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History of Nevada/Modern Nevada (1912-1945)

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Nevada's Economy 1912-1945[edit | edit source]

Nevada Miners During Gold Strike ca.1905

Background[edit | edit source]

Beginning as early as 1904, the state of Nevada witnessed many economic booms and declines that created an unstable economy which impacted property, work, and the population. Property prices often fluctuated depending on mineral strikes and environmental conditions. The seesawing real estate market inflated to four times its value, resulting in the same land being sold anywhere from $44,000-$250,000. Changing land costs were a common characteristic of economic conditions in Nevada that impacted equally both the population and State revenue. As a result of this, Nevada’s modern industrial economy was ushered in by economic transitions beginning in 1912, and continuing through 1945. During this time, traditional Nevada's economy drifted from a blue-collar mining hub, to a place where vice and sin defined the industry. With the legalization of gambling, divorce, and prostitution in the 1930s, Nevada's industry began to be dominated by the vices of men.

Nevada's Private Economy and Boom 1912-1918[edit | edit source]

From 1912-1918, there were many institutional innovations in Nevada that improved its tax collecting system and labour regulations. For instance, in 1913 the State Legislature established the Nevada Tax Commission in order to expand state tax revenue by ensuring equity in the assessment of all property, especially railroad property. This led to the creation of many systems that were essential to the modernization of its industry. The new system allowed for the implementation of: the highway fund and vehicle licensing act, the workers compensation commission, office of labour commissioner, and the State Racing Association in 1915. Nevada’s economy and population benefited greatly from these systems, and was able to maintain state independence despite the Federal Aid Act providing public funds for road construction. Even with federal support, Nevada still remained very independent as federal funds made up only two percent of the state's budget. Moreover, World War I turned out to be quite profitable for Nevada’s tourism industry. Vacationers were often diverted from Europe to California and rolled over Nevada’s newly built roads. These roads saw over 5,000 vehicles pass over them during the war, and provided a greatly improved distribution network for materials and minerals for the state.

Economic Bust and Shift from Private Enterprise 1918-1928[edit | edit source]

Unfortunately, Nevada’s prosperity during World War I would not last long after the end of the war. The state witnessed an economic bust throughout the 1920s with many of its private industries such as mining, livestock, and agriculture being hit particularly hard. As Nevada’s economic situation worsened, its mining industry decreased to only half of what it was in 1918. Consequences of this economic bust included a sudden drop in Nevada’s population with the 1920 census showing a population 5% smaller than the 1904 population. For the next decade, Nevada’s economic situation continued to worsen, as the divisive politics on how to remedy the economic troubles brought the two ideals of social and economic prosperity to a head. Individuals, supported by George Wingfield, tried to validate open gambling and the continuation of divorce laws as a means of filling the financial gap leftover from the war, while conservative socialists denounced the State's support of a sinful lifestyle. However, the legalization of gambling was not witnessed in the 1920s, and Nevada continued to endure an economic decline in the later half of the decade. For example, in 1927 livestock and agriculture was valued at an all time historical low, with cattle numbering less than half in the previous years. The only source of relief Nevada encountered was the construction of roads from 1921-1926, as the roads nearly doubled in length by roughly 1,500 miles, and the Federal Highway Funds demonstrated the beginnings of a shift in Nevada’s dependence on private enterprise to federal support.

Federally Funded Economic Restoration 1929-1945[edit | edit source]

The source of Nevada’s declining economy is arguably the result of their dependence on private enterprises. The state’s mentality to maintain independence from federal authorities changed with the acceptance of federal aid in 1929, which was a pivotal moment in the transformation of Nevada’s economy and infrastructure. By that time, federal support made up 27% of Nevada’s state budget, which is a 25% increase over a decade. This aid provided by the government supported the construction of roads and public works projects in the 1930s. This increase in federal support marked the beginning of Nevada’s dependence on federal funds, as later that year, Nevada’s state revenue exceeded its 1919 revenue by 315%. Federal investment in Nevada completely eliminated its dependence on private enterprise, and brought life back into its economy, signaling the rise of federal power in the state and the modernization of its infrastructure. The importance of federal funds in supporting Nevada's economy is exemplified by the construction of the Hoover Dam. As early as 1926, Congress discussed constructing a dam on the Colorado River in order to harness electricity and support irrigation. The construction of the dam which began in 1931 provided over 5,000 jobs for Nevadans and immigrants who would come to Nevada in search of employment during the Great Depression. Hoover Dam’s construction under the federal budget demonstrates how Nevada was embracing what would become Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal”. Nevada’s state budget consisted primarily of federal support during the Great Depression with federal spending increasing from $5,000,000 in the 1920s to $30,000,000 in the 1930s. Following the completion of the Hoover Dam in 1936, there was a bit of relief for Nevadans as tourism boomed with over thirty million tourists visiting the industrial marvel. Likewise, in the years leading up to World War II, Nevada’s economy recovered from the Depression by increased federal spending on projects such as the Hawthorne Ammunition Depot, which received funding for the production of magnesium and other chemicals for military works. However, federal authority in Nevada did not go unchallenged, and during the 1940s, Pat McCarran was one the best examples of resistance to the federal authority. He was adamantly against Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” and defended Nevada’s silver enterprise by attacking federal attempts at reform. McCarran’s resistance to federal authority embodied the Nevadans contemporary view of itself as a state, since they were in the middle of a social dichotomy of what they were, versus what they had become under federal support.

