During the years of lobbying leading up to the passage of legislation authorizing the dam in 1928, the dam was generally referred to by the press as "Boulder Dam" or "Boulder Canyon Dam", notwithstanding the fact that the proposed site had been shifted to Black Canyon. The Boulder Canyon Project Act of 1928 (BCPA) never mentions a proposed name or title for the dam. The BCPA merely allows the government to "construct, operate, and maintain a dam and incidental works in the main stream of the Colorado River at Black Canyon or Boulder Canyon".
When Secretary Wilbur spoke at the ceremony starting the building of the railway between Las Vegas and the dam site on September 17, 1930, he named the dam "Hoover Dam", citing a tradition of naming dams after Presidents, though none had been so honored during their terms of office. Wilbur justified his choice on the ground that Hoover was "the great engineer whose vision and persistence ... has done so much to make [the dam] possible". One writer complained in response that "the Great Engineer had quickly drained, ditched, and dammed the country".
After Hoover's election defeat and the accession of the Roosevelt administration, Secretary Ickes ordered on May 13, 1933 that the dam be referred to as "Boulder Dam". Ickes stated that Wilbur had been imprudent in naming the structure after a sitting president, that Congress had never ratified his choice, and that it had long been referred to as Boulder Dam. When Ickes spoke at the dedication ceremony on September 30, 1935, he was determined, as he recorded in his diary, "to try to nail down for good and all the name Boulder Dam". At one point in the speech, he spoke the words "Boulder Dam" five times within thirty seconds. Further, he suggested that if the dam were to be named after any one person, it should be for California Senator Hiram Johnson, a lead sponsor of the authorizing legislation. Roosevelt also referred to the dam as Boulder Dam, and the Republican-leaning Los Angeles Times, which at the time of Ickes' name change had run an editorial cartoon showing Ickes ineffectively chipping away at an enormous sign "HOOVER DAM", reran it showing Roosevelt reinforcing Ickes, but having no greater success.
In the following years, the name "Boulder Dam" failed to fully take hold, with many Americans using the two names interchangeably and mapmakers divided as to what name should be printed. Memories of the Great Depression faded, and Hoover to some extent rehabilitated himself through good works during and after World War II. In 1947, a bill passed both Houses of Congress unanimously restoring the name to "Hoover Dam". Ickes, who was by then a private citizen, opposed the change, stating, "I didn't know Hoover was that small a man to take credit for something he had nothing to do with