“’Ten years ago the place where we are gathered was an unpeopled, forbidding desert. In the bottom of a gloomy canyon, whose precipitous walls rose to a height of more than a thousand feet, flowed a turbulent, dangerous river. The mountains on either side of the canyon were difficult to access with neither road nor trail, and their rocks were protected by neither trees nor grass from the blazing heat of the sun. The site of Boulder City was a cactus-covered waste. The transformation wrought here in these years is a twentieth-century marvel’” (Aldridge 84). These remarks by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the dedication ceremony for the Hoover Dam highlight the harsh and hostile conditions that had to be overcome in the construction of this colossal structure. Even though the Hoover Dam was built during the Great Depression with limited resources and required many hardships to be endured by the people involved, it is an amazing architectural marvel that tamed the Colorado River which has stood the test of time and is still in operation today.
The spectacular Hoover Dam did not rise easily because of the variety of different hazards to overcome. The construction of the Hoover Dam involved six companies employing five thousand people to fill the jobs (Zuchlke 19). The construction process took five years to complete and all materials were brought to the site by boat (Aldridge 68). The project started with four diversion tunnels being blasted from the rock. This task required one ton of dynamite for every fourteen feet of the rock. After the workers blasted the tunnels, they cleaned the bottoms of all the debris and lined them with concrete. It took fourteen months to complete the tunnels; they opened on November 14, 1932, and closed after the dam was finished, which resulted in the formation of Lake Meade (Aldridge 70). To keep the worksite from flooding, building the cofferdams was the next task, using rubble from the diversion tunnels (Zuchlke 22). The focus then shifted to installing the generators below the dam (Zuchlke 26). The dam itself consisted of concrete blocks that fit together like bricks (Zuchlke 24). It also used interlocking columns. Workers next blasted away the rocks on the walls to make the walls smoother (Zuchlke 23). They finished the concrete structure of the dam on May 29, 1935 with the pouring of the last bucket of concrete (Graham 21). To keep the water from going over the top of the dam, workers built spillways (Aldridge 76-77), along with four intake towers to regulate how much water goes into the power plant (Zuchlke 25). The construction crew also erected a power plant at the base of the dam. Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the Hoover Dam on September 30, 1935. (Graham 26).
Because of the complexity of the construction process and the environmental conditions, the workers employed on the Hoover Dam faced many problems. The climate was harsh; it could reach temperatures of 120°F (49°C) and dehydration was on ongoing concern, ultimately claiming the lives of fourteen men (Aldridge 55). In addition, the extreme heat caused most foods to spoil, which meant the workers had to eat solely from cans. The companies lacked any concern about the workers’ safety, and dangerous conditions existed throughout the workplace (Aldridge 58). Workers could die from falls from unstable work positions, carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution, and falling rock. To address the constant problem of falling rock, the workers invented the hard hat by putting two baseball caps together, covering with tar, and letting them harden. The constant hazards eventually caused the workers to strike for better working conditions. The strike lasted for eight days, during which time the company fired some men, but the workers ultimately did get more safety measures put into place. The conditions improved by having lighting installed, making water available at all times, and building Boulder...
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