The details: Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge cables, 1914

These men are standing (and/or lounging) somewhere between 119 and 276 feet above the East River…if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say around 200 feet.*

Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge Suspender Cables-October 7, 1914

Flickr, courtesy of the Museum of Photographic Arts

The Brooklyn Bridge was finished in 1883, so this photo must have come from a later re-painting. Two things are particularly neat about this picture:

  1. You get a look at how this massive suspension bridge is held together (click through for a larger image).
  2. You get a sense of scale, given how the men are posed along the cables. The distance between cables might be hard to judge from the ground, but with the men standing and sitting along them, it’s much easier to guess — and be impressed.

I was inspired to look for Brooklyn Bridge photos by a book I’m currently reading: David McCullough’s The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Great Bridge is a captivating read, chronicling both the human drama of the project and the physical construction of the bridge. I got interested in it because I had often wondered how the foundations of bridges are built in living, moving water.

*The bridge towers rose 276 feet above the river, and the roadway was 119 feet above the river (see McCullough, p. 224). These men are obviously well above the roadway — and much higher up than I’d be comfortable! (Though not quite as vertigo-inducing as the iconic “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” photo)

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