Construction Begins on Golden Gate Bridge

U.S. #403 was a re-issue for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. (Click the image for the stamp story.)

Construction Begins on Golden Gate Bridge

On January 5, 1933, the four-year construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began in San Francisco Bay.

The Golden Gate is a narrow passage of water that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean.  Formed by the erosive water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers during the Ice Age, the deep channel features powerful tidal currents.  Dense fog forms over the region as cool, moist, ocean air travels inland and meets warmer temperatures.  The usual thick fog may help to explain why several seasoned explorers failed to discover the Golden Gate until 1769.

U.S. #567 pictures the W.F. Babcock sailing into the Golden Gate, as taken from a painting by W.A. Coulter.

On August 5, 1775, Juan de Ayala steered his ship, the San Carlos, into the bay, becoming the first European to pass through the strait.  It became known as the Boca del Puerto de San Francisco, or the Mouth of the Port of San Francisco.  John C. Frémont renamed the area in 1846 and wrote in his memoirs, “To this Gate I gave the name of ‘Chrysopylae,’” which means “Golden Gate.”

The idea of building a bridge across the Golden Gate Strait was proposed as early as 1872.  During the early 1900s, many engineers doubted it could be done, and others speculated it would cost as much as $100 million.  In 1930, after much discussion, voters within the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District put their homes, farms, and businesses up as collateral to support a $35 million bond issue to finance building the bridge.  The bridge was developed from the imagination of engineer Joseph Strauss, with the help of architect Irving Morrow, bridge designer Leon Moisseiff, and engineer Charles Alton Ellis.

U.S. #3185l – The bridge’s vibrant orange paint makes it easier to see through dense fog.

When construction of the bridge was started on January 5, 1933, the contractors encountered some unique difficulties.  To lay the earthquake-proof foundation, they had to blast rock that was under water.  They also had to contend with the weather – on one foggy day, a ship collided with the bridge, causing extensive damage.  Construction workers had to take special safety precautions when building the bridge as well.  A safety net under the bridge saved the lives of 19 men who proudly formed the “Half Way to Hell Club.”  But on February 17, 1937, ten men died when a scaffold fell through the net.  Construction was completed on April 19, 1937, and the bridge opened on May 27, 1937.

The Golden Gate Bridge is truly a miracle of engineering.  Its 4,200-foot-long main section is suspended from two cables hung from towers 746 feet high.  At the middle of the bridge, the road is 265 feet above the water.  The Golden Gate Bridge is an internationally recognized symbol of American know-how and ingenuity.  When it was completed in 1937, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.  It was also honored as a “Wonder of the World” structure by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

U.S. #852 pictures the “Tower of the Sun” from the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition.

Two years later, the bridge was included in the celebration of the Golden Gate Exposition.  The exposition was held on the 400-acre, man-made “Treasure Island” in the San Francisco Bay from February 18, 1939, to October 29, 1939.  The Exposition was a World’s Fair, celebrating the Golden Gate as well as the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (opened in 1936).

The expo’s theme was “Pageant of the Pacific.”  With this theme, the exposition looked beyond America, the architecture and flavor reflecting a unique blend of European, Asian, and Latin American influences.  The Golden Gate International Exposition was California’s most recent fair of this impressive size.

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19 responses to "Construction Begins on Golden Gate Bridge"

19 thoughts on “Construction Begins on Golden Gate Bridge”

  1. This is one of the most beautiful bridges that I have experienced. As I was reading the article I could not help but reflect on our trip there several years ago. Great info Mystic.

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  2. The Golden Gate Bridge is a wonder of the world and an example of what human beings can and are capable of doing .

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  3. A beauty. I would add since it was considered a high risk venture they couldn’t get funding. A. P. Giannini, founder of Bank of America, helped raise the funds to make it happen. He also funded a young startup considered High risk for a young man to make a full length animated cartoon people said wouldn’t be accepted. That was Walt Disney in Snow White. Later funding a place called Disneyland.

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  4. Golden Gate Bridge is an engineering marvel, since it was built under budget, ahead of schedule and with less construction deaths than expected. Most major modern project of similar scale do not meet this criteria. There is an excellent book detailing the entire history of the planning, engineering and construction of the bridge.

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  5. Many thanks to A. P. Giannini, Walt Disney and Mystic for making this article a reality. San Francisco is one of my favourite memories. It was a good run ashore for us in ships and submarines.

    Memories were made of these trips and are often triggered by Mystic stamps.

    Only a stamp collector would know. The history of the world is painted and printed on small pieces of multicoloured paper. Now retired my voyages are via the internet and Mystic has been a major source of entertainment

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  6. Great part of our history here in America. It shows what Americans where. They dreamed of these great wonders had had the courage and drive to get them done. Our forfathers where courages and was not afraid to tackle these great monuments. Today I have fear that courage and drive has been lost. I pray not.

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  7. Great information, Mystic. What an awesome accomplishment. The GGB is a beautiful reminder of Napoleon Hill’s words, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

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  8. I was in awe the first time I saw the Golden Gate. It is a magnificent structure. It is said that the bridge paint crew has a permanent job. First they scrap, then they prime, then they paint. When they finish, it is time to start again. It is an experience driving across it with high wind warnings posted as well as the fog. While station out there in the 60’s, I had to cross that bridge may time. I believe that singer Johnny Mathis’ brother worked one of the toll booths.

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  9. This brings back memories as I caiught ,my ship in SanFransisco in 1945 and sailed under this bridge several times and latter in life saled over it. It brings back memories!
    Martin Schroedel My Ship was the USS Dehaven DD727.
    Thanks for the memory!

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  10. loved this one. My parents watched the construction of the golden Gate Bridge constantly. They had fished often in the vicinity of Ft Point (right next to the south tower in San Francisco) during the late 1920’s. They were romantically attached to the structure. After my mom’s passing in 2000 my family and I dropped her ashes in the channel from the beach next to Ft. Point on a day of peak tides and an offshore breeze. My mom’s romantic attachment with that area remains for her descendants. A reminder of that place in San Francisco is permanent for us. Thanks for the reminder.

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  11. I was going back reading some of the previous “This Day in History” when I saw that the 1923 20 cent stamp had a quantity issued of over 1 billion. That cannot be correct.

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  12. I grew up in SF and watched the bridge being constructed. Also walked across on opening day on May 27, 1937 which was open to pedestrians only. I was 11 years old at that time. Also walked across 50 years later on May 24, 1987 when it was closed on Sunday for several hours to traffic. It was said 500,000 people were at that affair. Not all on the bridge of course but on all the approaches and within the vicinity of the celebration which lasted 5 days. On May 27th I walked again as this was the exact 50th year to the day. Also walked again in 2012 on May 27th to commemorate the 75th anniversary. Don’t think I’ll make the 100th!

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  13. I walked on this bridge with my son and grand daughter. I have sweet memories of that day. My daughter in law smartly photographed us on the Bridge and in our photo album the photo is well preserved with caption THREE GENERATIONS ON THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. Thank you MYSTIC for your write up.

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