The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1973, Volume 19, Number 4
Cover: Morning on the Bay by Alfred Mitchell


Dear Editor: It was with much interest that I read the review of Professor Richard T. Ruetten of the book, Phil Swing And Boulder Dam, by Beverley Bowen Moeller. [Journal of San Diego History, Summer, 1973].I suggest that had Professor Ruetten looked a bit deeper for facts, he would have found more in error than merely the year in which Phil Swing first started serving in Congress.

I agree fully with all the complimentary things said about Phil Swing. He was indeed a dedicated worker for the Dam, the All American Canal, and development of the power potential of the river. However, I recall no action of Herbert Hoover indicating other than full support. I do recall Mr. Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce in the Coolidge administration, speaking to several hundred concerned persons in El Centro on the hoped for Colorado river development. He discussed the potential of the Dam and advantages to be gained by an All American Canal and ended his speech with advice on how the people should proceed to bring the project into a reality.

It was tactics on the part of Senator Hiram Johnson, not Herbert Hoover, that resulted in four years’ delay in ratification of the compact between the states concerned.

Seeking support in the upper house, Congressman Swing had joined with Senator Hiram Johnson in preparation of a bill to authorize Federal construction of the Dam. The bill was so loaded with Hiram Johnson’s philosophy that it would never have passed Congress had not Mr. Hoover and the then Secretary of Interior, Dr. Hubert Work, re-written the bill, revising such matters as would have made its passage by the Congress impossible.

I feel Beverley Bowen Moeller has little liking for Herbert Hoover, and because of this, has regrettably let her prejudice effect the accuracy of a commendable effort.

In order to set the record right in regard to the name of the Dam: When work was started on this Colorado River Dam September 8, 1930, Secretary Wilbur followed the precedent of naming large Federal Dams after presidents, and named this greatest of all Dams, Hoover Dam. Still following precedent, Congress legalized the name through appropriations for Hoover Dam. It was said that a suggestion from Hiram Johnson caused Secretary Ickes to change the name to Boulder Dam. However it was during 1947 that the Congress, by a practically unanimous action, restored the name to Hoover Dam, which will ever be the official name of the great Dam.

I was a boy when my family moved to Imperial Valley in 1914. Because my parents immediately were involved, I speak from firsthand knowledge of the long struggle that finally resulted in bringing the Colorado River Project into being. My wife’s father, the late John Alfred Wiest, was one of many Imperial Valley Pioneers who literally spent years working on behalf of the project. He was a long time personal friend and always an ardent supporter of Phil Swing in all of his

Robert L. Sperry
Rancho Santa Fe, Ca.

Professor Ruetten replies

For reasons of clarity, I should have pointed out that Herbert Hoover eventually came around to support Phil Swing’s campaign for a high dam in Boulder Canyon. Hoover’s early role, however, as Beverley Moeller makes abundantly clear and as I mentioned in my review, was one of opposition and diversion. As for Mr. Sperry’s other points, including the controversy over naming the dam, they faithfully reflect those of Herbert Hoover and his admirers. Mr. Sperry might want to read Moeller’s book, which, judging by his comments above, he has not done.

Richard T. Ruetten
San Diego, Ca.

Dear Editor:

Many thanks for the receipt of your handsome Journal for Summer 1973 containing a notice of my Charles F. Lummis: Crusader In Corduroy as reviewed by Dr. Walton Dean.

I admit that I have long been an unadulterated whorshipper [sic] of an altruistic man who sought to improve the cultural climate in San Diego, and thus in California. Long may his tribe increase!

I fully acknowledge the faults your reviewer attributes to me in writing Crusader In Corduroy, but as a willing disciple of the Crusader, I object to Dr. Bean referring to Lummis’ gifts of half a dozen of San Diego’s destinctive [sic] cultural assets as “exaggerations.”

Also, I insist that he present the names of better claimants as donors of The Mother Mission, the Serra Cross, the Cabrillo Memorial, the Pala Indian Reservation, the Pala Mission, and El Camino Real, or to publish in your Journal his apology to the memory of one of San Diego’s greatest benefactors.

May I further suggest that San Diegans annually indulge in a moment of deserved hero worship on Lummis’ birthday, March first.

Dudley C. Gorden
Los Angeles, Ca.

Professor Bean replies

Professor Gordon misread my statement. What troubled me was that he seemed to give more credit to Lummis for the contributions of Cabrillo and Serra than he gave to Cabrillo and Serra; and in doing that, he was perpetrating a definite exaggeration.

Walton Bean
Berkeley, Ca.