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The Gate: The True Story of the Design and Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge by John van der Zee (128,000 words, 42 illustrations)

“John van der Zee has... mastered the technical details of [his] subject... [he has] used [his] talents as writer... to narrate not only the technical but also the human drama involved in bringing the concept of a great bridge to fruition. Engineering projects necessarily involve a large cast of characters, and van der Zee has portrayed his as deftly as a novelist might. The engineers in this book come alive as people, with all the faults and foibles associated with the human species. The story of the Golden Gate Bridge is principally the story of its chief engineer, Joseph Strauss, and he is both hero and villain of the piece... Strauss claimed he could build a bridge for under $25 million, and in 1921 produced an ungainly design that was priced at $17 million. The next lowest estimate was still four or five times as high... How Strauss’s ugly duckling evolved into the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge is a fascinating tale. It is complete with revelations about how Charles Ellis, a classics scholar and self-taught bridge engineer, really translated Strauss’s conceptual design into an engineering reality. The falling out between Strauss and Ellis, resulting in the latter being denied any official credit for his work on the bridge, was true tragedy... the history of the bridge itself... is a case study of personal and technological adventure bordering on hubris... John van der Zee has captured all of this in a fascinating book that shows that the best of cutting-edge engineering is much, much more than science and technology.” — Henry Petroski,

“John van der Zee tells the story of the [Golden Gate Bridge’s] creation, and while its realization was a complicated act of finance, politics and architecture, it was, above all, a masterpiece of engineering. Until
The Gate... the authorship of its structural design was obscured by the practice — still common among many design firms — of attributing credit to the head of the firm responsible for the project... Joseph Strauss... But the book — organized like a whodunit — reveals that neither Strauss nor the famous New York engineers who worked as consultants really engineered the bridge... The book is not only a tribute to what the author calls ‘a democratic masterpiece.’ It also sets the record straight: it was Ellis who did it.“ — Joseph Giovannini, The New York Times

“[A]n impressively researched, carefully crafted biography of the [Golden Gate] bridge and the ambitious men who built it. Two strong personalities dominate this tale: Michael O’Shaughnessy, City Engineer of S.F. who rebuilt the city after the earthquake of 1912 and who long dreamed of bridging the Golden Gate, and Joseph Strauss, the ambitious engineer who designed the standard form of drawbridge. In a propaganda struggle that lasted for more than a decade and which is presented in all its fascinating minutiae by van der Zee, the two slowly persuaded the city that a Golden Gate bridge was feasible mechanically and financially... van der Zee re-creates the grueling, Herculean task of construction... does a commendable job of vivifying the story of the bridge.” —

“It is wonderfully entertaining to read John van der Zee’s book and see the day-by-day machinations behind the building of what is really a giant work of art. It is also fun to read about the early 20th century engineer-dreamers who brought this country to the world’s attention as builders of the future.” —
Don Carpenter, author of Hard Rain Falling and Turnaround

The Gate, John van der Zee’s history behind the history of the Golden Gate Bridge, is carefully crafted and wonderfully readable. We discover the clash of egos as tall as the towers of the bridge itself, the enduring vision of beauty the site inspired, the forgotten opponents who almost did the bridge in, politically and architecturally, and the unacclaimed heroes who saved it for the rest of mankind.” — A.C. Greene, author of A Personal Country

“One of the top books about California that I have ever read.“ —
Kevin Starr, author of Americans and the California Dream