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History of Nevada

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Nevada Locator Map with the United States

Nevada, also known as the "Sagebrush state", is located in the Southwestern region of the United States of America between the Sierras and the Wasatch mountains. Nevada's border expanded greatly between 1864 and 1867, leading to its present-day size by 1867. Nevada neighbours five other states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Utah. It officially became the thirty-sixth state on October 31st, 1864 as the Constitution was telegrammed to Congress in Washington. Nevada is considered one of the smaller states with only 280,000 permanent residents. The statehood of Nevada was pushed in order to ensure electoral votes for the re-election of the Civil War President, Abraham Lincoln. People of Nevada desired entry into the Union for an expanded period of time. Three months before congress passed their Enabling Act, they voted four to one in favour of statehood. Although Nevada was merely one state amongst a plethora of powerful and dominant states, it is difficult to ignore the ever-lasting impression that the state has had on America.

Prior to World War II, Nevada's economy was characterized by boom and bust periods. Bust periods saw a depressed economy and attempts were made to broaden the state’s economic base. Despite economic uncertainty, the desire for Americans to move out west allowed Nevada to develop into the state that it is today. Nevada's unique growth as a state economically, politically and socially is described in this text.

The early economy relied on mining and extraction, as outlined during the mining boom of Goldfield in the early 1900s. The city was the primary mining capital of Nevada and experienced a gold strike in 1902. This strike opened southern and central developments which attracted investment. In April 1904, Goldfield was known as one of the greatest mining cities that brought in thousands of inhabitants to the district. It represented the early development of Nevada with saloons, banks, and railroads that were open to the public.

Nevada has a unique set of state laws, which are commonly found in Las Vegas. The unique gambling laws allow people from all over America to go to Las Vegas, Nevada. The American population has made it so famous and well known that people from all over the world come to Nevada to visit Las Vegas. The city has become an economic hub of activity for the state, however, it also contains a number of issues that must be rectified by the American people and government.

Nevada also has a unique relationship with the American military and the United States federal government. Nevada has been host to nuclear testing done by the American military, linking the state to the military in a unique manor. Furthermore, Area 51 resides in Nevada as an American aircraft base. Area 51 is unique due to the controversy and secrecy surrounding it. It has been rumoured to have experienced extraterrestrial activity, or at the very least know of such activity. It is this level of secrecy that has driven the conspiracies to form regarding the aircraft base and has caused it to receive so much attention.

Overall, the Battle Born State of Nevada has been a relatively bright spot in the United States' history. This state has a very extensive and diverse history and it will forever be engraved in American history.

Beginnings[edit | edit source]

The written history of Nevada is relatively short, however, the area was believed to have been inhabited over 12,000 years ago. When explorers first arrived in Nevada, they met five groups of Native American tribes. The Northern Paiutes, the Western Shoshones, the Southern Paiutes, the Washos, and the Mohave of the Death Valley and Colorado River region made up Nevada's early inhabitants. Nevada's recorded history was first initiated by the Spaniards who entered the territory. The Spanish settlers were the individuals who gave the state its name. In Spanish, the term Nevada means snow-covered mountain range. Anglo-Americans, coming from both the newly formed United States of America and British North America, later followed and explored the region. While the Spaniards did not thoroughly explore Nevada, they successfully left their mark on the state.

Nicknames for the State[edit | edit source]

People often refer to Nevada as the “Silver State”, the “Sagebrush State”, or the “Battle Born State”. Nevada was labeled as the “Silver State” due to the contribution of silver to Nevada’s economy. The Comstock Lode happened in 1859 and it paved the way of silver mining in Nevada . It was the first major discovery and it led many other prospectors to search for another Comstock. As a result of passionate wealth seeking prospectors, many other mines were discovered . Also, the name the “Sagebrush State” is derived from its colossal growth of wild sage throughout Nevada. Finally, the last name that people often refer the state to is labeled as the “Battle Born State”. This name or nickname rather for the state originates from the fact that Nevada was granted statehood during the Civil War . Nevada troops fought during the Civil War as a part of the Union army, and it was said by Phillip Dodd Smith Jr. that “The slogan of the State of Nevada is ‘“Battle Born”’. This is the history of the men who helped fight that battle for her” . All three of these are incorporated into Nevada’s official state flag, displaying the true significance these three titles encompass.

Divorce Capital of the World[edit | edit source]

Nevada was known to be the place to get a quick and painless divorce. Back then, divorce was generally not accepted and truly difficult to obtain in the United States. The fact that Nevada was a place that granted easy access to a divorce allowed for people to migrate there for temporary residence. It was said that “Reno, Nevada held the title of the divorce capital of the world for six decades”. Reno became the “divorce mill” for many reasons, including their liberal divorce laws. It began as early as 1906, when many property owners and businessmen seeking for success took advantage of the business they were receiving from temporary residents pursuing a quick divorce. It was easier to access divorce in Nevada due to its short required residency period. The time required in 1909 was just six months of residency, and preceding that time period the mandatory residency required for divorce continued to be shortened. Nevada was known for having one of the most liberal laws for divorce in the country, including attaining the no-fault clause. This meant that there was no one particularly at fault for the cause of the divorce. The relocation to Nevada was manageable for the majority of Americans, and some would even travel over a thousand miles just to obtain a divorce. The “quickie divorce” nickname was in motion until 1970 when an increasing number of states began to accept the "no-fault" divorce. In recent times, Nevada is still known to have high divorce rates.

Exploration and Political Developments[edit | edit source]

The thorough exploration of the region happened in the midst of a period of expansion guided by the ideology of the “Manifest Destiny”, which stated that the United States should occupy the entire North American Continent. The notion of exploration can be attributed to Presidency of James K. Polk. Polk had a large part in advancing the beliefs of Manifest Destiny. The Mexican–American War which the United States dominated because of their size and organisation allowed Nevada to become an unorganized part of the Union, the Mormon exodus was a following of Mormon pioneers that travelled across the United States in order to settle, and the California Gold Rush brought entrepreneurs and money to area of Nevada, together shaped the history of Nevada and the development of its political, demographic, and economic structures. Nevada finally became a territory after a period known as the “era of anarchy and confusion,” lasting between 1857 and 1861. Nevada separated from the Utah Territory that same year. Both the making of Nevada as a territory and its transition towards statehood happened during the Civil War, and resulted from unauthorized conventions and elections. Nevada joined the Union in 1864 without even meeting the population requirements for statehood. Its constitution, still in use today, was based on the constitution of California and New York. It has since then been amended more than one-hundred and forty times.

Nevada constitution (1864) signature page

Statehood, Diversity and Equality[edit | edit source]

Nevada emerged as the 36th state of the United States of America in 1864. Nevada’s path to statehood was complex, and highlighted the growing pains experienced by the United States. Nevada’s admission to the United States highlighted political differences between its citizens and the government in Washington. This political difference was displayed during the controversy surrounding the mining-tax provision, which created a rift between Nevadan citizens and their representation in Washington. Nevada, as an early state, had a variety of inhabitants. This included immigrants of different backgrounds; Native-Americans, Mormons, and African-Americans, which all defined Nevada’s diverse population. This diversity was still a minority when compared to Nevada’s population of white male citizens. Nevada’s native inhabitants were victims of cultural assimilation and faced mobs of missionaries. This inequality was characteristic of the treatment of Native peoples in America during its early development. In 1869, Nevadan Assemblyman Curtis J. Hillyer proposed the idea of women’s suffrage in Nevada’s legislative assembly. Nevada’s orientation towards women’s suffrage was contrasted by themes of racism and inequality found in early Nevada and the wider United States. Nevada’s suffragists were considered “white suffragists.” This movement was not inclusive of minority women and contributed toward white supremacy in the early state of Nevada.

Economics - Nevada's Booms and Busts[edit | edit source]

The history of Nevada has been characterized by a series of boom and bust cycles since its beginning as a territory. The first boom experienced by Nevada followed the discovery of gold and silver at Comstock Lode in 1859, and reaching its peak in 1880. However, it busted at the turn of the twentieth century and the state’s population went down by 68%. With a population of only 91,000 in the early 1930s, Nevada was close to bankruptcy. Nevadan legislators soon legalized gambling and changed the state's divorce laws in hopes of increasing state-growth economically and demographically. The 1930s were a decade of fear for most Americans because of the Great Depression, but for Nevada it was a decade of renewed interests in activities that lay at the essence of capitalism, like gambling. Nevada's casino culture finds its origins in the 1930s. Nevada's casinos also produce a large amount of revenue for the state's economy. Winnings in Nevada casinos have a state tax. These taxes ended up being one fifth (1/5) of the state's overall revenue. The economic welfare of the state has become increasingly dependent on gambling since the end of the Second World War.

Ranching was common in the beginning of Nevada’s history. The process entailed “an outdoor life, eking out what would grow in the highly alkaline soil using what water was available and raising what livestock could survive” in a dry climate that made it difficult to perform. The Hoover Dam was able to create consistent water supply to these dry regions. The farmers were able to gain hope because of the tremendous expansion of the regions agricultural sector. The largest ranch was located in Las Vegas, with a variety of livestock that the farmers used as a means to generate money. Evidently, ranching was a central component to the growth of Nevada in the beginning of its statehood.

The mining deposits discovered in Nevada changed the course of history. In Nevada, the gold and silver deposits in Tonopah, Goldfield and the Bullfrog district made the region attractive to minors and investors which stimulated growth. These attractions made southern Nevada and Las Vegas viable areas that attracted inhabitants and tourists. Evidently, modern day Nevada owes its current status to the earliest residents of the state who made a dry desert area flourish with activity.

However, Nevada’s economic success and pathway to statehood are not the only significant history behind the Sagebrush State; its demographics also differ from the rest of the United States. In 2014, only 24% of the citizens of Nevada had been born within the state. For the period between 1990 and 2010 Nevada’s population increased from 1.2 million to 2.7 million, making it the fastest growing state in America.

Comstock Lode, Circa 1870
Comstock Lode, Circa 1870

Comstock Boom and Nevadan Mining Culture[edit | edit source]

Birds Eye View of Virginia City, 1875 (drawing)

The mining boom that brought forward Nevada’s statehood reflected the ideas of boom and bust present in America’s young economy. Nevada has had three key mining booms throughout their history. The first was the silver boom between 1860-1880, the goldfield boom happened in 1900-1920 and the last boom was Carlintype deposits that began in 1980 and still occur today. Henry Comstock’s discovery of the Comstock Lode metal deposits in 1859 propelled young Nevada forward. Following the discovery, men rushed to Nevada looking to reap profits from mining. The influx of people rushing toward the prospect of a mining fortune caused Nevada’s economy to flourish. The boom helped shape a culture and atmosphere throughout Nevadan settlements that would characterize Nevada in the future. With new towns and settlements emerging overnight, Nevada as a state experienced gaps in its authority. “Boom” settlements, such as Virginia City, were born. These settlements were noted as the epicenter of America’s Gilded age, and provided a place for Nevada’s mining pilgrims to blow off steam. Towns like Virginia City were filled with saloons and other places of entertainment for their inhabitants. These saloons provided miners a place to “seek boozy camaraderie”, but were far from portraying the ideas associated with the “Gilded Age.” These establishments provided places for the people of Nevada to engage in vices such as profuse whisky consumption and gambling. The mining boom brought a significant presence of gambling to the young state. Professional gamblers flocked in large numbers hoping to make fortunes, a mindset similar to the arriving miners. However, the mining boom did not last forever, and by the early 1880s Nevada’s mining industry was declining. With a lack of new metal prospects and the decline of previously massive reserves, Nevada’s mining industry decreased, leading to a drop in stock value. The bust highlighted the theme of capitalism in Nevada. The true winners of Nevada’s early mining period were not the mining companies, but the entrepreneurs who outfitted and provided the miners with their provisions.

Fred B. Balzar (Nevada Governor)

Early mine in the Comstock Lode (Source: Library of Congress)

Boom and Bust Post Mining[edit | edit source]

Nevada’s quick growth as a state highlighted the downfalls of being dependent on the mining industry. Early legislators in Nevada, like James Scrugham, echoed national themes of conservation, as he was committed to supporting a system of protected parks in Nevada. Parts of Nevada’s rugged landscape became noted for their “scenic-merit,” which appealed as tourist attractions. The realization that reliance on the mining industry was volatile and unsustainable promoted Nevada’s potential to profit from tourism. Nevada soon took steps to protect some of its most scenic locations in an effort to draw in tourists. In 1922 Nevada’s Lehman Caves became a national monument. This was significant as this site was connected to Nevada’s new central highway, providing easy access for tourists. Nevada’s early tourist boom brought with it infrastructure investment and new legislation. A gas-tax was tabled to help pay for the approximate thousand miles of newly paved highway in Nevada. With a decline in out-of-state tourists, Nevadan legislators looked at alternatives to draw in tourists from out-of-state. The bust in nature-based tourism gave way to a new precedent that would shape Nevada’s future. In 1931, Governor Fred Balzar legalized gambling throughout the state of Nevada in hopes of diversifying the state's tourist revenues. The introduction of gambling to Nevada became hugely beneficial to the Sagebrush State. Las Vegas saw its first legal gambling institutions open in the early 1930s. Such institutions displayed the theme of capitalism, as they profited off nearby workers helping build what would become the Hoover Dam. The Hoover Dam started construction in 1931 and was finished by 1931. This Dam was seen as a symbol of optimism, a marvel of technology and an indicator of modernity in the West. The development of Nevadan gambling institutions gave way to another tourist boom. By early 1950 Nevada was hosting millions of tourists looking to win big at its casinos. This growth eventually became exponential and propelled Las Vegas to become noted as a world-class destination for gambling. Nevada’s institutions reaped huge profits from the crowds of tourists. Another critical tourist appeal in Nevada was the Hoover Dam, it has attracted millions of tourists to the south west for leisure purposes.

