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The Quick 10: 10 Tales From the Brooklyn Bridge

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We're used to seeing the iconic suspension bridge on the skyline now, but when she opened 127 years ago, the world had never seen anything like the Brooklyn Bridge. From Jumbo and jumpers to stampedes and sellers, it's had quite the history. Here are just a few of the fascinating stories about the world's first steel-wire suspension bridge.

1. "The New York and Brooklyn Bridge" may be accurate, but it's quite a mouthful, don't you think? That was the bridge's official name when the project was first dreamed up, but an 1867 letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle referred to the bridge by the name we know today, and it stuck. The name change wasn't officially recognized by the government until 1915, though.
2. Is there a Brooklyn Bridge curse? If your last name is Roebling you probably think so. The Roeblings - John, his son Washington, and Washington's wife Emily - were the builders of the bridge. The first to succumb to "Roebling's Curse," as the workers called it, was John. While doing some surveying for the project, the elder Roebling's foot was crushed against a piling by a ferry. The toes had to be amputated and then he contracted a terrible tetanus infection from the injury and died. Shortly after Washington took the helm, he was paralyzed by decompression sickness, better known as The Bends. Many underwater workers suffered from this because its cause wasn't really understood at the time. That's when Washington's wife, Emily, took over. Emily was essential in completing the bridge and at the time, bestowing the title of "Chief Engineer" to a woman was unheard of. Although Emily managed to escape the curse, that doesn't necessarily mean it was lifted...

3. Just after the bridge opened in 1883, rumor and panic struck pedestrians on the bridge when word circulated that it was going to collapse. As you can imagine, people stampeded to get off of the allegedly doomed structure and ended up crushing each other in the process. At least 12 people died, with the New York Times reporting,

"The first rescuers to reach the spot found the dead and dying wedged together in the narrow spaces as if they had been fastened in a vise. So tightly were they packed and squeezed that from dozens of persons blood was oozing from ears and noses. The bodies were piled four or five deep at the foot of the stairway."

And it was all completely needless - the bridge was perfectly sound.

4. Ever the publicity hound, P.T. Barnum saw an opportunity to promote his business while proving that there was nothing wrong with the Brooklyn Bridge. A year after the stampede, Barnum led a 21-elephant parade with Jumbo, his famous 6.5-ton elephant, as the mascot. His theory was that if the bridge could easily hold Jumbo and his pals, the bridge could easily hold as many pedestrians as New York could throw at it. Barnum originally offered Jumbo to open the bridge the previous year and was turned down.

5. The Brooklyn Bridge, sadly, is no stranger to jumpers. Robert Odlum was the first. He jumped from the bridge on May 19, 1885, apparently intending it to be a stunt and not a suicide, but it ended up being the latter.

6. In 2006, Department of Transportation workers were doing some basic maintenance work when they discovered quite the surprise on the third floor of a space inside of the bridge's base - a bunch of supplies that indicated the space was being used as a Cold War Bunker. One of the containers was marked, "To be opened after attack by the enemy." Other discoveries included food, water and medical supplies. Workers speculate that it may have been a bunker for the mayor. You can read more about it at

7. Despite the fact that the Brooklyn Bridge has never been for sale, people have successfully sold it. It's one of the biggest scams of all time - in fact, "you could sell him the Brooklyn Bridge" is now a metaphor for a gullible person. We think the person who originated the scam was George C. Parker, who claimed he sometimes sold the Brooklyn Bridge up to twice a week. Some of the buyers even tried to set up tolls before police stopped them and informed them they had been had. Parker also posed as Ulysses S. Grant's grandson and "sold" Grant's Tomb. He eventually received life in prison.

8. On its opening day, 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed the bridge.

9. It cost a paltry $15.1 million to build, and $3.8 million of that was land. Although this seems like a pretty decent estimate to a build a bridge of that size by today's standards, it was ridiculously exorbitant at the time and far exceeded the $7 million budget.

10. Howard Hughes did a fly-by of the Brooklyn Bridge when he was trying to fly around the world in
four days.
He succeeded by the way - it took him just three days and 19 hours.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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