Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century

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Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century

Author: Michael A. Hiltzik
Publisher: Free Press
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 512
Cover Price: $ 30.00

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The definitive account of the epic construction of the Hoover Dam, one of the the twentieth century's most consequential public works. For his history of a famous piece of infrastructure, Hiltzik selects one without compare. Decked out in art deco, the Hoover Dam is a beautiful immensity that awes throngs of visitors, and it boasts a construction epic reflecting Depression-era America: the first to impound the Colorado River//">Colorado River, the dam is both product and symbol of the politics of water rights in the American West. It is the 1920s iteration of the latter on which Hiltzik, a business writer for the Los Angeles Times, embarks in his fascinating account of the genesis of the Boulder Canyon Project, as the enabling congressional act called the yet-unnamed dam.

Starting the story at the torrid desert job site, Hiltzik recounts the rigorous organization of the project by the contract-winning consortium and its engineering chief, Frank Crowe. If Crowe's solutions to technical problems were audaciously titanic, the labor practices of his bosses were pitiless. Strikes were crushed; slack safety resulted in numerous deaths; and a whites-only hiring policy prevailed. Astutely conveying the characters of its creators, Hiltzik marvelously captures the times of the Hoover Dam. --Gilbert Taylor

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