Joseph Strauss – A Visionary, Poet, Builder, Dreamer

Strauss Poems |  Timeline  |  Quotations  |  Did you know?

Strauss Poems

Strauss Timeline

1870 – January 9, born Joseph Baermann Strauss in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1892 – Graduated from University of Cincinnati, where he was class president and “class poet.”

1902 – Started own firm, Strauss Bascule Bridge Company of Chicago (later the Strauss Engineering Corporation).

1902 – Built first bascule rail bridge over Cuyahoga River near Lake Erie; Strauss’ first significant bridge revolutionized moveable bridges.

1904 – Patented the Strauss Trunnion Bascule Bridge.

1915 – Designed “aeroscope” ride (glass-enclosed platform attached a crane, which lifted people 150 feet into the air) for 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.

1915 – Completed double-leaf Strauss bascule bridge over Neva River in Petrograd, Russia.

1916 – Completed Fourth Street Bridge in San Francisco; presently the oldest working bascule bridge in California.

1917 – Asked by San Francisco City Engineer Michael O’Shaughnessy to study feasibility of building a bridge over the Golden Gate.

1921 – June 28, submitted preliminary sketches of Golden Gate Bridge—a hybrid cantilever-suspension design—to O’Shaughnessy.

1921 – Hired civil engineer Charles Ellis to head his staff.

1922 – Initial design plans revealed to the public, derided as “ugly” by the press.

1925 – Consulting engineer Leon Moisseiff expressed concern about hybrid design, suggesting a suspension span concept that would eventually win out by 1929.

1928 – December 4, Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District incorporated.

1929 – August 15, appointed Chief Engineer; Strauss later named his vice president Charles Ellis as design engineer for the Golden Gate Bridge.

1930 – Accepted offer from Irving Morrow to prepare architectural study of Bridge plaza; Morrow later played key role in shaping Bridge’s aesthetic qualities (such as its distinctive color).

1930 – Awarded honorary Doctor of Science degree from University of Cincinnati.

1930 – Completed Columbia River Bridge at Longview, Washington.

1930 – August 27, submitted final plans for Bridge to District board.

1931 – Dismissed Ellis placing Clifford E. Paine in charge of supervising the final design and construction of the Bridge.

1932 – Composed the poem “The Redwoods,” later published as a song.

1933 – January 5, Construction begins on Golden Gate Bridge.

1933 – February 26, attended official ground-breaking ceremony on Crissy Field.

1933 – Opened Third Street Bridge (“Lefty O’Doul Bridge”), near present-day AT&T Park in San Francisco.

1937 – Proposed rapid transit system for Los Angeles.

1937 – April 28, watched the ceremonial last gold rivet driven into the Bridge, marking the completion of the structure.

1937 – May 28, attended official opening of Bridge to automobile traffic, handing over the Bridge to District President William Filmer.

1938 – May 16, died of coronary thrombosis in Los Angeles; entombed in the Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, Calif.


Strauss Quotations

“A great city with water barriers and no bridges is like a skyscraper with no elevators. Bridges are a monument to progress.” –in a 1930 radio address

“Our world of today revolves around things which at one time couldn’t be done because they were supposedly beyond the limits of human endeavor….don’t be afraid to dream.”

“Building a bridge is a war with the forces of Nature.”

“It took two decades and two hundred million words to convince people the bridge was feasible.”

“Bridge, ha! That’s no bridge, that’s a trestle.” –reacting to the opening of the Bay Bridge, completed six months before the Golden Gate Bridge

“No span of steel will tolerate…neglect. But if service by generations who use it and spared manmade hazards, such as war, it should have life without end.”

“When you build a bridge, you build something for all time.”

“It would be two and a half times larger than any similar bridge in the world. The towers would be ten feet higher than the Eiffel Tower. There is no better place for the eighth wonder of the world than Northern California.” –in a speech, March 1933

“San Francisco is one of the few cities that has all the energy, all the wealth, all the courage and all the ability that is needed to undertake and carry this project to success.” –on May 16, 1924

“Forever.” –Strauss’ reply when asked how long the Bridge will last, 1932

“Every span is something that ‘can’t be done’ until the men in steel helmets have driven in their last rivet.”

“Here is your bridge, Mr. O’Shaugnessy.”

“This bridge needs neither praise nor eulogy nor encomium. It speaks for itself.” –at the opening ceremony on May 28, 1937


Did You Know?

  • Born to a father who was a Bavarian painter and a mother who was musician, Strauss was an accomplished poet—his “The Redwoods” was published as a song in 1937.
  • Strauss grew up in a home that looked out on the 1,057-foot-long Covington-Cincinnati bridge (today called the John A. Roebling Bridge). When it was opened in December 1866—three years and a month before Strauss was born—the “Biggest Bridge in the World” set the record for longest suspension span.
  • A slight young man at just over five feet tall, Strauss was hospitalized after an ill-advised attempt to play for the university football team; from his hospital window, as the legend goes, he gazed at the Cincinnati bridge and made plans for greatness through engineering.
  • Strauss’ undergraduate thesis, presented in 1892, proposed a bridge across the Bering Strait, connecting North America and Asia.
  • Strauss is credited with building more than 400 bridges in the United States, Canada, Panama, Japan, Egypt, China, and all over globe.
  • Strauss was a prolific inventor, his fertile imagination creating a glass-washing machine for soda fountains, a “tubeless” tire, a proto-monorail “airtram,” a concrete railroad car, a bascule door for aircraft hangers, an anti-aircraft searchlight used in World War I, and a safety net to prevent automobiles from crossing in front of approaching trains.
  • Strauss’ bridge across the Neva, at the Winter Palace of the Russian Czar, would be stormed by peasants in the Revolution of 1917.