The Brooklyn Bridge, which was called the East River Bridge at the time, opened to traffic on May 24, 1883. Newspapers were full of the festivities, and recorded the people who had the honor of being the first to travel across. Emily Warren Roebling, the chief engineer's wife, was the very first to cross in a horse-drawn carriage. Presumably her driver was technically first, but his name was not recorded. Two men staged a foot race when the general public was allowed to cross. But they didn't know that a cat had already crossed over the new bridge -a whole month before the official opening.
C.W. McAuliffe, a New York saloon keeper and renowned Republican supporter, had requested the first cat to be persuaded to cross the new Brooklyn Bridge. Alderman James J. Mooney went in search among the stray Brooklyn cats, and found a grey cat “that was inclined to see the world.”
The surviving record does not explain why he wanted a cat to cross the bridge, but it probably had something to do with luck. Or maybe publicity for McAuliffe's saloon. And so a stray cat was found and persuaded to cross the bridge, which earned him the name Ned. Read Ned's story at The Hatching Cat.