Periodization[edit | edit source]

The evolution of the state of Nevada can be easily understood if looked at in three periods, with each covering a forty-year span: 1859-1899, 1900-1939, 1940-1980. Mining economics shaped the first of those three periods. From 1864 onwards, economics influenced Nevadan politics as the wealthy elite in control made their way into the political world rather easily thanks to their economic power. Railroad and mining industries were in control of state politics at every level during this era. The support for Progressive Era reforms marked the first two decades of the second period. It was also marked by the democratic electoral methods that Nevada adopted, namely initiative, referendum, and recall. Regarding the mining industry, this period saw its interests being moved from gold and silver to copper that was needed in the electrical industry. The third period opened with the beginning of the Second World War in Europe, which resulted in an increase in the demand for the state’s copper. The Second World War also contributed to more federal investment in Nevada for the establishment of military bases and test sites. While mining still played an important role in Nevada’s economy during the years 1940 to 1980, tourism and gambling started to outplay mining as the key industry of the state.

Involvement in World War II And Post-War[edit | edit source]

1988 Aerial view of NAS Fallon

Nevada became home to a number of military bases during World War II. The state’s inland location, perfect flying weather, and vast tracts of federally owned and relatively unpopulated desert lands made it well suited for Military installations. Until the Second World War, there had been no military installations of extreme significance in Nevada. This was to change in 1942 when the air base at Fallon was transferred to the United State Navy for use as an auxiliary station. The base was the largest inland airport in the West during the war and dispatched planes on torpedo practice runs over Pyramid Lake, gunnery practice over Churchill County, and dive-bombing practice over Frenchman’s Flat. Although the Navy closed the base at the end of World War II, it was opened for operation again during the Korean War and has remained in full operation ever since. Since World War II, the army, navy, air force, and marine reserves stationed and trained in the various military bases located in Nevada have been playing an even larger role in national defence planning and organization.

Nevada Test Site[edit | edit source]

After World War II, Nevada became a significant area for United States nuclear tests. Originally nuclear tests were mainly conducted in The Bikini Atoll more than 4,600 miles away from the mainland. This became increasingly costly for the United States government so in 1950, a search for a safe testing ground in mainland United States began. The result was the Nevada Test Site located in the Nevada desert. The Nevada Test Site is roughly 1,375 square miles of desert land that is controlled by the Department of Energy. It is located north-west of Las Vegas in the southern part of the great Basin. The first test conducted at the Nevada Test Site was on January 27th, 1951. Then from 1951 to 1992 a total of 928 nuclear tests were conducted at the Nevada Test Site. These tests were conducted in order to prove a variety of reasons. These reasons included seeing the effect nuclear bombs would make on man-made structures and the environment, proof-testing of existing nuclear bombs and the testing of new nuclear weapons. In several cases "Survival Towns" were created to see the effect of the bomb. Survival Towns are artificial towns stocked with buildings, houses, mannequins and household items in order to observe the effect nuclear missiles would have on populated areas at different distances. In the early 1950s and operation was carried out code named Operation Desert Rock which served the purpose of examining the effect nuclear weapons would have on the military. Military manoeuvres were conducted and troops were sometimes ordered to lay in trenchs miles away from the blast. Atomic Veteran Lamond Davis reported said "I could see the bones in both my hands". Testing has currently stopped but the Department of Energy reserves the right to continue testing at any time if the situation arises.

The Nevada Test Site became extremely popular in the media during the atomic tests. In 1952 cameras were allowed onto the site and Atomic Tests became fascinating to the public. Tourists would go to Las Vegas, which was 65 miles away from the Test Site, and watch the detonations from the roof of their hotels or from their cars. For those living close to the blasts in Nevada and neighbouring states, such as Utah and Arizona, the tests were more of a public hazard compared to entertainment. In 1955 several newspapers were stating that there was little radiation fallout and that health was to be unaffected by the tests. The Las Vegas Review-Journal was at the forefront of these claims stating in March 1955 that "Fallout on Las Vegas and vicinity following this morning's detonation was very low and without any effects on health,". David Lawernce stated in the Washington Post that "The truth is, there isn't the slightest proof of any kind that the 'fallout' as a result of tests in Nevada has ever affected any human being anywhere outside the testing ground itself.". By this time though cases of leukemia was starting to rise in places downwind of the tests. Even with a rising rate of cancer, health sided-effects were continually denied by the federal government. In 1990 the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was passed which ensured payments to some of those claiming to be affected by the nuclear fallout. Over 2 billion dollars US has been payed out to over 32,000 people since the Act was passed.

Recent Developments and Civil Rights[edit | edit source]

In the past three decades the competition between Democrats and Republicans alongside the fast paced population growth have helped shape Nevada. In the past one-hundred and forty years Nevada has changed drastically; the state went from a region ruled by vigilantes to one of opportunities. Nevada was one of the leading states in terms of civil rights as it was one of the first to give women the right to vote and ratify the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. Regarding presidential elections, Nevada has been siding with the winner since 1992 in every single election, except for the most recent presidential election. The 2016 elections were also a first for Nevada as the Sagebrush State elected its first female Senator, Catherine Cortez Masto, who also happens to be the first Latina to serve in the United State Senate.

Nevada has struggled with the issue of water for a long time. This is mainly due to its location and stems from the quantity, quality, and allocation that dominate the policy and politics. The scarce supply of water has been a concern across the western half of the United States, even causing Las Vegas to tap surface and ground water sources in outlying counties and adjoining states. The issue of water is one of the many obstacles that Nevada will have to face as a state. Overall, due to its dry environment, it will persist as an issue into the foreseeable future.

Nevada offers something for everyone, its diverse social values truly make it unique. The state has a sophisticated society and a mining frontier with both liberal attitudes toward gambling, divorce, and prostitution. On the other hand, there are conservative elements that dominate the politics of the state. The state represents the focal point of fun activities, while also dominated by its own kind of politics. In terms of conservative attitudes, it promotes the protection of industry as a constitutional right. Nevada is liberal in terms of the legality surrounding prostitution. Some may consider this as being a very libertarian way of thinking. Nevada has always been unique as its form and views on politics differentiate from mainstream America. Ultimately, this is uniquely Nevadan because no other state offers such a wide range of entertainment while also containing a strong right-wing movement within the state. Liberal and Conservative views often do not mix very well together, however, Nevada has been able to deviate from the political normalities of the country.

The state of Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, and also begun the construction of the Hoover Dam. It was named after the President of the United States at the time, Herbert Hoover. The Hoover Dam employed many men and women, however, it costed over a hundred casualties in the process of its construction. This dam was and still is a vital piece of technology to the state of Nevada and the city of Las Vegas, as it provides the city with a vital and reliable source of electricity. Today, the Hoover Dam is still in function, and one of the largest hydroelectric producing dams in the United States.

Native American, Spanish and Mexican Alta California-Nevada (to 1848)

Spanish Governance[edit | edit source]

Alta California[edit | edit source]

Alta California Territory

Nevada was originally part of a Spanish territory known as Alta California that came about as part of Spain’s colonization of North America. This territory included land north of modern San Diego, and was established initially as a way to prevent Russian, English, and French settlement and economic exploitation in the area. There was a worry among the Spanish that something as simple as foreign scouts could be the precursor to an attempt at taking over their territories. Even two American traders, Jean Chapuis and Louis Feuilli, who mistakenly arrived on the outskirts of New Mexico in 1752 were regarded with great caution by Spanish authorities. However, as the need for funding grew, the Spanish King Carlos I, gave control of the lands to the Franciscan College of San Fernando, after expelling the Jesuits, in an effort to claim the land inexpensively for Spain. The Franciscans established very successful religious missions throughout Alta California. From 1769-1823 there were a total of 21 missions. along the coast of Alta California and, as time progressed they developed into modern day metropolises. Their religious missions were immensely important to Spanish control in the area. From this point forward, the assimilation of Native populations was just as important as other, secular activities to the Spanish explorers and settlers.

Spanish exploration into modern Nevada occurred from the seventeenth century through to Mexican independence in 1821. However, throughout most Spanish rule over the lands of Alta California, there was very limited exploration and settlement in modern Nevada. One of the earliest documented attempts to explore the land that has become the state Nevada was by way of the Spanish Coronado expedition in 1540. Originating in Mexico, a party from the expedition attempted to move north-west through Arizona towards Nevada but was blocked by the Grand Canyon. Immense physical barriers such as the Grand Canyon and deserts strongly discouraged early exploration into the region that is now called Nevada and eastern California. A perceived lack of valuable resources and navigable water routes prevented many Spanish, and later Mexican, explorers from heading north-west of Arizona and into Nevada. Due to the aforementioned circumstances, much confusion persisted about the exact geographic makeup of the land to the north-west of New Mexico beyond the midpoint of the eighteenth century. In 1750, Vélez Cachupín, the Spanish Governor of New Mexico at the time, said that it was believed the Pacific Ocean was not far from New Mexico. The belief that the ocean was near enough to support New Mexico was a common idea until at least 1775. The land that has become Nevada was not widely recognised to even have existed until after this time.

Native Americans in Spanish Alta California[edit | edit source]

Before and after 1848, the Euro-American emigrants traveling to and through Nevada played a very important part in the complex equation of culture contact, subsistence resources, technology, and social organization. This would go on to shape the customs and society of the Native American groups such as the Northern Paiute, Western Shoshone, and Southern Paiute. Before 1827 the Sierra was occupied only by Native Americans, but by 1897 due to the expansion of American settlers, the economies and cultures of the indigenous population had been displaced, and the people themselves losing their traditional way of life. Agricultural practices from settlers in nearby cities caused detrimental ecological effects to Native American hunting grounds and constant travelling further west depleted the Nevada landscape. To feed themselves, many Native Americans were forced to work on settlement farms and in the process, were highly mistreated. The Law of Secularization, passed by the Mexican National Congress in 1833, was an attempt to gain control of the Alta California by the secularization of the Native Population so that they could be immersed into the colony’s society. The Mexican government's aspirations was successful and a significant portion of the Native population in Alta California were given job opportunities and chances to be immersed into the trap of a materialistic culture. The earliest recorded entrance to the Sierra Nevada, beyond its western foothills by Euro-Americans, came between 1827 and 1833. It was credited to the Spaniard by the name of Francisco Garces, who crossed the Colorado river and into the state of Nevada as a missionary from the colonial Viceroyalty of New Spain and was charged with the exploring the vast uncharted areas of the Great Basin. This emigration through the Sierra Nevada to California after the late 1820s portrayed the Sierra as, “a frightening barrier to overcome as quickly as possible in order to reach California”.

Mormon Civilizations in Nevada[edit | edit source]

When Spanish and American exploration reached the western United States, the people of the Mormon civilizations in the Utah territory claimed the territorial rights of the entire Great Basin and the Colorado watershed. Although, they applied to become apart of the Union of the United States, they were denied access by congress in 1850. Part of the territory was then given to the territory of Utah. This did not stop the Mormons from creating there own society naming it the “State of Deseret”. With the increase in the population of Mormon immigrants in the area they decided that their society needed the rule of law. A Declaration of Rights of the Constitution was constructed and consisted of three main branches of government, including Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary. This democratic society even elected their own governor.

Humboldt River Route

The Humboldt River route was one of the first main passages for emigrants travelling from the Western United States, as well as northern emigrants, because it offered water over most of it's length. Located in Northern Nevada, nearly 200,000 people trailed through the Humboldt River area with horses, mules, and cattle, which were not typically seen in the Sierra at the time. As outlined through the exploration of emigrant diaries, the significant changes to the Sierra and its Natives from this migration were: (1) emigrants’ consistent depletion (following trappers) of resources – especially in land animals and fishing; (2) emigrants’ introduction of horses, mules, and cattle as new resource for Natives to use in transportation, food, companionship, trade, and even military purposes, as this created “horseback natives”; (3) emigrants’ introduction of new technology such as iron, guns, metal cookware, and clothing, whether actually traded or merely abandoned; (4) emigrants’ near elimination of Native people through the introduction of disease and outright genocide; and (5) emigrants learning Euro-American customs through prolonged contact with Shoshones and Paiutes along the Humboldt.

The Paiutes and Shoshones were nomadic peoples that occupied the Sierra Nevada, which was commonly referred to as the Great Basin at the time. The Paiutes and Shoshones lived and camped in small groups along the major river areas including the Humboldt River, Pyramid and Walker Lake, as well as the surrounding dry-lands. Travelling in small groups allowed the Natives to be very mobile, and to follow the ripening resources of the land. In a sense, they were one with the land as this how they derived the necessary resources to survive in the Nevada dessert. The first white men to set foot in the Humboldt County were the French Canadian, Iroquois and Hawaiian fur trappers of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fifth Snake Country Expedition, led by Peter Skene Ogden. On November 9th, 1828, this group crossed from the Quinn River drainage to the Little Humboldt River in the Humboldt Basin by way of Paradise Hill Pass. The group then proceeded down the Little Humboldt to its connection with the Humboldt main stem, arriving later that evening. Ogden’s 1828-1829 Humboldt Basin travels are of great importance as he and his men produced the first true map of the Humboldt Basin, which was used extensively by future emigrants.

