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c. 1930

See how the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed in these 1930s photos

Look back at the amazing feat of engineering behind the iconic bridge

The fact that a Golden Gate Bridge exists at all is largely testament to the persistence of one man—chief engineer Joseph Strauss.

While most experts had decried the project as simply out-of-the-question, due to the many difficult weather conditions exhibited across the bay, Strauss disagreed.

Despite having minimal expertise in projects of this size—he had largely specialized in inland drawbridges—in 1922 Strauss presented the city with a plan 75% cheaper than any previously received. The city’s chiefs accepted.

Work finally began in 1933, and the bridge opened in 1937. Eleven workers died in the process, but another 19 were saved by a giant net slung between the bridges’ two pontoons.

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Immediately the whole project seemed doomed when the bay’s ferry organizations took the city to court. Finally, in 1928, the legal protests were thrown out—in no small measure due to the ferries’ inability to handle the traffic levels at the docking bays.

The famous red color was originally an undercoat of anti-rust primer, and both the Navy and Army argued for a stripe finish. But an architect working on the project was so enamoured with the primer that he created a 30-page report setting out the logic using red, and red won the day.

A man standing on the first cables during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge with the Presidio and San Francisco in the background.
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A freighter heads out to sea past the lone sentinel of the Marin Tower.
Moulin/Underwood Archives/Getty Images
Old Fort Point and the North and South Towers.
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View of the South Tower.
Underwood Archives/Getty Images
View of the Marin Tower.
Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images
Cables suspended on the Golden Gate Bridge between the towers before being bound together to support the roadbed that will hang below them .
Underwood Archives/Getty Images

“This bridge needs neither praise, eulogy nor encomium. It speaks for itself. We who have labored long are grateful. What Nature rent asunder long ago, man has joined today.”
Joseph Strauss, Chief Engineer of the Golden Gate bridge, on opening day, 1937

Reaching outward from each side of the Golden Gate, a huge safety net stretches from shore to shore to protect the lives of workers on the Bridge.
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Workers build a catwalk that connects the towers at both sides of the strait so that they can attach the cables for the Bridge.
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The Bridge during its construction.
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View from Crissy Field in the Presidio of the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge with the roadbed being installed.
Underwood Archives/Getty Images
Workers on the catwalks bundling the cables during the construction of the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge
Underwood Archives/Getty Images
A workman walks on the levee that connects Fort Point to the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge while it is under construction, October, 1936.
Underwood Archives/Getty Images
c. 1936
Fishermen on Baker Beach enjoy the view of the Golden Gate Bridge under construction. San Francisco, California, c.1936
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The official grand opening celebration with klieg lights and fireworks of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California, May 29, 1937. The opening ceremonies lasted a week.
Underwood Archives/Getty Images
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