Old Photos: Building the Hoover Dam

Old Photos: Building the Hoover Dam

Building the Hoover Dam — 1931-1936

Construction of the Hoover Dam began in early 1931. The project took five years to complete and cost the lives of 112 men.

There were three valid bids submitted for construction of the dam. A joint venture consortium comprised of several organizations named Six Companies, Inc. submitted a bid of $48,890,955. This turned out to be the lowest bid, by nearly $5 million, and was within $24,000 of the confidential government estimate for the final cost of the project. Six Companies, Inc. was awarded the contract to build the Hoover Dam.

Building the Hoover Dam - Officials ride in one of the penstock pipes of the nearly completed Hoover Dam - 1935

1935 – Building the Hoover Dam: Officials ride in one of the penstock pipes of the nearly completed Hoover Dam.

In the first part of the 20th century, southwestern expansion of the United States created a high demand for both electricity and water. During this same time period, the Colorado River experienced a series of devastating floods. This created the perfect scenario for authorization of a hydroelectric dam to be built on the Colorado.

1928 - Inspection party near the proposed site of the dam, Black Canyon on the Colorado River

1928: Inspection party near the proposed site of the dam, Black Canyon on the Colorado River.

Although the dam would take only five years to complete, the project technically took nearly 30 years from start to finish. An engineer from the Bureau of Reclamation, Arthur Powell Davis, envisioned the dam in 1902 and created an engineering report at that time. Davis’s report would become the guiding document for creation of the dam when plans were finalized in 1922.

Hoover Dam Construction - A surveyor signals to colleagues during construction of the dam - 1932

1932: A surveyor signals to colleagues during construction of the dam.

Some 21,000 men worked to build the Hoover Dam over those five years, with 5,251 men officially employed simultaneously at the peak of the project. The Great Depression was in full swing and tens of thousands of potential workers flocked to the construction site. Entire families camped out at the Hoover Dam construction site in temperatures of 120+ degrees Fahrenheit.

31st president of the United States, Herbert Hoover, was a crucial part of bringing Davis’s original plans for the dam to reality. Hoover was a dedicated conservationist and became devoted to having a mighty dam build in Boulder Canyon, Colorado. In addition to the much needed thousands of jobs the project would provide, it also meant a solution to the much needed flood control for the Colorado River and would provide a dependable water and electricity supply for the western half of the United States, Los Angeles and other southern California communities in particular.

May 12, 1933 - Hoover Dam - Four tons of dynamite are detonated in the Boulder Canyon during the early stages of construction

May 12, 1933: Four tons of dynamite are detonated in the Boulder Canyon during the early stages of constructing the Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam Construction - Workers on canyon walls and dump trucks - 1933

1933: Workers on canyon walls and dump trucks entering / leaving the construction site.

Although the Hoover Dam project had backing from the president of the United States and regional consensus that it was needed, Congressional approval and individual state agreement took quite some time to obtain. The delay was caused by an argument around water rights among the western states and claims on the Colorado River. To ratify these concerns, President Hoover negotiated the Colorado River Compact, dividing the water into two distinct regions. Once this agreement was reached between the states, Hoover then had to seek approval from the House and Senate. This required several bills to be introduced over the course of a few years before approval was finally granted in 1928.

Hoover Dam Construction - Another 1933 photo showing the massive scale of the project

1933: Another 1933 photo showing the massive scale of the project.

President Hoover, in 1929, signed the Colorado River Compact into law, stating it was “the most extensive action ever taken by a group of states under the provisions of the Constitution permitting compacts between states.”

Building the Hoover Dam - Sept 11, 1933 - The concrete foundation of the dam is poured into separate blocks called 'lifts'

September 11, 1933: The concrete foundation of the dam is poured into separate blocks called ‘lifts.’

With the paperwork squared away and the project finally underway, the massive construction project, which was the largest dam of its time and one of the largest manmade structures in the world, sped along very quickly. Contractors finished work two years ahead of schedule and millions of dollars under budget.

Building the Hoover Dam - September 19, 1933 - Construction of the dam base continues

September 19, 1933: Construction of the dam base continues.

