Hoover Dam

The Story of Hoover Dam - Articles

Fortune Magazine - September 1933 (continued)

Walker Young helped design the dam and is on hand to see that it rises exactly according to specifications. But the man who is actually building it, probably the best man for the job in the world, is Frank T. Crowe. He has been called the Colonel Goethals of Boulder Dam.

Photo of Frank Crowe.Frank Crowe's last vacation was his honeymoon twenty years ago. He avoids cities except for required directors' meetings and an occasional football game. He plays the stock market a bit, buys Buicks exclusively for work on the job, and can be seen matching quarters with $4-a-day "muckers" while waiting for a big dynamite explosion. He twists around in a chair a lot while he talks, preferring the outdoors, and makes an absolute rule that no letter shall go out of his office over one page long. He believes any idea can be expressed in that space and that anything longer is a waste of words. He had one dominant desire in life--to work on dams--and has gratified that desire almost steadily since Arrowrock. He was U.S. Construction Engineer on the Tieton Dam in Washington and General Superintendent of the Jackson Lake Dam in Wyoming. For private contractors he built the Guernsey Dam on North Platte and Combre Dam on Bear River, California. His last job was the Deadwood Dam in Idaho, which began by walking with his construction gang through seventy miles of snow. He has one hobby-the development of men; specifically, the men who follow him by hundreds to work on his dams. His principal exhibit is Bernard (Woody) Williams, who first worked for him at thirteen, and now, at thirty, is in complete charge when Crowe leaves Black Canyon for Boulder City. For Williams and his foremen he has only one working rule: "To hell with excuses–get results!" He is tall, talks loudly, and laughs hard. He is noted for his humor. It was Hoover's Secretary of the Interior Wilbur who asked him how smooth the tunnels had to be to conform to specifications. "As smooth as a schoolmarm's leg, Mr. Wilbur, and if I remember my geography that's pretty smooth." He knows thousands of construction laborers by their first names and "generally how many kids they got." He went to the University of Maine, as did the rather less rugged Mr. Rudy Vallee. He is down in Black Canyon most of the day and often part of the night. As a boy he swallowed a cigar and still cannot tolerate the taste of tobacco. He conveys an irresistible impression of drive, and translates it into almost magical results. The men dislike to work that hard, but they like Crowe. They work that hard. Once he had an incipient strike on his hands. The labor committee entered to present their demands. He got up before the leader could open his mouth. "Gentlemen," he said, "the answer is NO." There was no strike.

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Last Updated: 7/13/22