Hoover Dam Construction Focus of Symposium

A worker stands on one of the arch jumbos placed in the four diversion tunnels for Hoover Dam.

OGDEN, Utah – An insider's view of the Depression-era construction of the Hoover Dam and a discussion of water and power in the contemporary American West will be featured at the third-annual Utah Construction/Utah International Symposium, Nov. 5-6 at Weber State University. The dam that tamed the Colorado River also energized a demoralized workforce, fascinated the international media and was generally considered one of the great wonders of the world.

 Two photographic exhibits, "Reporting the Hoover Dam Construction" and "Inside the Hoover Dam Scrapbooks" will open at a reception at 3 p.m. Nov. 5 in the Stewart Library Special Collections. The reception will also feature "A Boulder City Childhood," presented by Phyllis Barber, author of "And the Desert Shall Blossom" and "How I Got Cultured."

At 10 a.m. on Nov. 6, Richard W. Sadler, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at WSU, will moderate a discussion entitled, "Water and Power in the American West." Panelists are Sara Dant Ewert, associate professor of history at WSU, and Stephen C. Sturgeon, manuscript curator and adjunct assistant professor at Utah State University.

The photographic exhibits reflect images from 1930s issues of "The Western Construction News," thanks to a donation from the McNamara family, descendants of William H. Wattis, the first president of Six Companies.

Following the dam's construction, photographic scrapbooks were given to Six Companies officials. In 1990, Dorothy Hetzel, Wattis's granddaughter, donated a set of scrapbooks to the Stewart Library Special Collections. Additional sets came to Special Collections in 1999 as part of the massive Utah Construction/Utah International Collection, a donation facilitated by the late Edmund W. Littlefield, a former president of Utah International, Inc., and a grandson of Edmund O. Wattis.

This is the third symposium celebrating the Utah Construction/Utah International Collection, which includes some half million photographs and company records of a railroad-building company founded in Ogden in 1900 by the Wattis brothers, including Warren L. Wattis, with the backing of bankers Thomas Dee and David Eccles. After building railroads throughout the West, the company turned to constructing dams. In 1931, Utah Construction led the consortium that became Six Companies in winning a bid from the Bureau of Reclamation to dam the Colorado River and provide electricity and irrigation to the arid southwestern United States. Beginning in the 1950s, Utah Construction diversified into commercial, residential and military construction, as well as mining. Under Littlefield's leadership, the company focused increasingly on highly profitable international mining concerns, changing its name, in 1971, to Utah International, Inc. Littlefield and Marriner Eccles, the company's longtime chairman, groomed the company for what became a historic $2.3 billion merger with General Electric in 1976. With the donation of the Utah Construction/Utah International Collection to the Stewart Library, the history of one of America's greatest corporate success stories returned to its hometown. 

For parking and shuttle information, call 801 626-6975. For other information, contact Linda Sillitoe, Stewart Library Friends and communications coordinator, at (801) 626-7351.

Contact:

Linda Sillitoe, Stewart Library public outreach coordinator
801-626-7351 · lsillitoe@weber.edu

Author:

Linda Sillitoe, Stewart Library public outreach coordinator
801-626-7351 · lsillitoe@weber.edu