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Edson, Franklin / Opening Ceremonies of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, May 24, 1883
(This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)





MAY 24, 1883.












SETH LOW, Mayor,

JOHN T. AGNEW, Chairman Executive Committee.


OTTO WITTE, Treasurer.






1. MUSIC--





On behalf of Trustees,
WILLIAM C. KINGSLEY, Vice-President.


On behalf of the City of Brooklyn,
Hon. SETH LOW, Mayor.


On behalf of the City of New York,


Mr. J. LEVY.





8. MUSIC--


Hon. JAMES S.T. STRANAHAN will preside.


The New York and Brooklyn Bridge was formally opened on Thursday, May
24th, 1883, with befitting pomp and ceremonial, in the presence of the
largest multitude that ever gathered in the two cities. From the
announcement by the Trustees of the date which was to mark the
turning-over of the work to the public, it was evident that the
popular demonstration would be upon a scale commensurate with the
magnificence of the structure and its importance to the people of the
United States. The evidences of widespread and profound interest in
the event were early and unmistakable. They were not confined to the
metropolis and its sister city on the Long Island shore, nor yet to
the majestic Empire State. The occurrence was recognized as one of
National importance; and throughout the Union, from the rocky
headlands of Maine to the golden shores of the Pacific, and from the
gleaming waters of the St. Lawrence to the vast expanse of the Mexican
Gulf, the opening ceremonies were regarded with intelligent concern
and approval. Nearly every State contributed its representatives to
the swelling throng that attended, while those who were unable to be
present contemplated with pride and satisfaction the completion and
consecration to its purpose of the greatest engineering work of modern

In the communities most directly benefited by the Bridge the
demonstration was confined to no class or body of the populace. It was
a holiday for high and low, rich and poor; it was, in fact, the
People's Day. More delightful weather never dawned upon a festal
morning. The heavens were radiant with the celestial blue of
approaching summer; silvery fragments of cloud sailed gracefully
across the firmament like winged messengers, bearing greetings of work
well done; the clearest of spring sunshine tinged everything with a
touch of gold, and a brisk, bracing breeze blown up from the Atlantic
cooled the atmosphere to a healthful and invigorating temperature.
The incoming dawn revealed the twin cities gorgeous in gala attire.
From towering steeple and lofty fašade, from the fronts of business
houses and the cornices and walls of private dwellings, from the
forests of shipping along the wharves and the vessels in the dimpled
bay, floated bunting fashioned in every conceivable design, while high
above all, from the massive and enduring granite towers of the Bridge
the Stars and Stripes signaled to the world from the gateway of the
continent the arrival of the auspicious day.

Almost before the sun was up the thoroughfares of both cities put on a
festival appearance. Business was generally suspended. The mercantile
and professional communities vied with one another in the extent and
splendor of their decorations, while from the hearty voice of Labor
arose a chorus of ringing acclamation. Tens of thousands of men, women
and children crowded into the streets, and, after gazing admiringly
upon the decorations, wended their way in the direction of the mighty
river span. From neighboring cities and from the adjacent country for
many miles around the incoming trains brought multitudes of
excursionists and sight-seers. It seemed marvelous that they could all
find accommodation, but the generous hospitality of the cities was
cordially extended, and all were adequately provided for. The scenes
presented during the day upon the streets and avenues of New York and
Brooklyn will never be forgotten by those who witnessed them.
Notwithstanding the enormous massing of people, the best of order was
everywhere observable, and the day happily was free from any accident
of a serious nature. The arrangements for the celebration were of a
sensible and becoming character, and beside insuring an unobstructed
and speedy course for the ceremonies, contributed beyond measure to
the popular enjoyment.

