History for the Rest of Us

Golden Gate Bridge – 75

Golden Gate Bridge – 75

May 28, 2012

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the modern Wonders of the World. At a cost of over $35 million, its construction took slightly over 4 years. Construction began on January 5, 1933, and was completed in April 1937. Halfway to Hell Club Eleven men were killed from falls during construction. Nineteen others fell but were saved by a movable safety net. Those who survived formed the ‘Half Way to Hell Club’. The last surviving member, Al Zampa, indicated that when a man fell to his death from a bridge it was said “he’s gone to hell”. So those who were saved by the nets were said to have only fallen “half way to hell”. Bridge Design The city engineer estimated that a bridge would cost $100 million and opened the question to bridge engineers of whether or not it could be build for less. Joseph Stauss, submitted a design that he promised could be build for $17 million. While his original design wasn’t accepted, authorities agreed to proceed as long as he would alter his design and get input from consulting project experts. The design that would eventually be accepted for the bridge was the work of Leon Moisseiff who had designed the Manhattan Bridge in New York. Bridge Color Locals persuaded Irving Morrow, the designer of the overall shape of the bridge towers, to paint the bridge International Orange – a color used in the aerospace industry because it allows objects to be more easily distinguished from their surroundings. The US Navy had proposed black with yellow stripes to ensure visibility for passing ships. Official Opening On May 28, 1937 President Roosevelt officially signaled the start of vehicle traffic across the bridge. 200,000 people had crossed by foot and roller skate the previous day, the first day of a week long...

Brooklyn Bridge Opens

Brooklyn Bridge Opens

May 24, 2012

Bridge Opens The Brooklyn Bridge first opened for traffic on May 24, 1883 after 14 years of construction. Hailed ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world for twenty years. The Bridge was designed by John Augustus Roebling, a German immigrant. Construction Challenges While surveying the project, Roebling had his foot crushed when the ferry his bridge would replace collided with the dock where he was taking measurements. The accident resulted in the need to have his crushed toes amputated. He developed a tetanus infection. Realizing the severity of his condition, he put his 32-year-old son in charge of the project. John would die three weeks later. His son’s luck wouldn’t be much better. While working with the men digging the foundation under the East River, he developed caisson disease or decompression sickness, an illness that affects underwater workers when they resurface too quickly. The disease left him partially paralyzed. Unable to directly supervise the project, he monitored the project through binoculars from a nearby balcony and directed his wife Emily who relayed instructions and managed the workforce. In 1882, the Mayor of Brooklyn wanted to replace Washington. Emily addressed the American Society of Civil Engineers and, because of her appeal, Washington was allowed to remain in his position as Chief Engineer and see the project through to...