Joseph Baermann Strauss Timeline


The following timeline consists of brief highlights. For a more detailed timeline refer to this Word document.



CE = Chief Engineer

GG = Golden Gate

GGB = Golden Gate Bridge

GGBHD = Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District








1870 Jan 9



Born in Cincinnati, Ohio of Raphael and Caroline Baermann Strauss





Attended old Hughes High School on East 5th Street





Attended University of Cincinnati





Began work to establish a chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon on the Cincinnati campus






President of class of 1892






Graduated from University of Cincinnati with a Civil Engineering degree.  Presented plan to build a 50-mile railroad bridge across the Bering Straits.






Draftsman for New Jersey Steel and Iron Company in Trenton





Instructor in engineering at University of Cincinnati




Detailer, inspector, estimator and then designer for Lassig Bridge & Iron Company, Chicago



1895 Jun 9



Married May Van, daughter of Charles Van of Cincinnati, in Chicago





Designer and squad boss for Sanitary District of Chicago




Principal assistant engineer, Chicago office manager for Ralph Modjeski, consulting engineer






Started own firm, the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company of Chicago [later became Strauss Engineering Corporation]






Built first bascule rail bridge near Lake Erie over Cuyahoga River



Patented the Strauss Trunnion Bascule Bridge






University of Cincinnati College of Engineering founded




Completed single-leaf Strauss bascule bridge over Calumet River at South Chicago







Completed double-leaf Strauss bascule bridge over U.S. Ship Canal at Sault Ste Marie MI





Designed and built Aeroscope for 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco





Completed double-leaf Strauss bascule bridge over Neva River in Petrograd, Russia to the former Winter Palace of the Czar





Strauss asked by Michael O’Shaughnessy, San Francisco city engineer, to offer “an opinion on the feasibility of building a bridge over the Golden Gate” [Thomas D. O’Connor, “The Golden Dream,” The Enquirer Magazine, Sunday, September 19, 1982]



1919 Apr 1



Received patent for Reinforced Concrete Gondola Car


1920 Jan 20



Received patent for “disappearing” Observation Tower





Designed and built bascule door hangar





Strauss sought and received survey of the GG channel floor


1921 Jun 28


Submitted preliminary sketches of GGB to Michael M. O’Shaughnessy, San Francisco City Engineer



1921 Aug 3


Transmitted blueprint for the GGB and estimate ($17,000,000).  $13,700,000 for the superstructure and $3,300,000 for the substructure.






Strauss hired Charles Ellis, civil engineer 


1922 Mar 1



Submitted prospectus of the GGB.




Proposed formation of special district to construct the GGB, along with O’Shaughnessy and Edward Rainey, Secretary to the Mayor of San Francisco



1923 Jan 13



Association of Bridging the Gate formed.


1923 May 25



Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District Act enacted


1924 Aug 26



Received patent for Military Reconnoitering Apparatus


1924 Dec 20



Provisional permit to construct the GGB


1925 Feb 3



Received patent for Bascule Door Hangar


1925 May 23



GGBHD Act published




Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District organized. William P. Filmer, President and James Reed, General Manager



1929 Aug 15



Strauss appointed Chief Engineer (CE)


1929 Aug


First meeting of panel of consulting engineers: Moisseiff (leading suspension bridge theorist and designer), Ammann, Derleth



1929 Oct 1



Contract for the land and water test borings for GGB


1929 Oct 7



Strauss contract as CE signed





Strauss Engineering Corporation




Strauss appointed Charles Ellis, Vice President in Strauss Engineering Corporation, as design engineer for the GGB



1929 Oct 24


Strauss met Keesling of GGBHD Board for first time, in New York



1929 Nov 25



Test borings begun at pier sites


1930 Jan 21



Strauss addressed Rotary Club lunch, Keesling present





GGB building permit issued by War Department


1930 Feb 25



Preliminary test boring completed


1930 Mar 12



Progress report by Strauss to District Board and engineering consultants


1930 Jun 12



Meeting of GGB consultants in Chicago to review Ellis’ preliminary plans


1930 Jun




Strauss awarded honorary Doctor of Science degree (D.Sc.) from University of Cincinnati by Herman Schneider, President






In charge of design/construction of the Columbia River Bridge at Longview WA, completed in 1930




Co-designer of Montreal-South Shore Bridge with a Canadian firm



1930 Jun 26


Strauss and Filmer got testimony from Captain Dollar re bridge clearance



1930 July 8




Keesling reported on investigation of Chamber of Commerce and possibility of a personal attack on Strauss


1930 Aug 22


Ellis took his preliminary plans to San Francisco.  Strauss had prepared report separately and the GGB directors had it rewritten by the traffic engineer, according to Ellis, who traced Strauss displeasure with him to this occasion.  Strauss sent Ellis back to Chicago rather than having him remain in San Francisco to give technical advice.



