Tacoma Narrows Bridge is dedicated on July 1, 1940.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 11/20/2004
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7139
On July 1, 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is dedicated and opens to traffic. It is a clear day with blue skies, and some 10,000 people turn out for the occasion. The bridge, which connects Tacoma to the Kitsap Peninsula, promises to stimulate the economy of Tacoma. Everyone rejoices, and marvels at its slender beauty. Later its tendency to "gallop" will thrill joy riders and worry engineers. Four months later, on November 7, 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will collapse.

A Dream Come True

At the dedication Washington Governor Clarence Martin (1887-1955) extolled the economic and military progress that the bridge would spur. Tacomans saw the bridge as a dream come true -- it would open Tacoma to shoppers previously dependent on Bremerton, and enable access from Pierce County to the Bremerton Navy Yard.

The bridge was slender (too slender as it turned out) and beautiful. The 2,800-foot span strung between the towers was the third longest span among the world's suspension bridges. "Everyone marveled," writes historian Murray Morgan, "at the gossamer grace of a structure so long" (South on the Sound).

Revising the Suspension Bridge

The bridge's collapse four months later (with no loss of human life) reverberated throughout the engineering world, and set Tacoma back for years to come. Engineers around the world studied the mishap and forever changed the way they built suspension bridges.

The second Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built in 1950. It was the first suspension bridge built in the United States since the failure of its predecessor, and incorporated all lessons learned. It has remained a reliable bridge to this day.


Sources: Murray and Rosa Morgan, South on the Sound: An Illustrated History of Tacoma and Pierce County (Woodland Hills, CA: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1984), 116-119; "A Tale of Two Gerties," Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society and Museum (http://www.gigharbormuseum.org); Tacoma Narrows Bridge Information Center (http://www.firebirdz.net/tnb); "History of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge," Online Exhibits, University of Washington Libraries, Manuscripts, Special Collections, University Archives (http://www.lib.washington.edu/specialcoll).

Related Topics:   Bridges | Roads & Rails

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You