Every year around 9 million people visit Hoover Dam. They normally come from Las Vegas on Hoover Dam Tours, visit this dam and the adjacent Lake Mead, the largest manmade artificial lake to store water for the power generating station – then they go ahead for other attractive tourist destinations as per their schedules to Grand Canyon Skywalk, Grand Canyon South Rim, etc. But few remember of the souls lost in building this great achievement in the history of construction. Thousands of jobless men left their home to settle here with their families at Black Canyon to tame the Colorado River. They worked for almost 5 years, here.
When America was turbulently shaken by the great depression of 1930’s the Hoover Dam project was undertaken and immediately it provided two essentials that were scarce; employment and shelter. When the project started many lucky winners found employment and a family shelter of own in a dry, infertile place, but with very few basic facilities as it was recalled “there was nothing green here, everything hot, baked and brown.’
However, the living condition of the dam workers improved from 1932 when Boulder City was created on a broad edge near Hemenway Wash. It consisted large dormitories for single men, one, two and three room cottages for families. There was an enormous mess hall that could serve 6,000 meals a day. There was a regular weekly supply of 12 tons of fresh vegetables and fruits, 5 tons of meat and over 2.5 tons of eggs. A man could get 3 square buffet meals for just $ 1.50 a day. In spite of providing all the comforts the city still looked like fortified camp or prison, with strict rules. Workers of Hoover Dam were devoid of most of the earthly pleasures; Las Vegas just 30 miles away looked liked a paradise for drinking, gambling and other comforts. There was no formal education system or adequate health care management.
The records on the number of fatalities on the Hoover Dam project are confusing. Some sources quote this number as 112, but it includes the number of deaths occurred long before the project was started. Some sources include the non-constructional deaths like death of family members of the workers. However, as per official statistics “industrial fatality” is 96, it includes the workers died during their work like, slipped from canyon wall, falling rocks, blasting, drowning,, or accident from heavy equipment, etc, but it excludes the number of deaths on account of heart failure, pneumonia or exposure to heat.