On January 5, 1933, construction began on what would soon be known as a Wonder of the Modern World: the Golden Gate Bridge, which endures to this day as San Francisco's most iconic landmark. Painted a bright "International Orange," the unmistakable Golden Gate Bridge totals an impressive 8,981 feet (2,737.4 metres). At 4,200 feet (1,280.2 metres), its longest centre span was the longest suspension bridge main span from its opening in 1937 to its eventual surpassing in 1964 by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in NYC

Golden Gate Bridge under construction, looking towards Sausalito, 1933, public domain archival image

Designed by Joseph Strauss, Irving Morrow, and Charles Ellis, the Golden Gate Bridge was a feat of modern engineering for its day. Its flexible roadway was designed to subdue the effects of sway and other movement caused by wind, traffic, or vibrations. Built using similar principles to the ill-fated Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge has suffered no structural issues to date, and is heavily monitored by engineers and special equipment. The design also called for the creation of a bridge-within-a-bridge on the San Francisco side, an accommodation which allowed for the preservation of the historic Fort Point, a pre-Civil War era fort that local historians successfully saved. 

Golden Gate Bridge under construction, looking towards San Francisco, 1933, public domain archival image

Construction was overseen by the McClintic-Marshall Construction Co., a subsidiary of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, one of the largest construction firms in the United States at the time. They were also responsible for building numerous American landmarks including the George Washington Bridge, Empire State Building, and the Hoover Dam, to name but a few. Built at a cost of $35 million, the Golden Gate Bridge included the use of 1.2 million steel rivets and 150,000 tons of steel. 

Fishermen taking in the view, 1935/6, public domain archival image

Completed ahead of schedule and $1.3 million under budget, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to the public on May 27, 1937. The week-long opening celebrations attracted more than 200,000 people, and the first official crossing was headed up by Mayor Angelo Rossi, who joined a motorcade of other officials that proceeded to cross the bridge amidst the cheering crowds. During its journey, the opening day motorcade passed through three ceremonial barricades, the last of which was made up of a row of beauty queens specially selected for the occasion, who allowed safe passage only once Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss had officially presented the Golden Gate Bridge to the Highway District. 

Golden Gate Bridge today, image by Rich Niewiroski Jr. via Wikimedia Commons

Today, the Golden Gate Bridge endures as a symbol of the city, and more generally, of American achievement and progress during the first half of the 20th century. Featured in countless films and television shows, perhaps most notably in the opening credits of Full House for those who remember the early 90s, the Golden Gate Bridge is a sight to behold, its signature orange glow a fixture of the San Francisco skyline. Below, an original film strip produced by Bethlehem Steel features some fantastic colourized archival footage of the Golden Gate Bridge under construction, including some harrowing images of work crews walking up and down the cables. 

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