The Birth of Gambling in Nevada[edit | edit source]

Background[edit | edit source]

In 1909, the state of Nevada criminalized gambling and the running of all games of chance. This law became effective the following year. Then in 1931, wide open gambling was legalized in Nevada by the Nevada State Legislature. The public actively expressed that they wanted the decriminalization of gambling throughout the 1920s, and the Depression brought them an opportunity. They were able to lobby a majority of legislators on their side. The hard times of the Depression caused many to abandon their moral objections; many believed wide open gambling could save them from the tough times of the Great Depression. It was believed that legalization of gambling could lure in money from the rest of the nation, to aid in the development of Nevada. The members of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce were polled and the results found ninety members for legalization and only thirty-seven against change. It was signed into law by Governor Fred Balzar on March 19th.

State Acceptance[edit | edit source]

The legalization of gambling was welcomed in most of the country; especially in the town of Reno. This town was full of labourers, hired to build the city’s largest casino name The Bank Club. The most famous city in Nevada for casinos now is Las Vegas. Originally, Las Vegas was slower to develop and construct casinos. Many clubs that opened had been hosting illegal gambling before the law was passed, which was no secret to town police. The implementation of this law meant that gambling could be taken from the alleys to the casinos, making it safer. The beginning of casinos saw small, but promising economic improvement. A dramatic inflow of money due to gambling would come after World War II. This small economic bump was important in the history of Nevada from the legalization of gambling during the Great Depression. Nevada, however, began to feel the effects of the Depression in 1930 when their mineral mining industry decreased significantly. Bringing gambling from the streets to newly built casinos created work for the people suffering from the Depression.

Gambling was legalized on March 19th, and initially, wide open gambling would not be ready until April 9th, as it would take time to acquire proper licensing. Officials quickly declared that gambling could briefly take place without the proper licensing if the hosts payed deposits. Easter weekend attracted approximately 5,000 tourists to Reno for the casinos. Although gambling was legal, there was still a secretive feeling within the casinos. This was possibly brought on by the lack of proper licensing while they were opening, but the feeling stuck around. The opening nights of casinos brought tourists to Reno from all around, and many of them were from California. Las Vegas was a town of about 5,000 people at this time, and they experienced their development after Reno.

Las Vegas, Casino center Boulevard1

Legalization of gambling was well received by most people, but not all. Though the casinos brought fun for the public and economic promise, the opinion that gambling was not morally correct was popular. For example, an editor for the Las Vegas Evening Review- Journal wrote this about the topic: “Nevada should not become unduly excited over the prospects of luminaries from all over the world coming to the state to establish the gambling casinos made possible under the new regulatory law passed by the recent session of the legislature…. People should not get overly excited over the effects of the new gambling bill-conditions will be little different than they are at the present time, except that some things will be done openly that have previously done in secret. The same resorts will do business in the same way, only somewhat more liberally and above-board." Another example of casinos not being welcomed everywhere is in Elko. The district attorney ruled slot machines illegal in places such as supermarkets and grocery stores; generally frequently visited places. In addition to that, large fees were dealt to have a slot machine of $50/month and to have a $100/month to have a gambling device. This was all an attempt to discourage gambling. The government was not the only source of disparagement towards gambling. There were various groups, including religious groups, from all across the country that voiced their opinions of displeasure about the legalization of gambling in their country. Eventually though, gambling would be so beneficial to the economy and would shape the way in which major cities within Nevada developed so strongly that it would be the norm. Today, when people think of Nevada, they often think primarily of Las Vegas, and the city has become synonymously associated with gambling.