1930 Aug 28


Keesling reviewed Strauss report [to be submitted to voters] with Strauss, Alan MacDonald [General Manager], Ellis. “...expressing to Professor Ellis my criticism of the Strauss report, the danger of exaggerations, and inaccuracies appearing in the part of the report is largely surplusage.”  Ellis then delivered a copy of Strauss’ report, volume 1, as requested by Keesling. [From Keesling’s Daily Calendar]



1930 Sep 1


Keesling phoned Filmer with criticism of report



1930 Sep 2



Keesling arranged for conference on Strauss report with Ellis


1930 Sep 3



Keesling arranged for conference on Strauss report with MacDonald & Taylor


1930 Sep 5



Keesling met with Strauss and MacDonald


1930 Sep 23


Keesling met with Strauss and Duncan re ship owners, desiring 250’ vertical clearance under GGB



1930 Sep


Ellis made keynote address on theory of the GGB to scientists at the West Coast meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Berkeley.



1930 Oct 16


Commonwealth Club meeting on bridge design, with Derleth crediting Moisseiff and Ellis for the expert design in arguing against detractors of the GGB project



1930 Nov 4



$35 million in bonds voted by people of District


1930 Nov 18


Strauss report outlining engineering procedure for construction of GGB.  Report designated Ellis director of the Computation Division, to compute stresses.  Also under Ellis the specs, contracts and proposal forms, to be reviewed by Mr. Paine in the Plans Division.  Preparation of general plans and checking the Contractor’s working plans asssigned to the Plans Division under Clifford E. Paine.  Both Divisions to be in Chicago.



1930 Nov


According to Ellis, Strauss put Paine in charge of GGB project (former student of Ellis and recruited by Ellis to Strauss Engineering Corporation).  Strauss assigned Ellis to write all the specs for the complete job (10 different contracts). [From van der Zee, John and Cone, Russ “The case of the missing engineer,” San Francisco Examiner Image, May 31, 1992, pp. 6-11]



1931 Dec 12


Keesling met with Ammann in NYC re practice of submitting plans for entire GGB structure all at once, which Strauss had said could be done without detriment



1931 Mar 12


At consulting board meeting, Strauss presented his own specs for the 10 contracts.  They were revised and submitted to the Board.  Ellis completed his own specifications, which became the official specifications for the bridge in 8 volumes.  Bids for the GGB based on Ellis’ specifications. [per van der Zee article]



1931 April 10


Strauss filed with GGBHD blueprints for

·        General Plan and Elevation

·        Presidio road map, property map and road profile

·        Ft. Baker right-of-way map

·        Plan, elevation and sections of structure near Fort Point – bridge ends



1931 May 6


Strauss met with Keesling re borings



1931 Jun 17


GGB bids opened





Ellis returned to Chicago office to work on bridge towers.  Strauss urged him to take vacation. [per van der Zee]



1931 Jun 19


Strauss asked Professor Beggs to confer with his engineers and consultants re proposal and cost of making model tests of the GGB main towers.  Beggs met with Ellis, Paine, Derleth, Ammann, Moisseiff and Troxell.



1931 Jun 22


Beggs report on proposed model construction and cost



1931 Jun 25


Strauss sought approval to move drilling apparatus



1931 Jul 7



Strauss met with Keesling re duties of engineers re inspection


1931 Jul 9


Strauss met with Keesling re bonds and funds for his commissions



1931 Jul 31


Strauss met with Keesling re Pacific Bridge Co. bid



1931 Aug 10


Strauss called Keesling with info from Dean Witter re loan for Bridge District based on option to buy bonds.  Keesling reaction:  “ personal reaction that it is none of Strauss’ business to be interfering.”  [From Keesling Daily Calendar]



1931 Aug 11


Received patent for Yielding Barrier for Vehicles



1931 Dec 5


Strauss urges Ellis to take two week vacation [per van der Zee]



1931 Dec 1


Strauss advises Ellis he need not spend so much time on structure.  Put him on indefinite vacation without pay, i.e. dismissed. [van der Zee]



1932 Apr 9


Strauss wrote Beggs re preliminary experiments on bridge tower model.  Not prepared for further testing on a larger model as yet.  Waiting for financing litigation final brief of the federal court case to go to Judge April 11 and be concluded mid May.





