Who Built the Golden Gate Bridge?
The answer to this question depends on your definition of the word “built”–do you want to know who physically put the bridge itself together or who was responsible for the building of the bridge? Maybe you’re more interested in who designed the bridge itself. Good news–I can tell you all three.
Who Designed the Golden Gate Bridge
This question has two or three different answers.
Traditionally, it is said that Joseph B. Strauss should get credit for “building” the Golden Gate Bridge, although the idea of a single guy building a bridge is downright dumb. Joseph B. Strauss designed the bridge, a project that would cost over $27 million and required more than fifteen years from conception to completion.
Strauss’ job was more than just designing a new bridge–he had to find money and support for the bridge from the citizen and military population of San Francisco. While Strauss was out fundraising, he was attempting to span one of the greatest distances ever with a bridge, put up a bridge higher than any other in the world, and hold up to the strong forces of the Pacific Ocean.
You shouldn’t really call Strauss “the guy who built the bridge.” For starters, he wasn’t even responsible for the overall structural design of the bridge. That title goes to Charles Alton Ellis, lost to history because of a dispute with project manager Strauss. The design that Ellis and Strauss chose? It was considered too “overbearing” by city planners and other officials, and was cleaned up by two other designers (Irving and Gertrude Morrow) before building ever started. So when people say that Joseph B. Strauss built the Golden Gate Bridge, tell ’em the truth. Strauss had almost nothing to do with the final design.
Who Actually Built the Bridge Itself?
Though the actual number of workers on the Golden Gate Bridge isn’t known, there were 10 different prime contractors on the project, each with dozens of subcontractors working for them. It is said that at least 200 men were working on any section of the bridge at any given time.
The men who built the Golden Gate Bridge were simple construction workers under contract to build the bridge. Eleven men gave their lives to the bridge, though ten of them were lost in a single accident. Eleven men lost was something of a novelty in a business where losing one man per million dollars of budget was the standard. The building of the Golden Gate Bridge missed this mark by fifteen men, and is considered one of the safer bridge construction sites of its time.
Each tower of the Golden Gate Bridge contains 600,000 rivets, each one requiring individual attention by one of these workers. Doing this hot and difficult work–building one of the world’s most extreme bridges–should have earned these men a place in history. Unfortunately, employers didn’t keep solid employment records in those days, so the names of the men who actually built the Golden Gate Bridge are lost to history.
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