The Brooklyn Bridge was designed by Ohioan John Augustus Roebling, also known for his design of the later (and similar) bridge across the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky. The bridge, begun in 1880, took almost 14 years to complete, and was hampered by death and tragedy.
John Roebling, himself, took ill from tetanus just days after construction began, and he died shorty thereafter. His son, Washington, took over the project, but he too fell ill from "the bends" caused by working using compressed air inside of the pylons under the river. He never fully recovered, and it was his wife, Emily, who oversaw the daily operation of the construction project, studying engineering and construction to best be able to communicate with the foremen. In fact, it was Emily Roebling, not her husband, who led over 1800 vehicles and 150,000 pedestrians over the bridge when it opened in May, 1883.
Tragedy also struck shortly after the bridge opened when a rumor that the bridge was going to collapse caused a pedestrian stampede, crushing twelve people.
Throughout the years, the traffic across the Brooklyn Bridge has included horses, trolleys, elevated trains, and streetcars as well as pedestrians and automobiles. Today, just autos, cyclists, and pedestrians are permitted on the bridge.