University of Washington Engineering Experiment Station collection of Tacoma Narrows Bridge photographs and ephemera, 1939-1965  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Collector
University of Washingon. Engineering Experiment Station
Title
University of Washington Engineering Experiment Station collection of Tacoma Narrows Bridge photographs and ephemera
Dates
1939-1965 (inclusive)
1939-1946 (bulk)
Quantity
1.39 cubic feet (5 boxes)
130 photographic prints (restricted)
Viewing photocopies of original images
103 negatives
123 lantern slides
1 slide
29 clippings
Collection Number
PH0290
Summary
Photographs and newspaper clippings documenting the construction, collapse, and reconstruction of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge compiled by UW civil engineering professor Frederick B. Farquharson
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

Access to photographs in Box 1 is restricted. Use photocopies in Box 2 or view selections on the digital site.

Additional Reference Guides

Languages
English


Historical NoteReturn to Top

The Engineering Experiment Station of the University of Washington was officially established by the Board of Regents in 1917. The express purpose of the Station was "to aid in the industrial development of the state and nation by scientific research and by furnishing information for the solution of engineering problems." The Station had 3 directors during its existence, Carl Edward Magnusson from 1917 until his death in 1941, Edgar Allan Loew from 1941 to 1945, and Frederick Burt Farquharson from 1945 to 1963. In September of 1962, the Office of Engineering Research was established within the College of Engineering for the promotion and administration of sponsored research in the various engineering departments. In July of 1963, the Engineering Experiment Station was merged with the Office of Engineering Research under the latter title.

From its inception in 1917 to its end in 1963, the Station performed research in many areas of engineering and science. The Station conducted research for a wide range of civil and private organizations, both within and outside of the United States. The list of clients includes the United States Department of the Interior, Washington State, the City of Seattle, the City of Vancouver British Columbia, and a number of private companies. Perhaps the Station's most notable work was an investigation of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in 1940. Much of the research on this problem was led by Frederick Burt Farquharson. Professor Farquharson received publicity for his construction of a quonset-hut wind tunnel, which he used to test full and sectional models of the bridge, simulating the violent winds that rocked "Galloping Gertie."

The original Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built between November 1938 and July 1, 1940. Lauded as an essential economic and military portal to the Olympic peninsula, its completion was called a triumph of man's ingenuity and perseverance. Four months after it opened to the public, it collapsed in what was later called "the Pearl Harbor of engineering."

Contemporary accounts appeared to be shocked by the collapse, although the bridge had begun exhibiting wavelike motions during the final stages of construction. Soon after its official opening, the bridge gained a reputation for this movement and was informally christened "Galloping Gertie." Professor F.B. Farquharson, an engineering professor at the University of Washington, and other University engineers were hired to suggest methods to reduce the movement on the bridge. Over the next few months experiments were conducted on a scale model, but a solution to the problem proved elusive.

On November 7, 1940, Professor Farquharson was there to witness and document the spectacular collapse of what had been the third longest suspension bridge in the world with the longest single span in the country. In the aftermath, many theories were discussed concerning the cause of the bridge's collapse. Ultimately an investigative board for the Washington State Toll Bridge Authority announced the failure was due to the bridge's design reacting to the wind in the Narrows.

Although rebuilding the bridge was immediately suggested, investigations on the wreckage found the entire superstructure to be unusable. The onset of World War II further stalled attempts to rebuild. Salvage activity continued on the bridge through 1942 with the materials going to the U.S. war effort and the profits saved for the construction of a new bridge.

While the salvage work went on, Professor Farquharson was commissioned to test models of the old Narrows Bridge and the new proposed design for the bridge. At the University of Washington's new structural research lab, built specifically to house the models, tests proved that the new design was sound. Construction on the new bridge began in the summer of 1948 and was finished in October 1950. The previous three and a half years spent studying aerodynamics ensured a bridge whose fate would not mimic the first. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge has remained standing.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Frederick Burt Farquharson was an engineer and professor of engineering. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1895. He studied at the University of Washington, earning his Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1923. He then spent two years working for Boeing Airplane Company, after which he returned to the University of Washington to earn his Masters degree and begin teaching. Farquharson taught in the University of Washington's Department of Civil Engineering. He was granted the status of instructor in 1927, assistant professor in 1928, associate professor in 1937, and professor in 1940. From 1945 to 1963, Professor Farquharson directed the Engineering Experiment Station of the University of Washington. He retired from the University in 1963, and was made professor emeritus that same year.