Hoover Dam Construction - 1934 - Another photo of the 'lifts' used to build the foundation of the dam

1934: Another photo of the ‘lifts’ used to build the foundation of the dam.

Hoover Dam - 1934 - LEFT A bucket holding 18 tons of concrete is maneuvered into position. RIGHT Concrete lowered into place

1934: LEFT – A bucket containing 18 tons of concrete is maneuvered into position. RIGHT – The 18 ton concrete is lowered into place.

Construction of the Hoover Dam - 1934 - Nice photo of the front of the dam

1934: Nice photo of the front of the dam during construction.

Building the Hoover Dam - ca1934 - The base of one of the intake towers under construction.

ca1934: The base of one of the intake towers under construction.

1934 - Building the Hoover Dam

1934

Building the Hoover Dam - ca1934 photo shows inside one of the tunnels

ca1934: Photo showing inside one of the tunnels.

Building the Hoover Dam - 1934 - Left and right hydroelectric towers

1934: Left and right hydroelectric towers.

Building the Hoover Dam - 1934 'High scalers' rappel down the canyon wall

1934 – ‘High Scalers’ Rappel Down Canyon Wall: To make certain canyon walls were solid and had no loose rock, workers known as “high scalers” rappelled down the walls, hammering away any and all loose debris. Falling rocks were, obviously, a serious hazard. So, workers created the first “hard hats” by dipping their regular hats into tar and letting them dry and harden.

Building the Hoover Dam - 'High scalers' using jackhammers to shave loose rock off the walls of Black Canyon - ca1935

ca1935: ‘High scalers’ using jackhammers to shave loose rock off the walls of Black Canyon.

Jan 30, 1935 - Student engineers stand atop one of the 2 million-pound hydroelectric generators for the Hoover Dam. General Electric factory in Schenectady, New York

January 30, 1935: Student engineers stand atop one of the 2 million-pound hydroelectric generators for the Hoover Dam. General Electric factory in Schenectady, New York.

Building the Hoover Dam - Feb. 25, 1935 - Construction of the dam proceeded around the clock

February 25, 1935: Construction of the dam proceeded around the clock.

Building the Hoover Dam - October 1935 - Construction of the dam is nearly completed

October 1935: Construction of the dam is nearly completed.

Building the Hoover Dam - 1935 - The dam is nearing completion

1935:  Nearing completion.

The Hoover Dam Almost Completed - ca1935 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt tours the dam

1935 – The Hoover Dam Almost Completed:  President Franklin D. Roosevelt tours the dam.

Building the Hoover Dam - 1936 - Workers apply a coat of paint to one of the dam's spillways

1936:  Workers apply a coat of paint to one of the dam’s spillways.

Building the Hoover Dam - September 11, 1936 - The dam is up and running

September 11, 1936:  The dam is up and running.

Building the Hoover Dam - 1940 - Spectacular view of the completed Hoover Dam

1940:  Spectacular view of the completed Hoover Dam and Colorado River.

Today, the Hoover Dam is the 2nd largest dam in the United States and 18th tallest globally. The hydroelectric dam serves more than 1.3 million people in cities throughout California, Nevada and Arizona. As Hoover Dam artist Oskar Hansen stated, it stands as “a monument to collective genius exerting itself in community efforts around a common need or ideal.”

(Images: Corbis/ Getty Images, via Mashable)


Interesting Hoover Dam Fact:
There is a rumor that bodies are entombed within the walls of the dam. While this is an untrue myth, there is one very strange coincidence pertaining to the 112 men who lost their lives during construction of the Hoover Dam. The first unfortunate person to be killed working on the project was a surveyor named J. G. Tierney. Mr. Tierney drowned while searching for a spot for the dam on December 20, 1922. The 112th and final worker to die during construction of the Hoover Dam lost his life 13 years later on the exact day – December 20, 1935 – and he was none other than J. G. Tierney’s son, Patrick Tierney.


SOURCES AND FURTHER READING:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoover_Dam

https://mashable.com/2015/09/11/hoover-dam-construction/


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June 6, 2018 / by / in

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