The story behind Item Code 1930 for Weather Ready Hand Repair is one about the spirit of hard work during exposure to some of the harshest elements imaginable, as a crew of thousands descended upon the Arizona desert to build one of the greatest human works ever completed: the Hoover Dam. Here's what it took to get the job done.
At 1,244 feet long and 726 feet high, the Hoover Dam is larger than the Great Pyramid. In fact, it was the first single structure to contain more masonry than the Great Pyramid. It's an arch-gravity dam, which means its foundation relies on gravity to keep the whole structure from falling down. That structure, at its base, is thicker than the length of two football fields (660 feet), and its mammoth retaining wall holds back the 590-feet deep Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States (the contents of which could cover the entire state of New York in 1 ft. of water).
It took more than 8.5 million pounds of dynamite to blast the foundation for the dam, plus the eight miles of tunnels that extended through canyon walls to help divert the mighty Colorado River during construction.
The Hoover Dam is located at the southern part of Nevada in the unforgiving Mojave Desert. During early construction of the dam, the summer of 1931 saw daytime high temperatures average 119 degrees.
The finished dam stands just shy of 800 feet above the canyon floor.
During the Great Depression, with hundreds of thousands of Americans in need of a job, some 20,000 unemployed men converged upon the Nevada desert in 1930 to sign up for work after plans to build the dam were announced. Construction officially began in March 1931 and lasted until the job was complete in 1936--two years ahead of schedule.
Some 16,000 men worked on the construction of the dam--3,500 at any one time.
There were 96 "industrial" fatalities during the dam's construction (though according to the Bureau of Land Reclamation, none of them are actually buried in the concrete there...or are they?). And those 96 don't include deaths by heat, pneumonia or heart problems. It's said 16 workers and other nearby residents died from heat-related causes during one 4-week period during the summer of '31 alone.
Even more perilous than heat, "falling objects" quickly became the most common cause of death to workers on the project. Much of the falling material came from clearing the canyon walls of debris to provide solid anchoring for the huge dam. And that demolition work--up to a height of 800 feet above the canyon floor--was performed by hand.
"High scalers" was the name given to the workers (some of whom were circus acrobats) who hung from ropes on the canyon walls as they drilled with jackhammers and packed dynamite. It's reported that from time to time, when the bosses weren't looking, the High Scalers would swing out from the wall and perform acrobatics for the men below. One such worker was even dubbed "The Human Pendulum" for his ability to swing coworkers and cases of dynamite across the canyon.
The first use of "hard hats" came about during construction of the Hoover Dam. The high scalers took to covering cloth hats in tar. When the material hardened, it could deflect falling objects to such an extent that the dam's construction company ordered commercial production of the hats. The early versions were called "hard-boiled hats."
Extreme heat, cold, heights and a public works project built on a colossal scale combined with national pride to create one of the landmark structures of the 20th Century.
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