Early in the afternoon the President of the United States, Gen.
Chester A. Arthur, and the Hon. Grover Cleveland, Governor of the
State of New York, the former accompanied by the members of his
Cabinet and the latter by the officers of his Staff, were escorted
from the Fifth Avenue Hotel to the New York City Hall, where they
were joined by his Honor Mayor Franklin Edson and the New York
officials. From the City Hall the procession proceeded to the New York
Approach to the Bridge. The Seventh Regiment, N.G., S.N.Y., Col.
Emmons Clark, commanding, acted as escort to the Presidential and
Gubernatorial party. The regimental band, of 75 pieces, headed the
column and played popular airs as the procession moved along the
crowded and gaily decorated thoroughfares. At the New York Tower a
battalion of the Fifth United States Artillery, under command of Major
Jackson, joined the escort, and between the lines of brilliantly
uniformed troops the distinguished guests passed upon the roadway.
They were formally received by a Committee of the Bridge Trustees,
headed by Mr. William C. Kingsley, Vice-President and acting President
of the Board.

The arrival at the New York Tower was proclaimed to the multitudes on
shore by the thundering of many cannon. Salutes were fired from the
forts in the harbor, from the United States Navy Yard, and from the
summit of Fort Greene. The United States fleet, consisting of the
"Tennessee," the "Yantic," the "Kearsarge," the "Vandalia," and the
"Minnesota," Rear-Admiral George H. Cooper, commanding, was anchored
in the river below the Bridge and joined in the salute. As the
procession moved across the roadway the yards of the men-of-war were
manned, and from the docks and factories arose a tremendous babel of
sounds, caused by the clanging of bells, the roaring of steam
whistles, and the cheers of enthusiastic people, while sounding from
afar, in delightful contrast with the clamorous discord, the silver
chimes of Trinity rang out upon the river.

In the ornate iron railway depot at the Brooklyn terminus, where the
exercises were to take place, the arrival of the approaching
procession was anxiously awaited. The interior was bright with
tasteful decorations, the prevailing feature being the sky-blue
hangings of satin bordered with silver, and the coats-of-arms of the
States appropriately interspersed amid a forest of flags. On the
Brooklyn side the duties of escort were transferred to the 23d
Regiment, N.G., S.N.Y., Colonel Rodney C. Ward commanding. The
regiment appeared upon this occasion for the first time in their new
State service uniform, and performed their duties most efficiently.
The arrangements for the procession and exercises were under the
direction of Major-General James Jourdan, commanding the Second
Division, N.G., S.N.Y., who was ably assisted by the members of the
Division Staff. The building was thronged in every part. In the throng
were many of the most conspicuous citizens of New York and other
States, including representatives of the bench, the bar, the pulpit,
the press, and all other professions. Beside the President and his
Cabinet, consisting of the Hon. Charles J. Folger, Secretary of the
Treasury; the Hon. William E. Chandler, Secretary of the Navy; the
Hon. Henry M. Teller, Secretary of the Interior; the Hon. Walter Q.
Gresham, Postmaster-General, and the Hon. Benjamin Harris Brewster,
Attorney-General; and Governor Cleveland and Staff, there were present
the Governors of several States and the Mayors of nearly all the
cities in the vicinity of the metropolis. In the vast assemblage
none were more conspicuous than the officers of the Army and Navy, who
occupied an entire section and attracted general attention.