Professor Farquharson's professional interests included various aspects of airplane design (especially early in his career), aerodynamics, and the use of wind tunnels for bridge design testing. He is most noted for the use of wind tunnels for his studies of the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse and for the development of the new Tacoma Narrows bridge. He served on a number of committees concerned with engineering education and research for such professional engineering societies as the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Society for Engineering Education. Professor Farquharson was also a member of the University of Washington Instructor's Association, which created and assessed a survey of salary and promotion facts, and of faculty opinions regarding the fairness of promotions. He was also called for expert testimony in 1957 in a trial concerning a failed spider staging cable used by a painter at the Weyerhauser Pulp Mill in Cosmopolis, Washington.

Farquharson was politically active during the economic depression of the 1930's. He had associations with such organizations as the League for Industrial Democracy and the National Council for the Prevention of War. His wife, Mary, was also active in anti-war and civil liberties movements, and served in the Washington State Senate.

Frederick Burt Farquharson passed away on June 17, 1970.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of images (including prints, negatives, lantern slides, and slides) and newspaper clippings documenting the Tacoma Narrows Bridge through construction, collapse, and reconstruction. Materials were compiled by University of Washington civil engineering professor Frederick B. Farquharson for the University's Engineering Experiment Station. The lantern slides depict the construction of the bridge from 1939 to 1940 as well as models of the bridge in the University Engineering Experiment Station. The newspaper clippings mainly cover the collapse of the bridge.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection in digital format .

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

Construction of Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1939-1940Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box item
1 1
 East anchorage cable spinning space
Simmer (photographer)
2 copies.
September 7, 1939
1 2
 Pier 5, facing west with pier 4 in distance
Simmer (photographer)
3 copies.
September 7, 1939
1 3
 Pier 5, pouring fender slab
Simmer (photographer)
2 copies
September 7, 1939
1 4
 Tower on pier 4, facing east
Simmer (photographer)
2 copies
September 7, 1939
1 5
 East tower on pier 5, facing west
Simmer (photographer)
March 22, 1940
1 6
West tower on pier 4, facing east
Simmer (photographer)
March 22, 1940
1 7 March, 1940
1 8 March, 1940
1 9
 Bridge nears completion
Bashford, James (photographer)
May 6, 1940
1 10-12
Deck construction
1940
1 13
Cable clamp
1940
1 14
Crane on bridge tower
1940
1 15
Slight ripples during bridge construction
1940
1 16
Bridge viewed from shore
1940
1 17
Bridge with catwalks viewed from shore
1940
1 18
Deck 75% completed
1940

Completed Bridge and Opening Day, 1940Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box item
1 19-22
Completed Tacoma Narrows Bridge
1940
1 23
Aerial view of bridge
1940
1 24
 Completed bridge before opening
Bashford, James (photographer)
1940
1 25 July 1, 1940
1 26-28 1940

Bridge Collapse, November 7, 1940Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box item
1 29
 Farquharson viewing film of bridge's sway before the collapse
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (photographer)
November 7, 1940
1 30
 Rippled bridge
Bashford, James (photographer)
November 7, 1940
1 31
 Bridge twisting
AP Wire / World Wide Photo (photographer)
November 7, 1940
1 32 November 7, 1940
1 33a-f November 7, 1940
1 34
Car on rolling bridge
November 7, 1940
1 35a November 7,1940
1 35b
Car on twisting bridge
November 7, 1940
1 36
 Bridge midsection crashing into the water
Bashford and Thompson (photographer)
November 7, 1940
1 37
 Midsection crashing into Narrows
Original slide available in folder
November 7, 1940
1 38 November 7, 1940
1 39a November 7, 1940
1 39b November 7, 1940
1 40 November 7, 1940
1 41 November 7, 1940
1 42-46 November 7, 1940
1 47
Bridge with midsection gone, approach sagging
November 7, 1940
1 48
Side girder dangles over missing midsection
November 7, 1940
1 49 November 7, 1940
1 50
Bridge during collapse
November 7, 1940

