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Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 1, 2010
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Fittingly, noted the San Francisco Chronicle, the history of Hoover Dam is "just as roiling and dirty as the silt-laden Colorado." Critics felt that what could have been a dry, technical story of the creation of the dam became, in Hiltzik's hands, a fascinating social, political, and labor history. Although Hiltzik spares readers few engineering details, he also looks closely at key political compromises and issues and captures the colorful personalities of the main players. He also offers new insight into the tragic worker deaths. A few reviewers commented that the book doesn't live up to the promise of its subtitle; that quibble notwithstanding, Hoover Dam is a standout popular history.
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, 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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Top customer reviews
He was fascinating and I found his book the same.
I will use the word "inspirational" as his talk and my reading of Colossus inspired me to explore the lower Colorado.
I live in San Diego, and went east to the Salton Sea, created in 1905 by a levee break. We proceeded to Brawley, which owes its existence to Colorado River water. We found the start of the All-American Canal near Calexico. The All-American Canal was part of the appropriation bill the the Hoover Dam.
Seeing the Colorado in Yuma began my big awakening about the river. The wild Colorado, which for decades controlled the lives of humans living near it, is now under control. It is narrow, mild-mannered, and occasionally almost invisible.
Human activity is everywhere. Farming and leisure activities abound.
The majesty of the river's former self is most evident at Hoover Dam, where we want on a boat trip below the dam, getting a view that I missed in previous trips. I also explore Boulder City, whose history I did not appreciate before reading Colossus.
This book brought history alive, and helped my better understand what life in America was like from 1900-1935.
Also great information about the dangers of construction in that time period and the state of the country during the depression.
Well written, reads well, not dry like some history.
A good amount of the book also goes into the history of the Colorado River as the U.S. spread westward. Also on the politics and egos of the men involved with the wonder of the Modern World.
Just like the title says, Hoover Dam is a Colossus and was instrumental in making the U.S. what it become in the 20Th century.
I highly recommend this book
Having read many books on the development of the northern portions of the Colorado River, this one did an excellent job filling in the gaps about the southern portions of the river's development.
The author did a wonderful job explaining the huge engineering efforts of building Hoover Dam. Having just visited it in the past six months, I now want to return and see it again and explore with my better understanding of the project.
I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in western waters, the Colorado River, Hoover Damn, and water policy in the West.