Today, The Golden Gate Bridge Opened

golden gate bridge

On May 27, 1937, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge opened to the public.

Today marks the 82nd anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge’s official opening.  On the day of the opening—called “Pedestrian Day”— approximately 200,000 pedestrians walked over the 4,200-foot-long suspension bridge that hung over the entrance to San Francisco Bay.  Even today, the Golden Gate Bridge remains a proud symbol of progress and an impressive technological feat that is one of the world’s most recognizable architectural structures.

To celebrate the Golden Gate Bridge’s anniversary, here is anecdotal trivia about its conception and execution.

1) The Bridge was Originally Proposed in 1872

Three years after completing the transcontinental railroad, railroad executive Charles Crocker laid out plans for a bridge that would span the Golden Gate Strait.  Because the strait was more than a mile long and subject to extremely strong currents, the project was initially thought impossible.  The plans weren’t seriously considered until 1919.

2) The Bridge had to Be Approved by the War Department

Because the War Department owned the land on both sides of the Golden Gate Strait, it had to authorize the construction of the bridge.  A temporary construction permit was given on December 24, 1924, and a final permit was granted on August 11, 1930.

3) Strauss Implemented Strict Safety Standards

In the 1930s, construction work was incredibly dangerous for the workers.  Approximately one worker died for every million dollars spent on a big project.  Joseph B. Strauss, head designer, wanted to keep his workers safe.  He set strict safety rules, had workers wear glare-free goggles, don specially-designed hard hats, use skin cream to protect their hands and faces from wind, and go on special diets to combat dizziness.  Strauss even had a net built beneath the bridge which ended up saving 19 men.

4) There Were Still Some Construction Casualties

Despite all of Strauss’s precautions, workers did die.  A few months before the bridge opened, one worker was killed by a falling derrick.  A few weeks later, scaffolding collapsed and the safety net tore, leading to the death of 10 more workers.

5) The Opening of the Bridge was Celebrated for a Week

When the bridge opened on May 27th, it kicked off a week-long celebration where the bridge was announced to the world.  In celebration, Strauss read a poem he penned for the occasion titled “The Mighty Task is Done.”  The poem opens:

At last the mighty task is done;

Resplendent in the western sun

The Bridge looms mountain high;

Its titan piers grip ocean floor,

Its great steel arms link shore with shore,

Its towers pierce the sky.

6)  Suicides

Unfortunately, the Bridge has served as an opportunity for those who are suffering to stop their pain.  According to Wikipedia, between 1937 and 2012, an estimated 1,600 bodies were recovered of people who had jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge.

The four-second fall from the Golden Gate Bridge sends a person plunging 245 feet (75 m) at 75 miles per hour (121 km/h) to hit the waters of the San Francisco Bay “with the force of a speeding truck meeting a concrete building.” Jumping off the bridge holds a 98 percent fatality rate.

As of 2013, it is estimated that 34 people have survived after jumping. Some die instantly from internal injuries, while others drown or die of hypothermia.  The Golden Gate bridge’s death toll has since been surpassed only by that of the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in China.   In 2013, 118 potential jumpers were talked down from their attempt and did not jump.

A number of measures are in place to discourage people from jumping, including telephone hotlines and patrols by emergency personnel and bridge workers. Although it had previously been considered impractical to build a suicide barrier, in 2014 the Bridge’s directors approved a proposal for a net below the bridge’s deck, extending out either side, rather than side barriers at the railings as had long been proposed.

Join us at The Maria Sanchez Show as we celebrate the anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. Don’t forget to check out our latest program, Shadow Politics with Senator Michael D. Brown. Tune in on Sundays at 4:00 p.m. PDT/7:00 p.m. EDT.

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