After the Collapse, November-December 1940Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box item
1 51
 Approach and bridge tower with hanging bridge deck
Bashford, James (photographer)
November 7, 1940
1 52 November 7, 1940
1 53 November 1940
1 54 November 11, 1940
1 55
 Tower with bridge deck dipping into water
Bashford-Thompson Commercial Photographers (photographer)
November 11, 1940
1 56
Mid-span of Tacoma Narrows Bridge
November 11, 1940
1 57 November 7, 1940
1 58
Cable bent and cable taut
November 1940
1 59 November 16, 1940
1 60
 Man looking through broken wire
Bashford, James (photographer)
November 16, 1940
1 61
 Broken wire
Bashford-Thompson Commercial Photographers (photographer)
November 16, 1940
1 62
Clamp holding wire
Bashford, James (photographer)
November 16, 1940
1 63-64
Broken wire
Bashford, James (photographer)
November 16, 1940
1 65 November 16, 1940
1 66
Bridge with concrete removed to take load off tower after crash
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (photographer)
December 10, 1940
1 67-71 December 1940

Structural Research Laboratory: Study of Original Bridge, 1942-1946Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box item
1 72 circa 1942
1 73
Structural research lab construction, fig. 2
circa 1942
1 74
Structural research lab construction, fig. 3
circa 1942
1 75
Framing detail of new wind tunnel building
circa 1942
1 76
Lab interior and construction, with man holding lamp toward model
circa 1942
1 77
Lab interior and construction
circa 1942
1 78
Lab interior and construction
Spring, 1942
1 79-80
Original bridge model
September 17, 1942
1 81-84 circa 1942
1 85
Tacoma Narrows Bridge calibration unit
October 3, 1942
1 86
Motor-propeller drive
October 3, 1942
1 87
Two-noded motion on old model Tacoma Narrows Bridge
circa 1942
1 88a-q
Original bridge water flow at University of Washington
circa 1942-1943
1 89-92
Motion on old bridge
March 23, 1943
1 93-95
Section model original bridge
circa 1942
1 96
Section model of original bridge, free springs mount and holes in girder covered with tape
November 21, 1946

New Bridge Model, 1943-1947Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box item
1 97-99
Erection, new bridge model
1943
1 100
New bridge calibrator
1943
1 101-105
New bridge calibration tests
June 1943
1 106-107
Erection of new bridge model details: stringers and truss
August 16, 1943
1 108
New bridge section model
December 17, 1943
1 109-110
New design section model
December 1943
1 111
New bridge section model and pick-up
December 1943
1 112-114
Bridge part III
1943
1 115
Spoilers
1943
1 116-118
New design, full model
1943
1 119
Images of new bridge for report no. 9
negatives
January 1944
1 120
New bridge, report nos. 9 and 11
January 1944
1 121 January 1944
1 122-123
New bridge section model
January 1944
1 124-125
Section model smoke equipment
January 1944
1 126-127 January 1944
1 128-132
Section model separation tests
January 1944
1 133-137
New model isolation of damping components
January 1944
1 138 1944
1 138a
Farquharson looking up at Tacoma Narrows Bridge model
1944
1 139-140
New bridge stiffness test on section of Fall model
1944
1 141 1944
1 142
 Farquharson and two men in front of bridge model
McNair, Cliff (photographer)
1944
1 143
Engineering experiment station, with Farquharson reading instruments
Luckin, Herb (photographer)
December 6, 1947
1 144
Farquharson with two men
McNair, Cliff (photographer)
1943-1947
1 145
Farquharson with three men
1947-1947

New Bridge, 1948Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box item
1 146
 New bridge during deck pours
Boersig, Harry R (photographer)
1948
1 147
Cars on the rebuilt Tacoma Narrows Bridge, neg. no. 5
2 copies
1948