When the Presidential party and their escort entered the hall they
were greeted with enthusiastic cheers. They occupied seats directly
opposite the stand erected for the orators of the day. The exercises
proceeded without delay in an orderly manner, and were appropriate and
impressive throughout. Music was furnished during the ceremonies by
the bands of the Seventh and Twenty-third regiments. The Hon. James
S.T. Stranahan presided with the skill and dignity gained during his
long experience in public life. Near him were the speakers, Mr.
William C. Kingsley, Rev. Richard S. Storrs, D.D., the Hon. Abram S.
Hewitt, Mayor Franklin Edson, of New York, and Mayor Seth Low, of
Brooklyn, together with the members of the Board of Bridge Trustees.
Mr. Stranahan opened the ceremonies by introducing Bishop Littlejohn,
who wore the Episcopal robes. The Bishop fervently and impressively
made the opening prayer, the great assemblage bowing their heads
reverentially during its delivery. Vice-President Kingsley was next
introduced, and was received with hearty applause. Mr. Kingsley, in
clear and distinct tones, and in comprehensive and business-like
terms, proceeded to make the formal speech presenting the Bridge to
the cities of New York and Brooklyn. The address was heard with
careful attention, and upon its conclusion a round of enthusiastic
applause swept through the building. His Honor Mayor Low followed Mr.
Kingsley with a concise and appropriate speech, receiving the
structure on behalf of the City of Brooklyn. His address elicited
several demonstrations of approval from the audience. The Hon.
Franklin Edson, Mayor of New York, who was the next speaker, was
heartily applauded as he aptly accepted the Bridge in behalf of the
authorities of the great metropolis. When Mr. Hewitt was introduced as
the orator on the part of New York City, he was warmly cheered. His
eloquent address riveted the attention of his hearers from beginning
to end, and his pointed and conclusive vindication of the bridge
management from the outset aroused the enthusiasm of his hearers to
the utmost pitch. Following Mr. Hewitt came the Rev. Richard S.
Storrs, D.D., who delivered the oration on behalf of Brooklyn. Never
did the distinguished preacher appear to better advantage, and his
oration, which was punctuated with applause, was characterized as a
masterpiece by all who heard it. Upon the conclusion of his address
the presiding officer declared the exercises at an end, and the
company in the building dispersed.

The festivities, however, did not end with the conclusion of the
formal ceremonies. The celebration was continued in both cities
throughout the day and far into the night. Thousands upon thousands of
enthusiastic people crowded the streets. After the ceremonies, the
President, the Governor, the speakers of the day, and the Trustees
were driven to the residence of Col. Washington A. Roebling, on
Columbia Heights, where a reception was held. As they passed through
the streets the people cheered as people only can who cheer in the
atmosphere of a free government. From Col. Roebling's house the
company proceeded to the residence of Mayor Low, where they were
entertained at a banquet. In the evening, under the auspices of the
Municipal authorities, a grand reception to President Arthur and
Governor Cleveland was given by the citizens of Brooklyn at the
Academy of Music, and was attended by a great multitude. Another
striking feature of the celebration at night was the display of
fireworks on the Bridge given under the direction of the Board of
Trustees. The pyrotechnic exhibition was viewed by almost the entire
populace of the two cities, and a vast concourse of visitors from
abroad. The East River was fairly blocked with craft of every
description bearing legions of delighted spectators, and the streets
and housetops were packed with people. The display was generally
characterized as one of the grandest ever witnessed in America. The
people of both cities evinced their public spirit in the decorations
by day and the illuminations by night. The illuminations in Brooklyn,
particularly, were on a magnificent scale, and excited the admiration
of multitudes of visitors to the city. In addition to the special
features of the celebration there were many entertainments in honor of
the event, including concerts in the various city parks. Throughout
the afternoon and evening the best of order was preserved; the
casualties that occurred were few and unimportant, and the auspicious
day ended without the intrusion of anything that would carry with it
other than pleasant memories of the significant event which it



The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting
arms. Deut. xxxiii.: 27.

Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God,
which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His
commandments to a thousand generations. Deut. vii.: 9.

Remember the marvelous works that He hath done: His wonders, and the
judgments of his mouth. Psalm cv.: 5.

Marvelous things did He in the sight of our forefathers, in the land
of Egypt, even in the field of Zoan.

He divided the sea, and let them go through: He made the waters to
stand on an heap.

In the day time also He led them with a cloud, and all the night
through with a light of fire. Psalm lxxviii.: 13, 14, 15.

Oh, that men would therefore praise the Lord for His goodness and
declare the wonders that He doeth for the children of men. Psalm
cvii.: 21.

The Lord hath been mindful of us, and He shall bless us; He shall
bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great. Psalm cxv.: 12,

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost:

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without

Praise ye the Lord:

The Lord's name be praised.

