An American Adventure
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
In the spring of 1931, in a rugged desert canyon on the Arizona-Nevada border, an army of workmen began one of the most difficult and daring building projects ever undertaken—the construction of Hoover Dam. Through the worst years of the Great Depression as many as five thousand laborers toiled twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to erect the huge structure that would harness the Colorado River and transform the American West.
Construction of the giant dam was a triumph of human ingenuity, yet the full story of this monumental endeavor has never been told. Now, in an engrossing, fast-paced narrative, Joseph E. Stevens recounts the gripping saga of Hoover Dam. Drawing on a wealth of material, including manuscript collections, government documents, contemporary newspaper and magazine accounts, and personal interviews and correspondence with men and women who were involved with the construction, he brings the Hoover Dam adventure to life.
Described here in dramatic detail are the deadly hazards the work crews faced as they hacked and blasted the dam’s foundation out of solid rock; the bitter political battles and violent labor unrest that threatened to shut the job down; the deprivation and grinding hardship endured by the workers’ families; the dam builders’ gambling, drinking, and whoring sprees in nearby Las Vegas; and the stirring triumphs and searing moments of terror as the massive concrete wedge rose inexorably from the canyon floor.
Here, too, is an unforgettable cast of characters: Henry Kaiser, Warren Bechtel, and Harry Morrison, the ambitious, headstrong construction executives who gambled fortune and fame on the Hoover Dam contract; Frank Crowe, the brilliant, obsessed field engineer who relentlessly drove the work force to finish the dam two and a half years ahead of schedule; Sims Ely, the irascible, teetotaling eccentric who ruled Boulder City, the straightlaced company town created for the dam workers by the federal government; and many more men and women whose courage and sacrifice, greed and frailty, made the dam’s construction a great human, as well as technological, adventure.
Hoover Dam is a compelling, irresistible account of an extraordinary American epic.
Joseph E. Stevens, a graduate of Princeton University, lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His first book, Hoover Dam: An American Adventure, was published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1988. It received the Western Writers of America Spur Award, the John H. Dunning Prize of the American Historical Association, and the W. Turrentine Jackson Prize of the Western History Association.