john a roebling bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge opened on this day in 1883. The bridge’s opening day was marked in both the cities of New York and Brooklyn and over 1,000 vehicles and 150,000+ people crossed the bridge that first day. Initially designed by John Roebling, a German engineer who had designed some of America’s shorter suspension bridges, the bridge went through its fair share of chief engineers. Shortly after getting his plans approved, John’s foot was crushed by a ferry, he contracted tetanus, and died within a month of the accident. This meant his son, Washington Roebling, had to take over as chief engineer. However, he too suffered health issues. After spending a lot of time over three years supervising the riverbed’s excavation in caissons (watertight structures used to work on bridge foundations), he was stricken with the bends and became bedridden. And so, Emily Warren Roebling, Washington Roebling’s wife, became the “first woman field engineer”. She spent the duration of the construction period both caring for her husband and ferrying information back and forth from him to the site. Upon the bridge’s completion, and in advance of the official opening, Emily became first to officially cross the bridge, carrying a rooster as a symbol of victory. Want to learn more about Emily? Come visit us, she’s one of the characters featured in NEW YORK AT ITS CORE. 

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Edmund Vincent Gillon
[Looking west down Old Fulton Street to the Long Island Safe Deposit Company building and Bankside Boon Dock bar and restaurant.]
DATE: ca. 1974

Diaspora: Notable German- Americans

German Americans are the USA’s #1 heritage group and have been influential in almost every field in American society, including science, architecture, business, sports, entertainment, theology, politics, and the military. Famous German-Americans include:

MILITARY: Baron von Steuben, John Pershing, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chester W. Nimitz, Carl Andrew Spaatz, Norman Schwarzkopf 

POLITICIANS: Carl Schurz, Friedrich Hecker, Frederick Muhlenberg, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and Sr., Dwight D. Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, Henry Kissinger, and John Boehner

INDUSTRY & BUSINESS: Henry J. Heinz, (Heinz ketchup), Frank Seiberling (Goodyear Tires), Walt Disney (Disney), John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil), William Boeing (The Boeing Company/United Airlines), Walter Chrysler (Chrysler Corp), Frederick & August Duesenberg (Duesenberg Automobile Corp), Studebaker brothers (Studebaker Automobile Corp), George Westinghouse (Westinghouse Electric Corporation), Levi Strauss (Levi’s jeans), Charles Guth (Pepsi cola), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Elon Musk (SolarCity/SpaceX/Tesla Motors), James L. Kraft (Kraft Foods), Henry E. Steinway (Steinway & Sons pianos), Charles Pfizer (Pfizer, Inc.), Donald Trump (The Trump Org), John Jacob Astor (Waldorf Astoria Hotels), Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotels), Guggenheim family (Guggenheim Foundation), Marcus Goldman (Goldman Sachs), Lehman Brothers, Carl Laemmle (Universal Studios), Marcus Loew (MGM Studios), Harry Cohn (Columbia Pictures), Herman Hollerith (IBM)), Steve Jobs (Apple Inc.), Michael Dell (Dell Inc.), Eric Schmidt (Google), Peter Thiel (PayPal Inc.), Adolph Simon Ochs and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger (The New York Times), Charles Bergstresser (The Wall Street Journal), Al Neuharth (USA Today), Eugene Meyer (The Washington Post) etc.

BEER BREWING: German Americans were pioneers and dominated beer brewing for much of American history, beginning with breweries founded in the 19th century by German immigrants August Schell (August Schell Brewing Company), Christian Moerlein (Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.), Eberhard Anheuser (Anheuser-Busch), Adolphus Busch (Anheuser-Busch), Adolph Coors (Coors Brewing Company), Frederick Miller (Miller Brewing Company), Frederick Pabst (Pabst Brewing Company), Bernhard Stroh (Stroh Brewery Company), and Joseph Schlitz (Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company). 

ARCHITECTS, SCIENTISTS & ASTRONAUTS: Brooklyn Bridge engineer John A. Roebling and architects Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe left behind visible landmarks. Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Wernher von Braun, John Peter Zenger, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Weizenbaum etc. set intellectual landmarks while Neil Armstrong was the first human to land on the moon.

HOLLYWOOD PEOPLE & SPORTS ATHLETES & MUSIC: Still others, such as Bruce Willis, George Eyser, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jack Nicklaus, Doris Day, Grace Kelly, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Johnny Weissmuller, Ernst Lubitsch, Walter Damrosch, John Denver, John Kay, Meryl Streep, Kim Basinger, Sandra Bullock, David Hasselhoff, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kirsten Dunst, Kevin JameS, and Steven Spielberg became prominent athletes, actors, film directors or artists.

“I want to build a bridge.”
“How do you build a bridge?”
“If you want to build a bridge it’s going to take a long time and it might be hard because your employees might not be as interested in building the bridge as you are. You have to think about what kind of bridge you want to make. One type of bridge is a suspension bridge and another type of bridge is an arch bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is a suspension bridge and it was built by John Roebling and his family and that’s all I remember from second grade. And the bridge has to be strong because the water can rise and push up the bridge. I’d maybe like to build a bridge in Wisconsin because there are a lot of people in Wisconsin who might not have bridges but I don’t really know where Wisconsin is.”