Peter Skene Ogden

After 1827, roughly around the same time that Ogden and his fellow trappers reached Humboldt, Jedidiah Strong Smith, an American fur trapper, began exploring the Eastern parts Nevada. Common to both expedition parties, and to expeditions that followed, many emigrants assumed that they were entering open country, eligible for conquest and exploitation. Once these emigrants discovered Native presence, they quickly discounted the legitimacy of their claims to the land and its resources. From these two new established transportation routes across Nevada came a significant loss of natural resources and access to favoured camping and community areas for Natives along these routes. Of this loss of resources, one of the most significant was seen through the complete decimation of the beaver population by 1829; an essential part of Native American life. This rapid depletion was due to competing fur trappers and companies each trying to undercut potential profit for one another by trapping every available animal in the region. Competition caused this significant reduction of the beaver population and took away a source of meat and clothing for Native populations. It also disrupted hydrologic patterns affecting fish populations as well as having an impact on the other game animals and edible plants in the area. With the loss of such crucial parts of the native ecosystem, Native Americans lives were altered in dealing with the subsequent environmental repercussions. Trappers and emigrants changed the landscape and did not respect the Native customs, causing the Native groups to respond with aggression and violence. In 1833, for example, a group of Paiutes were wrongly accused and killed by trappers who believed they had been stealing their beaver traps. For years to come after Jedidiah, there was a perpetual mistrust built up between Native Americans and white explorers due to many confrontations, sometimes violent, over resources. In fact, Jedidiah Strong Smith eventually died as a result of one of these confrontations. The mistrust was built up over time and continued into the second half of the 19th century as Native Americans we're extremely upset with the depletion of their sacred land. According to Ginny Bengston's environmental assessment Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone Land Use in Northern Nevada, this depletion was due to the growing influx of people caused by the California gold rush, silver mining in Nevada, and the establishment of the United States rail system. This lead to perpetual difficulties for later explorers, none of which would be comparable to the ecological difficulties the Native Americans of Nevada would now face within their own environment.

From these beginnings arose a large increase in overland migration from the Western United States between 1840 and 1848. This was due to the discovery of gold, which initiated a massive migration from around the world into the Sierra that would shape Nevada’s early phase of development. The chance discovery of gold in this period painted a new image of the Sierra as a vast treasure house of resources to exploit. This lead to significant developments in: mining, lumber, grazing, water use, transportation, scientific activity, recreation, hunting, and urbanization. These developments would have a substantial impact on reducing Native American presence in the next half century.

Western Shoshone Territory

The main native groups of the land that is now Nevada were the Western Shoshone, Panamint, Paiute, and Goshute. In Ginny Bengston's environmental assessment Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone Land Use in Northern Nevada, he states that Euro-Americans came into contact with Native Americans in Nevada 200 years after their first encounters with indigenous populations in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. There is a unique environment and experience that Native Americans in Nevada had compared to other Native American groups throughout the country. Spanish experiences with native peoples in Alta California were similar to the interactions of other European and Native groups. Spanish-Native interaction was often riddled with conflict, violence, and exploitation. Natives north of Mexico often attacked mining camps and disrupted lines of communication in an attempt to prevent Spanish takeover of their lands. Native peoples did not just resist through violence, but also by withholding key information on navigable routes, water holes, and food sources from Spanish explorers, as well as by means as simple as intentionally misdirecting them. It was not uncommon for native guides to completely disappear and leave Spanish explorers lost and wandering for days or even weeks. The Spanish settlers used native slaves, often women and children, on ranches, in mines, and in households. Women and children were considered easier to control and less likely to revolt than men. Despite this, the trade of rifles, metal tools, and other European goods was also widespread.

The introduction of horses to many native groups in the Nevada area, mainly through theft, also took place during the Spanish rule of Alta California. The Spanish consistently attempted to convert and assimilate natives throughout the area to European religion and ways of life. It was thought that future missions further into Alta California would prove easier, and allow for the establishment of strong government and administration if Native peoples were culturally assimilated into the European way of life.

Western Shoshone Natives

Mexican Independence and Alta California[edit | edit source]

Although the Mexican War for Independence started in 1810, Alta California was left largely out of the conflict until 1818. Hippolyte de Bouchard, who was aligned with those for Mexican independence, sailed to Monterey, the administrative capital of Alta California, and ordered the surrender of all royal property. When he was defied he destroyed much of the city before leaving. His actions destroyed any previous support for the rebel cause in Alta California. In 1821 the War ended Spanish control of Mexico and its territories to the north. However, it took until the spring of 1822 before news of the successful revolt reached Monterey. In April of that year an assembly voted to swear allegiance to the newly formed government in Mexico, ending Spanish rule, and Alta California officially became a territory of the newly formed, independent Mexico.

Native American Pre-Reservation Culture[edit | edit source]

Plant Use[edit | edit source]

Native American diets most commonly consisted of a variety of wild plants and fruit such as raspberries, chokeberries, currants, pine nuts, sunflower, sand grass, blazing star, screw bean, and wild mustard. The most commonly found food source were pine nuts, which were collected from the pinyon pine and roasted over a sagebrush fire by the Native Americans to be eaten. It was also common for nuts from the pinyon pine to be stored in buckskin bags for future use or to be ground into meal to be put into thick soups; pine nuts therefore were multi-purpose as they acted as thickening agent. It was common for Native American bands in Nevada to be named after the foods they most commonly ate, an example of this is the Waddakut band which is known for often collecting and eating wada seeds from their region. In addition to this, it was common for Native Americans of Nevada to harvest roots of different plants to be used for food. The most common examples of this were wild carrot, wild garlic, and trail potato. Often these roots would be cooked or boiled and added to a thick soup.

Animal Use[edit | edit source]

Cutthroat Trout, a Nevada delicacy

Native Americans of Nevada would hunt a large majority of the local wildlife. This included moles, jack rabbits, antelope, chipmunks, mountain sheep, porcupine, coyotes, elk, mice, grizzly bears, gophers, turtles and many more. Insects such as ants, grasshoppers, and larvae were also eaten. While fish were a part of the Native American diet in Nevada, they were considered to be a delicacy. The cutthroat trout was another staple food of Native Americans of Nevada and sometimes could weigh up to 25 pounds. Fish could be eaten raw or could be dried, smoked, and roasted. The Native people used all parts of the animals they hunted and wasted nothing. They would use the bones of large animals to create tools and the bones of smaller animals may be used for pendants, jewellery and septum piercings. Organs were removed and washed out so that they could be used to store and carry items such as nuts or blood. Skin and fur was used for clothing as well as barter. This meant no part of the animal was going to waste and therefore had small ecological impacts.

Hunting Methods[edit | edit source]

Hunting methods varied depending on the animals that were being hunted. Large animals such as bison were most commonly chased off cliffs where they would fall of and then be bludgeoned to death. However, spears and bow hunting became a more common practice with some Native American tribes over time. For smaller animals such as rabbits, bands would gather together and chase rabbits into stretched out nets to be captured. This activity, in particular, was often carried out by the women and children of the native bands rather than the men who usually hunted. A different leader would be selected for different tasks or goals, including fishing, hunting, and trapping.

Dwellings[edit | edit source]

The Native Americans of Nevada were semi-nomadic, meaning that they did not live in permanent homes but did remain in a particular area for months at a time. Depending on the season, the Native Americans of Nevada would live at different altitudes. In the summer the Natives resided at a lower altitude of 3,000-4,000 feet, whereas in the winter they would relocate to altitudes of 6,000-7,000 feet. This allowed them to use altitude as a method of choosing their preferred temperature. Native Americans kept their housing clean and used them as a place to store food. Generally, a family unit would stick together and live within the same house. In the daytime Native Americans were active searching for food or foraging supplies, but at night time they would sleep close together in their shelters to provide warmth. When a Native American passed away it was common to burn down their home as an act of ‘fumigation’.

The shelters they made were semi-permanent which fitted their semi-nomadic lifestyle and needs. Summer shelters were most commonly made from tule, a common grass-like plant, which was stuck around a simple wooden frame. In the wintertime, houses were covered in bark or animal hide to help protect from the cold winds and winter snow. A place for storage known as a ‘cache’ was dug into the ground. The cache held food and supplies such as nuts, organ sacks, or even fur blankets. This was helpful for maintaining a clean home environment like the Native Americans of Nevada preferred.

Sweat houses were shelters built approximately 4-5 feet high and 6-8 feet wide that contained hot rocks in the centre which water would be poured over to create steam. These houses were often used for ceremonial prayer by the Native Americans and were often considered a place for healing rather than a place to be lived in.

Clothing[edit | edit source]

Native Americans of Nevada wore clothing often made from tule and shredded sagebrush bark. These clothes were not made to last long and frequently wore away. Native Americans of Nevada preferred a clean lifestyle but did not have the resources to clean their clothing so they were frequently left with dirty clothes. The clothing they wore often consisted of sandals, moccasins, and shredded fibre aprons. Blankets were made from fur and animal hide to help keep warm throughout the winter season.

Spirituality[edit | edit source]

Many ancient Native Americans of Nevada believed powers were granted to an individual through their dreams. Both powers for good and evil were gifted through dreams, however they were taught to resist the evil powers and instead wait for the powers of good to enlighten them. The powers granted to them in their dreams included the special songs needed for curing the sick, where to go to find tobacco and other resources and more. Through the powers given to them by their dreams an individual could gain the power and respect needed to become the shaman.

One of the most common Native American religious beliefs in Nevada was the Peyote Religion. The Peyote Religion adopted beliefs from Christianity while maintaining its own virtues. The core concepts of the religion are to take pride in their ancient heritage, to live a moral life, and to believe in the brotherhood of all peoples. The religion puts great focus on the use of the Peyote plant which is a cactus which induces psychedelic effects when consumed. The religion believes that consuming Peyote before meditation helps provide one with an impactful spiritual experience.

James Knox Polk: American Politician and 11th President of The United States

The American Acquisition of Alta California-Nevada[edit | edit source]

The Mexican-American War[edit | edit source]

In the late 18th century, Nevada was under Spanish rule but after the Mexican War of Independence in 1822, it became a Mexican territory. Nevada was situated in the territory of Alta California (Spanish for Upper California). This territory included the modern day states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and parts of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Tensions between Mexico and America began growing more hostile and by 1846 the two countries erupted into war against one another. At this time, American’s possessed a major expansionist sentiment know as 'Manifest Destiny' and a year prior to the war, James K. Polk had been elected as America’s 11th president. While campaigning for his presidency he pledged to annex Texas and California from the Mexican government. Before the end of Polk’s first year as President he had annexed Texas, resulting in Mexico declaring war on the United States

The three main reasons to bring Texas into the Union as a state were religion, race and republicanism. Americans got their vote for annexing a new slave state in the name of freedom by gaining northern support to vote democratic. It is know that on America's side there were around 27,000 soldiers and 59,000 volunteers, but there is no adequate information on the strength of the Mexican army. Both sides worked to expand their army's strengths while also recruiting male citizen-soldiers. In America these were called volunteer regiments while in Mexico they were National Guard units, which were mobilized for the emergency. There is little information of Indian peoples' experiences during the war except that the conditions of the lives of settlers and soldiers grew worse. These people also had less freedom and their interactions with settler society became heavily policed.

The Mexican American war has been looked at as one of the most unjust wars ever waged. Americans knew that the Mexicans were a weaker country, without a strong army and thus used this to their advantage. The objective of the war was to expand the border to the Pacific Ocean by taking almost half of Mexico's territory. The two countries clashed due to the fact that Americans considered the Rio Grand River the border, while Mexicans considered the Nueces River as the border which separated the two countries. However, if there were to be a single reason for the Mexican-American War it would be the annexation of Texas. Previous to the war, in 1836, Texas won its independence from Mexico. Mexico only threatened war when the Americans annexed Texas in December 1845. Though the relationship between America and Mexico was already tense when President Polk tried to negotiate the purchase of California and the lands between it to work towards Manifest Destiny. The negotiation was 30 million dollars in exchange for Mexico's northern territories and additionally obtaining the Rio Grand River as the border rather than the Nueces River. James K. Polk was attempting to make half of Mexico a part of the United States.

Illustrated painting of The Battle of Palo Alto

The war initially started when the American Army crossed the Nueces River to establish a fort on the Rio Grande. Thus resulting in Mexico declaring war on April 23rd 1846; and Congress declaring war on May 13th 1846. The first battle fought was the battle of Palo Alto after the American annexation of Texas, Mexican troops surrounded Texas with cannons. Thirty-two hundred Mexican troops were blocking the return of American General Taylor. This resulted in a battle where there were 400 wounded and 200 killed Mexicans, with only 44 wounded and 9 killed Americans. The Mexicans may have had a larger army, but they lacked resources and training which resulted in a decisive defeat. The war on the northern side was over, but the war on the south of the river was about to begin. Mexicans went through a lot of struggle yet still did not want to make a deal with the Americans in selling their land. Mexico was committed to fighting although its troops lacked training and funding. Once the battle began in 1846 both governments realized that their armies would not be sufficient. Antonio López de Santa Anna, whom was an army officer and statesman was at the center of Mexico's politics. He passed through America from Cuba and arrived in Mexico on September 12th 1846. As Mexico's only hope to defeat the Americans, he immediately declared war which resulted in the Battle of Buena Vista. Santa Annas was thrilled because finally, the Mexican troops were winning this battle, but suddenly the American Army received assistance from Mexican politicians. This lead Santa Anna's confidence into grief, the Mexican army on the verge of victory began to retreat. Americans used artillery to repulse the much larger Mexican Army in the battle. By the end of the battle more than 2000 people had died. Santa Anna returned to Mexico City as the battle of Buena Vista ended. The battle was the bloodiest of the Mexican-American war and resulting in the loss of more Mexican than American troops.

