James “Big Jim” Cashman

Big Jim Cashman (Owner 1931-1962)

While most of us know that Big Jim Cashman sold six Model 60 Cat Tractors to the Hoover Dam project back in 1931, there’s so much more to the story…

From the day he arrived in 1904, Big Jim Cashman was ready to make southern Nevada his home… which meant he was ready to work hard and take risks to transform his surroundings. He immediately realized that transportation was vital to people living in isolated areas of the state, so he established a stagecoach line out of Searchlight, Nevada.

However, Big Jim soon realized that stagecoaches would be a thing of the past, and he decided to become a successful auto dealer. (Some folks may be familiar with the name Cashman Cadillac… yes, it got its start with Big Jim!) By 1920, Big Jim had enough capital accumulated from his stagecoach line and automobile sales to move to Las Vegas and expand his business. He soon became a major part of the newly incorporated city and was elected to the Clark County Board of Commissioners.

Still determined to get people moving, Big Jim and a partner took off from land transportation and opened Boulder Canyon Airways, Nevada’s first franchised airline in 1923. Seeking to draw more tourists to Las Vegas, Big Jim also organized all kinds of races, exhibitions, and shows. An event that he started in 1935 is one we still enjoy today – Helldorado Days. Always looking to draw more people to his beloved city, Big Jim organized and led the first Helldorado Parade and continued on as parade marshal for many years.

While Big Jim was helping Las Vegas grow by leaps and bounds, he kept looking for more opportunities. As a member of the Colorado River Commission in 1928, he worked diligently to get the Boulder Canyon Act passed. On December 23, 1928, President Calvin Coolidge signed the act, thus designating funds to build the Boulder (Hoover) Dam.

As the dam was being constructed, Big Jim realized tractors would make the job quicker and easier. He wrote to Caterpillar and said if he were a Cat dealer, he could easily sell six Cat Model 60 Diesel Tractors. The tractor manufacturer sent him the order forms and on August 5, 1931, Cashman Equipment became an official Caterpillar dealer.