* * * * *


Almighty God, who hast in all ages showed forth Thy power and mercy in
the preservation and advancement of the race redeemed by the precious
blood of Thy dear Son: we yield Thee our unfeigned thanks and praise
as for all Thy public mercies, so especially for the signal
manifestation of Thy Providence which we commemorate this day. All
things--wealth, industry, energy, skill, genius--come of Thee; and
when we consecrate their triumphs unto Thee, we give Thee but Thine
own. Enable us to see in the strength and grandeur of this structure
the evident tokens of Thy power, bringing mighty things to pass
through the weakness of Thy creatures. Give us grace and wisdom to
discern in all this work the nobler uses it was ordained by Thee to
subserve. Teach us to know that all this mighty fabric is but vanity,
save as it shall promote Thy sovereign purpose toward the sons of men.
O Lord God, clothed with majesty and honor, decking Thyself with light
as with a garment, and spreading out the heavens like a curtain, with
the beams of Thy chambers in the waters, and the clouds for Thy
chariot, walking upon the wings of the wind, Thy messengers spirits
and Thy ministers a flaming fire, accept, we beseech Thee, this last
and chiefest fruit of human toil and genius as a tribute to Thy glory,
and a new power making for righteousness and peace amid all conflicts
of earthly interests, and all the stir and pomp of worldly
aggrandizement. Our life is a thing of nought, and our purposes vanish
away; but Thy years shall not fail, and with Thee the beginning and
the end are the same. Therefore we implore Thee to bless and direct
this work, that it shall be more than a highway for the things that
perish, even a path of Thy eternal Spirit lifting by His own infinite
grace, more and more, as the years roll on, the people of these cities
toward the plane of Thine own life--the life of endless peace, of
absolute unity, and perfect love, through Jesus Christ, the one
Redeemer and Mediator between God and man. Amen.