The Mexican-American War in California[edit | edit source]

Following the annexation of Texas, America’s conviction to see Manifest Destiny as a reality, led them to look towards the annexation of Alta California. There was word that France and Britain were interested in the territory and Polk would not allow Alta California to fall under British or French rule. The US government first proposed the peaceful purchase of the Mexican territory or to annex the country through mutual agreement with its people, but neither of these propositions was going to be the case. In 1846, Alta California began experiencing some demographic changes. Alta California was mostly populated by Californios, people of mixed Mexican and Indian decent, and a newly settled Americans. Due to the lack of the Mexican government’s involvement in this territory they began experience a large sentiment of independence and self-governance. This would lead to the Bear Flag Revolt. The new American settlers felt that they would be removed from Alta California by the Mexican government due to the war between the two countries and decided to act first. Thirty-four American settlers joined together and stormed the northern military district of Mexican Alta California, but to their surprise, the Mexican leaders offered up their surrender peacefully and the settlers declared Alta California an independent republic flying under the Bear Flag. Polk had caught wind of this new change in the balance of power and assumed Alta California was ripe for the taking. He instructed General Kearny and 300 of his soldiers to march into Alta California and claim the Northwestern Mexican territory for the United States. Polk and Kearny assumed that with the successful Bear Revolt and the American Navy having taken over many important positions in the territory that it would be an easy undertaking.General Kearny decided to leave 200 of his men to defend New Mexico, and took the remaining 100 to march on Alta California. This would prove to be an almost fetal mistake for Kearny and his men as they would soon learn that they would experience overwhelming resistance. The American force was almost immediately attacked by a force of Mexican cavalry who drastically out-numbered them. Kearny’s force, who was exhausted from their long journey across the territory, experienced severe losses and Kearny himself was almost killed. General Kearny decided they would not advance any further until they received reinforcements. His forces were soon joined by a company of sailors and marines that had already been occupying the territory earlier. They continued towards San Diego with little resistance. Kearny issued a proclamation establishing a new government in Alta California and established Monterey as its capital. There were some political disputes about who claimed dominance in Alta California but Kearny had won and also received a promotion to major-general.

Mexico's Territory Before The Mexican-American War

The Treaty of Guadalupe[edit | edit source]

Treaty of Guafalupe Hidalgo

Later in 1847 President Polk decided to attack Mexico City, hoping the threat of losing their capital would force Mexico to sell their northern lands to the United States. At this point Mexicans were forced to surrender and the war came to an end when General Scott took Mexico City. Polk sent his peace negotiator, Nicolas P. Trist, to Mexico and secure a peace treaty. The Mexicans, knowing the war had been lost, reluctantly signed the Treaty of Guadalupe, which was signed on February 2nd, 1848. The Mexican-American War officially ended with an American victory. Unfortunately for the Mexicans, only nine days after the signing of the treaty, the Americans discovered gold in California.

The Mexican-American war lasted roughly two years, starting in May 1846 due to the American annexation of Texas and ending with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Treaty saw the United States gain 535,000 square miles (1,385,600 square kilometres) of territory.The Americans would gain control of over half of Mexico’s territory, territory that was to become the states of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. The United States also decreased their offer from $30 million to $15 million for the Mexican land. During this period the Americans controlled all of Mexico, to a degree. In Washington, some congressmen were pushing for the entire country to be annexed to the United States, but Polk himself did not consider this reasonable. Mexicans living in the lands handed over to the Americans were now eligible for U.S. citizenship. In the end, the United States came away with a major geographic and political victory while the still young Mexico suffered greatly. At the end of the war, Mexico was a broken nation. No political figure wanted to take the blame for giving half of their country's land away to the United States. It had lost over 12 000 men in the battle and more than half of its territory to the Americans. The Mexican-American war is to this day is one of the most scrutinized and criticized wars that the American government has ever taken part in, many people believe that the Americans bullied Mexico into giving up its land.

Research Note[edit | edit source]

It is important to keep in mind that there is a serious lack of research and resources with historical information about Nevada at this time in history. The history of Nevada, and its people that became Nevada, is just not very well documented because most historians focus on California and Mexico where there is more information and major events. This is a very serious historical problem and people need to critical of this when researching the topic of Nevada before 1848. As stated previously, Native Americans in Nevada were relatively untouched for 200 years after the first interactions in neighbouring Utah, California, and New Mexico. Nevada tends to be overlooked prior to 1848 and thus some research and resources must be critically analyzed as the Native populations didn't have much of a chance to document history themselves. All accounts must be looked at through both the lens of the Native population as well as the explorer to gain a better understanding on how Nevada functioned prior to 1848.

References[edit | edit source]

Carlson, Helen. "Nevada." Western Folklore 14, no. 1 (1955): 44-49. doi:10.2307/1495952.

Keedy, Edwin R. "The Constitutions of the State of Franklin, the Indian Stream Republic and the State of Deseret." University of Pennsylvania Law Review 101, no. 4 (1953): 526-27. doi:10.2307/3309935.

Nevada from US Territory to Statehood (1848-1864)

Nevada Prior to Territorial Status[edit | edit source]

The End of the Mexican-American War[edit | edit source]

First Page of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

As of 1848, the area of desert that is present-day Nevada was an unexplored passageway traveled primarily by new European arrivals to the Americans emigrating towards the western coast. The massive section of land became part of United States territory in 1848 after Mexico's surrender in the Mexican-American war in 1847. The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was drawn up ending the Mexican-American war that occurred during the previous two years, containing ramifications that the Mexican Republic relinquish control of a substantial amount of land in exchange for a monetary fee. With the conflict between the United States and the Mexican Republic ended, the accessibility of western territories by migrants became the main route of travel to the western seaboard. Following the discovery of gold within the Californian territory in 1849, the western province would witness an enormous influx of emigrants comprised of a wide variety of race and cultures. Established only one year later, the Compromise of 1850 included the creation of the state of California, as well as the territory of Utah that encompassed Nevada at the time. The breakthrough of the Californian gold rush would serve as a tidal wave in the development of Nevadan territory into becoming recognized as more than just an empty desert in the territory of Utah.

Effects of the California Gold Rush[edit | edit source]

1850 Woman and Men in California Gold Rush

Within only five years following the discovery of gold in California, its population expanded from a mere 10,000 to over 250,000. The desire to earn riches quickly through discovering gold was a primary driver to emigrate for many of these pioneers. The supply system of gold was not great enough to support the tens and thousands of prospectors, who combed anywhere, rumored to be rich with gold while abandoning camps to go to the next. Production of gold mining steadily declined in each year, forcing miners to return home or attempt to uncover precious metals elsewhere. Mining in the Sierra-Nevada territory was not prominent during the California gold rush, but the presence of gold was noted during a prospector’s emigration to California in 1849. As the excitement in California surrounding the gold rush subsided, so begun what would initiate launching the Nevadan area into its eventual statehood.

Early Immigration to Nevada[edit | edit source]

Initially, the potential mineral wealth of the Comstock Lode attracted miners. However, not all people who immigrated to Nevada at this timer were miners, there were a number of diverse occupations arriving due to the increased population of the town. Many people in Virginia City were merchants, mechanics, teachers, seamstresses, laundresses, milliners, dance hall girls, prostitutes, and saloonkeepers, who followed the miners to Nevada. This is because the wealth of the miners attracted saloonkeepers, gamblers, and prostitutes who would “mine the miners” for their newfound wealth. Miners died daily from diseases, accidents, or murderous fights because violence and dueling were commonplace in this time period. Therefore, the men whose job it was to extract the silver and gold needed a way to escape the harsh realities of everyday life through entertainment. Entertainment in Virginia City was confined to drinking, gambling, and prostitution: all of which could be found in the local saloons. Of the first 100 commercial buildings erected, twenty-five were saloons, this demonstrates how commonplace saloons were.

The Demographics and Politics of Territorial Nevada[edit | edit source]

The Mormon Period[edit | edit source]

Brigham Young (President of the Church of Latter Day Saints from 1847 to 1877)

Prior to 1860, Nevada was a relative backwater in the American west, so far as citizens of the Union were concerned. Little interest existed in extracting minerals, as the California Gold Rush still presented an attractive prospect to entrepreneurial gold-seekers. During the early to middle phases of the Gold Rush, Mormon colonization constituted the most significant influx of Union citizens to the Territory.

Nevada attracted Mormon settlement primarily due to the potential profits in supplying Gold Rushers. In 1850, a delegation was dispatched from Salt Lake City in the Utah Territory with the objective of locating an opportune area for the establishment of a trading post, and doing so; eventually, Carson City was selected for settlement by the delegation. The economic premise of this mission coincided with the fulfillment of the expansionist political aims of the Church, a product of Brigham Young himself. Once a formal structure of governance was established in Carson County in 1855, Mormons swept local elections; all political offices in the County but one went to Mormon candidates.

Tensions between Mormons and gentiles came to a head when, in 1853 and 1855, gentile settlers petitioned for annexation by California, and failed to do so. Further conflict emerged between the two communities in 1857 when president Buchanan exercised executive power to dismiss nearly all of Utah’s government officials, including Young (then the governor of Utah Territory), from service, following which he installed a non-Mormon governor and dispatched 2,500 soldiers on a “Mormon Expedition.” Young and other Church leaders, believing this to be a threat to their continued political and religious existence, recalled all Mormon settlers to Utah to defend the faith. This outflux of settlers from the County (in all, 450 Mormons departed, reducing its population by approximately two-thirds, which implies a post-exodus population of 225) made room for newer settlers and encouraged the formation of apparatuses of government which looked to D.C. in hopes of incorporation into the Union.

Mining and Nevada[edit | edit source]

The Comstock Lode[edit | edit source]

Throughout the early to mid-1850s, miners struggled to find a breakthrough in the Sierra-Nevada with many living on a meager three to four dollars per day. It was not until 1859 that the central aspect of Nevada’s mining prosperity would be made publicly known. In January of 1859 a small group of miners composed of notable individuals such as Henry Comstock, and James “Ol’ Virginny” Finney, John Bishop, Alexander Henderson, and John Yount made what seemed to be encouraging ground on top of a hill by the Six-Mile Canyon. The men who found the site immediately established a camp named Gold Hill. The group had unearthed what would be one-half of the remarkable mining foundation that would propel Nevada forwards. With further exploration of the area neighboring Gold Hill, the collection of miners made another finding, which unbeknownst to them would reignite the craze of a mining rush equivalent to the severity of California’s gold rush. On June 8, 1859, Patrick McLaughlin and Peter O’Riley started working a new site, which was even higher than Gold Hill. This site would later be referred to as Ophir site or Virginia City. Silver mining would be the second half of the Nevadan mining system, as Virginia City was rich in the precious metal, not as common as gold at the time. On June 10 Henry Comstock arrived at Ophir site and realized that McLaughlin and O’Riley had made a significant discovery. He then declared his right to the area, and began negotiations with McLaughlin and O’Riley. Detailed records of the ore deposits show that on June 10, 1859, Penrod & Company, which was later renamed to Comstock and Company, found the load in Ophir. Even though O’Riley and McLaughlin discovered the site, Comstock was more vocal about the discovery, which is why his name was fixed to the lode.

Virginia City during the period of migration spurred by the discovery of the Comstock Lode

Political Consequences of the Comstock Lode[edit | edit source]

On June 11, 1859, after the Comstock Lode was discovered, resolutions were passed which called a constitutional convention of settlers to appoint five delegates of this district, to be elected by the people. At this time the people in the Gold Hill District voted to adopt a set of laws. Many of these laws were modeled after California’s mining customs, because of the large number of pioneer Comstock miners who came from California. The first four articles provided a justice of the peace, constable and district recorder for a term of six months. The following six sections dealt with crimes and their punishment, for example, death by hanging was the punishment for murder. The final fourteen articles outlined rules for mining, for example, the maximum size of land claims was 300 feet, so that people would only claim what they were able to mine. All citizens of the district, signifying their agreement to comply with these laws, signed the rules and regulations. In 1861, in an act of congress organizing Nevada into a territory of the United State, the district mining rules and customs were recognized as valid and binding under the territorial legislature of Nevada. Thus, after the discovery of the Comstock Lode came the beginnings of established legislation, which allowed for the growth of an organized legal system. Due to the discovery of the Comstock Lode, immigration to Nevada increased. What occurred in the towns surrounding the Comstock Lode, such as Virginia City and Gold Hill, can be described as a boomtown, which is a town that has grown rapidly as a result of sudden prosperity. From mid-1849 to 1860 the territory around Sun Mountain, where the Comstock Lode was discovered, drew a steady stream of immigrants from California. This is because many people were seeking work after the California Gold rush. By the end of 1859, 500 silver seeker has arrived in Nevada, doubling its’ population. By the end of 1860 the shabby mining camp, with crude accommodations had become a metropolis of 700 people. In what could be considered a domino effect, it took only two years from the beginning of the Comstock Lode for then President James Buchanan to declare the territory of Nevada for the 6,000 residents incorporating it on March 2nd, 1861.

