Joining of Two Cultures: Manhattan and Brooklyn

"New York and Brooklyn must be united"
- Horace Greely (1)

The Brooklyn Bridge served as the physical link that bonded the two societies of Brooklyn and Manhattan. The new bridge would bring vast transformations to New York. The completion of the bridge in 1883 forged closer economic links between the two cities and made the consolidation of New York inevitable.

Throughout the 19th century, the population in Manhattan soared, causing it to become the leading economic city in America. Many people felt that the connection to Manhattan would stimulate economic prosperity in Brooklyn as well. Their theories were correct; with the newly found accessibility between the two cities, real estate in Brooklyn became highly sought after, and prices were raised. Brooklyn found significant wealth and prosperity with the connection to Manhattan. As S.W. Green, a reporter, wrote in 1883:

A few years ago Brooklyn was regarded only as
"a dormitory of New York." But lately the state
of things thus described are rapidly changing.
Manufactories have sprung up on every hand,
and the steam whistle, the hum of machinery,
the long lines of operatives, male and female, and
the trucks and cars loaded with her produce,
are met on both sides. (2)

There were a select few on both sides that would not accept the union. Loyal Brooklynites were faced the traumatic prospect of the end of their independence, while New Yorkers faced losing its clout and showed little sympathy to the timid Brooklynites. The New York Post stated, "New York must retain its supremacy as the leading city of the New World, and it can only do this by enlarging its limits. It has for years been building up Brooklyn and other adjacent territory with the overflow of its population, and the time will come when it will claim all this for its own." When the bridge opened, Brooklyn had 580,000 inhabitants; by 1898, this had grown to nearly 1 million. By 1930, Brooklynites outnumbered Manhattanites.

Manhattan Terminal to the Brooklyn Bridge, 1883

Brooklyn Terminal To the Brooklyn Bridge

For the most part, however, both Manhattan and Brooklyn were extremely proud to have the Brooklyn Bridge as their own. It represented the importance of both of the cities. The bridge was the most innovative and eminent structure of the time, and because it was situated in New York proved the influence New York had over the rest of the world. The joining of Brooklyn and Manhattan brought economic success to both the cities. There were many city officials that saw the coupled territorial development and the financial explosion and had ideas to expand New York further to include more area. The joining of the cultures of the two cities was very important stepping-stone in the consolidation of a Greater New York.

1. McCullough, The Great Bridge, page 24

2. S.W. Green, The Complete History of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge.; page 73


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