The giant Hoover Dam has held the Colorado River back since 1936 and generates electricity. However, you will be surprised at how eventful its construction and name were.
1. The construction of the Hoover Dam forced Las Vegas to clean up its act.
When the public learned about plans to build a dam in Black Canyon, Nevada, the surrounding cities appreciated the potential economic downturn that such a company would bring. Las Vegas was particularly keen to house the project headquarters, and even went so far as to sacrifice its reputation as a “party city” to be worthy of honor. When Interior Minister Ray Lyman Wilbur, a key player in the project, came to visit the city in 1
2. An entire city was built to support the construction of the Hoover Dam.
Sin City’s efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and a planned community hosted the 5,000 employees. Miles of asphalt roads and railroad tracks connected the village on the canyon to the project site and neighboring Las Vegas. The community, known as Boulder City, still stands. However, delays in its development forced a large number of early workers to live in nearby Ragtown, which lived up to its name with extremely modest living conditions.
3. The Hoover Dam contains enough concrete to span the United States.
The Bureau of Reclamation – the department that subsidizes the project – supplied a whopping 3.25 million cubic meters of concrete for the dam itself, as well as another 1.11 million cubic meters for the power plant and additional facilities. That amount of concrete would be enough to build 3,000 miles of road – a full-size highway from one end of the United States to the other. In addition, the dam required approximately 5 million barrels of cement, almost the total amount of cement that the Bureau has used in the past 27 years of its existence.
4. The world’s largest refrigerator cooled all of the concrete used for the Hoover Dam.
As you may have guessed, all of this concrete has had some challenges. Without the intervention of the engineers, it would have taken 125 years for the solid concrete blocks to cool, and this gradual drying would have made the parts fragile. To speed up the process, an engineering team designed a mammoth chiller. The oversized refrigerator released more than 1,000 tons of ice every day, accelerated cooling, and shortened the project schedule by decades.
5. The first construction summer at the Hoover Dam was a record-breaking one.
The huge fridge had cut out his work for it. Work on the Hoover Dam began in April 1931, not long before Nevada’s Clark County had weathered some of its hottest temperatures. The month of June delivered an average daily high of 119 ° F, which triggered a wave of heat strikes among workers.
6. The workers at the Hoover Dam were great showmen.
Despite the punishing temperatures, the building attracted curious and enthusiastic viewers from across the country. Even more entertaining than the technological achievements of the project were the daredevil antics of the “upscalers” who roped down the Black Canyon to remove loose stone from the canyon walls. While one might expect such a job to be handled with extreme caution, the upscalers became famous for their playful, if poorly thought-out, stunts.
The audience particularly liked the antics of the daring Louis Fagan, nicknamed “The Human Pendulum” and “One-Rope Fagan”. When teams worked on outcrops in the canyon’s walls, they moved from one area to another by putting their arms and legs around Fagan and letting him swing them to their next point.
7. A heroic upscaler saved his boss’s life while building the Hoover Dam.
Fagan was impressive, but Oliver Cowan trumped his colleagues when he snatched his falling boss straight from the sky. When Bureau of Reclamation engineer Burl R. Rutledge lost his footing on a safety line up in the canyon, he would have fallen to his death if Cowan, who was doing a 25-foot strike, hadn’t grabbed his leg when he fell . Shortly after the episode, the city of Las Vegas campaigned for a Carnegie medal to honor the bravery of the local.
8. The chief engineer of the Hoover Dam has made his workers bad in the local press.
Not everyone was so impressed with the workforce. The dangers on the construction site and the poor conditions in Ragtown contributed to the workers’ strike decision in 1931. A committee was formed to express the demands of the workers, whom the chief engineer and superintendent of the project, Francis Trenholm Crowe, defiantly disliked. In fact, Crowe contested the team’s concerns with the suggestion to replace the workforce. Print interviews in local news publications cited Crowe as “dissatisfied” whom he “would like to get rid of”. The hard move worked, and finally the workers returned to work.
9. Nobody really wanted to name the dam after Herbert Hoover.
In retrospect, it seems strange that one of the country’s most impressive accomplishments is named after one of its least beloved presidents. In fact, Hoover is said to have earned the honor only through a political advertising stunt. In 1930 Interior Minister Wilbur traveled to the official opening of the dam project. He used the magnificence to explain: “I have the honor and privilege of giving this new structure a name. In Black Canyon, it is referred to as the Hoover Dam under the Boulder Canyon Project Act. “
In other words, Wilbur named the dam after its boss. Since Hoover was already widely slandered for its share in triggering the global economic crisis, the name was fiercely contested. Wilbur’s successor, Harold L. Ickes, was a particularly vocal critic, and in 1933 he changed the name of the structure under construction to “Boulder Dam”.
10. Herbert Hoover was not even invited to the inauguration of the dam.
Ickes was hardly alone in his low opinion of Hoover. Even his own boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, didn’t think much of Hoover’s ingenuity as president. When the FDR supervised the inauguration of the still nebulously named dam in 1935, he refused to invite his predecessor and even refused to give Hoover the expected nod in his solemn speech.
11. The Hoover Dam was not officially named until 1947.
The dam spent the 14 years after Ickes’ proclamation without an official name. On April 30, 1947, President Harry S. Truman finally signed a law that approved the original Hoover grip and recognized the hand of the 31st President that even brought the dam to life.
12. The Nazis tried to blow up the Hoover Dam.
In 1939, the US government learned of a plan by German Nazi agents to bomb the Hoover Dam and its power plants. Destroying the dam itself was not the central goal, but stopping its energy production was a key element in the agents’ plan to undercut the California aviation industry. To ward off airstrikes, the authorities considered painting the Hoover Dam or even building a deception dam downstream from reality. In the end, the Germans only managed to carry out on-site investigations before their trick was lifted, thanks to an increase in military security around the dam.
13. Today the Hoover Dam is helping to power three states.
The dam’s energy helps customers in California, Arizona and Nevada keep the lights on. It creates enough electricity for 1.3 million people.
14. The Hoover Dam was once the world’s tallest dam.
When the Hoover Dam was completed in 1936, it was remarkable not only because it had completed construction two years earlier than planned, but also because of its unprecedented size. The Black Canyon structure stretched 726 feet from base to tip, practically hovering over the old record holder, Oregon’s 420-foot Owyhee Dam. After holding the title high for two decades, Hoover was surpassed by the 820-foot Mauvoisin Dam in Switzerland in 1957. Eleven years later, he lost his domestic title to the 770-foot California Oroville Dam.