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Captains of Industry - May 10, 2019

Hoover Dam, along the Colorado River in Arizona and Nevada, built in part by Bechtel Corporation in 1931.

Q: Bechtel Corporation was one of six companies that joined forces to build the Hoover Dam in 1931. The founder of Bechtel Corporation grew up in a small Kansas town. Who was the founder -- and from which Kansas high school did he graduate?

A: Warren A. Bechtel / Peabody, Kansas, High School 

Six Companies, Inc., was the name of a joint venture of construction companies that formed to build the Hoover Dam. One of the six companies was Bechtel Corporation, a private family-owned construction company founded by Warren Abraham Bechtel, who grew up in Kansas and graduated from Peabody High School in 1891. (While he was born in Illinois, Bechtel's family moved to Kansas when he was just 12 years old.)

It was in 1925 that Warren, his three sons and his brother Arthur (also from Peabody) joined together to form the W.A. Bechtel Company. Later, it simply became Bechtel Corporation. Of the Six Companies, Bechtel was the biggest player on the Hoover Dam project along the Colorado River in Nevada and Arizona. Bechtel is still one of the world's largest engineering and construction services firms. And it has helped build a lot of major construction projects all across the planet. Bechtel even helped build the Channel Tunnel -- or Chunnel -- between England and France! And the guy who started the company spent several of his childhood years in one of the smallest towns in Kansas. Nestled at the foot of the Kansas Flit Hills, Peabody has a population of about 1,200. It just goes to show you, great things can come from the smallest of places.

Fun factoid: As of 2017, Bechtel Corporation was the 8th largest privately-owned company in the United States.

Learn more about the history of Bechtel Corporation.

Check out more fun Kansas facts and history in KPR's online Kansas Trivia archive!

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