Business of Vice: Rise of Modern Nevada[edit | edit source]

The Great Depression[edit | edit source]

The stock market crash of 1929 did not initially hit the Nevada economy hard. This was mostly due to the fact that the state was far away from the financial centers of the east coast. At this point in time, the state had received large federal settlements, owed from the Civil War, and construction was under way on a new dam along the Colorado River. Nevada first felt heavy effects of the Great Depression in 1930, when state mineral production dropped by nearly half from the previous year. The immediate crash was not new to Nevadans, as they had experienced a similar mining low in 1921. It would take one more year for the Great Depression to truly hit Nevada hard. 1931 in Nevada was marked by a crippling drought and continual mining market stagnation. Federal support was slow to arrive in Nevada, leading the legislature to take initiative in economic regrowth . The legislature legalized gambling and made much more lenient divorce laws, which would spur the economy.

Modern Nevada is most prominently associated with lavish hotels, famous casinos, and a culture of vice. However, the state did not have such a major cultural aura surrounding it for most of its history. Gambling and Nevada have become synonymous with one another. Today, Nevada’s gambling taxes account for 12.5% of state revenue . Initially, Nevada was a state heavily dependent on mining. In fact, the mining industry was the backbone of the economy until the 1930s . The Great Depression had significant effects on Nevada, and as a result, the state government created new ways to stimulate the economy. A series of subsequent bans were lifted on activities such as prostitution, gambling, and divorce. These lifted bans transformed the economy of Nevada, and increased its allure to visitors from other states.

Gambling and Divorce[edit | edit source]

Legalized gambling was welcomed almost immediately in most towns, namely Reno, in the first few years after its re-introduction in 1931. Gambling was not a new phenomenon in Nevada. Illegal speakeasies had already been operating as casinos for years since gambling was made illegal in 1910. Much of the local public was already accustomed to gambling and considered the lifted ban an opening of closed-door gambling, without a significant change. Many existing clubs, which once operated as speakeasies, were retrofitted into casinos, the most famous of which was The Bank Club, located in Reno. The Bank Club attracted a very large crowd on the first night of legalized gambling. Much of the crowd consisted of Californians, and people interested in gambling who had never tried it before.

Gambling was not the only draw in Nevada. The Governor behind legalized gambling, Fred B. Balzar, was the very same Governor who signed the most liberal divorce laws as well. While America still had a close relationship between Church and State, Nevada slowly emerged in the 20th century as a state of sin. Due to the relaxed divorce laws, legal prostitution, and the rising gambling industry, an influx of Californians moved into Reno and other Nevada cities. Nevada used a “sin solution” to help the state get through the various economic booms and busts associated with the mining and agricultural industries. The solution marked a quick fix, but clearly had powerful effects on Nevada for many years to come. To put this in perspective, the population of Las Vegas (Clark County) was only 8,500 in 1930, and after the gambling ban was lifted, it increased exponentially, doubling 10 years later and reaching nearly 1.4 million in 2000. Las Vegas has become inseparable from the culture of vice and economy of gambling whose origins came from the Great Depression.

Gambling and Divorce Revenues[edit | edit source]

The gambling law increased revenue by taxing casinos in a number of ways. A casino would be charged on a monthly basis as follows: $10 for each slot machine, $25 for each table, and $50 for any other device or game used for gambling. The fees collected were distributed 25% to the state and 75% to the county it was collected in. Gambling was not met with enthusiasm in the entire state. Many religious groups from inside and outside of Nevada attempted to lobby the state government to repeal many of the laws. City officials in Spark City created a heavy fee on gambling institutions, charging $100 a month per gambling device and $25 a month per slot machine. Las Vegas was even hesitant at first, and only supported a limited number of gambling halls. The persistent taxing of gambling institutions did not create much revenue for the state during the Great Depression. The highest source of revenue for Nevada was actually the divorce law. Estimates of divorce trade value range from $1 to $5 million annually in the 1930s. By comparison, gambling was much less productive. In 1933, it only produced $69,000 in revenue for the state, and did not increase much during the 1930s.

Prostitution[edit | edit source]

The state of Nevada is the only jurisdiction in the United States where prostitution is permitted. Although some brothels in Nevada have been open since 1902, in 1937, a significant law was enacted to require weekly health checks of all prostitutes. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an order to suppress brothels near military bases, this affected the Red-Light districts of Reno and Las Vegas. When the order was lifted after the war, Reno officials fought to close down the brothels stating it as a public nuisance. However, the order was upheld by the Nevada Supreme Court in 1949.

An aerial image of Las Vegas in the present day. Las Vegas has experienced exponential growth since Nevada legalized gambling in 1931.