Strauss was consulting engineer for Arlington Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River, completed 1932



1932 May 9


Strauss met with Keesling about compensation for services rendered in order to provide complete detailed plans for GGB before submission of the bond issue to the voters





Nervous breakdown; spent time in Adirondacks





Wrote poem “The Redwoods,” published as a song



1932 Sep 15


Strauss and Filmer met with Building Trades Council re employment of only union labor.  [Not legal to restrict, says Keesling in his Calendar]



1932 Nov 30


Strauss reported on surveys of north/south road



1932 Dec 1


Keesling met briefly with Paine re Ellis to review tenor of Ellis’ activities.  Keesling suggested that Strauss should grant Ellis an interview if at all possible.



1932 Dec 1


Moisseiff wrote letter to Derleth indicating that steel-inspecting engineer Baker did not wish to have inspection headquartered in Chicago, as requested by Paine on behalf of Strauss.  Moisseiff and Ammann prefer NYC. 



1932 Dec 13


Strauss and MacDonald met with Keesling re McClintic-Marshall contract provisions



1932 Dec 19


From Keesling’s Calendar: “...reviewing with W.P. Filmer unsatisfactory results and lack of accomplishment of Strauss, conferences and contacts with Highway Commission.  Evidence of attempt to shift responsibility and necessity of protecting against it.  Discussed managerial problems.  Further discussion at luncheon relative to having the advice and suggest of Clark Cottrell” re North Road problems.



1932 Dec 20


H.V. Tucker called Keesling to request information concerning informal action of the Engineer and General Manager as to qualifications [from Keesling Calendar]



1932 Dec 29


Keesling phoned Strauss re computation of effect of proposals re McClintic-Marshall contract



1933 Jan


Construction of Golden Gate Bridge began



1933 Jan 19


Strauss’ secretary Miss Burns sick, putting Strauss behind in correspondence



1933 Jan 20


Strauss phoned Keesling to alert that inspecting engineer Baker had arrived



1933 Jan 30


Strauss ordered a fleet to San Francisco for celebration



1933 Feb


First official spade of earth was turned for GGB



1933 Feb 1


Keesling met with Reed, who had conference with Baker re inspection and Reed report as to supervision, desiring protection against Strauss [Strauss had wanted Baker to report to him and have Chicago as his home office]



1933 Feb 3


On the GGBHD Building Committee agenda: the Baker contract or letter and Reed’s understanding with Strauss.  Strauss letter unsatisfactory and to be modified.



1933 Feb 18


Keesling conferred with Reed re Strauss’ attitude re the type of inspection if he must bear the cost



1933 Feb 25


Strauss spoke at GGB Banquet commemorating the ground-breaking ceremonies, Fairmont Hotel



1933 Mar 2


Strauss called Keesling to confer re interpretation of the contract re responsibility for inspection



1933 Mar 3


Strauss wrote Beggs wanting revised proposal from Beggs re model test to present to GGBHD Board



1933 Mar


Much correspondence re interpretation of Strauss’ contract vis-a-vis field inspection and who pays for it



1933  Mar 9


Ammann wrote Strauss re interpretation of the contract re field inspection, advised that the contract implies Strauss should pay for it



1933 Mar 16


Beggs wrote Strauss with revised proposal for model test



1933 Apr 4


Strauss wrote Keesling re who bears cost of inspection, District or Strauss?



1933 Apr 7


Harlan [District lawyer] says interest contemplated by Strauss provision for specified amounts



1933  Jun 7


Keesling met with Paine, Derleth, Reed re plans for marina connections



1933 Jun 23


Keesling confered with Reed re Strauss Co. statement prepared by Paine for fees.  Keesling Calendar:  “...policy of requiring Strauss’ presence in order to prevent evasion and delay.”



1933 Jun 29


Keesling Calendar:  “...phoned Cone, informing him of purpose of insisting upon conference with Strauss and confidence in him personally, in order to avoid misunderstanding.  Same expression to Paine, calling him at Strauss’ office.”  Keesling had conference with Filmer re Strauss situation.



1933 Jul 19


Strauss called Keesling re status of Contracts IV and V.  Keesling requested conference for consideration of problems re fees and extras.