In the presence of this great assemblage, and of the chosen
representatives of the people of these two great cities, of the
Governor of the State of New York and of the President of the United
States, the pleasing duty devolves upon me, as the official agent of
the Board of Trustees of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, to announce
formally to the chief magistrates of these two municipalities that
this Bridge is now ready to be opened for public use, and is subject
in its control and management only to such restrictions as the people,
to whom it belongs, may choose to impose upon themselves. If I were at
liberty to consult my own wishes I should not attempt to occupy your
attention any further. I am not here as the spokesman of my
associates in the Board of Bridge Trustees. They are well content to
let this great structure speak for them, and to speak more fittingly
and more eloquently yet for the skillful, faithful and daring men who
have given so many years of their lives--and in several instances even
their lives--to the end that the natural barrier to the union, growth
and greatness of this great commercial centre should be removed, and
that a vast scientific conception should be matched in the skill, and
courage, and endurance upon which it depended for its realization.
With one name, in an especial sense, this Bridge will always be
associated--that of Roebling. At the outset of this enterprise we were
so fortunate as to be able to secure the services of the late John A.
Roebling, who had built the chief suspension bridges in this country,
and who had just then completed the largest suspension bridge ever
constructed up to that time. His name and achievements were of
invaluable service to this enterprise in its infancy. They secured for
it a confidence not otherwise obtainable. He entered promptly and with
more than professional zeal into the work of erecting a bridge over
the East River. As is universally known, while testing and perfecting
his surveys his foot was crushed between the planks of one of our
piers; lockjaw supervened, and the man who designed this Bridge lost
his life in its service. The main designs were, however, completed by
the elder Roebling before he met his sad and untimely death. He was
succeeded at once by his son, Colonel Washington A. Roebling, who had
for years before shared in his father's professional confidences and
labors. Here the son did not succeed the father by inheritance merely.
The elder Roebling, according to his own statements, would not have
undertaken the conduct of this work at his age--and he was independent
of mere professional gain--if it were not for the fact, as he
frequently stated, that he had a son who was entirely capable of
building this Bridge. Indeed, the elder Roebling advised that the son,
who was destined to carry on and complete the work, should be placed
in chief authority at the beginning. The turning point--as determining
the feasibility of this enterprise--was reached down in the earth,
and under the bed of the East River. During the anxious days and
nights while work was going on within the caissons, Colonel Roebling
seemed to be always on hand, at the head of his men, to direct their
efforts, and to guard against a mishap or a mistake which, at this
stage of the work, might have proved to be disastrous. The foundations
of the towers were successfully laid, and the problem of the
feasibility of the Bridge was solved. Colonel Roebling contracted the
mysterious disease in the caissons which had proved fatal to several
of the workmen in our employ. For many long and weary years this man,
who entered our service young and full of life, and hope, and daring,
has been an invalid and confined to his home. He has never seen this
structure as it now stands, save from a distance. But the disease,
which has shattered his nervous system for the time, seemed not to
have enfeebled his mind. It appeared even to quicken his intellect.
His physical infirmities shut him out, so to speak, from the world,
and left him dependent largely on the society of his family, but it
gave him for a companion day and night this darling child of his
genius--every step of whose progress he has directed and watched over
with paternal solicitude. Colonel Roebling may never walk across this
Bridge, as so many of his fellow-men have done to-day, but while this
structure stands he will make all who use it his debtor. His
infirmities are still such that he who would be the centre of interest
on this occasion, and even in this greatly distinguished company, is
conspicuous by his absence. This enterprise was only less fortunate in
securing an executive head than in obtaining scientific direction. For
sixteen years together the late Hon. Henry C. Murphy stood for this
work wherever it challenged the enmity of an opponent or needed an
advocate, a supporter and a friend. He devised the legislation under
which it was commenced. He staked in its inception a large portion of
his private fortune on its success. He upheld its feasibility and
utility before committees, and legislatures, and law courts, and in
every forum of public discussion. For years he looked forward to this
day to fittingly close the activities of a long, useful and, in many
respects, an illustrious career. It was not permitted him to see it,
but he saw very near the end, and he lived long enough to realize,
what is now admitted, that he was to the end of his days engaged in a
work from which the name of the city he loved so well will never be
disassociated, for it is a work the history of which will for all time
be embraced in the records of the achievements of American enterprise
and of American genius. I am sure I speak for the Board of Trustees in
returning their thanks to all the professional gentlemen who have been
in our employ--and especially to Messrs. Martin, Paine, Farrington,
McNulty and Probasco. For the most part these men have been engaged on
the Bridge from its commencement to its completion. It has always
seemed to the Trustees as if the highest and the humblest workmen
engaged on this work were alike influenced by the spirit of enterprise
in which the Bridge had its origin. Men whose daily compensation was
not more than sufficient to provide them and their families with their
daily bread were at all times ready to take their lives in their
hands in the performance of the imperative and perilous duties
assigned them. In the direct prosecution of the work twenty men lost
their lives. Peace hath its victories, and it has its victims and its
martyrs, too. Of the seven consulting engineers to whom the matured
plans of the elder Roebling were submitted--all men of the highest
eminence in their profession--three have passed away, and four are
living to witness, in the assured success of this structure, the one
ratification of their judgment which cannot be questioned.

It remains for me to say, in conclusion, that the two cities rose at
all times to the level of the spirit of our time and country. Their
citizens staked millions on what seemed to many to be an experiment--a
structure, it was often said, that at its best would not be of any
actual use. How solid it is; how far removed it is from all sense of
apprehension; how severely practical it is in all its relations, and
how great a factor in the corporate lives of these cities it is
destined to be, we all now realize. This Bridge has cost many millions
of dollars, and it has taken many years to build it. May I say on
this occasion that the people whom you represent (turning to where the
Mayors of the two cities stood together) would not part with the
Bridge to-day for even twice or thrice its cost? And may I remind
those who, not unnaturally, perhaps, have been disappointed and
irritated by delays in the past, that those who enter a race with Time
for a competitor have an antagonist that makes no mistakes, is subject
to no interference and liable to no accident.



