77 years ago today, after fewer than 5 months of use, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge dramatically collapsed into Puget Sound. At the time of its construction (and its destruction), the bridge was the third-longest suspension bridge in the world in terms of main span length, behind the Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge.
University of Washington Libraries is home to a trove of documents, films, and recordings that document the construction, collapse, and post-destruction investigation of the bridge.
The following CBS Radio News broadcast is from our Milo Ryan Phonoarchive. Three hours after the fall of the bridge on November 7, 1940, Carroll Foster and KIRO newsmen report from the scene and from a plane above the site. Included are interviews of Bob Owens (Washington Department of Highways), Charles E. Andrew (consulting engineer for the Washington State Toll Bridge Authority), and US Senator Homer T. Bone. Carroll Foster describes the scene from the vantage of a United Airlines plane, reporting via KIRO’s Mobile Shortwave Transmitter. Firsthand accounts describe a man (later identified as UW Prof. Farquharson) crawling from his car immediately before the collapse and the death of a dog that was trapped in one of the cars (later identified as Prof. Farquharson’s dog).
The following film documents the construction of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, its opening to traffic on July 1, 1940, its collapse on November 7, 1940, and footage of testing on a scale model of the bridge. The bridge experienced oscillations both while under construction and after opening, and in May of 1940 the Washington Toll Bridge Authority hired Professor Farquharson to make wind-tunnel tests and recommend solutions in order to reduce the oscillations of the bridge. The recommendations were delivered days before the collapse, and Prof. Farquharson was on site at the East Tower taking photographs and motion pictures on the day of the collapse.
For more information about these and other Tacoma Narrows Bridge materials at the UW Libraries, please contact us.