Bridging San Francisco Bay
Emperor Joshua A. Norton is often
credited with the idea of bridging the bay between San Francisco and
His most famous decreeMarch 23, 1872which ordered
construction of a bridge between Oakland Point and Goat Island, was
apparently based upon concepts outlined in several newspaper articles during
the early 1870s. Norton was, clearly, a close reader of the local newspapers.
There were plans to construct a railroad bridge from San Francisco to
Oakland, and a Bay Bridge Committee was hard at work during early 1872
attempting to resolve political problems with the Central Pacific Railroad,
as well as San Francisco and Oakland interests, to build such a bridge.
The April 1872 issue of the San Francisco Real Estate Circular
contained a small item about the Board of Supervisors committee
investigating the potential of bridging the bay:
Complimentary to Selby, Ralston and Otis.
The Bay Bridge Committee lately submitted its report to the Board of
Supervisors, in which compromise with the Central Pacific was recommended;
also the bridging of the bay at Ravenswood and the granting of railroad
facilities at Mission Bay and on the water front. Wm. C. Ralston,
ex-Mayor Selby and James Otis were on this committee. A daily newspaper
attempts to account for the advice of these gentlemen to the city by
hinting that they were afraid of the railroad company, and therefore made
their recommendations to suit its interests. This must be highly gratifying
to the parties named, particularly to a self-made and independent man
like Selby. He was the first person here, too, in his official capacity of
Mayor, to recommend the granting of aid to the Thirty-Fifth Parallel
(opposition) road. He does not now howl with the crowd, however, therefore
suspicion must be cast upon his unselfish recommendations, and the most
sordid and cringing motives attributed to him.
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