Archive of 18 photographs documenting the building of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, circa 1934-1936

N.p. N.p., Circa 1934-1936. Archive of eighteen vintage borderless photographs documenting the building of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge between 1934 and 1936, including a vintage architectural diagram of the bridge's tower six. 14 photographs shot and stuck by photographer Peter Stackpole, and accompanying the archive is a reference copy of the 1984 Stackpole monograph "The Bridge Builders."

The fourteen photographs shot by Stackpole are in 5 x 7 inch format, and include one double weight photograph. The remaining four photographs include two 5.25 x 4.25 inches, and two 3.5 x 2.5 inches. The four smaller photographs are likely vernacular photographs taken by workers at the time of the construction, with two dated February 1, 1936 and bearing a developer's stamp on the verso.

Also included in the archive is an architectural "Erection Diagram" of tower six, with numeric annotations, and what appears to be a faint listing of required laborers and inventory, on the verso.

Of the fourteen photographs by Stackpole, seven are documented in published books or institutional holdings, with four appearing in the aforementioned published monograph included with the archive, two clearly shot in tandem with photographs in the monograph, and one identified in the holdings of the Oakland Art Museum. We have not been able to find published examples of the other seven photographs in the grouping, but the photographs appear to be of the same clarity and format, and are consistent with Stackpole's photographic style from the period.

Photographs in this format, as Stackpole originally intended, are rare, and larger format signed prints, struck in subsequent decades, are more commonly found.

In 1934, while watching the construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge from the docks, a then-21 year old Stackpole was invited by the bridgemen to photograph the job with his Model C Leica camera. Photographer and filmmaker Willard Van Dyke was an immediate champion of the resultant photographs, especially notable at a time when professional photography was predominantly executed with unwieldy large format cameras. The following year Stackpole joined the prestigious San Francisco collective Group f/64, alongside Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, and Van Dyke, and 25 of his bridge photographs were exhibited at San Franciso's Museum of Modern Art.

In 1936 Stackpole became one of Life Magazine's first staff photographers, and in 1954 he received the George Polk Award. As the quintessential photographic chronicle of the massive steel construction boom of the depression era, Stackpole's bridge photographs are perhaps only rivaled by Lewis Hine's photographs of the construction of the Empire State Building.

Photographs: 2.75 x 3.5 inches to 4.75 x 7 inches. Very Good plus to Near Fine, with some light edgewear and even fading.

Architectural diagram: 8.5 x 11 inches. Very Good plus, folded once horizontally and twice vertically, with moderate soiling on the verso and light edgewear.

The Bridge Builders, First Edition, softcover, issued simultaneously with the hardcover edition. Very Good plus in card wrappers in a Very Good plus dust jacket. Light foxing to the top edge, front endpaper, half title page, and title page.

Peter Stackpole. The Bridge Builders: Photographs and Documents of the Raising of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Corte Madera, CA: Pomegranate Communications, 1985. Pages 12 and 21, plates 4, 48, 21, 26.


[Book #155077]