The Pyramid Lake Massacre[edit | edit source]

Rock formations for which Pyramid Lake was named

In the state of Nevada, The Pyramid Lake Massacre was a defining moment in White-Indian relations. The battle marked the first major Indian resistance to encroaching Union settlement. Reports from newspapers of the time could be unabashedly sensational and were rarely unbiased in their portrayal of Indians.

On May 13th, 1862 at six o’clock in the morning, the New York Times tells of a Mr. C.T. Lake arriving in Virginia City, Nevada to recount what he knew of the event. A soldier of the militia, he had been ordered by the commanding major to guard the route of retreat. Successfully completing his assignment, he and six other men escaped. The massacre came in the wake of a recent series of excitements in the region, beginning with the news of an Indian uprising reaching California on May 8th of the same year. On Monday, May 7th, a large band of Indians from various tribes attacked Miller’s Station, a recently commissioned relay station for the Pony Express, killing nine and raiding what stock they could in the process. Estimates by locals placed the number of warriors at five hundred strong. On May 10th, settlers at Smith’s ranch on Walker’s river in Genoa reported a band of four hundred Indians led by white men. They communicated their intentions to descend upon the Carson valley as the purpose of their gathering, threatening to drive the livestock out of the region and subsequently attack nearby towns. In response to these disturbances, a company of white responders had already been forming, beginning with the tenth company of thirty men and eventually growing to one hundred troops by the time of the massacre. When Major William Ormsby led this company towards Pyramid Lake on the trail of the natives, he and his men were ambushed by a number of warriors judged by Mr. Lake to be two thousand strong. The Major ordered his men to charge, at which point they were surrounded and roundly defeated. Some whites escaped, though Lake judged the majority of the men to lay dead on the field. Later estimates judge roughly sixty-six of the hundred men to have been killed or unaccounted for including Major Ormsby himself.

A group of Shoshone Indians posing several years later by the nearby Ruby Valley

Early exaggerations of the still-significant events provoked state and private entities to react immediately. Private citizens in Placerville and Sacramento raised three thousand dollars and outfitted a company of well-armed and outfitted volunteers to defend Virginia city.The state responded in similar manner, promptly dispatching two hundred of its own troops. The federal government issued large quantities of ammo and ammunition dispatching all available soldiers in central California to the area. Between state action in California and the federal response elsewhere, it was estimated that no less than three thousand two hundred sixty troops were raised for the counter-effort within a single month. Further attacks by the offending warband were broadly anticipated. Settlers from locales in the surrounding region such as Carson, Black Rock county, Honey Valley, Honey Lake Valley and Genoa vacated the region out of fear, whilst others such as Colonel Lander, an experienced Union officer stationed in the region, remained unfazed, skeptical of the verifiability of some of the accounts. The coalition of Shoshones, Honey Lake, Smoke Creek, and Paiute warriors that formed in this instance was unprecedented in the region, as the Paiute in particular were thought to be a fairly peaceable collection of tribes. Even at the time many Americans were aware of the desperate situation many Indians faced, driving them to such extreme measures. The military response to the uprising regardless proved effective and swiftly crushed any threat of further attacks by the group.

Gender and Employment[edit | edit source]

Despite the presence of prostitutes and dancing girls, not all women living in Virginia City had these occupations. From a census collected in 1860, one year after the Comstock Lode was discovered, it was found that of the 111 women living in Virginia City, 83 were living with husbands. This indicates that a family-based community was growing soon after the discovery of the Comstock Lode. As families grew so too did the population, and a need for more businesses and institutions, such as schools. This process led to the further growth of surrounding cities and contributed to the process of Nevada gaining statehood in 1864.

In 1860, the majority of Nevadans were: white, male, and employed in skilled labour. Men represented roughly ninety percent of the population of the Territory, two-thirds of which were employed in a skilled trade, with minor subsections in agriculture, commerce, and military occupations. The female demographic, representing roughly ten percent of the population, are for the most part unaccounted for with respect to their employment. This implies either domesticity or employment in less than reputable pursuits according to the morals of the time. Contrasting this with 1870, we see an increase in the percentage of women in the population, as well as in domestic employment. Furthermore, there was a small minority employed in education, implying the development of a settled society with intent to produce and raise subsequent generations in situ.

Counted Population, NV, 1860-1870, by Gender
Percent Breakdown of Employment, NV, 1860-1870, by Gender

Race and Employment[edit | edit source]

An overwhelming majority of Nevadans were white in both 1860 and 1870, but 1860 presaged an influx of Chinese immigrants, presumably attracted by the prospect of economic opportunity in mining or railroads within the state-to-be. This attraction bore less fruit in 1860 than 1870, as Chinese immigrants, though there were much fewer of them, worked primarily in commercial enterprises or foodservice. By 1870, Chinese immigrants worked primarily in skilled labour positions, though roughly the same proportion worked in foodservice as had previously, indicating either immobility or lack of desire to shift employment preferences. Black and white Nevadans showed remarkable parity with respect to employment distributions by 1870, while native Nevadans were employed primarily in services or had unknown sources of employment.

Percent Distribution of Counted Persons, NV, 1860-1870, by Colour
Percent Breakdown of Employment, NV, 1860-1870, by Colour

A Brief Note of Thanks[edit | edit source]

The data in these censuses have been dutifully and painstakingly transcribed by a team of scholars, beginning with Ronald M. James in 1991, and transferred into formats compatible with the crafting of visualizations and numerical analyses from the data. It is from these data that the preceding figures and tables have been created; therefore Dr. James and his team are owed a substantial debt of gratitude for facilitating this research. As a means of demonstrating the substantial growth that 1860 presaged in Nevada, 1870 is included in the following figures, so as to offer context regarding the growth of the state past incorporation.

Becoming a State[edit | edit source]

James W. Nye

Just two days after Nevada had become its own territory, Abraham Lincoln took office as president of the United States. Lincoln appointed James Warren Nye as the territorial governor of Nevada. the idea of statehood came from the residents of the territory, who held a vote without authorization from congress. A constitution was drawn up with the Californian constitution used as a draft, but citizens voted against the final version. Citizens in the Nevadan territory were mainly concerned with not being challenged by heavy taxing on mining, and after one failure for ratification in 1863. Three years after Nevada had been declared its own territory, President Lincoln signed an enabling act stating that once Nevada came up with a constitution, that congress would review it and grant it statehood. Delagates met from July 4th to 27th, 1864 to write a new constitution, adding in the outlawing of slavery in the state and giving public land to the federal government. The constitution was approved by citizens on Nevada and on October 31st, 1864, Nevada was granted statehood, becoming the 36th state to enter the Union.

Early Statehood (1864-1912)

From Territory to Statehood[edit | edit source]

Mexican-American War[edit | edit source]

Manifest Destiny was the nineteenth-century American belief that it was in God’s plan for the country to the expansion of the country and Americans’ violence against indigenous peoples and Mexicans.This idea of expansionism and its implications in the annexation of Texas were the cause of the Mexican – American war of 1846.

Map of North America before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848)

The United States annexed Texas in 1845 despite many Congressmen stating that this would incite war with Mexico. Mexico claimed ownership of Texas even though the state had gained its independence in 1836. The war’s fighting ended in 1847 when the American troops reached Mexico City but the war ended officially with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848. In the treaty, Mexico ceded 500,000 square miles of territory to the United States who had to pay Mexico $15 million in war damage and assume $3.25 million of claims against the country. The land ceded to the United States contained seven present-day states; California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, parts of Wyoming, Colorado and the state of Nevada.

Carson City[edit | edit source]

In 1859 the area that is now Nevada came into the national consciousness with the discovery of a large silver ore deposit. People came from across the country to benefit from the production of the mines and several new towns were established. Investors from the eastern states got involved and the population in the area surrounding the mines exploded. New prospectors from California helped to expand the population of Nevada in its early statehood. With all the traffic from California coming to the mines a prospector named Abe Curry founded Carson City. Carson city was intended to become Nevada's state capital, which it would become in 1861.

Location of Carson City
James W Nye; the first territorial governor of Nevada appointed under Abraham Lincoln

The southern states objected to the admittance of any western territories that would not permit slavery. That hurdle was removed by the secession of the Confederate states in 1861 and three new territories were created as President James Buchanan left office, Dakota, Colorado, and Nevada. Carson City was established as the territorial capital of Nevada and President Abraham Lincoln appointed James W. Nye, one of his supporters, to be the territorial governor.

Convention to Discuss Statehood[edit | edit source]

Nye got to Nevada in October of 1861 and started the work to form a territorial legislature by allowing every settlement to choose a representative. William M. Stewart became a leader in the legislature when he negotiated the creation of Nevada’s nine counties as well as maintaining Carson City as the capital. Even though Nevada’s population was considerably small, when the territorial legislature met for the second time in 1862 they felt that the growing mining wealth warranted beginning the processes for statehood. The territory held a referendum on pursuing statehood in 1863, the vote was in favor 6,660 to 1,502 so a state constitutional convention was held in November of 1863. The first draft of the Nevada constitution was voted down by the populace for its proposal to tax mines and private property equally. As a territory that profited greatly from its silver mines the thought of unfairly taxing the mine owners was met with little support, the people thought that mines should be taxed based on production. When the constitution was defeated at the territorial level the process was adopted by the federal government.

Lincoln's Involvement[edit | edit source]

President Lincoln and the Republican party needed more states in the union to gain more votes. Lincoln was worried that he would not win the 1864 election and would then be unable to end the Civil War and he needed more votes to pass the proposed thirteenth amendment. The amendment to end slavery had passed through the Senate in April of 1864 but failed to get the two-thirds of votes necessary to make it through the House of representatives. Because of these needs, President Lincoln changed the process by which a territory became a state. He made it so that a territory would achieve statehood if the President authorized its constitution, this method did not include Congress as Lincoln thought that they would not admit Nevada. In 1864 President Lincoln authorized three territories to hold constitutional conventions and form state governments. Out of Nevada, Colorado, and Nebraska, Nevada was the only one to achieve statehood that year. The convention met and completed the Nevada constitution over 17 days in July of 1864, the decision was made to tax mines on their proceeds not their property and the constitution passed by a vote of 10,375 to 1,284. The document was quickly telegraphed to Washington and Nevada was declared a state by President Lincoln on October 31, 1864 – one week before the presidential election. Lincoln won the election and Nevada’s Republican representative helped to pass the Thirteenth Amendment in April of 1865.

Nevada's statehood was very important to Abraham Lincoln

The Federal Government and Landownership[edit | edit source]

Early Landownership[edit | edit source]

Agriculture has played a large role in Nevada's politics and economy despite the common perception of Nevada as a desert state. The federal government's land ownership began when Nevada was still a territory and resulted in a successful agricultural industry. To this day the federal government still owns 85% of the land in Nevada, owing to land ownership developments during the period between 1864 and 1912. Nevada's entry as a state in the United States of America and subsequent individual treaties and acts were the ways by which Nevada's land became federal land.

The Roll in Early Statehood[edit | edit source]

In 1864 Nevada became a state. The United States government was acting on an agenda of expanding over the continent by purchasing the land of territories as they became states . This was done by the Lincoln administration, motivated to secure a second term in his presidency after facing the challenges outlined earlier. As a territory became a state, the Federal Government purchased all of the land it had claimed. The Federal Government would then transfer this land to either individuals or the State Government. In this case, the Federal Government also claimed parts of Utah and Arizona to add to Nevada. This increased the land mass and extended its border down to meet the Colorado River, which provided an essential water source for Nevada . This increased the appeal of Nevada to citizens in hopes of attracting migration to the state.

Nevada's borders before statehood
The Homestead Act, initially implemented in 1862, was the first act to outline land ownership in Nevada.

Treaties[edit | edit source]

Various treaties and acts were implemented at the same time as altering Nevada's border, all in the hopes of increasing the state's appeal. This was first done through the creation of the Homestead Act, which outlined the ideal process by which Nevadian land was to be attained. The act continued to gain status as it was enriched in 1909. Each act had its own intentions in bringing development to the West. Each was met with issues that rendered them ineffective.

Desert Lands Act[edit | edit source]

The desert lands act was passed in 1877 and was the first act to give westerners access to more than 160 acres. Ranching requires a lot of land and this act was the first to recognize this key feature. The lack of public land laws also left citizens unable to gather the supplemental land they needed . The act was designed to give arid land to settlers, with proof that land had been irrigated, as well as a strategic location that would make continued irrigation a possibility. However, the land allotted was too large for individual homesteaders to take on and too small for ranchers to viably operate. It also resulted in monopolies in the water market as parties figured out ways to restrict the water at certain points of the irrigation canals.

The Problem this Creates[edit | edit source]

Nevada was more appealing to newcomers with this increase in public land. With little personal investment and responsibility it provided a relatively safe opportunity for ranchers. Over time ranchers created their own associations to secure use of this public land, they hoped to create boundaries to protect their ranges. The federal government allowed boundary creation for a period of time but faced issues with preventing the escalation in disputes between individuals. The disposal of the land acquired in Nevada also became an issue for the federal government. The environment was arid, rocky and generally challenging to incorporate into an agrarian lifestyle. The most ideal land had already been settled earlier. This left mainly land for pasture, which had to compete against the public use land. Congress had struggled with public lands from the beginning. In 1879 congress created the Interior department that was responsible for classifying public lands and yet that same year the ignored reviews on how to “rationalize land policy” .

