Book ID: CBB752609542

Imaging Hoover Dam: the Making of a Cultural Icon (2014)


The mighty Hoover Dam, starting as a dream of land developers and farmers, became the most ambitious civil engineering project of the Great Depression. This landmark in the middle of the Mojave Desert, holding back the largest man-made lake in America, also became, like Mount Rushmore or the Empire State Building, a visual and cultural icon. The power and meanings of this icon came not through a single image but via myriad visual representations, in government propaganda, advertising, journalism, and art. Even before it was built, these images were used to shape the public’s perception of the project and frame the dam as the linchpin to an expanding American economic empire in the desert Southwest. Anthony F. Arrigo has researched a wide array of primary sources and archival materials to trace the project from its earliest representations in illustrations to the documentary photography of its construction and later depictions of the structure in commercial promotions, fine art photography, and paintings. Analyzing Hoover Dam through the trajectory of imagery across several decades, rather than the narrative of its construction, illuminates the underlying cultural and ecological imperatives in the drive to build it, including the influence of religious doctrine and the American agrarian movement. Arrigo also discusses various portrayals of laborers, women, minority groups, nature, and technology in this imagery. In time, the visual icon of power and domination was commercialized to sell cars, vacations, and more. Imaging Hoover Dam is an important work in both visual rhetoric and media studies. It will also intrigue readers interested in such varied topics as the history of the American Southwest, the Great Depression and the New Deal, social and environmental issues, and American popular culture.

Reviewed By

Review Helen Langa (2015) Review of "Imaging Hoover Dam: the Making of a Cultural Icon". Journal of American History (pp. 917-917). unapi

Review Julie Cohn (2016) Review of "Imaging Hoover Dam: the Making of a Cultural Icon". Environmental History (pp. 387-388). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Jackson, Donald C.
West, Nancy Martha
Glazer, Nathan
Huizen, Philip Van
Buse, Peter
Launius, Roger D.
IA. The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology
Pacific Historical Review
New Formations
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
American Heritage of Invention and Technology
History of Psychiatry
University of Virginia Press
Princeton University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
University of California Press
University of Pittsburgh Press
Oxford University Press
Technology and culture
Popular culture
Visual representation; visual communication
Eastwood, John S.
Ferriss, Hugh (1889-1962)
Fuller, Richard Buckminster
Geddes, Norman Bel (1893-1958)
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
21st century
20th century, early
United States
London (England)
Great Britain
Colorado River (North America)
Pennsylvania (U.S.)
Delaware and Hudson Railroad Corporation

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