So-Called Dollars


Research fails to establish origin of issue, which commemorates completion Nov. 12, 1936, of bridge spanning bay between two cities.

To build bridge, state created Toll Bridge Authority 1929; latter to issue bonds to be retired by toll collections. Depression struck, stalling plans; then Reconstruction Finance Corp. lent $70,000,000 of $77,200,000 cost of project, state paying remainder. Ground broken July 9, 1933.

Heralded on completion as "world's greatest, most costly over-water roadway" and as "longest over-water span in world," 8 1/4 mile bridge has two decks; upper with six traffic lanes, lower for trucks and two interurban lines; width, cable to cable, 66 feet. Actually, distance from San Francisco to Yerba Buena (Goat) Island too great for one bridge, so two 2,310-foot suspension bridges built, resting on pier between. At island, roadway runs through "world's largest bore tunnel" (76 ft. wide, 58 ft. high), then over third largest cantilever bridge and five smaller spans; underwater piers "as large as office buildings."

San Francisco businessmen sponsored 3-day jubilee to celebrate opening; included regattas, air races, pageant of light floats. Ceremonies began Nov. 12 on Oakland side, with prayer for 24 men who lost lives during construction. Speakers included Herbert Hoover, who had appointed commission in 1929 that declared bridge feasible, and steel-helmeted worker who lauded daily average of 6,500 men employed on project. Governor cut gold link in silver chain stretched across entrance; 1,500 pigeons released into sky; 14 men-of-war fired 21-gun salute; air above filled with 250 U.S. Navy planes.

Dignitaries crossed bridge to San Francisco end, where speeches repeated; then President Roosevelt, in White House, pressed gold key initiating traffic flow in both directions. Out-of-town visitors numbered 300,000.

Photos courtesy of Fred Holabird

Obv. Bridge, within flat-topped circle; outside, above, in outer flat-topped circle, * Opened Nov. 12, 1936 *; below around San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; at upped edge, small circle between feathered wings. UNIFACE.

HK-476 Copper. 33mm.
HK-477 Gilt Brass.

HK-463 to HK-475