Since Labor Day is the celebration of the economic and social contributions of workers, it’s only appropriate that we take a look at the workers who helped construct one of the Seven Modern Engineering Wonders of the World and one that sits right in Las Vegas’ backyard - the Hoover Dam.

The construction of the Hoover Dam couldn’t have come at a better time for residents of Las Vegas and its surrounding area. Deep into the Great Depression, the Hoover Dam construction brought in between 10,000 and 20,000 unemployed people looking to make some much-needed money for their families. Being such a huge and lucrative project, men hoping to work on the site set up a squatter’s camp outside of the site called McKeeversville. Once construction began, Six Companies hired huge numbers of workers, with more than 3,000 on the payroll by 1932. By 1934, that number increased to 5,251. And while the dam saved several families financially, it was not without its problems.

In total there were 112 deaths associated with the construction of the Hoover Dam. The deaths ranged anywhere from heat prostration from the hot summer of 1931 to a drowning that was considered to be the first death linked to the construction of the dam. Of the 112 deaths, 91 were Six Companies employees, 3 were BOR employees, one was a visitor to the site and the rest were various employees of contractors not associated with Six Companies.

Not included in the 112-death tally were the men that died from pneumonia. Workers claimed that these pneumonia diagnoses were actually a cover up for death from carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of gasoline-fueled vehicles in the diversion tunnels. There was a recorded 42 workers that died from this “pneumonia.”

To commemorate the men and women who helped construct the Hoover Dam and who ultimately had to endure Nevada’s harsh climate, a Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum Boulder City Museum and Historical Association was built. The museum offers 3D, interactive displays and exhibits that describe the economic struggles of the time and the savior that was the Boulder Canyon Project that brought thousands of men work in the desert.

The museum offers great insight into how these men worked, how the women cared for their children in stifling heat at Boulder City and how much money the workers really brought in. There are several photographs, artifacts, oral histories and sounds of Hoover Dam construction to put you right in the middle of the action.  

This Labor Day Weekend take a trip to the Hoover Dam with one of Best of Vegas’ many Hoover Dam Tours and learn more about the workers who helped create one of the most impressive structures in our modern world! Right now SAVE over 50% on the Hoover Dam City Deluxe Tour by Airbridge; that’s only $35 for an all day tour! Or view the Hoover Dam from the skies with the Sky Combat Ace: WACO Bi-Plane Tour, where if you buy one seat, you’ll receive the second seat free!

Las Vegas, NV 08/30/12