Historic lamp presented to state museum
The children of Wright L. Felt, who steered the construction of the first power line from Boulder Dam to Pioche in 1937, attended a ceremony Thursday at the Nevada State Museum for the official presentation to the museum of Felt’s historic commemorative lamp.
Joan Ashley and James Felt, both now in their 80s, traveled from Albuquerque and Southern California, respectively, for the presentation.
“They made the trip today to honor their father,” Bob Nylen, curator of history at the NSM, told the small audience, “and to let more and more people know about his accomplishments.”
The commemorative lamp was given to Wright Felt, then the director of Nevada Public Works Administration, by the Lincoln County Power District No. 1 in gratitude for his assistance in the construction of the 155-mile Boulder Dam-Pioche Power Line, the first line to deliver power from the dam.
That powerline, which cost $900,000 to complete, served as a model for the succeeding ones. The PWA under Felt’s direction provided about a third of the cost as a grant and another third as a long-term loan.
The lamp was presented to Felt on Sept. 25, 1937, during a festival to celebrate the line’s completion. It’s crafted from materials used during construction of the line.
Felt, born in 1893 in Meridian, Texas, was an electrical engineer at a time when many considered the new technology too dangerous for common use. As he educated and promoted it’s development among officials, his wife worked to persuade women that electricity was nothing to be afraid of and they would benefit from electric-powered appliances.
“Your dad was such a promoter,” Nylen said. “He realized, being an electrical engineer, that this was the future.”
As the public works administrator, Felt attended the Sept. 30, 1935, Boulder Dam dedication by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Later officially renamed the Hoover Dam, it was the largest federal project of its time.
Nylen explained that Pioche was selected for the first power line because of the economic benefits to mining in the area. Construction of the line, as well as construction of the dam, also generated jobs that helped pull the nation and state out of the Great Depression.
Acknowledging the difficulty in donating the lamp, a Felt family heirloom, Nylen said, “It has a good home. It relates to this state’s history and your family’s history.”
“It belongs here,” Ashley said.
Also in attendance at the presentation were Michael E. Fischer, director of the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs, and Peter Barton, administrator of the Division of Museums and History, as well as other members of the museum staff and general public. Gov. Brian Sandoval was unable to attend due to prior commitments.
The lamp is currently on display on the first floor near the entrance of the Nevada State Museum. It will be moved to the Cliff Segerblom photography exhibit, which includes photos of the Hoover Dam project. The Segerblom photos will be on exhibit through Aug. 2, after which the lamp will be moved to a permanent exhibit on the Hoover Dam.