1933 Aug


Strauss absent



1933 Aug 7


Strauss addressed long (12-page) letter to Keesling stating his position re the contract and field inspection, extra work, and terms of payment.



1933 Aug 20


Building Committee reviewed extensive letter from Strauss re cost of inspection and extras



1933 Aug 24


Building Committee: Sidney Taylor letter to Strauss re to desirability of traffic study as related to streets in San Francisco.  Not much impressed with it.  ???  [From Keesling Calendar]



1933 Sep 1


Strauss called Keesling “...relating to claims for adjustment and interpretation of contract as related to inspection and extra work.  Informed Strauss of my general attitude and as well statement made by Moisieff relating to the intention of fixing responsibility for payment by the Engineer of expense of inspection in the field.  Strauss disturbed by wheat he believes to be lack of co-operation.  He referred to activities of progress and cost estimates from the office of the District and criticisms by Mr. Murtagh, a discharged inspector.  Informed him that my interpretation of commissions from the General Manager based upon Murtagh criticism intended only as support by the Engineer in urging greater progress by Barrett & Hilp.  [From Keesling Calendar]



1933 Nov 1


Keesling went to south works with Strauss, Cone, Derleth re fender damage



1933 Nov 20


Keesling met with Strauss and Filmer at Strauss’ office “relating to attitude of directors, which is disturbing Strauss, who believes that an unfortunate prejudice exists among some of the directors.  Some disturbances in inter-office relations.”  Suggested all communications go through General Manager.



1933 Nov 24


GGBHD Attorney and General Manager prepared analysis of CE’s contract



1934 Jan 4


Above analysis sent to Building Committee



1934 Jan 17


Strauss wrote Keesling that he didn’t have a chance to review the analysis before it went to the Building Committee, as initially agreed.  Asked for additional response time.



1934 Jan 18


GGBHD Building Committee considered Strauss’ revised letter re interpretation of his contract



1934 Jan 20


Beggs at Princeton tested model of bridge tower



1934 Jan 25


Beggs wrote Strauss re demo test presentation January 20



1934 Feb 1


Keesling Calender re Strauss: “...conflict of authority related to releasing information concerning soundings”



1934 Feb 2


Moisseiff wrote Paine; Begg’s concerns academic.  Analysis is sufficient.



1934 Feb 6


Beggs wrote Paine re torsional stresses



1934 Feb 7


Paine from Strauss Engineering Corporation wrote Moisseiff agreeing that Begg’s testing was sufficient.



1934 Feb 16


Keesling conferred with Strauss re relief map incident, with Keesling expressing regret at Strauss’ continued chagrin and denial of all knowledge and admonishing discontinuance of an unfortunate attitude.



1934 Feb 19


Keesling conferred with Strauss re relief map.  There were indications Strauss would criticize it, which would create public misunderstanding.  Strauss informed Keesling his (Strauss’) check had proved the map to be substantially correct. 

Keesling then met with Filmer re the importance of coordination between Reed (General Manager) and the CE (Strauss) notwithstanding difficulties; essential to keep the CE informed, not only for cooperation and service, but as well to avoid disavowal of responsibility.  The importance of such policy stressed by additional information from PWA local authorities, lack of consultation with the CE necessitating personal request for conference between the CE and the local Board.



1934 Mar 1


Keesling had informal conference with Strauss re Strauss’ apprehensions concerning delay



1934 Mar 1


Strauss lawyers John L. McNab and Henry C. Clausen submit opinion on inspection issue



1934 Mar 16


Strauss advised no further tests with model needed



1934 Apr 18


Strauss hearing with GGBHD Board



1934 Apr 28


Keesling read argument of Strauss’ counsel



1934 Jul 6


Keesling interviewed Strauss re assumption re field inspection costs and alternate Funston Ave approach



1934 Jul 20


Building Committee reviewed calculation of Strauss payments



1934 Jul 30


Building Committee met re annoyance of controversy between Contractor and Chief Engineer and General Manager re added reinforcement in south pier



1934 Aug-Sep


Keesling reviewed Strauss contract



1934 Sept


Keesling reviewed McClintic-Marshall contract



1934 Sept 24


Meeting of all the above



1934 Sept 28


Keesling conferred with Strauss re information from Cone re proposed installment payment of salaries



1934 Oct 1


Strauss called Keesling re transcript of testimony in Bailey Willis matter



1934 Oct 8


Caisson for south pier towed into position.  Storm that night (heaviest in 30 years) damaged mooring cables and steel work supporting the working platform



1934 Oct 9


Strauss went to scene, discussed situation with Cone and Derleth, and later Pacific Bridge Company and Reed.



