1883 Brooklyn Bridge opens After 14 years, the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River is opened, connecting the great cities of New York and Brooklyn for the first time in history. As many as 20 workers were killed during the bridge’s construction. Thousands of residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan Island turned out to witness the dedication ceremony, which was presided over by President Chester A. Arthurand New York Governor Grover Cleveland. Designed by the late John A. Roebling, the Brooklyn Bridge was the largest suspension bridge ever built to that date. John Roebling, born in Germany in 1806, was a great pioneer in the design of steel suspension bridges. He studied industrial engineering in Berlin and at the age of 25 immigrated to western Pennsylvania, where he attempted, unsuccessfully, to make his living as a farmer. He later moved to the state capital in Harrisburg, where he found work as a civil engineer. He promoted the use of wire cable and established a successful wire-cable factory. Meanwhile, he earned a reputation as a designer of suspension bridges, which at the time were widely used but known to fail under strong winds or heavy loads. Roebling is credited with a major breakthrough in suspension-bridge technology: a web truss added to either side of the bridge roadway that greatly stabilized the structure. Using this model, Roebling successfully bridged the Niagara Gorge at Niagara Falls, New York, and the Ohio River at Cincinnati, Ohio. On the basis of these achievements, New York State accepted Roebling’s design for a bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan–with a span of 1,595 feet–and appointed him chief engineer. It was to be the world’s first steel suspension bridge. Just before construction began in 1869, Roebling was fatally injured while taking a few final compass readings across the East River. A boat smashed the toes on one of his feet, and three weeks later he died of tetanus. He was the first of more than two dozen people who would die building his bridge. His 32-year-old son, Washington A. Roebling, took over as chief engineer. Roebling had worked with his father on several bridges and had helped design the Brooklyn Bridge. The two granite foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge were built in timber caissons, or watertight chambers, sunk to depths of 44 feet on the Brooklyn side and 78 feet on the New York side. Compressed air pressurized the caissons, allowing underwater construction. At that time, little was known of the risks of working under such conditions, and more than a hundred workers suffered from cases of compression sickness. Compression sickness, or the “bends,” is caused by the appearance of nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream that result from rapid decompression. Several died, and Washington Roebling himself became bedridden from the condition in 1872. Other workers died as a result of more conventional construction accidents, such as collapses and a fire. Roebling continued to direct construction operations from his home, and his wife, Emily, carried his instructions to the workers. In 1877, Washington and Emily moved into a home with a view of the bridge. Roebling’s health gradually improved, but he remained partially paralyzed for the rest of his life. On May 24, 1883, Emily Roebling was given the first ride over the completed bridge, with a rooster, a symbol of victory, in her lap. Within 24 hours, an estimated 250,000 people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, using a broad promenade above the roadway that John Roebling designed solely for the enjoyment of pedestrians. The Brooklyn Bridge, with its unprecedented length and two stately towers, was dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.” The connection it provided between the massive population centers of Brooklyn and Manhattan changed the course of New York City forever. In 1898, the city of Brooklyn formally merged with New York City, Staten Island, and a few farm towns, forming Greater New York. 1863 Henry Plummer is elected sheriff of Bannack, Montana The good citizens of Bannack, Montana, elect Henry Plummer as their new sheriff, not realizing he is a hardened outlaw who will use his office to rob and murder them. Born and reared in Maine, Plummer went west in 1852 and settled in the California gold mining town of Nevada City. There he opened a bakery and became active in the Democratic Party. Well-spoken, friendly, and ambitious, Plummer won election to sheriff in 1856 and performed well enough to win re-election the following year. Later in 1857, however, Plummer suffered two setbacks. First, he lost his bid to win a seat on the California legislature. Then he was convicted of second-degree murder for killing an unarmed man in the line of duty. Plummer claimed he had acted in self-defense, but the jury apparently believed witnesses who said the true motive lay in an affair he was having with the murdered man’s wife. Plummer served six months in San Quentin prison before the governor pardoned him. When he returned to Nevada City, he won reappointment as an assistant marshal. In 1861, however, he fatally wounded a man in a whorehouse brawl and fled to avoid prosecution. During the next several years, he wandered through the gold country of Nevada and Idaho. Eventually, he took up with a band of desperados who were robbing and killing miners in Idaho. When a blunt and brave saloonkeeper named Patrick Ford began to voice suspicions about Plummer, the outlaw arranged for him to be killed in a shootout. Misgivings about Plummer continued to grow, however, and he fled once more. When Plummer arrived in Bannack, Montana, in October 1862, the people of the booming little mining town knew nothing of his record. With the Idaho gold fields beginning to give out, many of Plummer’s old partners in crime followed him to Montana. Plummer quickly reorganized his gang and called the motley band “The Innocents.” Skillfully maintaining his public role as an honest citizen, Plummer then managed to convince 307 inhabitants of Bannack to elect him sheriff in May of 1863. Plummer’s office of sheriff was the perfect cover for operating an effective and deadly criminal ring. Plummer provided his henchmen with information on the movements of gold shipments and ensured that they avoided capture. During the next six months, road agents ruthlessly terrorized the people of Bannack and the nearby town of Virginia City. To the dismay of the townspeople, Sheriff Plummer seemed unable to stop them. After more than 100 people were robbed or murdered, the settlers organized a vigilance committee of nearly 2,000 members in December 1863. The Montana vigilantes destroyed Plummer and his gang in a surprisingly short time. Among their first victims was Erastus “Red” Yeager, who revealed Plummer’s complicity and the names of the other gang leaders before he was hanged. Early on a bitterly cold Sunday morning, January 10, 1864, the vigilantes arrested Plummer and two of his lieutenants. While his cronies swore and resisted, Plummer reportedly wept and begged to be spared, but to no avail. All three men were hanged at once on a Bannack gallows Sheriff Plummer had prepared for another. The vigilantes rode away, “leaving the corpses,” as one contemporary wrote, “stiffening in the icy blast.” By spring, all of Plummer’s Innocents were either dead or departed.