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Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde December 4, 2019

No, photo does not show 1937 opening of Golden Gate Bridge or a near collapse

So many people packed San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge when it first opened in 1937 that it nearly collapsed, claims a popular Facebook post, falsely.

"The Golden Gate Bridge opening to the public for the first time back in 1937, and yes, it almost collapsed," said caption for a Nov. 29 post that’s been shared about 5,000 times. The attached black and white photo shows a massive crowd of people filling the bridge.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

What’s true: the photo does show thousands of people crammed on the Golden Gate Bridge.

What’s not true: The photo isn’t of the 1937 opening. It was taken in 1987 and shows masses of people walking the bridge to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 8,981-foot long suspension bridge.

Here is a San Francisco Chronicle slideshow of pictures from the 1987 event (it includes the one in the Facebook post), and here’s another slideshow from the 1937 opening, with significantly fewer people walking the bridge.

There is no evidence that the bridge "almost collapsed" at its 1937 opening. So what about in 1987 when this photo was actually taken? Did it almost collapse then? 

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Some people on the bridge that day thought it might. 

"Ten years ago, while trapped shoulder to shoulder in the mob, unable to move for more than two hours, I remember discussing with my wife the real possibility that we were about to participate in one of the 20th century's landmark disasters. A bridge collapse would have put to shame all those petty Third World bus and ferry tragedies you read about in the newspaper," Winston Montgomery, a painting and plastering contractor in San Francisco wrote in 1997.

High winds swayed the bridge and an arch on the bridge deck flattened with the weight of the crowd.

But engineers told the Mercury News that a collapse wasn’t likely because the bridge was over-engineered to withstand all that weight. No deaths were reported in connection to the 1987 event.

Our ruling

A Facebook post claimed to show "the Golden Gate Bridge opening to the public for the first time back in 1937, and yes, it almost collapsed."

The photo isn’t from the bridge’s 1937 opening, but from a 1987 celebration of the bridge’s 50th anniversary. While some people in the 1987 crowd feared a collapse, engineers later said the bridge was built to sustain the crowd. There’s no evidence a collapse was imminent at its opening in 1937.

We rate the post False.

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No, photo does not show 1937 opening of Golden Gate Bridge or a near collapse

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