Lasting Effects[edit | edit source]

The Great Depression marked an important time in Nevada's history. It was the time that the state shifted its focus from the mining and agricultural industry, and expanded into different areas of state revenue. The introduction of legalized gambling and prostitution, coupled with relaxed divorce laws, brought an influx of outsiders into Nevada and transformed the state into the cultural icon it is today. Nevada quickly gained notoriety as its economy started to shift from traditional markets to more unconventional ones. Vice was a new form of economic stimulus in Nevada and it attracted visitors from many different states. “If you can’t do it at home, go to Nevada,” is how some people described the activities one could partake in when visiting the state. Most of the rapid expansion and growth of Las Vegas and Nevada occurred after World War II, but the groundwork for this accelerated transition began during the Great Depression. The Great Depression transformed Nevada into the modern cultural icon it is today.

Nevada's Role in World War 2[edit | edit source]

Raw Materials[edit | edit source]

Giant silos for the storage of raw materials for the manufacture of magnesium 8b08233v

When war was declared by the United States on December 8th, 1941, quickly following the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the state of Nevada was quick to answer the call. Having earned its nickname “the Battle Born State” (which became the official slogan of the state) through its involvement and achievement of statehood during the American Civil War, Nevada had never been a state to back down from conflict. When the American war machine was required to kick into gear, Nevada was extremely important in providing considerable amounts of raw materials to keep production rolling. One of Nevada’s most notable contributions to the market of raw materials was its massive amount of magnesium. In order to put their magnesium production into perspective, Nevada produced one-quarter of all magnesium used by the war department for incendiary munitions casings and aircraft parts. Basic Magnesium Inc. not only had a massive part to play in helping to generate magnesium needed for the war effort, but also created thousands of jobs and essentially laid the foundation for Nevada’s second largest city, Henderson. Once again, in order to comprehend the sheer volume of precious metal that this company produced, one must conceptualize the prospect of five million pounds of magnesium per day at its peak, and over 166 million ingots throughout the duration of World War II.

The Human Factor[edit | edit source]

World War II Memorial, Reno, Nevada (6320814726)

Aside from being a very important producer of raw materials, Nevada also had its part to play in contributing manpower to the United States Army. By the end of the war, a total of 545 soldiers from the state had given their lives in service of the country. Coming from a population of only 150,000, by war’s end in 1945, this was a significant contribution. Aside from supplying soldiers for the war effort, Nevada’s biggest wartime contribution came in its training grounds for allied airmen. The state's large and barren landscape was deemed perfect by the U.S government as a place where pilots could be trained and prepped for war. Throughout the seemingly plain desert, aerial shots still point to the existence of large targets that pilots practiced with. Very notably in this aspect, Nevada was producing trained B-17 and B-24 airmen at a rate of 600 gunnery and 215 co-pilots every 5 weeks. By the time World War II began to wind down, 45,000 B-17 gunners had been trained in the state. Often overlooked is the effect that these crewmen had on the war. As the allies pushed deeper into France, these bombing crews became more and more helpful as Axis resistance stiffened. Since Allied manpower began to diminish, the prospect of air superiority was a necessity. Bomber crews were sent by the hundreds to destroy important Axis cities and defense structures, making it easier for infantry and tank crews to continue their advance into Germany. One significant fact about this is that the most important bombing crew of the war rehearsed on the Nevada training grounds. This is of course in reference to the crew that was tasked with dropping the atomic bombs on Japan, effectively bringing World War II to an end.

USS Nevada 1943

The USS Nevada[edit | edit source]

Atomic Bomb Little Boy 2

While the state of Nevada did not take part in ship building, it did have a battleship that bore its name. Launched in 1914, The USS Nevada was a leap forward in dreadnought technology; four of her new features would be included on almost every subsequent US battleship: triple gun turrets, oil in place of coal for fuel, geared steam turbines for greater range, and the "all or nothing" armor principle. These features made Nevada the first US Navy super-dreadnought. The USS Nevada served in both World Wars, and was the only ship, belonging to the famed battleship row of Pearl Harbor, to set sail from its mooring and get underway during the attack. While it was furiously attacked and subsequently beached, the ship was repaired and sent to fight in the invasions of Europe, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. After the war, it was used as a target ship for atomic weapons testing and survived two blasts before eventually being sunk as a live fire target two years later. Overall, the ship perfectly personified the commitment and spirit of the citizens of Nevada during the war.