Newspaper clippings, 1940-1965Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box item
3 148
Lifemagazine, pg. 38
November 18, 1940
3 149 November 8, 1940
3 150
"Dramatic Picture Story of Narrows Bridge Collapse,"Seattle Post-Intelligencer
November 8, 1940
3 151 November 8, 1940
3 152
"New Span Forecast by July 4,"Tacoma News Tribune
November 8, 1940
3 153 November 8, 1940
3 154
"Farquharson Dares Death on Crumbling Bridge,"University of Washington Daily
November 8, 1940
3 155a
"Model Span Helps Solve the 'Riddle of the Ripple,'"Seattle Post-Intelligencer
September 9, 1940
3 155b
"U. Professor's Story of Bridge Collapse,"Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Incomplete
November 8, 1940
3 155c
"Plan to Save Span Too Late; Professor 'Rides' Break-Up"
November, 1940
3 156a
"Murrow Unable to Explain Fall of Tacoma Span"
November, 1940
3 156b
"U.S. Loaning Agents Held Insistent on Own Design"
November, 1940
3 156c
"Experts Inspect What's Left of Narrows Span,"Seattle Times
November 9, 1940
3 156d
"PWA Names Board in Bridge Probe"
November-December, 1940
3 156e
"PWA Opens Bridge Probe,"Seattle Times
December 7, 1940
3 156f
"Span Rebuilding Awaits Surveys"
December, 1940
3 157a
"Three Experts Open Narrows Span Probe,"Seattle Post-Intelligencer
December 8, 1940
3 157b
"Board of Experts Seek Bridge Crash Cause,"Seattle Post-Intelligencer
December 10, 1940
3 157c
"Three Experts Visit Scene of Narrows Span Fall,"Seattle Post-Intelligencer
December 10, 1940
3 157d
"Bridge Towers Feared Ruined,"Seattle Post-Intelligencer
December 12, 1940
3 157e
"Narrows Bridge Model is Tested"
Incomplete
1940-1941
3 157f
"Air Currents Studies on Narrows Span,"Seattle Post-Intelligencer
January 11, 1941
3 158a
"Tacoma Narrows Bridge Engineer Blames PWA and RFC for Span Collapse,"Seattle Times
November 8, 1940
3 158b
"Bridge Crews Speed Wrecking to Save Towers,"Seattle Times
November 10, 1940
3 158c
"Insurance Men Study Span Crash,"Seattle Post-Intelligencer
November 10, 1940
3 159a November 8, 1940
3 159b
"Where Towers Buckle,"Seattle Times
December 14, 1940
3 159c
"U.W. to Test Proposed Mich. Bridge,"Seattle Times
August 11, 1954
3 159d
"Galloping Gertie's Anniversary,"Seattle Post-Intelligencer
November 7, 1965

