Tacoma, WA Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse, Nov 1940

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Sweet Ad Simile Soured by Jolt of Big Bridge Crash

TACOMA, Wash., Nov. 8 (AP) – Collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Thursday brought prompt action from one Tacoma firm.

An hour after the central span plunged into Puget Sound, workmen were tearing down the firm’s sign on a highway approaching the bridge.

The sign proclaimed the firm was “as secure as the Narrows Bridge.”

Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 8 Nov 1940

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Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Justly we measure catastrophe in terms of human lives. When a family escapes unscathed from a burning building, we look at the event as just a fire. The family that has lost all of its worldly possessions may not feel exactly that way but it is thankful that it has its life and health. So the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge does not attain a place among the great disasters. Fortunately not a single life went down with the $6,400,000 that sank into Puget Sound to dismay the salmon.

The loss of the long suspension bridge rates merely as a financial and engineering disaster. It it (sic) a financial disaster because somebody loses the investment in spite of the cheering announcement that it is not public money. It is an engineering disaster because the collapse becomes one of the few instances in which professional and construction skill has met a decided defeat. Nature has occasionally licked man at his own game. At the Tacoma Narrows, man simply beat himself. He didn’t have what it took to do the job.

Somewhere along the line, somebody failed signally. Engineers can plan and do the job because they planned and carried out successfully others as difficult or more so. But the human element failed somewhere. Now it is up to the profession of engineering to find why and fix the blame.

The bridge was gentlemanly about it. It gave full warning. Doubtless that is why no lives were lost. But we have a right to feel that engineering should have already discovered what was wrong.

Dallas Morning-News, Dallas, TX 9 Nov 1940

Continued