GENTLEMEN OF THE TRUSTEES--With profound satisfaction, on behalf of
the City of Brooklyn, I accept the completed Bridge. Fourteen times
the earth has made its great march through the heavens since the work
began. The vicissitudes of fourteen years have tried the courage and
the faith of engineers and of people. At last we all rejoice in the
signal triumph. The beautiful and stately structure fulfills the
fondest hope. It will be a source of pleasure to-day to every citizen
that no other name is associated with the end than that which has
directed the work from the beginning--the name of Roebling. With all
my heart I give to him who bears it now the city's acknowledgment and

Fourteen years ago a city of 400,000 people on this side of the river
heard of a projected suspension bridge with incredulity. The span was
so long, the height so great, and the enterprise likely to be so
costly, that few thought of it as something begun in earnest. The
irresistible demands of commerce enforced these hard conditions. But
Science said, "It is possible," and Courage said, "It shall be!"
To-day a city of 600,000 people welcomes with enthusiasm the wonderful
creation of genius. Graceful, and yet majestic, it clings to the land
like a thing that has taken root. Beautiful as a vision of fairyland
it salutes our sight. The impression it makes upon the visitor is one
of astonishment, an astonishment that grows with every visit. No one
who has been upon it can ever forget it. This great structure cannot
be confined to the limits of local pride. The glory of it belongs to
the race. Not one shall see it and not feel prouder to be a man.

And yet it is distinctly an American triumph. American genius designed
it, American skill built it, and American workshops made it. About
1837 the Screw Dock across the river, then known as the Hydrostatic
Lifting Dock, was built. In order to construct it the Americans of
that day were obliged to have the cylinders cast in England. What a
stride from 1837 to 1883--from the Hydrostatic Dock to the New York
and Brooklyn Bridge!

And so this Bridge is a wonder of science. But in no less degree it is
a triumph of faith. I speak not now of the courage of those who
projected it. Except for the faith which removes mountains yonder
river could not have been spanned by this Bridge. It is true that the
material which has gone into it has been paid for; the labor which has
been spent upon it has received its hire. But the money which did
these things was not the money of those who own the Bridge. The money
was lent to them on the faith that these two great cities would redeem
their bond. So have the Alps been tunneled in our day; while the
ancient prophecy has been fulfilled that faith should remove
mountains. We justify this faith in us as we pay for the Bridge by
redeeming the bond.

In the course of the construction of the Bridge a number of lives
have been lost. Does it not sometimes seem as though every work of
enduring value, in the material as in the moral world, must needs be
purchased at the cost of human life? Let us recall with kindness at
this hour the work of those who labored here faithfully unto the
death, no less than of that great army of men who have wrought, year
in and year out, to execute the great design. Let us give our meed of
praise to-day to the humblest workman who has here done his duty well,
no less than to the great engineer who told him what to do.

The importance of this Bridge in its far-reaching effects at once
entices and baffles the imagination. At either end of the Bridge lies
a great city--cities full of vigorous life. The activities and the
energies of each flow over into the other. The electric current has
conveyed unchecked between the two the interchanging thoughts, but the
rapid river has ever bidden halt to the foot of man. It is as though
the population of these cities had been brought down to the
river-side, year after year, there to be taught patience; and as
though, in this Bridge, after these many years, patience had had her
perfect work. The ardent merchant, the busy lawyer, the impatient
traveler--all, without distinction and without exception--at the river
have been told to wait. No one can compute the loss of time ensuing
daily from delays at the ferries to the multitudes crossing the
stream. And time is not only money--it is opportunity. Brooklyn
becomes available, henceforth, as a place of residence to thousands,
to whom the ability to reach their places of business without
interruption from fog and ice is of paramount importance. To all
Brooklyn's present citizens a distinct boon is given. The certainty of
communication with New York afforded by the Bridge is the fundamental
benefit it confers. Incident to this is the opportunity it gives for
rapid communication.