State Defense Council[edit | edit source]

An important war measure the state took was the revival of the State Council of Defense of Nevada. In March 1941, Governor Carville implemented this measure. In 1943, this council was altered and renamed the Civilian Defense Act, with one of the goals being to empower and organize county and community councils of defense. Aside from this, the Civilian Defense Act also aimed to cooperate with federal agencies in terms of food, labor, land, and industrial resources. This was a significant move in the sense that it really helped to portray a sense of unity and coherence throughout counties and the federal government. In essence, this act was a move to further reinforce the importance of having an organized and collective goal of winning the war.

The Upside[edit | edit source]

Furthermore, besides the obvious repercussions that come from fighting a war the size of World War II, there were some positives for Nevada. When it comes to what the state is primarily recognized for (gambling and casinos), it can be seen that it was largely advanced as a result of the Second World War. Thanks to its wide open gambling law, set out in 1931, Nevada was more than ready for the influx of soldiers that the war brought with it. The speed at which the gambling industry began to expand is exemplified in the quote, “Existing gaming tables and machines moved from backrooms and basements to main floors”. Simply put, thousands of young men with steady incomes, not much else to do, and a grim prospect that they might never be back to their homeland resulted in a dramatic climb of gambling in the state. An argument can be made that the speed at which Nevada began to grow and develop could largely be attributed to the initial presence of military personnel in the state. Finally, revolving around all of this would be the need for more jobs, as a result of the increased activity, as well as the beginning of a new culture in the state of Nevada.

The Hoover Dam[edit | edit source]

Background[edit | edit source]

The Hoover Dam is located on the border of Nevada and Arizona on Lake Mead and is considered a modern engineering marvel that came out of a time of massive economic instability in the United States. Built on the Colorado River on a site known as Boulder Canyon, which directly straddles the border of Nevada and Arizona, it was the largest dam ever built at the time. The colossal concrete structure measured 660-feet thick and 726-feet tall. The Colorado River had been prone to flash floods, rendering the surrounding land uninhabitable and unable to sustain agriculture. By constructing the Hoover Dam, the river could be tamed, bringing water to Nevada and providing tremendous amounts of hydroelectric power for a civilization with a growing dependence on electricity. The ever-flowing Colorado River was described as a nuisance to those living in the low-lying areas near the river. It was decided that the only option to solve this issue was to harness the power of the river through what would be the greatest engineering feat of its era, the Hoover Dam.

Postage stamp of the Hoover Dam, then known as the Boulder Dam

During the early 1900s, the Bureau of Reclamation was studying the Colorado River in order to better understand irrigation, flood control, demands for power and domestic water. Initially, Dr. Aruther P. Davis the commissioner of the Bureau in 1905 had the idea of creating a large storage area located in the lower part of the Colorado River. In the early 1920s, Congress authorized the department of Interior to make a comprehensive study of the Colorado River, with respect to irrigation and hydroelectric power. This allowed the study conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation to be presented to Congress in 1922, and this study recommended building a mega-dam near Boulder Canyon. The Fall-Davis report that was presented to Congress provided in-depth analysis of how to control water in order to prevent a flood. This report and its information, allowed President Coolidge in 1928 to approve the Boulder Canyon Project Act, which authorized the building of the Hoover Dam.

Construction[edit | edit source]

In response to the Great Depression, the New Deal proposed large public projects to aid and reinvigorate the economy.The Hoover Dam was one of these projects, but originally was called Boulder Dam and was one of three such projects. The Boulder Dam Project consisted of the Imperial Dam, Hoover Dam, and the American Canal. This project, which had been proposed for construction many years before the stock market crash, became a major source of employment for thousands of workers in the early 1930s. The project required $165,000,000 to finance and total of 5,000 men out 21,000 were allocated on Hoover Dam project. Prior to getting the act approved, rigorous studies took place in order to understand what was the best way to build the dam and where it should be placed. In 1932, the dam construction was finalized and the construction license was sold to the highest bidder, which was The Six Companies Inc. The $165 million project was ratified by President Hoover in 1929, just months before the stock market crash. Investments from corporations throughout the south-west made the dam a possibility.

The first big part of the project was to divert the Colorado river around the construction site. The design of the dam included four 50-foot in diameter diversion tunnels drilled directly into the canyon wall and were used to divert the entire flow of the Colorado River, while the dam was being built. Following completion of the dam, two of the tunnels were used as spillways and the other two as paths to the powerhouse.

