Golden Gate Bridge Builders

Clifford Paine – 1888-1983

Joseph Strauss' Chicago firm had a brilliant engineer in Clifford Paine, who eventually became partner in the firm Strauss and Paine. Strauss’ falling out with Ellis required a replacement, and he appointed Paine as managing engineer, who cemented the fortuitous decision to use the design of the new, all-suspension bridge designed by Charles Ellis, rather than Strauss’ original monstrosity. He then had complete control of the actual construction, as Strauss disappeared, probably exhausted, for the first half year.

Leon Moisseiff – 1872-1943

Leon Moisseiff was a well-known bridge “heavyweight”, having designed the Manhattan Bridge, and his specialty was the theory of wind forces (somewhat tragically, as you will see!). Brought onto the “team” by Charles Ellis to lend more credence to Joseph Strauss's bold plans, he and Ellis spent years studying the physical dimensions, forces of wind and water, stresses and material properties – the engineering – needed to build the project that Strauss wanted to build, but was hopelessly ill-equipped to actually design. When Ellis was summarily dismissed from the project, Moisseiff was more than happy to be a team player on such a high profile project. His work on the Golden Gate Bridge “proved” his theories on flexible bridges that would stretch, in “predictable” ways, when subjected to high winds. He used his reputation to secure the Tacoma Narrows Bridge project, which carried his theories a bit too far. The bridge across the Narrows was itself too narrow, and in 1940, 42 mph winds made it oscillate like a slow-motion guitar string, with plenty of warning for the film crews to arrive, causing a spectacular collapse, of both the bridge, and Moisseiff’s career.

Irving Morrow – 1884-1952

An architect who designed mostly houses, Irving Morrow was added to the team in 1930. Function determined most of the design aspects of the bridge, but his notable contributions were the angular flutes that decorate the horizontal braces in the two main towers, and the overall and specific aspects of the lights that adorn the roadway and towers.

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