5. In 1878, the Brooklyn Bridge Cables Broke Loose

Cables stretching from the top of the Brooklyn Bridge

The laying of the cables would be the next most difficult and treacherous process in the Brooklyn Bridge’s construction. While the towers were being built, the approach ramps and anchorages were also being built. Each of the Bridge’s four cables is one long continuous length made up of 19 strands, which in turn each contain 278 separate wires. As each cable approaches the anchorage, the cables split back into 19 individual strands that are attached to the anchor chain that ends with a 46,000-pound star-shaped anchor plate at the bottom of the anchorage.

Before being bundled together into a single cable, each strand had to be laid across the entire span of the Bridge individually. In June 1878 one of the strands broke loose, taking part of the anchor chain with it as it grazed surrounding buildings, killed two men, and finished with the whole strand between the two towers plunging into the river and nearly hitting a passing ferryboat.

This article is written by William Roka, a historian with the South Street Seaport Museum and updated by Nicole Saraniero

Next, read about the Top 10 Secrets of the Brooklyn Bridge.