Spillwaydamage

The powerhouse consists of 14 turbines capable of producing 1.8 million horsepower until an improvement project from 1986-1993 increased the dam’s output to 2.9 million horsepower. Dam construction began in 1931, on a federal grant of $165,000,000, this was an enormous amount of money for a civil project at a time in America, the stock market had crashed two years prior and many Americans were now out of work. After the stock market crash, many men who had previously held jobs such as factory workers, mechanics, salesmen, and lawyers amongst many others, migrated into Nevada with their families upon hearing of construction plans of the dam. The next issue was that of housing for workers. For the first-year, laborers were housed in tents exposed to the elements, many suffered from heatstrokes and where out in the open at all time thus exposing themselves to dust storms. This was resolved with the creation of a permanent campsite which later became the town of Boulder City. In this campsite, the workers would spend their pay in nearby bars, gambling dens, and brothels, which were located in Las Vegas. In the end, the economic and social upheaval brought thousands of men together to work tirelessly under the Nevada heat to complete the dam. Once Boulder city was created a 7-mile, 22-foot-wide asphalt highway needed to be created that connected the dam site and the city. There then was construction of a 32.7-mile railroad connecting the Union Pacific main line to Las Vegas, Boulder City, and the dam site. Finally, a 222-mile-long power transmission line needed to be connected from San Bernardino, California and the dam site in order to supply energy for the construction. The Hoover Dam was completed 2 years ahead of the planned 7 years. Construction began on April 20th, 1931 and went to March 1st, 1936, and the very last concrete placement was put on in May 29th, 1935 completing this mega-dam.

Workers and Worker Safety[edit | edit source]

Due to The Great Depression, there was an abundance of unemployed individuals, and The Hoover Dam attracted such workers. Unemployed workers from the Midwest were pulled in order to aid with the construction of the dam. Many accounts of locals of Las Vegas discuss the dynamics of the city changing overnight as workers piled in numbers for The Boulder Dam Project. Though the construction of the dam provided a great employment opportunity, it also came with major safety risks. There were many risks associated with building the dam; some common risks that caused deaths were carbon monoxide poisoning and pneumonia. The construction area was not well equipped with ventilation, thus leading to over 1,000 deaths. Though the addition of proper ventilation and a team of doctors and nurses to treat the ill addressed the problem in the latter half of the construction, the solution itself was offered too late, as many had already lost their lives. Other hazards the workers would face would include Gila Monsters, poisonous snakes, and falling rocks. The last one so much, that Six Companies were forced to order thousands of steel helmets for the workers to wear, making this the nation’s first big “hard-hat” project.

"Negroes employed as drillers on the construction of Hoover Dam." - NARA - 293747

Despite these hazards and inconveniences, these workers were extremely grateful for these jobs. At the time of this grand project the nation was in the thick of things in regards to the Great Depression and these workers were much better off than those on relief, as they still had jobs with competitive wages. There was even a poem made by one of the workers that expressed their gratitude towards their employers, “Abe Lincoln freed the Negroes, And Old Nero he burned Rome, But the Big Six helped depression When they gave the stiff a home.” The construction of The Hoover Dam came with its hazards for workers, but it also provided a job to many during a time of massive economic uncertainty.

Damupstream.jpg

Effects of The Dam On Nevada's Economy[edit | edit source]

The construction of the dam was important for Nevada, as it uplifted the economy during the Great Depression. In 1930, 6.7% of the working class in Nevada was unemployed, and since the Hoover Dam was to be built at the border of Nevada and Arizona, it allowed for hiring of many unemployed individuals in both states. Work at the construction site involved many long hours working in sweltering heat wherein many workers lost their lives. However, for those who were able to secure a job at the construction site were able to earn a living and created a chance for many young men to start a family. As a result of this phenomenon, the population of Nevada grew following the dam’s construction as many people settled in Boulder City, which was near the growing metropolis of Las Vegas. As this city continued to grow, it required a large amount of energy as many new technologies depended upon electrical power, including the iconic neon signs of Las Vegas, the hydroelectric power produced by Hoover Dam was enough to not only supply Las Vegas with sufficient power but also Arizona and California with their respective blooming cities. Not only would the dam provide electricity to these areas, but a lot a sustainable source of fresh water that could be pumped hundreds of miles. A 1931 New York Times article described the dam to be capable of diverting enough water and electricity to support 5,000,000 new residents in the Southwest. All South-western residents, new and old, felt the magnitude of impact of the construction of the Hoover Dam, as it brought essential commodities to the area. All this growth within the state of Nevada during construction reinvigorated a stricken economy, which allowed for strengthened spirits and hope in The New Deal.

Operation[edit | edit source]

The Dam is currently run and operated by the Bureau of Reclamation. The dam’s power plant, which is located at the base of the dam, produces energy for places like Arizona, Nevada, southern California, Los Angeles, Anaheim, etc. (3) The average annual net generation of energy of the dam is approximately four billion Kilo-Watt-hours. This energy is generated from the dam’s seventeen main turbines. It was said at the time that the dam could produce enough energy to illuminate seven states.