1934 Oct 10


Strauss permitted contractor to remove the caisson for south pier



1934, Oct 16


Paine attended meeting re McClintic-Marshall Co.



1934 Oct 19



Strauss distressed that McClintic-Marshall Co. withheld construction schedule


1934 Oct 27


Strauss wrote Ammann and Moisseiff re their review of the new construction method



1934 Oct 31


Strauss call Keesling to object to further borings



1934 Oct 31


Strauss reported to Building Committee on revised procedure for construction of the pier.



1934 Nov 6


Strauss wrote Lawson and Sedgwick re foundation loads for the south pier



1934 Nov 14


Strauss submitted report re revised procedure



1934 Nov 19


Strauss special report on changing the construction method for the south pier to Building Committee.



1935 Jan 24


Strauss wrote Derleth re Cone’s report on pressure tests for the south pier



1935 Feb 14


Keesling inquired re litigation involving Chief Engineer personally from Behrens of the Chronicle


1935 Feb 27


Keesling conferred with Strauss re his personal troubles, and determining his stand on his claim for fees.

Keesling referred to litigation [against Strauss] instituted by Doc Meyers and other litigation and complications, claim for compensation for services under an earlier engagement [without foundation said Strauss].  Also pending action against the District for 1% additional.  Strauss’ concern resulted from what he believed to be antagonism in the office, and antagonism of the [District] attorney, which developed as a result of claims for extra work.  Lack of coordination....



1935 Mar 9


Strauss received report on settlement levels from Cone



1935 Summer


Operated experimental school for transient boys in Clyde CA



1935 Jul 23


Strauss asked Keesling for pay



1935 Aug 5


Keesling met with Strauss re extra work fee problems.



1935 Nov 9,11



Keesling met with Strauss re toll plaza


1935 Nov 16


Strauss called Keesling re work fees





Strauss submitted memos and details re military replacements 10/7/35, 11/25/35, 12/30/35, 1/14/36



1936 Feb 6


Strauss submitted letter re fees



1936 Feb 7,12,21



Keesling met with Strauss re fees


1936 Feb 24



Building Committee met re Strauss fees


1936 Feb 26


Keesling received communication from Internal Revenue Department re Strauss unpaid taxes.  Conferred with Attorney Harlan to reply to Collector.



1936 Mar 6


Strauss writes Reed re simplifying toll classifications



1936 Apr 1,23


Keesling met with Strauss re his financial difficulties and extra compensation for military replacements



1936 Apr 29


Strauss rejected some cable from Roebling based on specs



1936 May 8


Pay advance arrangement for CE



1936 Aug 31


Keesling met with Strauss re publicity releases in paper and re his re-opening claim for compensation for military replacements, forgetting or overlooking his own attitude toward the Board which indicates only a desire to get everything that he can.  This is proved by Strauss’ claims for extra compensation by reason of delay, etc for an additional 1% to which he is not entitled.  [Keesling Calendar]



1936 Sept 21


Strauss submitted request for extra compensation again



1936 Oct 2


Keesling met with Strauss re his financial distress



1936 Oct 26


Strauss litigation discussed by Keesling with Attorney Harlan re expert testimony, problems relating to Derleth [didn’t want to testify and jeopardize relationship with Strauss] and data in files



1936 Nov 2


Keesling reviewed Strauss litigation



1936 Nov 18


Strauss attorney John L. McNab wrote Filmer that jury decided in favor of Strauss and summarized the case



1937 Feb 17


Work on GGB suspended due to accident with stripping platform



1937 Feb 20


Strauss inspected accident site and recovered net



1937 May 26


Construction of Golden Gate Bridge completed



1937 May 27


Bridge opened to pedestrians. Dedication party attended by UC President Raymond Walters





Strauss proposed rapid transit system for Los Angeles



1938 May 16


Died in Los Angeles from heart condition, buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.  In Memoriam statement in back cover of GGBHD 1937-1938 Annual Report states:  “ of the Golden Gate Bridge culminated his great career as a bridge engineer.”





Strauss succeeded by Russ Cone as Chief Engineer of GGB



1938 Sept 14


GGB plaque dedication ceremony



1941 May 28


Statue of Strauss by Frederick W. Schweigardt of San Francisco unveiled