On January 5, 1933, construction crews broke ground on what would become an icon of San Francisco and the United States at large: the Golden Gate Bridge. Test your knowledge of this incredible architectural achievement with these trivia questions.
Why Is It Named "Golden Gate Bridge"? Many people mistakenly attribute the name to the bridge's color or believe the name spawns from the California gold rush of the mid-nineteenth century when in fact, the bridge is named after the passage of water it stretches over: the Golden Gate Strait. That strait is the gateway between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean and was named by an explorer, John C. Frémont, who wrote in his memoirs that the passageway reminded him of the "Golden Horn" Harbor in modern-day Istanbul. The name stuck and some 87 years later became the moniker for one of the most famous bridges in the world.
So What Exactly is That Color on the Golden Gate Bridge Anyway? The color is actually not "golden" at all. Rather, it's known as "international orange" and is the same color used by NASA for astronaut spacesuits. That wasn't necessarily the plan all along: other proposed colors included gray, black, aluminum, and even a black-and-yellow striped bridge that would increase visibility for passing ships. Ultimately, however, the architects landed on the reddish-orange color you see today after being inspired by the basic red primer coated on the steel beams when they arrived in San Francisco. International orange not only blends well with the surrounding natural environment, but it also stands out well in fog—a big win for San Francisco.
How Did San Franciscans Celebrate the Beginning of Bridge Construction on January 5, 1933? Nearly 100,000 people came out to Crissy Field in the Presidio to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Golden Gate Bridge. In addition to a parade, 21-gun salute, and reading of a message from President Herbert Hoover, an 80-foot long model of the bridge was on display that housed carrier pigeons tasked with delivering the news of the new bridge across all of California. The Golden Gate Bridge has had two significant parties since then: the first was when the bridge opened to pedestrians on May 27, 1937. 15,000 people an hour paid 25 cents each to cross the bridge. Celebrations lasted for over a week. The second major party was on the bridge's 50th birthday. 800,000 people showed up to the event and "flattened" the bridge, which sounds scarier than it actually was. According to a bridge engineer, even with over 30 million pounds on the bridge, the cables were only working at 40 percent capacity, so there was no serious risk to the public.
How Many Men Died During the Bridge's Construction? Though safety was paramount during construction and nearly the entire four years were incident-free, eleven men lost their lives during bridge construction. The first was fatally struck in the head by a falling derrick. The second incident took the lives of ten men: a stretch of scaffolding collapsed and fell through the safety net, dropping twelve men over 200 feet into the icy water. Two men survived, though they sustained significant injuries. Contrary to urban legend, there are no dead bodies entombed in the anchorage blocks of the bridge.