Nevada's Historical Myths:
    Facing the truth about some of our
    best but tallest tales.
    by
    Dennis Myers & Guy Rocha

The Dead Men in Hoover Dam

"What people think is, is more important than what actually is so."

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln should know. A lot of people think he participated in the Lincoln-Douglas debates when he ran for president, that Ann Rutledge was his great lost love, and that he wrote the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope. None of which is true.

From Betsy Ross's mythical needlework to Ronald Reagan supposedly never getting the girl in the movies, our history is filled with "facts" that everyone knows are true- except they aren't.

Such folklore seems to grab the public imagination more tenaciously than the usually more interesting reality. Year after year, stories with no substance are repeated and retold while the facts remain buried.

In Nevada a number of tall tales have become accepted as truth and have in some cases resisted all efforts at correction. Here is one of the best known:

Workers Buried in Hoover Dam. This myth is the despair of Hoover Dam tour guides. Someone in every group taking the tour is sure to ask how many men are buried in the concrete of the gigantic dam. According to the story, on several occasions during the dam's construction in the 1930's a worker slipped, fell, and was covered by concrete as it was being poured. Unable to stop the cascade of concrete before the worker suffocated, supervisors had no choice but to allow the concrete to continue flowing- covering the worker and sealing him in the dam. This happened seven times during construction, according to the tale's most popular version.

Actually, the dam was poured in small sections, so about all a fallen worker had to do to get his face clear of the rising concrete was to stand up. Officially, 96 dam workers died of various causes, but none were buried in concrete.


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