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The making of the Bay Bridge, a great American icon (pictures)

A new exhibit at San Francisco's de Young museum highlights the photographs and art that documented the Depression-era construction of one America's greatest infrastructure projects.

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Daniel Terdiman
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
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1 of 15 Peter Stackpole/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

'View from a Ferry Boat Passing on the North Side; to the Left Is the Center Anchorage'

Today, San Francisco's de Young museum debuted its latest exhibit, "The Bay Bridge: A Work in Progress, 1933–1936." Featuring dozens of photographs by then-newcomer Peter Stackpole as well as many drawings, lithographs, and watercolors by established artists, the new show highlights the scale and scope of what was then one of America's biggest-ever infrastructure projects.

This photograph, with the unwieldy title "View from a Ferry Boat Passing on the North Side; to the Left Is the Center Anchorage," by Stackpole, of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, was taken in 1935. Lacking the roadbed, the bridge was still in its early stages. It was completed in 1937.

The exhibit runs through June 8.

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2 of 15 Peter Stackpole/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

'Deep in Contemplation, a Crew Goes Home after Hearing of a Fatality'

This 1935 Stackpole photo, titled "Deep in Contemplation, a Crew Goes Home after Hearing of a Fatality," shows a group of bridge workers after a tragedy. But it also shows an amazing view of the Bay Bridge, early in its construction, with no roadbed. Anyone familiar with the bridge today would recognize it, but find it extremely strange looking.
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3 of 15 Peter Stackpole/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Cable spinning between two towers begins

In this 1936 Stackpole photograph, cable spinning begins between two towers as gallows frames dot the catwalk.
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4 of 15 Peter Stackpole/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Cable spinning

With San Francisco in the background, the Bay Bridge cable-spinning operation is seen in this 1935 Stackpole photograph.
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5 of 15 Peter Stackpole/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Riveter without safety belt

A riveter finishes off a tower plate without the security of a safety belt, as seen in this 1935 Stackpole photograph. San Francisco's Coit Tower is seen at the very left of the photograph.
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6 of 15 Peter Stackpole/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Workman inspecting bridge tower

In this untitled 1939 Stackpole photograph, taken after the Bay Bridge was completed and opened, a worker inspects one of its towers.
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7 of 15 Peter Stackpole/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Cable spinning on beams

In this 1936 Stackpole photograph, several workers are seen balancing on beams and catwalks as they run the cable spinning operation.
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8 of 15 Peter Stackpole/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Properly outfitted

Stackpole profiled this properly outfitted bridge worker, who has on a hard hat, heavy gloves, spiked wrenches, and a safety line. The photograph was taken in 1935, midway through the bridge's construction.
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9 of 15 Otis Oldfield/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

'Girders Above'

Otis Oldfield made this lithograph, entitled "Girders above," in 1936.
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10 of 15 Peter Stackpole/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Payday

Stackpole photographed these workers getting paid at the paymaster shack located at the bottom of one of the towers in 1934.
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11 of 15 George Booth/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Bay Bridge construction

Artist George Booth showcased bridge construction in this 1934 watercolor.
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12 of 15 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

'Central Anchorage with Ferries'

"Central Anchorage with Ferries," a 1936 lithograph by Otis Oldfield, from his series, "Building the Bay Bridge."
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13 of 15 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

'The Raised Bridge'

Artist Dong Kingman's 1934 watercolor, "The Raised Bridge," was almost certainly painted from the vantage point of San Francisco's Second Street, just a few blocks south of the current location of CNET's main offices.
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14 of 15 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Architectural study of the Bay Bridge Center Anchorage

Designers Timothy Pflueger and James Miller drew this study of the bridge's center anchorage between 1933 and 1934.
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15 of 15 Peter Stackpole/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

View from a car heading west on the bridge

In this 1938 photograph, Stackpole showed one of the bridge's towers from the vantage point of a car heading into San Francisco.

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