As the water of the lakes found the salt sea when the Erie Canal was
opened, so surely will quick communication seek and find this noble
Bridge, and as the ships have carried hither and thither the products
of the mighty West, so shall diverging railroads transport the people
swiftly to their homes in the hospitable city of Brooklyn. The Erie
Canal is a waterway through the land connecting the great West with
the older East. This Bridge is a landway over the water, connecting
two cities bearing to each other relations in some respects similar.
It is the function of such works to bless "both him that gives and him
that takes." The development of the West has not belittled, but has
enlarged New York, and Brooklyn will grow by reason of this Bridge,
not at New York's expense, but to her permanent advantage. The
Brooklyn of 1900 can hardly be guessed at from the city of to-day. The
hand of Time is a mighty hand. To those who are privileged to live in
sight of this noble structure every line of it should be eloquent with
inspiration. Courage, enterprise, skill, faith, endurance--these are
the qualities which have made the great Bridge, and these are the
qualities which will make our city great and our people great. God
grant they never may be lacking in our midst. Gentlemen of the
Trustees, in accepting the Bridge at your hands, I thank you warmly
in Brooklyn's name for your manifold and arduous labors.



MR. PRESIDENT--On behalf of the City of New York, I accept the great
work which you now tender as ready for the public use of the two
cities which it so substantially and, at the same time, so gracefully
joins together.

The City of New York joyfully unites with the City of Brooklyn in
extending to you, sir, and to those who have been associated with you,
sincere congratulations upon the successful completion of this grand
highway, establishing, as it does, an enduring alliance between these
two great cities. Through the wisdom, energy, zeal and patience of
yourself and your co-laborers in this vast enterprise, we are enabled
this day to recognize the fact that a common and unbroken current
flows through the veins of these two cities, which must add in no
small degree to the strength, healthful growth and prosperity of both,
and we believe that what has thus been joined together shall never be
put asunder.

When, more than fifteen years ago, you, Mr. President, foresaw the
advantages that would surely accrue to these cities from the
establishment of such a means of communication between them, few could
be found to look upon such advantages as other than, at best,
problematical. To-day, however, they are recognized, and so fully,
that before this Bridge was completed the building of another not far
distant had begun to be seriously considered.

It was forty years after the vast advantages of water communication
between the Hudson and the great lakes had dawned upon the mind of
Washington, in the course of a tour through the valley of the Mohawk,
that such a work came to be appreciated by the people, and resulted in
that grand artery of wealth to our State, the Erie Canal. So I believe
it has ever been in the past with the initiation and construction of
great public works, and with the introduction of agencies and methods
which have been of the greatest benefit to mankind throughout the
world, and so perhaps it will ever be. Yet, for the welfare of these
two cities, let us venture the hope that the tide of improvement and
of active preparation is setting in, for it behooves us more than most
are aware to be forecasting our future necessities, and to recognize
the fact that

There is a tide in the affairs of _cities_,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

It is not difficult for most of us to look back twenty-five years and
see clearly the wonderful strides which have been made in population,
commerce, manufacturing and financial interests, and in all the
industries which help to make great and prosperous communities; nor is
it difficult to trace the wonders that have been wrought through the
agencies of steam and electricity within those years. But to look
forward twenty-five years and attempt to discern the condition of
things in this metropolis, if they shall continue to move forward on
the same scale of progress, is an undertaking that few can grasp. No
one dares accept the possibilities that are forced upon the mind in
the course of its contemplation. Will these two cities ere then have
been consolidated into one great municipality, numbering within its
limits more than five millions of people? Will the right of
self-government have been accorded to the great city, thus united, and
will her people have learned how best to exercise that right? Will the
progress of improvement and the preparation for commerce,
manufactories and trade, and for the comforts of home for poor and
rich, have kept pace with the demand in the great and growing city?
Will the establishment of life-giving parks, embellished with
appropriate fountains and statues and with the numberless graces of
art, which at once gladden the eye and raise the standard of
civilization, have kept abreast with its growth in wealth and numbers?

