People love suspension bridges for many reasons: their beauty, their utility, their mathematical elegance, their long spans, or even for the regional bragging rights they confer.
When this website first launched in 2004, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE asked users to rank the top six suspension bridges in the world -- just a sampling of the world's spectacular spans (others are in China, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, and Portugal). These were the results.
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Main span: 1,280 meters
This bridge's opening day program bragged that the structure was the world's first "to span the outermost entrance to a great harbor." The bridge, painted a glowing color called international orange, boasts a striking Art Deco design. (Learn more)
Location: New York, NY, USA
Main span: 1,067 meters
New Yorkers' "Gee-Double-Yew-Bee" spans the Hudson River with two decks, to accommodate nearly 106 million crossings per year. The original plans for cladding the bridge in stone and concrete were scrapped when authorities saw and appreciated its stark, lovely steel skeleton. (Learn more)
Location: Kobe-Naruto, Japan
Main span: 1,991 meters
The longest suspension span on earth (as of 2004) also has the tallest towers. A 1995 earthquake struck while the bridge was under construction, moving the towers apart by almost three feet. Engineers altered the roadway plans to accommodate the change. (Learn more)
Location: Mackinaw City, MI, USA
Main span: 1,158 meters
Residents first proposed a bridge or tunnel connecting Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas in the 1880s, after year-round ferry service proved impossible in the cold weather. Seven decades later, engineers generated 85,000 blueprints and 4,000 engineering drawings for the bridge called the Mighty Mac. (Learn more)
Location: Halsskov-Sprogoe, Denmark
Main span: 1,624 meters
Denmark's biggest building project connected the nation's two main islands, Zealand and Funen. The bridge helped cut average travel times across the body of water known as the Great Belt from 90 minutes, via ferry, to 10-15 minutes on the bridge. (Learn more)
Location: Hull, England
Main span: 1,410 meters
This bridge spans the Humber River in East Yorkshire, near the site of an ancient Roman ferry service that operated around 70 A.D. Construction took longer than expected, but Queen Elizabeth II presided over the opening in July 1981. (Learn more)
The unusual life of David Vetter, who lived permanently inside a germ-free environment due to severe combined immunodeficiency.
Engineer James Eads tamed the mighty Mississippi, turning New Orleans into the second largest port in the nation.
The U.S. and the Soviet Union race to build the hydrogen bomb during the Cold War, thus beginning the nuclear arms race.
Robert Moses fueled some of the most ambitious -- and controversial -- public works projects ever conceived.
A Utah farm boy builds a prototype for a television, but is thwarted by movie studio executives wanting to control the technology.
In 1934, American polar explorer Richard Byrd became the first to experience winter in Antarctica's interior.
Native Alaskans, oil company representatives, environmentalists, politicians, and others tell the story of the 800-mile pipeline.
The first around-the-world air race was sponsored to prove that the airplane had a commercial future.