The Hoover Dam has many benefits. Firstly, irrigation is an important function of the dam providing a dependable water supply used to irrigate many surrounding areas such as Southern California, Southwest Arizona, and Mexico. These places utilize the water to grow crops for national consumption. The water is also used in many municipal and industrial settings. Secondly, the Hoover Dam is a major tourist attraction as a national historic landmark and one of America’s Seven Modern Engineering Wonders. Tours have run year-round by the Bureau of Reclamation with a brief hiatus during World War II and after the 9/11 attacks. Seven-hundred and fifty thousand to more than a million tourists visit and tour the Hoover Dam each year. Lastly, The Hoover Dam has essentially eliminated any chances of floods reaching the lower part of the river like they did before its construction that helped prompt the proposal of its construction. Lake Mead, the body of water held back by the dam is the America’s first designated national recreation area (3). It is used for fishing, hunting and various other activities that tourists can take part in.

Environmental Impact[edit | edit source]

The Hoover Dam was the first of its kind, but with its construction and the others that followed it changed the environmental landscape. Mega-dams such as The Hoover Dam have two major purposes, which are to prevent floods and provide hydroelectric power. Though the dams fulfill the two criteria, it also causes environmental harm because it holds back water and silt, thus clogging the river. The Hoover Dam on Lake Mead has generated inexpensive electricity, but it also has created a lot of silt, which clogs up the lake and the dam itself. The damming of the Colorado River in Nevada has created many significant changes in the estuaries in the Colorado delta in Mexico. The vast water supply that previously flowed into the desert delta ecosystems has been diverted through the dam for municipality use in south-western states. Due to this, little water has been allocated for ecosystems south of the irrigation districts. As a result, the once fertile vegetated areas of the Colorado delta have become barren. It is estimated that 200-400 species of vascular plants that once lived in the delta before the construction of the dam are now endangered. This has greatly reduced the animal populations and has caused many fish species to also become endangered. When the area surrounding Hoover Dam began to populate, it added more traffic of residents, tourists, workers and vehicles, which added to the decrease in air quality. Continued construction projects to improve dam efficiency also have had an impact in the air quality by increasing airborne dust and other microscopic matter levels. The water quality of the Colorado River is under constant stress as each litre passes through the dam’s powerhouse contains many hazardous chemicals that are at risk of leaking into the main water stream, which is pumped all over the Southwest for various uses. It is imperative that managers of dam operations pay close attention to all air and water contamination levels and ensure that both are kept at an acceptable level, however this is often not the case. As revolutionary as the dam has been for the region, there also has been many environmental impacts caused by the dam, and measures need to be taken in order protect the environment from further damage.

The Hoover Dam During World War II[edit | edit source]

During the Second World War, the Hoover Dam was an incredible asset for the United States, but at the same time it was also a vulnerable target. California became a major hub for defense factories that manufactured planes, tanks, and munitions. These factories produced the bulk of military armaments around the clock. Much of the power used in these factories was primarily sourced from the Hoover Dam. Due to this, tremendous measures were taken during the war to ensure its safety. Many agencies were tasked with monitoring for possible German and Japanese threats to the dam, and many precautions were taken to ensure its safety. Access to the dam by visitors was restricted and navigation on Lake Mead around the dam was prohibited as well. On many instances, cars were reported speeding away from the dam in the middle of the night, which furthered the fear of a possibility of an attack on the dam. Frank Crowe, the superintendent of Six Companies Inc. (the company accredited with building the dam), said that an attack on the dam was extremely unlikely to happen during the war because of the shear size of the structure, as aerial bombs would only do minimal damage. Overall, the dem being an asset and fears of a possible attack created high tensions, thus measures were taken in order to protect it from such possibilities.

Historical Significance[edit | edit source]

As a federal project, the Hoover Dam was a significant demonstration of the West’s expanding influence on Washington. The dam had an important role in the development of western cities after the Second World War. The water and hydroelectricity that the dam provided for the region helped transform many cities in California into the populous metropolises they have become. In fact, many cities in the American south-west would only be a fraction of the size today had the Hoover Dam not been constructed . The water and electricity sources garnished from the Hoover Dam fueled the boom of the industrial and agricultural industries in California, which are factors attributing to its growing population and its succession as the largest state in terms of political weight.

