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Today in History December 19; The Williamsburg Bridge – LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

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The Williamsburg Bridge

On December 19, 1903, New Yorkers celebrated the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge, the second and largest of three steel-frame suspension bridges to eventually span the city’s East River. Designed by Leffert L. Buck and Henry Hornbostel, it had taken over seven years to complete. Built to alleviate traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and to provide a link between Manhattan and the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, the Williamsburg Bridge—with its main span at 1,596 feet—was the world’s longest suspension bridge until the 1920s.

[Williamsburg Bridge, New York, NY]. Between 1903-1910. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division
Originally open to horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, and pedestrians, the Williamsburg Bridge soon became a vital transportation route for trolleys and elevated subway trains, spurring the growth of Brooklyn’s working-class neighborhoods. In the 1920s, the bridge was reconfigured to accommodate eight lanes of traffic. As of 2007, it carried more than 110,000 vehicles per day and some 92,000 additional subway riders.


Present to film the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge were cameramen James Blair Smith and G. W. “Billy” Bitzer. Their films, respectively, Opening of New East River Bridge, New York, produced by the Thomas Edison Company, and Opening the Williamsburg Bridge, produced by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, each contain footage of the bridge along with close-ups of the dignitaries and press in attendance. Note the large wooden box cameras carried by the press photographers.
Opening of New East River Bridge, New York. James Blair Smith, camera; Thomas A. Edison, Inc., 1903. The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898 to 1906. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound DivisionNew York City Views. Pier of Williamsburg Bridge, from Below. Samuel H. Gottscho, photographer. Apr. 20, 1933. Gottscho-Schleisner Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Learn More

See more photographs of the Williamsburg Bridge. Search on Williamsburg Bridge in these digital collections:

Detroit Publishing Company

Gottscho-Schleisner Collection

Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views External, New York Public Library

Browse the subject index of The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898 to 1906 to find more early films of New York.

Search Today in History on New York City to find more features on historic city events such as the opening of the subway systemand Radio City Music Hall. Search on bridge or building to read about engineering and architectural achievements including the Golden Gate Bridgeand the Empire State Building.

See more examples of architecture, engineering, and design in the collection Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey. Individual surveys include all four of New York’s East River Bridges: the Brooklyn Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Queensboro Bridge. Browse the collection by location to find other New York structures or search on the term bridge to see many different types of bridges from across the United States.

—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: December 19, 2018 at 10:37AM

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