Bureau of Reclamation Lower Colorado Region Banner
Reclamation Home             Regional Offices             Newsroom             Library             Projects & Facilities

What's In A Name?

Painting of President Herber Hoover.Hoover Dam is named for Mr. Herbert Hoover, the Nation's 31st President. When construction of the dam was initiated, on September 30, 1930, Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur ordered that the dam to be built in the Black Canyon of the Colorado as part of the Boulder Canyon Project Act was to be called Hoover Dam. By a Congressional Act of February 14, 1931, this name was made official.

After Mr. Hoover left office, the names "Boulder Canyon Dam" and "Boulder Dam" were frequently used when referring to the dam, allegedly because the new Secretary of the Interior did not like Mr. Hoover. However, the name of the dam was never officially changed from "Hoover."

In the 80th Congress (1947), a number of bills were introduced to "officially" restore the name of Hoover Dam.

On March 4, 1947, House Resolution 140 was introduced for this purpose. The resolution read:

"Herbert Hoover, while Secretary of Commerce in 1922, presided as the representative of the Federal Government over two score meetings of the representatives of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming for the formulation of the Colorado River Compact. He had a major part in bringing the States into agreement. This compact, signed November 24, 1922, made construction of the dam possible by allocating the waters of the river system between the upper and lower Colorado River Basin, settling a 25-year old controversy. The Boulder Canyon Project Act, enacted December 21, 1928, when Mr. Hoover was President-elect, ratified the compact and authorized construction of a dam in Black Canyon or Boulder Canyon, leaving to the Secretary of the Interior the choice of sites. It also laid upon him and the Secretary of the Interior extraordinary responsibilities.

As President, Herbert Hoover took an active part in settling the engineering problems and location of the dam in Black Canyon; was required by the Project Act to obtain power and water contracts adequate to assure some $200,000,000 of revenues before construction was begun; settled the difficult and controversial questions involved in the allocation of the power, and made the revenue contracts which Congress required; and proclaimed the Boulder Canyon Project Act to be in effect on June 25, 1929. This Act ratified the Colorado River compact, which Mr. Hoover had signed 7 years before, and subjected all operations of the Boulder Canyon project to that compact. He subsequently reported to Congress, through Secretary Wilbur, compliance with its mandate that this project be built on a self-liquidating basis; Congress made the necessary appropriations (in acts which five times named the dam in his honor); the construction contracts were signed under his administration, and when he left office construction had been pushed to a point where it was more than a year ahead of schedule.

After Mr. Hoover left office, the Interior Department, for reasons that need not be referred to in detail here, avoided the use of the name "Hoover Dam" where possible, and used the names"Boulder Canyon Dam" or "Boulder Dam."

After hearing testimony relative to the need for clarifying the present situation with regard to the name of this dam, it is apparent to this committee that affirmative legislative action by Congress is desirable.

It is particularly timely that this measure honoring Mr. Hoover should come to the floor of the House at a time when he is completing the second of his great humanitarian missions for President Truman in the relief of world-wide suffering."

The resolution passed the House on March 6, 1947. On April 23, 1947, a companion resolution was passed by the Senate. And, on April 30, 1947, a resolution was signed by President Harry S. Truman restoring the structure's name to Hoover Dam. That resolution reads:

"Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the name of Hoover Dam is hereby restored to the dam on the Colorado River in Black Canyon constructed under the authority of the Boulder Canyon Project Act, approved December 21, 1928 (45 Stat.1057), and referred to as Hoover Dam in the Act approved February 14, 1931 (46 Stat.1146); in the Act approved April 22, 1932 (47 Stat. 118); in the Act approved July 1, 1932 (47 Stat. 535); in the Act approved July 21, 1932 (47 Stat. 717); and in the Act approved February 17, 1933 (47 Stat. 845). Any law, regulation, document or record of the United States in which such dam is designated or referred to under the name of Boulder Dam shall be held to refer to such dam under and by the name of Hoover Dam.

Approved April 30, 1947.

Last Reviewed: 9/10/2004