New York firm of Detwiler and Street, Pyrotechnists—which culminated with one incredible barrage of five hundred rockets.

A triumph of engineering and a great work of architecture, the Brooklyn Bridge has become a beloved cultural icon in almost the same way as a cathedral. Virtually its every aspect—from the lyrical web of its cables to the soaring Gothic towers—has profoundly affected painters, poets, photographers, writers, and cinematographers. To many residents, its wondrous embrace of space has served as an aesthetic anchor in the midst of urban tumult. Nor have these feelings diminished over the course of a century: the 1993 centennial celebration offered joyful testimony to the bridge’s persistent charm.


Sold. Hammer: $1,500.00; Price Realized: $1,800.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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