f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Bridge dedication pageant 1928

Posted Monday, April 27, 2015, at 12:00 AM

Participants of the bridge pageant when it was dedicated in 1928 pose for a photo that was taken on the grounds of St. Vincent's College. See close-up sections below.

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Sept. 3, 1978 Southeast Missourian, excerpt

On Sept. 3, 1928, Cape Girardeau was the place to be. Thousands from surrounding communities flocked here. Policemen from St. Louis assisted with crowds estimated at 30,000 and traffic. The dedication ceremonies were held on the campus of St. Vincent's College where addresses were heard from Sam A. Baker, governor of Missouri, U.S. Sen. Harry B. Hawes, and James A. Barks, Cape Girardeau mayor. Following these exercises were the crowning of a queen and presentation of a Pageant and Masque of Progress depicting the history of Cape Girardeau.

The bridge toll, which was $1 per auto and 10 cents each additional passenger or 20 cents per pedestrian, was not imposed for that day and hundreds walked across the bridge. Many can remember wanting their footprints on the bridge that day. Final preparations on the road surface were completed and the bridge actually opened to traffic on Sept. 12.

The jubilation and anticipation that had begun two years earlier and culminated that day in 1928 would in time turn to bitter disappointment.

For one thing, when the bridge was being built, it was assumed that many of the roads in Illinois would be paved, that the drive off the bridge on the Illinois side would not jolt to a gravel road. There was no pavement to McClure, Anna, Cairo, or Chester.

And then the big catastrophe occurred--the stock market crash and ensuring Depression. The bridge traffic dwindled as the Depression deepened and toll collections became negligible. There came a day then the bridge company could not pay on the outstanding $1 million bond issue nor on the community's own $403,000 in preferred stock.

On June 24, 1932, receivership proceedings were filed in federal court in St. Louis. The bridge was in bankruptcy.

When the bridge was sold at public auction on April 8, 1935, to the Industrial Securities of Toledo, Ohio on a bid of $850,000, with it went $175,000 in bonds and cash. So the actual cost to the purchaser was less than $700,000--less than one-half of the original price of the bridge.

The people who had invested their own money lost every cent. These were Depression years and many could not afford the loss.

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  • There's a part of me that thinks that there has to be an error in this article.

    If the toll was indeed $1.00, as quoted, check this out: $1 in 1928 equates to $13.57 in 2015. Annual rate of inflation was 3.04%, with total inflation over those years totaling 1,257.29%.

    No one today would be willing to pay $13.57 to cross a bridge, or if so, certainly only once.

    If someone was living in Illinois and working in Missouri, at today's equivalent of $13.57 per day, one would have to spend $407.10 per month or $4,953.05 per year. So, if the $1 toll is right, forget about the gravel roads in Illinois, given that cost, bankruptcy was inevitable.

    -- Posted by TheCape on Tue, Apr 28, 2015, at 11:17 AM