Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

November 12, 2011
Bay Bridge opened 75 years ago

Seventy-five years ago today, President Franklin Roosevelt pressed a telegraph key in Washington signaling the official opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Some 300,000 spectators witness the dedication of what United Press called "the world's superlative engineering achievement."

Indeed, at 23,000 feet long (8-1/4 miles with approaches), the Bay Bridge dwarfed other great spans around the world. Costing $77 million (in 1936 dollars), the double-deck bridge took more than three years to build. At the time of its opening the upper deck was devoted to passenger vehicles, the lower deck to suburban trains.

A Bee editorial rhapsodized about the "massive and impressive structure:"

What influences on the future development of the bay district and of Superior California generally the bridge will set in motion today are speculative.

Some have one theory, others another.

But that they will work for progress and human comfort and convenience is certain.

And the bridge itself -- massive and yet simple, impressive but with a beauty that even a dullard can see -- is a monument to another great dream realized, a structure that will stand firm and strong long after all those who had a part in its construction have departed forever.

Men will come from all parts of the world to see and say to themselves: Titans must have walked this way.

See the attached Nov. 12, 1936 front page story and editorial reproduced from Bee microfilm. And the California Historical Society's blog posting linking to Opening Day memorabilia.

Bay Bridge 2.jpg Bay Bridge 1.jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: Associated Press photographs taken a few days before the opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Nov. 12, 1936. (top) One of the on-ramps, winding up from the waterfront at right and an off-ramp at left with the main incline in center. (bottom) A motorist's view of the great span when driving toward the great tunnel on Yerba Buena Island toward the Oakland shore.

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About Sac History Happenings

California and Sacramento have a long, rich, vibrant history. And our region is blessed with an abundance of historical resources maintained by museums, libraries, archives and societies. This blog aims to alert readers to the latest developments in local/state historical education and research.

Send tips concerning upcoming exhibits, tours, lectures and meetings, as well as new books, magazine articles and online collections to the blog's contributors.

The Contributors:

Michael Dolgushkin

Michael Dolgushkin is Manuscript Librarian at the California State Library History Section. He is co-author of San Francisco's California Street Cable Cars and is a frequent contributor to the California State Library Foundation Bulletin. Contact him at

Amanda Graham

Amanda Graham is a Certified Archivist working in the Sacramento Room of the Sacramento Public Library. She earned a BS in History from Southern Oregon University and a MS in Information Studies with an emphasis in archives from The University of Texas at Austin. Contact her at

Pete basofin

Pete Basofin is Director of Editorial Research at The Sacramento Bee. He previously worked at The St. Petersburg Times and Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune. Contact him at

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