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What's In a Name?
Naming the Bridge 

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There were several ideas and proposals to name the Bay Bridge after prominent individuals in American society. The public, for example, suggested such individuals as President Abraham Lincoln, humorist Will Rogers, and Governor James "Sunny Jim" Rolph Jr.

Rolph, who was governor during the initial bridge construction, was the former mayor of San Francisco. He presided over San Francisco's reconstruction after the 1906 Earthquake and oversaw the construction of City Hall. Rolph also presided over the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition, which was a symbol of renewal for the city, as well as a key supporter and campaigner for the construction of a transbay bridge.

The Toll Bridge Authority had decided to name the bridge in Rolph’s honor upon his death. However, once powerful Oakland Tribune publisher Joseph R. Knowland became aware of this idea, he promptly put a halt to it. Knowland had been a key figure in securing federal funding for the bridge. It was widely believed that Knowland wanted the bridge to be named after him.

In the end, the Toll Bridge Authority adopted the name of the "San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge". However, Rolph did get his recognition during the 50th anniversary celebration. While the bridge was not officially named in his honor, a plaque was dedicated in remembrance of his support for the construction of the bridge.

Information taken from the San Francisco Chronicle, June 7, 1985.

West Bay Photo, November 26, 1935.
West Bay

Public Works, 1931
California State Archives
Sacramento, California


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Letter: October 15, 1931.

Letter: October 15, 1931

Public Works, 1931
California State Archives
Sacramento, California


Letter: June 18, 1934.

Letter: June 18, 1934

Public Works, 1934
California State Archives
Sacramento, California


Letter: November 21, 1934.

Letter: November 21, 1934

Public Works, 1934
California State Archives
Sacramento, California


Letter: January 10, 1936.

Letter: January 10, 1936

Public Works, 1936
California State Archives
Sacramento, California


Letter: February 12, 1936.

Letter: February 12, 1936

Public Works, 1936
California State Archives
Sacramento, California



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