"During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge," Obama said in his January State of the Union Address. "After World War II, we connected our states with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today."
Obama suggested here that the federal government invested in the Golden Gate Bridge. Elsewhere, he has used a royal "we" to seemingly credit the federal government.
"We built this country together. We built railroads and highways. We built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. We built those things together," Obama said on May 10 in Seattle.
"We were creating the conditions for everybody to be able to succeed," Obama said. "These things made us all richer. They gave us all opportunity. They moved us all together, all forward, as one nation, and as one people.
"And that's the true lesson of our past," Obama concluded.
But it is not true.
The federal government did not conceive of the Golden Gate Bridge. Or design it. Or finance it. Or build it. Nor did the state government of California.
The people of Marin, San Francisco, Sonoma and Del Norte counties, as well as parts of Napa and Mendocino counties, built the bridge. The Bank of America financed it by buying bonds approved by voters in those counties. And drivers who actually crossed the bridge and paid its toll provided the money to pay off those bonds -- a feat accomplished only 34 years after the bridge was completed.
The movement to build the bridge, Louise Nelson Dyble reported in "Paying the Toll: Local Power, Regional Politics and the Golden Gate Bridge," essentially started at a 1923 meeting convened by Frank P. Doyle, chairman of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce. The movement crystallized when state assemblyman Frank L. Coombs, a native Californian born in 1853, pushed through legislation permitting the creation of a "special district" that Northern California counties could join if they wished for the purpose of building a bridge from San Francisco to Marin.
The special district was a corporation separate and apart from state and local governments. It was dependent on local voters for authorization, who in turn were responsible for guaranteeing its funding.
This differed sharply from the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge, which would be funded by both the state and federal governments.