Lantern slides, 1939-1940Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Construction of Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Box item
4 160 circa 1939
4 161 circa 1939
4 162
Plan of Tacoma Narrows Bridge
circa 1939
4 163 circa 1939
4 164 circa 1939
4 165 circa 1939
4 166 circa 1939
4 167 circa 1939
4 168
First caisson anchor for Narrows Bridge
circa 1939
4 169-170 circa 1939
4 171-172 circa 1939
4 173 circa 1939
4 174
Tugboats in Tacoma Narrows
circa 1939
4 175
Drawing of caisson section
circa 1939
4 176-177
 Drawing of caisson sinking
Prints are available in Box 1, and photocopies in box 2
circa 1939
4 178
Man standing next to large metal piece
circa 1939
4 179-180 circa 1939
4 181 March 22, 1939
4 182 March 23, 1939
4 183 circa 1939
4 184 circa 1939
4 185
Caisson with cranes
circa 1939
4 186
Tacoma Narrows with tugboats, barges and caisson
circa 1939
4 187-190 circa 1939
4 191
 Caisson no. 4
Simmer (photographer)
March 28, 1939
4 192
Cables attached to caisson
circa 1939
4 193 circa 1939
4 194 circa 1939
4 195 circa 1939
4 196
Derrick attachment
circa 1939
4 197
Derrick attachment to caisson
Simmer (photographer)
March 28, 1939
4 198 March 31, 1939
4 199 March 31, 1939
4 200 circa 1939
4 201 circa 1939
4 202-203 circa 1939
4 204
Tugboat pulling barge with piece of bridge
circa 1939
4 205
Boats in Narrows during construction
circa 1939
4 206
Pouring concrete
circa 1939
4 207
Side of caisson showing churning water
circa 1939
4 208-209 circa 1939
4 210 circa 1939
4 211
West anchorage facing east
Simmer (photographer)
June 28, 1939
4 212
East anchor, facing south, installing anchor bars
Simmer (photographer)
July 13, 1939
4 213 July 13, 1939
4 214
Pedestal and tower anchors for north leg of tower on pier 4
Simmer (photographer)
July 13, 1939
4 215 July 27, 1939
4 216
Pier 5, facing west
Simmer (photographer)
July 27, 1939
4 217 circa 1939
4 218
Pier construction
circa 1939
4 219 circa 1939
4 220 circa 1939
4 221
 Pier 5 tower pedestals
Simmer (photographer)
September 7, 1939
4 222-223 circa 1939
4 224 circa 1939
4 225
Beginning tower
circa 1939
4 226
Construction of bridge towers
circa 1939
4 227
Tugboats at base of tower
circa 1939
4 228
Tower no. 4, second section in place, height 85 ft.
Simmer (photographer)
August 10, 1939
4 229
Tower no. 4, derrick jumped to second place
Simmer (photographer)
August 10, 1939
4 230
 East anchorage cable spinning space
Simmer (photographer)
Same image as item 1.
September 7, 1939
5 231
 Tower on pier 4 facing east
Simmer (photographer)
Same image as item 4.
September 7, 1939
5 232
Tower construction
September 1939
5 233
Building of tower viewed from shore
September 1939
5 234
Tower construction aerial view
September 1939
5 235
Completed tower in background, construction on another tower in foreground
September 1939
5 236
On center line facing west, pier 5 in foreground, pier 4 in distance
Simmer (photographer)
September 20, 1939
5 237 September 20, 1939
5 238
 Tower no. 4
Simmer (photographer)
October 20, 1939
5 239
Towers of bridge from a distance
circa 1939
5 240
Tower construction
circa 1939
5 241
Aerial view of bridge
Same image as item 23.
1940
5 242
Woman in dress sitting on steel support
circa 1939-1940
5 243 circa 1939-1940
5 244
Spinning first wire
Simmer (photographer)
January 10, 1940
5 245
Storm cable system, catwalk layout, and spinning and cable drawings
1940
5 246
 Clamping cable wire at tower top
Simmer (photographer)
1940
5 247
 Strand lifting beam at tower top
Simmer (photographer)
1940
5 248
Cable construction viewed from shore
1940
5 249
Bridge towers and catwalks
Simmer (photographer)
1940
5 250
Bridge towers and cables
Simmer (photographer)
1940
5 251
Bridge towers with cables attached
Simmer (photographer)
1940
5 252 1940
5 253 1940
5 254 1940
5 255
Drawing of stiffening girder erection
1940
5 256
100-foot floor section swings clear at barge 2534
March 21, 1940
5 257
Span section on barge
March, 1940
5 258-259 March, 1940
5 260
Drawing of bridge tollbooths
1940
Bridge Collapse
November 7, 1940
Box item
5 261
 Bridge warping during collapse
Same image as item 33c.
November 7, 1940
5 262
 Water swirling as bridge falls
Same image as item 38.
November 7, 1940
5 263
 Bridge midsection crashing into the water
Bashford and Thompson (photographer)
Same image as item 36.
November 7, 1940
5 264 November 7, 1940
5 265
Drawings illustrating the similarly-designed Brighton Bridge's collapse
November 7, 1940
5 266-267
Cable bent and cable taut
Same image as item 58.
November, 1940
Structural Research Laboratory: Study of Original Bridge
Box item
5 268
Cable suspension in lab
circa 1943-1944
5 269-270
Bridge model in lab
circa 1943-1944
5 271
Original Tacoma Narrows Bridge graph
circa 1943-1944
5 272
Bridge model in lab
circa 1943-1944
5 273
 Farquharson and two men in front of bridge model
McNair, Cliff (photographer)
Same image as item 142.
1944
5 274
Three images of wind blowing smoke at different strengths
circa 1943-1944
5 275
Drawing of proposed prototype
circa 1943-1944
5 276
Bridge model in lab
circa 1943-1944
5 277
Three images of wind blowing smoke at different strengths
circa 1943-1944
5 278
Bridge model in lab
circa 1943-1944
5 279
Part of bridge model
circa 1943-1944
5 280
Wind experiment
circa 1943-1944

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Bridge construction--Washington (State)--Tacoma Narrows--Photographs
  • Bridge failures--Washington (State)--Tacoma Narrows--Photographs
  • Bridges--Aerodynamics
  • Suspension bridges--Design and construction--Washington (State)--Tacoma Narrows--Photographs
  • Personal Names :
  • Farquharson, Frederick Burt (collector)
  • Corporate Names :
  • University of Washingon. Engineering Experiment Station
  • Geographical Names :
  • Tacoma Narrows Bridge (Tacoma, Wash.)--Photographs
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Aerial views
  • Architectural drawings
  • Clippings
  • Lantern slides
  • Negatives
  • Photographs
  • Slides

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)