Tragedy of the Commons[edit | edit source]

The economic response to the public lands, which are an example of a common-pool resource, is called the tragedy of the commons. It is a situation where a resource became depleted because of an inability to exclude or limit individual use. Instead of maximizing the utility of the resource, individuals chose to maximize their personal utility. The strain of the individuals using the resource was beyond the point of maximum utility and the resource’s integrity was threatened. For the public lands of Nevada this happened through over grazing as individuals wanted to have as large of a herd as possible on these lands This maximized their utility from the free land and as a result, the grasses of the fields were consumed and trampled down to the point where they could no longer support the people who depended on them.

Theodore Roosevelt, the rough riding twenty-sixth president of the United States of America.

Continued Support[edit | edit source]

Despite the obvious economic and environmental downfalls this type of land holding had, the government maintained the use of these public lands for use by rancher. This was the result of a developing romanticization of the West and its cowboy keeper. With common-pool goods, to regulate them effectively you must have three things, unified interest, easy communication and a way to make these agreements binding . The ranchers that were dependent on these lands, while they had little political power, had considerable support of various political groups . President Theodore Roosevelt, who held office from 1901 to 1909 is known for his overt masculinity that he felt, was echoed by the cowboy lifestyle. This political notion was pushed forward in the early years of his administration through the romanticization of the western cowboy and rancher lifestyle that is still evident today. Many supporting this movement argued that allowing individuals to capitalize on public lands would encourage them to develop the west, as it acted as an incentive to adapt to its inhospitable climate . The individuals who seized this opportunity would then transfer to private ownership because of their desire to establish something of their own and public land became too crowded. However, this was not the result. Given that it was the late 1800’s to early 1900’s communication was limited, especially in Nevada where basic infrastructure was yet to be established. As one would expect, in the wild West there was little federal policing. Why would you buy what you need, when you can continue to get it for free? As the pioneering individuals chose to continue in the public lands, the federal government was left owning more than they had imagined.

The Silver Party[edit | edit source]

The growing silver industry in Nevada and the other newly acquired western states turned the American West into a new political force to be reckoned with. These new states wanted jurisdiction over their own political and economic policies. As such, they formed their own political party to properly represent their views, which became The Silver Republican Party.

Henry Moore Teller, founding member of the Republican Silver Party

The Silver Party was an offshoot of the Republican party, despite their singular political platform. The Party was established by Senator Henry Moore Teller. Teller was a founding member of the Republican party from Colorado in 1892. Silverites were primarily concerned with “free coinage of silver” and institute and continue the free coinage of silver in the United States. However; their remaining political platform and beliefs were characteristic of the Republican party during the early 20th century. The Party also criticized the wealthier eastern states of the United States, as well as Europe and Asia. The Silver Party hoped that by establishing silver as the sole coinage of the United States, any debt would be settled and a surplus of money would be created. As such, in the early 20th century, The Silver Party Republicans were seen as a more progressive political party. This political party was important because it not only provided a voice for the newer western states, but it’s creation also marked the first decade of equal representation in American politics. Furthermore, the bimetallic question became an important and polarizing topic in the United states in 1890.

Well known Silver Party members in congress included numerous governors and senators from Nevada, such as William M. Stewart and John P. Jones. The Silver Party’s members were described as being split into three distinct groups, The En Masse, Day to day people concerned with “super abundant and cheap money,” and The Bimetallists. The En Masse Group were the residents of the states that produce the silver, they had a powerful influence. They were concerned with the prices of products within their communities. Senator John P. Jones of Nevada is included as a member of this group. The second group was only involved in the party’s cause with the hope that silver would become cheaper than gold. The Bimetallists, hoped to create a stable value for money by including silver along with gold as currency, thereby creating a “par of exchange.” A variety of radical political groups in the 20th century also rallied around the polarized, bimetallist cause. Socialists, Suffragists and prohibitionists all joined forces, with other groups to support the progressive bimetallist cause.

Portrait of William M. Stewart, notable Silver Party Member

The Silver Party’s platform was to legitimize silver as the sole currency of the United States and in doing so, eliminate any economic problems that were previously associated with the previous monetary system. Silverites wanted to government legislation to officially determine the value of silver to be a ratio of 16:1 compared to the value of gold. Smaller offshoot Silver Republicans also lobbied for the free production of silver in addition. The Silver Party wanted to implement a tariff to protect the basic industry of the states involved in the production of silver coinage, many of which had underdeveloped economies during the party’s active years. The Party’s foundational doctrines were based on the failure of gold as a currency and a world wide standard. The economy in Nevada had undergone a series of economic slumps since the 1880‘s with silver mining being the sole industry.By placing tariffs on silver, as well as utilizing it for coinage, Nevada, as well as the other western states, would be able to reestablish themselves economically. The party and its platforms were formed to solely protect the interests of western states, as silver coinage became a symbol for hope for the American economy, after the 1890 depression. The silver republicans were not well informed on how the economy of the eastern states and how the monetary system worked, which became the major downfall of the party. Silver Party supporters wanted to distance themselves from the “gold standard” as they themselves had been previously dependent on it and Wall Street. As previously mentioned, the party itself was primarily controlled by regular citizens of these states, not the political elite. These people had taken out gold loans from east coast bankers to help cultivate the new state and became inherently dependent on gold and the east coast bankers on wall street who controlled it. Teller, who established the party even went as far as to claim that the current monetary system in place was as oppressive as slavery was.

Many easterners hoped the idea of silver coinage would disappear once the economies in these states had time to further develop. Silver as coinage was first rejected in 1896 following the German demonetization of Silver in 1873. In 1896, congress revised the coinage laws of the United States and in 1900 passed the Gold Standard Act. This act legally ensured that all other metal currencies values would be based off of gold, as well as officially stating that gold was the only accepted currency in the United States.

The Party’s political hold began to falter when the economy began to recover after the various depressions of the late 19th century. The price of gold began to rise again, as did the supply of it, similar to what the Silver Party had hoped would happen with silver. The discovery of new gold deposits, world wide, as well as the discovery of new methods of refining were attributed to the rising price of gold and did not help the Silverites cause. At the Republican Convention in 1896, The Silver Party, realizing that their policies were more progressive than their parent group, left. They combined forces with the Democrats in 1900 and remained allied with them till 1911 when they were formally dissolved.

The Comstock Lode[edit | edit source]

A sample of the silver found in the Comstock

Not only was the Comstock lode one of the largest silver finds in American History, but it was also the first time that silver had been discovered on American soil. This silver mine was the heart of the Nevada economy for more than three decades and was largely responsible for attracting settlers to Nevada. While it did create some jobs, the Comstock Lode was really only beneficial to the rich Californian financiers who funded its creation. The primary mineral in the Comstock was silver, and as such, the findings in the mine were coveted after by many Californian businessmen who were so close to Carson City.

Depiction of shaft locations at the Comstock Lode

Economic Interests[edit | edit source]

The large mineral strike brought problems of corruption and capitalist greed. Wealthy business interests from California were able to monopolize the entirety of the Comstock Lode and its profits by exploiting political actors of the new state. The lode was not prosperous for the few people who lived in Nevada at the time of its discovery, and most of the profits left the state to California.

From the 1860’s to 1880’s the Comstock Lode was referred to as “the centre of Nevada’s economic life”[1]. The Lode suffered considerably from the fact that the majority of the profits from mineral extraction were going to California. As such the Lode did little to help the people living in Nevada. Those who ran the profits from the Lode were known as the Bank Crowd. The Bank Crowd was a group of wealthy bank representatives who managed the assets of the Union Mill and Mining Company. They held the monopoly over the Comstock for the entirety of the time between the 1860’s and 1880’s . They were able to maintain their monopoly by pressuring local and federal political actors. This political power held by Californian business men would allow them to maintain control over the Lode for the entirety of its profitability.

Economically Disadvantaged[edit | edit source]

As unconventional as Nevada's economy is, it is one that developed out of necessity. The silver state's economic system has historically been one that is largely reliant on gambling and mining, both finite entities that are not reliable long term solutions. As problematic as this is, it is in many ways an instance of making the best out of a bad situation. Simply put, Nevada consists of economically unproductive natural resources, as the states landscape, largely composed of deserts and mountains, make for a difficult environment to allow prosperity. This also relates to a lack of agriculture occurring in the state, as its rangelands are the driest in the entire country. Even Aboriginals, who relied on natural resources to survive, had difficulty extracting materialistic value from Nevadian natural sources. Given a lack of intrinsic sustainable resources Nevada was ultimately forced into a corner whereby the only way that its economy may thrive is in a situation of unconventionality.

Mining Culture and Class Dynamics (1860-1900)[edit | edit source]

A miner in the Comstock. Note the small amount of space. Mining conditions like this were common in the Lode

The establishment of the Comstock Lode drastically changed the culture of Nevada. Because of the nature of the mining monopoly and working class citizens needing jobs people working in the mine became exploited by the Bank Crowd. Miners risked their lives everyday and were paid very little. Virginia City and Gold Hill were two mining towns in Nevada that housed people who worked in the Comstock. Problems with inequality grew in these areas. While there was a small middle class more than 40% of people were miners. The middle class was mostly comprised of business owners and proprietors who enjoyed a better living than those working in the mines for the most part. While miners were a huge section of the population they only held an estimated 12% of the total wealth in the areas working the Comstock.

Mining in the 19th and early 20th century was extremely dangerous as well and death was quite common. One particularly lethal event was known as the Yellow Jacket fire. This event decimated a mine in 1869. It was responsible for killing more than forty workers. The fire was extremely hard to stop as it was underground and as such the section which the fire was in was forced closed for three entire years while the fire cooled. There were many other dangers associated with working in mines as well and hundreds lost their lives in the mines between the period of 1863 and 1880. However those who were unskilled, single and young had few other job prospects in the area following the economic depression of 1863.

This theme of inequality and a large, underpaid working class would persist in the Comstock area for the entire time that the lode was being used. The Union Mill and Mining company was able to solidify their control of the mine. As such, the inequality between the elites and the working class would persist until tensions grew and a miners union was created.

Mining Union Rising and Downfall[edit | edit source]

One of the most worrying instances at the Comstock Lode was the creation of a Union in 1863. This union was created following the depression and amid concerns that wages would fall from $4 to $3.50 a day. Regardless of the safety concerns, the primary force driving workers towards unionizing was a wage drop. However, the positivity and success surrounding the union would be short lived. The Union Mill and Mining company, as mentioned before, had powerful political influence. As such, they were able to convince local government officials that soldiers needed to be sent in to squash what mine bosses described as rebellion. This, coupled with low levels of union membership, resulted in a lowering of wages to $3.50 per day. From this point forward, the common theme of inequality and corruption of mine bosses would persist in Virginia City and Carson City as well as the whole of Nevada. Workers were unfairly treated and poorly compensated for such risky work. The continual inequality is really the narrative surrounding the Comstock Lode, as rich and powerful members of society were able to prosper while workers received very little in return. By the end of the Comstock Lode’s glory days, it had produced around $400 million worth of minerals, most of which would only be seen by wealthy businessmen. However, it was still able to become a very strong force in the Western economy of, not only Nevada, but also California. It even led to a mutually beneficial relationship between the two states, as railways constructed for the purpose of mineral transportation would eventually be used to serve a similar purpose for cattle, which remains a noteworthy market today for each state. The Comstock Lode is ultimately a striking example of economic inequality in the United States, as it portrays the flaws of capitalism and its associated greed.

Mining Economy[edit | edit source]

The discovery of silver played a big part in the economy of the state of Nevada. From 1860 to 1882 the Comstock produced $292,726,310 in precious metals. Miners made $4 a day throughout the 1860s and 1870s. Subsequently, the majority group in this population were male miners, although women migrated to the community as it grew. As silver was mined, there was an increasing stratification of personal wealth and land ownership in Virginia City. A small number of people made a lot of money off these economic ventures, but it involved many risks.

In the 1860s, most of the mines on Comstock Lode were owned or financed by the Bank of California and two men named William Sharon and William Ralston. This dominant force meant that most of the wealth of the area went outside the state (in particular towards San Francisco). Weak governmental institutions in the early years of Nevada state meant that it was easy for one economic source to become dominant. This is what happened with mining under the Bank of California, and it would continue with the construction of railroads such as the Virginia and Truckee (VT) Railroad. In the 1860s the bank controlled the price of stocks on mines, often driving the price up so high that no one else could compete. By 1867, four hundred mining companies were operating on the Comstock and had issued stock. Investing in the mine by buying stock was not without risk though. Of those four hundred mining companies in 1867, only three paid dividends on the stock they issued.

By the 1870s, the mines on Comstock Lode were much less productive and unemployment rose in Virginia City and other boomtowns surrounding it. It was around this time that the balance of power changed in Virginia City from the Bank of California to the so-called “Silver Kings”. These were John W. Mackay, William S. O’Brien, James C. Flood and James G. Fair. This period was also called the “Big Bonanza” for new silver ore discovery in the area. The Silver Kings had been mine workers who then worked their way up to become speculators, building a mining syndicate. They controlled most of the mining operations on the Comstock and made a lot of money for themselves through the 1870s. This shift in power meant that the economy of Nevada was more homegrown, with less money going towards California.

