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Las Vegas: An Unconventional History | Primary Source

Hoover for Boulder

Thousands searching for work during the Great Depression flocked to Nevada at the announcement of a new dam project. Before the 3,220,000 cubic yards of concrete were poured, a September 29, 1930 article in Time recounts the excitement that surrounded the project known as the Boulder Dam.

Hoover for Boulder
Gauntly in the sagebrush on a windswept Nevada plain about 22 mi. from the Boulder Canyon damsite stood Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur last week. He held a sledge hammer in his hand. Up over his shoulder he swung it, awkwardly but resoundingly brought it down on a silver spike, pinning together a 90-lb. (per yard) rail and its first tie. Thus he began construction (by Merritt-Chapman & Scott Corp.) of a Union Pacific spur railroad which is to link Las Vegas, Nev. and the Boulder Canyon of the Colorado River, first step in building the $165,000,000 Boulder Canyon dam. Three thousand Southwest officials and others heard the Secretary exclaim: "I have the honor to name this dam after a great engineer, who really started this greatest project of all time -- the Hoover Dam!"

Then all trooped back to Las Vegas. There they saw scenes reminiscent of the frontier days when the first railroads were thrown across the western deserts of the U.S. Oldtime "desert rats" swarmed into a small town which had boomed because of its geological location (Time, Feb. 10). Gaming tables and coin-in-slot pianos were prevalent. There was rough carnival in the atmosphere.

Notably missing among the celebrants were officials from Arizona, only Colorado River State to oppose the dam. Arizona's reason: the dam will divert water and power now hers to the other six States (Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, California).

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