Building Trades

Sandhogs and the Brooklyn Bridge

January 6, 2014
By Neal Tepel

New York, NY – On January 3, 1870,  construction began on the Brooklyn Bridge. While connecting Brooklyn To Manhattan it paved the way for the unification of the five boroughs. The bridge was completed in 1883. Immigrants worked on the bridge long hours and were paid $2 a day  to work long hours underwater.  The workers, who were known as “sandhogs,” had  to clear away the mud and boulders at the bottom of the East River, reaching down to the bedrock.

The “sandhogs” worked in pressurized air containers which brought on headaches, itchy skin, bloody noses, and slowed heartbreaks. Working in such a condition also brought on what was known as “caisson disease” whose symptoms included paralysis, convulsions, numbness, speech impediments and sometimes death.

January 3, 2014

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