Wild Horse Roundups[edit | edit source]

Background[edit | edit source]

The roundup and capture of wild horses is a sport as old as Nevada itself. Much of this activity stems from the lifestyle of the wild west. Until cars and tractors were invented, man was dependent upon horses. These strong and majestic animals showed significant potential for mankind and people had no second thoughts in helping themselves to the large supply. Much like the buffalo, wild horses roamed the Nevadan plains in excessive numbers before Americans came to inhabit the area. Both species were greatly affected by America’s expansion into the west. Wild horses became a necessity to ranching, while wild buffalo were hunted to near extinction. The horses were caught and trapped for a variety of personal gains; the captors would either keep the horse's for themselves, or sell them at a profit. At their peak, an estimated 2 million horses populated the United States, but due to their value to mankind, wild horses became rare by the early 1900s. The United States provided over 425,000 horses to the British army from 1899-1902 during the Boer War for $40 a head. Another estimated 350,000 were shipped overseas during World War I. During these times there was a substantial demand for horses and a great deal of Americans were able to make a living capturing wild horses for the government. As a result, the supply of wild horses in the Nevada area dwindled. For the most part the horses were left alone until 1944 as tempers and conflict in the West rose and World War II began. Many relied on these animals and their value as an anchor for their way out of the lows of America's Great Depression. Times were hard and money was short, and the rounding up of horses once again became a vehicle of profit.

Cody-Buffalo-Bill-LOC

Roundups[edit | edit source]

Mustanging refers to any person who makes his or her living capturing and profiting from wild horses. This activity is considered a lifestyle and a sport, some do it out of necessity and some do it out of pure love of the game. These individuals wake up and put their boots on, grab a rope and dream about the challenge of chasing down a world class mustang and hopefully taking it home. There are many methods used in the rounding up of horses. Snaring or trapping is an approach that involves minimal effort and danger and consequently, less popularity. By creating a loop with a rope and setting the trap from a tree or on the ground near food or water the captor hopes that his prey would walk into or onto the rope. There was great difficulty in setting this trap so that horse may walk into it and not detect it beforehand. To ease this hunting method, a foot trap was developed by a Nevada native in 1911. The trap could easily be developed with a small wooden box, a spring trigger, and twine. A cowboy might bury this box near a watering hole or along a horse trail and tie the trap to a log or tree. Trees were not the best object to be secured to because after being snared horses may injure their legs while trying to escape. Therefore, a log was preferred as it had some give to it and the cowboy could simply follow the trail left behind by the snared animal. Nevertheless, most wranglers preferred the thrill and challenge of roping. They would ride horseback into a wild band of horses and chase down the one that caught their eye. He would then jump from his steed onto the back of the wild horse, if he did not have his horse roped up he would have to tire out his new horse and use it to help him rope down the one he rode in on. Some were more strategic in their roping methods and chose to do their roundups around a watering hole where they would easily chase down horses that were slow and heavy from a full stomach of water. It was not uncommon for them to tie up their catch to whatever might hold the animal and then proceed to rope up many others, building up an honest haul to bring home. Unlike the other methods, corralling is a team sport where the mustangers would rely on stealth and numbers to sneak up on a herd of horses and direct them into a hidden corral. Not all men involved in this stunt rode horseback, some hid along the sides in bushes and added to the commotion as they all corralled the horses. Once all the horses were corralled, they were roped up and taken home to the ranch.

Wild horses roaming the eroded Nevada plain

Overgrazing[edit | edit source]

Following the Wars of the 1800s and World War I, automobiles became a common possession of the American people and with this, the value of equestrians once again saw a tremendous decline. This shift began in the 1920s as many came to view these animals as a waste of space and feed and these animals lost their place and work in society. Even though Nevadan citizens had spent years working hard and building up their capital of horses they simply set them free, back into the wild. The wild horse population once again flourished and were not bothered again until years later. Nevada became depressed when the agriculture center ran itself into an overgrazing problem. The range went above and beyond capacity and the wild game and livestock ate the range into erosion. The federal government had done nothing to regulate grazing or the stock of wild horses. Ranchers and farmers took matters into their own hands to save their herds and way of life. The first of overgrazing roundups began in 1925 in counties across Montana. Range conditions were much worse in Nevada, as mustangers and ranchers had troubles capturing the wild animals in such rough country. During this time livestock grazing was the most commercial uses of federal public lands. Grazing on this land did not see any control until the Taylor Grazing Act, introduced in 1934. Under this act, each rancher was restricted to a certain number of livestock that they could turn out to graze on federal lands. Seasonal policies also came into place to support areas with shorter growing seasons. Even considering the new act, Nevada was troubled with this problem for many years.