These are but few of the pertinent questions which must be answered by
the zealous and honest acts of the generation of men already in active
life. Here are the possibilities; all the elements and conditions are
here; but the results must depend upon the wisdom and patriotism and
energy of those who shall lead in public affairs. May they be clothed
with a spirit of wisdom and knowledge akin to that which inspired
those who conceived and executed the great work which we receive at
your hands and dedicate to-day.


Two hundred and seventy years ago the good ship "Tiger," commanded by
Captain Adraien Block, was burned to the water's edge, as she lay at
anchor, just off the southern end of Manhattan Island. Her crew, thus
forced into winter quarters, were the first white men who built and
occupied a house on the land where New York now stands; "then," to
quote the graphic language of Mrs. Lamb, in her history of the City,
"in primeval solitude, waiting till commerce should come and claim its
own. Nature wore a hardy countenance, as wild and as untamed as the
savage landholders. Manhattan's twenty-two thousand acres of rock,
lake and rolling table land, rising at places to a height of one
hundred and thirty-eight feet, were covered with sombre forests,
grassy knolls and dismal swamps. The trees were lofty; and old,
decayed and withered limbs contrasted with the younger growth of
branches; and wild flowers wasted their sweetness among the dead
leaves and uncut herbage at their roots. The wanton grapevine swung
carelessly from the topmost boughs of the oak and the sycamore; and
blackberry and raspberry bushes, like a picket guard, presented a bold
front in all possible avenues of approach. The entire surface of the
island was bold and granitic, and in profile resembled the
cartilaginous back of the sturgeon."

This primeval scene was the product of natural forces working through
uncounted periods of time; the continent slowly rising and falling in
the sea like the heaving breast of a world asleep; glaciers carving
patiently through ages the deep estuaries; seasons innumerable
clothing the hills with alternate bloom and decay.

The same sun shines to-day upon the same earth; yet how transformed!
Could there be a more astounding exhibition of the power of man to
change the face of nature than the panoramic view which presents
itself to the spectator standing upon the crowning arch of the Bridge,
whose completion we are here to-day to celebrate in the honored
presence of the President of the United States, with their fifty
millions; of the Governor of the State of New York, with its five
millions; and of the Mayors of the two cities, aggregating over two
millions of inhabitants? In the place of stillness and solitude, the
footsteps of these millions of human beings; instead of the smooth
waters "unvexed by any keel," highways of commerce ablaze with the
flags of all the nations; and where once was the green monotony of
forested hills, the piled and towering splendors of a vast metropolis,
the countless homes of industry, the echoing marts of trade, the
gorgeous palaces of luxury, the silent and steadfast spires of

To crown all, the work of separation wrought so surely, yet so slowly,
by the hand of Time, is now reversed in our own day, and "Manahatta"
and "Seawanhaka" are joined again, as once they were before the dawn
of life in the far azoic ages.

"It is done!
Clang of bell and roar of gun
Send the tidings up and down.
How the belfries rock and reel!
How the great guns, peal on peal,
Fling the joy from town to town!"

"What hath God wrought!" were the words of wonder, which ushered into
being the magnetic telegraph, the greatest marvel of the many
marvelous inventions of the present century. It was the natural
impulse of the pious maiden who chose this first message of reverence
and awe, to look to the Divine Power as the author of a new gospel.
For it was the invisible, and not the visible agency, which addressed
itself to her perceptions. Neither the bare poles, nor the slender
wire, nor the silent battery, could suggest an adequate explanation of
the extinction of time and space which was manifest to her senses, and
she could only say, "What hath God wrought!"

But when we turn from the unsightly telegraph to the graceful
structure at whose portal we stand, and when the airy outline of its
curves of beauty, pendant between massive towers suggestive of art
alone, is contrasted with the over-reaching vault of heaven above and
the ever-moving flood of waters beneath, the work of omnipotent power,
we are irresistibly moved to exclaim, "What hath _man_ wrought!"

Man hath, indeed, wrought far more than strikes the eye in this daring
undertaking, by the general judgment of engineers, without a rival
among the wonders of human skill.

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Main -> Edson, Franklin -> Opening Ceremonies of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, May 24, 1883