As Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover brokered the 1922 Colorado River Compact to divide the river's water proportionally among seven states. Legal wrangling prevented the start of the dam until outgoing President Calvin Coolidge authorized the Boulder Canyon Project in December 1928.
Surveyors originally recommended the dam be constructed at Boulder Canyon, leading the initiative to be called the Boulder Canyon Dam Project. Even when Black Canyon later was deemed a better location for the new structure, it continued to be referred to as the Boulder Dam. However, on September 17, 1930, at a ceremony in Nevada to mark the start of construction on a railroad line to the dam site, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur announced the dam would be named for his boss, President Herbert Hoover, who had been inaugurated in 1929. In 1933, Hoover was succeeded in the White House by Franklin Roosevelt, and the new secretary of the interior, Harold Ickes, no fan of Hoover, declared the structure would once again be called Boulder Dam. By that point, the name Herbert Hoover also had taken on negative associations for a number of Americans, who blamed him for the Great Depression.
In the ensuing years, Hoover Dam and Boulder Dam were used “interchangeably, the preference often depending on the political leanings of the speaker,” according to Michael Hiltzik, author of “Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century.” Finally, in April 1947, President Harry Truman approved a congressional resolution that officially confirmed the dam would carry Hoover’s name.
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