Unfortunately, this period of prosperity would be short-lived.The decline in production from the Comstock had begun in the late 1870s. Miners lost their jobs which effected other parts of society. Construction slowed down on new buildings and restaurants and saloons closed. The end was signaled in 1880 when the VT Railroad owners tore up new track that had been laid heading towards Silver City in favor of a different route. The boom was over and there was no point in new railroads being sent towards depleted economies. This decline was slow, but by 1895 dividend payments to investors in the mines had stopped. The Silver Kings sold their remaining shares and retired. Banks in the area had stopped issuing coins in 1893 and the Territorial Enterprise newspaper that covered the area ceased publication with the words, “For sufficient reasons we stop.” There were several smaller booms in places such as Tonopah and Goldfield in the early twentieth century, which allowed the mills in Comstock to keep operating as long as possible. However, none of the silver ore found could match the Comstock at its height. By 1900, the population of Storey County was only 3,560, where forty years earlier it had been over 25,000.

Carson City Population[2]
Census Pop. % Change
1850 714 -
1860 714 0%
1870 3,042 326.1%
1880 4,229 39%
1890 3,950 -6.6%
1900 2,100 -46.8%
1910 2,466 +17.4%
1920 1,685 -31.7%
1930 1,596 -5.3%
1940 2,478 +55.3%
1950 3,082 +24.4
This table shows the fluctuating populations

of Carson City from 1850-1950

Early Mining Settlements and Boom Towns[edit | edit source]

During the mid-1800’s to early 1900’s Nevada was discovered to be rich in gold and silver, giving Nevada the nickname of the Silver State. Mining townssprung up around these gold and silver deposits attracting many people from California and the Midwest. These towns were referred to as boom towns. Mining in Nevada had two phases, the Comstock Bonanza and the discovery of silver in 1900. The Comstock Bonanza took place from 1859 to 1878, Nevada then faced a depression after the decline of Bonanza until 1900 with the discovery of silver in Tonopah. These mining booms pushed the borders of the state both eastward and south creating instability at the speed in which the mining companies found and lost their luck. Those who migrated to these towns settled in either the busy boom towns or ranches in the valleys nearby.

Phase One: The Comstock Bonanza

Virginia City was one of the most famous mining towns in Nevada. Deep ore bodies were found along the Comstock in 1871, which sparked interest in the City. These developments allowed Nevada to become the leader of national mineral production in the United States at that time. Virginia city was home to many fine mansions, opera houses and saloons. C street was considered the main strip which included brothels, a railroad station as well as Chinese and Indian communities. The years between 1870 and 1880 were the most prosperous for the boom town with a population of about 20,000 during that period. Women were greatly outnumbered in Comstock Towns, wives of the wealthy worked to create a social standard and helped to establish churches and schools. Many who lived in these boomtowns took part in the gilded age, with a growing economy came more consumption and lavish lifestyles.

Phase Two: Silver in Tonopah

The Tonopah Mining District was first discovered in May 1900 which helped bring an end to a long period of decline that had been plaguing the state for about 19 years. The lack of mining discoveries from 1881 to 1891 left the population of Nevada desperate for income over the next 10 years. Tonopah's isolation was the cause for its late discovery, it wasn't until a man by the name of James L Butler strayed from his destination taking samples to only find a wealth of silver in the area. Over the next couple years the population of the area exploded and railroads were built to maximize the shipping of the ore.

W.A. Clark

One of the most prominent figures associated with this economic boom is W.A. Clark. Though most of his noteworthy actions were made with sole consideration to how he as an individual may benefit, many of his decisions actually had a very positive impact on Nevada. For instance, he was a major contributor to railroad construction during both the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to self profit, he assisted in kick-starting Nevada's economy by continuously transferring minerals between communities. Given the unsustainable and unreliable nature of Nevada's economy financial disparity occurred to the extent that many towns became deserted. These were commonly known as ghost towns. The railways built by Clark were largely responsible for the revival of such communities, along with economic stimulation resulting in all participating parties benefiting.

Mining Districts and Towns

Perhaps one of Nevada's most prosperous mining districts was located in Goldfield, founded by Harry Stimler in 1902. Their gold and silver discovery jump started a mining rush in the area which soon became a major contributor of these precious metals. Goldfield was on the rise with its peak production being reached in 1910 where the mines in the area produced 539,000 ounces of gold and 118,000 ounces of silver. The Goldfield Mining District was estimated to be worth 100 million dollars but its many years of prosperity were met by a long period of decline just after 1910 where many mines were shut down. However, this opened the door for companies to start leasing the land which supplied a majority of the ore produced thereafter. Eureka Mining District This mining district is located within Central Nevada and was first discovered in 1864 by a few prospectors from the near by town Austin making it one of the older mining districts in western Nevada. Eureka was known for its large quantities of silver and lead ore with its 2 major deposits that located in the Ruby Hills and Adams Hills. Eureka celebrated its most prosperous years throughout the late 1800's and was one of the first mining towns to introduce the leasing system in 1878 allowing for maximization of mining in the area.

Pioche Mining District was located at the base of the Ely Range the mining town of Pioche first started its production after silver was discovered by local Indians. Its first year of production was in 1869 and quickly reached its peak production just three short years after in 1872. It reached a population of 6,000 in 1872-73 and was a major contributor of silver chloride ores. Its only flaws were its lack of infrastructure and available water which was a huge hindrance for the development of mining companies. This forced them to exclusively work the high-grade ore as the only means of transportation in the early period was by wagon. Also with the lack of water in the area the development of mills were forced into the neighboring towns of Meadow Valley and Dry Valley.

Austin Nevada went through a transformation after the discovery of silver as well. Before the silver strike Nevada was unexplored with uninviting mountains. The discovery of silver led to a population increase of over 10,000 people within one year. With the population boom came an increase of huts, tents, log cabins and businesses that included bakeries, barber shops, breweries and hotels. Another example of a successful boomtown was Hamilton. Hamilton Nevada could be described as having harsh climate and poor living conditions. By the end of 1869 after the discovery of silver Hamilton’s population increased by 20,000 residents and was home to 195 mining companies. The increase of popularity of the town brought with it skating rinks, dance halls, auction houses, theaters and soda factories. Virginia City, Austin and Hamilton are examples of cities that basically transformed overnight after mining resources were discovered there.

The Northern Saloon

Excessive consumption was popular in Nevada boomtowns. These towns were home to many saloons. The town of Hamilton had 101 businesses that sold liquor and Eureka had 100 saloons for a population of only 10,000. Towns such as Virginia City became increasingly popular and gained international attention, people from all over the world began to visit the boomtowns creating a more diverse community. With the changes of culture and diversity came changes to the saloons which worked to cater to specific ethnicities. For example Virginia City became home to both exclusive Irish establishments as well as a diverse German beer garden. Prostitution was recognized in Comstock towns and considered a standard part of frontier towns. Some boomtowns had their own red light districts as well. Saloons and prostitution are what comes to mind for many when thinking about the culture of boomtowns.

Not all mining towns had lavish living conditions, those who lived in Aurora faced hardship. In 1860, prospectors traveled northward and east in search of ore and ended up discovering Esmeralda the greatest bonanza in that part of the Basin. In the spring of the next year more promising deposits were found to the North and the town was relocated and named Aurora. Aurora was an isolated mining town which made it hard to supply the community with food, fuel, lumber and tools. Life for many in Aurora was full of daily struggles, much different than the lives of those in Virginia City. Miners complained of suffering from scurvy due to lack of vegetables and proper nutrition. The town of Aurora eventually faced a decline in mining. By 1865 many mines and mills were closed leading to the departure of many. The town was on its way to becoming a ghost town, the term used for those towns left abandoned after the decline of silver, gold and other resources. By 1870, half of the towns houses were left empty and major mills and buildings were either dismantled or relocated.

The majority of mining towns across the United States experienced three phases of mining-town development. First, the rapid settlement phase which consisted of cabin or tents laid out at random, second was the camp phase which had a more permanent population living in communities with a typical American grid plan, and finally the town phase, which included stone and brick public buildings in the center of towns. Only some states experienced a fourth phase, abandonment. Places like Virginia city were left behind and buildings and homes were abandoned. The decrease of mining wealth was either due to ore bodies no longer being profitable due to lack of equipment or unfavorable finds that lured miners away. Possessions would be left behind in abandoned homes, merchants closed the doors to their shops and these once prosperous and booming towns became ghost towns. Nevada is famous for these ghost towns which many travelers still visit today.

Women in Nevada[edit | edit source]

Though legitimate equality was by no means present, women did play an important role in the shaping of early Nevada, often by filling various roles in the daily life of boomtowns. Although women’s roles outside of the home were increasing during the 19th and 20th centuries, they were still confined by sexism. In early Nevadan history it is evident that woman were assigned different roles than men, with the latter typically acting as the primary leader and decision maker. Despite a certain lack of liberty, and subsequent lack of opportunity, it cannot be said that women were insignificant in the context of Nevadian state history.

Life for White Women[edit | edit source]

Helen Stewart was a woman who lived in the late 1800s and made a journal of her life in early Nevada. Helen moved with her husband and children to Las Vegas Rancho, and in 1882 she gave birth to her fourth child. Two years later her husband was shot and killed by her neighbour. She courageously went and told the story of her husbands killing and the killer was charged with justifiable homicide. After her husbands death Helen managed her property with her sons and even became a postmaster. The story of Helen offers valuable insight into the lives of woman in early Nevada. Like Helen most woman didn’t have a choice in where they were to live, but rather they followed their husbands. Woman in the 1800s were also responsible for having many children. When looking at the life of Helen, it is also important to look at how woman’s roles were broadened during the 19th century. Helen was able to run her own land and even sold it for a profit of $55,000. Helen’s job as a postmaster was a common job for woman during the time as it was their responsibility to provide food for the men who worked in the mines. Helen's journals give historians valuable insight into what life was like for woman in the 19th century. Before this time period woman were generally unable to own land and participate in the trading and selling of land. Helen's experience is a great example of how rights and life were evolving for woman. It is also important to note that Helen was able to maintain a job and provide for herself. The fact that Helen was able to get a job and provide for herself is significant because historically woman were unable to work and provide for themselves, leaving them ultimately dependent on men. As it was rare for pioneers to write journals, Helen’s journal offers amazing insight into what life was like for the average white woman back in the late 1800s.

Anne Martin, Torchbearer of the Women's Suffrage Movement

Woman's Suffrage[edit | edit source]

The early 1900s was an ever changing political environment where woman were seizing opportunity. One woman who embraced this changing political environment was Miss Anne Martin. Miss Anne Martin spent 2 years in England working for suffrage. Anne Marin was a university graduate, a professor, and an aspiring politician. The goal of Miss Anne Martin was to get woman voting rights in Nevada. She became president of the State Equal Franchise Society, making her a torchbearer for the woman's suffrage movement. Later Miss Anne Martin would become the first woman to ever run for the United States Senate, however she never successful in obtaining the position. Although Miss Anne Martin never got a seat in the Senate, she played a great role in getting woman the right to vote. Her running for Senate marks the beginning of a long and trying history of American Woman getting involved in politics.

Native Women in Boomtowns[edit | edit source]

Native woman played an important role in the 1800s when it came to society, economics, and politics. Native woman were able to interact with white men in different ways than the native men could. Native woman were able to use their sexuality to establish relationships with white men. This was beneficial for native woman because they were able to obtain novel goods and opportunities in society from white men through their relationships. Most mining towns had a shortage of woman and thus many of the men living there were unmarried. Native woman were given sex-specific jobs and were allowed to participate in the formal social structure of the mining towns like their white counterparts. It is interesting to note that native woman in and around mining camps were treated very differently than natives elsewhere. In most places in America a white person could kill a native without punishment, however in mining towns a man would be charged and prosecuted for raping a native woman. The reason men would be punished for raping a native woman in a mining town was because the woman was seen as a woman first and her race was secondary. Punishing white men for assaulting a native woman is significant because it shows the beginning of equality and human rights being expanded. This can however be contributed to there being a shortage of woman in mining towns, making it essential to protect even the native woman.

Sex and Race in Early Statehood Nevada[edit | edit source]

Throughout history women in Nevada have been put in numerous roles. During the 1800s and 1900s women were given different jobs and roles than men. Many women stayed at home and raised their children while other women worked. Some common jobs that woman had in 19th and 20th century Nevada were boarding houses, nurses, teachers, and working in restaurants. Since men were busy mining women were given these responsbilites. As mentioned before native woman were also given womanly jobs in society; however they were given jobs such as laundry. The reason native woman were required to do simple jobs like laundry was because the white women were often doing more important jobs such as food preparation and housekeeping. Like everywhere else black women in Nevada had fewer rights. A black woman would be punished far greater than a white woman would be. However black woman still had greater status than natives and were often times photographed and were allowed to participate in food preparation. It is evident that the roles of woman were extremely important to the development and sustainment of Nevadan camps and settlements. Without woman of all colours a wide variety of tasks and jobs would not have been able to be completed. With Nevada just achieving statehood in 1864 the role of women was increasing and becoming more important. Women of all races were given a wider range of jobs and opportunities, marking a new era for women.

Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight: Prizefighting in Nevada[edit | edit source]

The state of Nevada started out its sinful reputation with the legalization of prizefighting in 1897. Prizefighting is a professional boxing match which awards the winner with a sum of money. Nevada's poor economy and declining population needed a boost.Nevada turned to prizefighting in hopes that the fight would promote tourism and, in turn, boost the economy. Therefore, Nevada became the first state to legalize prizefighting. Most of the country criticized the people of Nevada for legalizing such a brutal sport. In March 1897, Reverend Levi Gilbert from a church in Cleveland was quoted in the New Haven Evening Register saying that “This state [Nevada], this deserted mining camp, revives brutality by an exhibition that must make its Indians and Chinamen wonder at Christianity…Such exhibitions promote criminality by feeding the bestial in man.” However, the state of Nevada faced very little resistance in passing the legislation to legalize prizefighting. This had to do with the hardworking and dangerous culture of Nevada mining towns. Therefore, the rough and often quite bloody sport of prizefighting was very popular in Nevada, as the traits linked to prizefighters—strength, courage and resilience—aptly reflected the lives of those in Nevada mining towns.

A picture taken by a reporter of the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight

The fight that brought about the legalization of prizefighting was the long-awaited heavyweight championship between title-holder James J. “Gentleman Jim” Corbett and challenger Bob (Robert) Fitzsimmons. The fight took place on March 17, 1897 in Nevada’s capital, Carson City. It was no coincidence that March 17 was St. Patrick’s Day and Corbett was of Irish origin. The preparations for the event were extensive. The stadium for the fight was built, restaurants stockpiled food and saloons stockpiled alcohol. A state of nearly three thousand brought in about six thousand people to watch the spectacle. The fight even brought out famed lawmen, Wyatt Earp.Corbett started out as the aggressor, even bloodying Fitzsimmons in the fifth round to the point where he was almost knocked out.However, in the sixth-round Fitzsimmons began wearing Corbett down and by the 14th round all it took was his famous solid punch to the solar plexus to knock Corbett down for good. The fight was a success in all aspects, especially financially.It certainly helped to boost the state of Nevada’s economy. After the success in Carson City, Nevada, many other states followed suit in legalizing prizefighting. As for the state of Nevada, the fight between Corbett and Fitzsimmons signaled the beginning of the state’s long and successful relationship with professional boxing.

The prizefight brought about, however limited, equal rights for women. The host of the fight, Dan Stuart granted women the right to purchase tickets. Even though fewer than one hundred women watched the fight, it was still something that was unprecedented and highly controversial. One such woman that attended and watched the fight was Nellie Mighels Davis. Nellie was there to report on the fight for her husband who was out of town. Davis became the first woman to report on a prize fight when she was paid $50 for the story by a Chicago newspaper. Davis recalled how few women there were at the fight, most of them being prostitutes. Even though women had been given the right to attend the fight, it was looked down upon. Davis even decided to use her maiden name of Verrill for the story to avoid ‘disgracing’ herself and her friends by her acknowledgement of being present at the fight. Prizefighting did a lot for both the people of Nevada and the state itself.

Gans-Nelson and the Lasting Impact of Boxing in Nevada[edit | edit source]

The lasting impact of the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight seems to be that it gave great exposure to the State of Nevada. Because, in 1906, less than a decade later, one of the most famous prizefights in boxing history happened, between Joe Gans and Oscar Nelson. This fight was witnessed by an astounding 100,000 people, and it is also the longest fight in modern boxing history, lasting 42 rounds. The fight took place in the mining town of Goldfield. With sports writers flocking from across the country to come. Even President Teddy Roosevelt's son, Kermit, attended. The fight was also the first fight to be filmed, which gave great media exposure to Nevada. This fight helped propel Nevada to become the Mecca of prizefighting it is renowned as today.

The legalization of prizefighting was the first step for the state of Nevada in pushing back against the nation's moral code. It paved the way for the future legalization of gambling, prostitution and quick divorce.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Rothman, Hal. 2010. The Making of Modern Nevada. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2010. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed November 13, 2016). Pp. 44
  2. http://www.webcitation.org/6G4J8TS75?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.census.gov%2Fprod%2Fwww%2Fdecennial.html

Modern Nevada (1912-1945)

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.

File:GALLERY NO. 1 UNDER CONSTRUCTION. - Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, Tunnel, Two miles east of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Springdale, Washington County, UT HAER UTAH,27-SPDA.V,3A-36.tif.jpg
The 5,613-foot long, rock-faced Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel

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.


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.

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.


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.

Nevada and the American Dream (1945-present)

Atomic bomb mushroom cloud visible from Las Vegas

The Nevada Test Site [Due to the lack of references in this article, it is suggested that other sources be used for factual information][edit | edit source]

Yucca Flat, part of the Nevada Test Site

A Nuclear Dawn[edit | edit source]

The United States ushered in the atomic age with the detonation of the Trinity device, the world’s first nuclear bomb, on July 16, 1945 in New Mexico. Trinity was soon followed by what are to date the only two nuclear weapons used in war: Little Boy, which was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 1945, and Fat Man, which was dropped on Nagasaki three days later; this was done to hasten Japan’s surrender and end the Second World War. In the years following the war the United States conducted several tests in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific Ocean. However, a combination of environmental and logistical factors made the islands less than ideal for prolonged testing. As a result, a study of potential test sites within the continental United States (code-named Project Nutmeg) was initiated.

While the American South-West apparently possessed the optimum conditions for nuclear testing, the study did not propose a test site, as it was determined that a continental test site was not necessary unless a national emergency arose. This occurred when the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb in 1949, and was exacerbated when the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 threatened the United States’ test sites in the Pacific. This revived the search for a continental test site, and on December 18, 1951, President Harry S. Truman approved the selection of a site in Nye County, Nevada, near Las Vegas. Early in the morning on January 27, 1951, a nuclear bomb dropped by a B-50D bomber detonated over Frenchman Flat in the Nevada desert, roughly sixty-five miles outside Las Vegas. The success of this test, codenamed Able, marked the beginning of forty-one years of nuclear detonations at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) in Nye County, Nevada, with a moratorium on nuclear testing finally silencing the bombs in 1992.

The location of the NTS was chosen due to its favourable weather conditions, the significant military presence in the surrounding area due to the existence of other important bases like the Nellis Air Force Base Bombing and Gunnery Range, and the belief that it was far enough from most of the population to be safe, but close enough to be accessible. The NTS is approximately 105 kilometres northwest of Las Vegas, comprising a total area of approximately 3,560 square kilometres.

The "Testing Community"[edit | edit source]

At first, the local population was supportive of the NTS, as it brought with it the promise of jobs that were desperately needed in the sparsely populated area. Nearby communities were reassured by the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) that there were multiple safeguards in place to ensure the safety of the area surrounding the NTS from radioactive fallout. To assuage any fears of fallout, the AEC sent military personnel called “radiation monitors” into the communities surrounding the NTS to provide the public with information about the testing.

Public support started to wane after witnessing the dangerous side of fallout exposure. In 1953, approximately five thousand sheep directly east of the NTS were severely injured, with the AEC denying that exposure to nuclear fallout had anything to do with these injuries. The AEC's denial of these claims created a deep rift between the locals and the government. This was partly due to the way in which the AEC treated the ranchers in the region during this investigation, labeling them as uneducated and untrained.

Realizing that there was mistrust, the AEC set out to remedy the situation. They did this by publishing an official guide called “Atomic Tests in Nevada”. The radiation monitors were responsible for spreading these pamphlets, as well as informing the communities of the safety measures that the AEC was taking. This guide tried to downplay the magnitude of the situation, and as a gesture of good will, thanked the locals for their hospitality and apologized for any inconveniences. The AEC again assured the public that they were taking their safety into consideration, saying that if there was a chance of a heavy fallout, the radiation monitors would be able to explain what was happening. However, the radiation monitors often failed to provide the secure feelings the AEC was hoping for. One rancher described these individuals as “snotty young kids that looked down on ranchers who worked in near-isolation.”

These feelings of hopelessness and misrepresentation were exacerbated by the death of a rancher’s nephew due to exposure to nuclear fallout. The rancher had spoken out about her fears of the nuclear fallout to the AEC and its radiation monitors, but to no avail. The ranchers were not, however, the only individuals who felt that they were disenfranchised by the AEC and the NTS, as the site is located on the homeland of the Western Shoshone people. The Native Americans of this area have litigated against the use of this land since the 1970s, saying that it is protected under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley. The Western Shoshone and Southern Paiutes were heavily exposed to the nuclear fallout in this region, partly because of their lifestyle and partly because of a lack of effort on the part of the AEC in protecting these people.

Detonation Sequence For An Underground Nuclear Test

The Golden Age of Nuclear Testing[edit | edit source]

The explosions were so powerful that they could easily be seen, heard, and felt from within Las Vegas. Baker-Two and Fox, two tests in the same series as Able (the Ranger series) had particularly dramatic effects. After Baker-Two (an eight-kiloton blast) broke at least two store windows in Las Vegas, officials warned citizens to stay away from windows for the Fox test, which was expected be more than four times as powerful with a yield of thirty-three to thirty-five kilotons. Fox ended up yielding only twenty-two kilotons, however upon reaching Las Vegas the shock-wave was still powerful enough to splinter the large show windows of two car dealerships and shake buildings with enough force to frighten gamblers into hiding under their tables, and the flash was allegedly bright enough to temporarily blind some observers. The explosion was seen and heard as far away as Los Angeles, where it shook doors and windows. In the late fifties, concerns over the dangerous radioactive fallout that was being released by atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons had sent “the testing community” in search of alternatives that would stop, or at the very least mitigate, the pollution; the eventual preferred solution was to move the tests underground, however other options such as testing in space or under water were also explored. In 1963, the Limited Test Ban Treaty prohibited tests “in the atmosphere, in outer space, and underwater,” forcing all further testing underground. The last full-scale test at the NTS occurred on September 23, 1992, after which Congress banned future tests. . As of 1993, the year that President George H.W. Bush signed a moratorium on U.S. nuclear tests, there had been an estimated total of 953 nuclear bombs detonated within the state of Nevada.

Atomic Testing in Popular Culture[edit | edit source]

The atomic bomb tests in Nevada effected a cultural shift in the American population. People became fascinated by the idea of nuclear weapons, obviously not knowing the long term repercussions of such weapons. The “mushroom cloud” image became very prominent in popular culture and was a symbol that many recognized. Soon enough the whole country was fascinated by the atomic bomb, as can be seen through contemporary movies, songs, place names and advertisements. Voters showed a strong preference for candidates that supported the testing and development of atomic weapons. The frenzy around the atomic bomb was heightened in southern Nevada since the residents of the surrounding areas were the most exposed to the A-Bomb. It did not take long for the Las Vegas Strip to capitalize on the popularity of the NTS and affix the label "atomic" to drinks, hair styles and many more things in order to resonate more with American citizens. The presence of the atomic testing site in Nevada drew national attention, which also helped bring in journalists and tourists. All of this contributed to an economic boom of sorts in the southern part of Nevada, especially with regards to the already steady flow of tourists gathering in Las Vegas. The public knew two things about the bombs at this time, the first being that they were fascinating to watch and to hear about, and the second being that they were a necessary part of national security. For many of the detonations, large groups of people would gather to watch the explosion from a distance, a spectacle that would be reproduced later in American history with space shuttle launches in Texas and Florida. There was something rather patriotic about watching the tests, as they symbolized that the United States was getting stronger with every test run. The state government was also in favour of the testing. The State of Nevada passed legislation during this period allowing the United States government to acquire more land from the state in order for the NTS to grow.

Tests being conducted at the Nevada Test Site

Effects of Nuclear Testing in Nevada[edit | edit source]

The federal nuclear site in Nevada became home to America’s nuclear defense shield called M-X or Missile Experimental. This was a retaliation method that came as a result of the idea of mutual assured destruction. As tensions between the two nations got worse the more important the Nevada nuclear site was to the defense of the nation. Programs like nuclear testing and M-X commissioned by the U.S. government scared the people of Nevada because in the event of a Soviet attack they felt they would be the first strike due to all the U.S. nuclear investments in the state. The situation stayed relevant in American relations more or less till the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 90s. The Soviet collapse, which resulted in the end of the Cold War lead the Congress under the Clinton administration to pass the Nuclear Test Moratorium Act in 1992. The Act that was passed halted all atmospheric and under ground tests on nuclear weaponry in the country, this was a big win for the people of Nevada that opposed nuclear testing in the deserts.

Once military tensions settled and the threat of nuclear war subsided the truths of what had occurred in Nevada between 1951 and 1991 started to emerge to the public. Articles and books were published that highlighted the danger of nuclear weapons and the effect it had on people’s health, residents of Utah between 1951 and 1963 were found to be exposed to atomic radiation due to radioactive downwind that was directly attributed to the atmospheric test of nuclear weapons in Nevada. The nuclear radioactivity was directly connected to thousands of deaths and illnesses of people in Nevada and surrounding areas like Utah [Needs reference]. The environmental impact this had was bad due to the nuclear waste and the actual impact of the bombs on the soil. The victims who lived in the fallout area came to be known, as down winders the large majority of these people felt the government had deceived them into thinking there was no negative impact of these nuclear tests. In doing so there were many cases in which these people won court settlements against the government.

Public Health Issues as a Result of the NTS[edit | edit source]

The public pleasure that surrounded the NTS was short lived. The scientific community and the general population soon became aware of the possible dangers associated with the radiation being emitted. In fact, it was determined that “Native Americans residing in a broad region downwind from the Nevada Test Site during the 1950’s and 1960’s received significant radiation exposures from nuclear weapons testing." [Needs reference] Although much of the concern regarding the dangers of radiation exposure was undersold by the media at the time, there was still much concern within the government about the safety of the tests and the possible long term repercussions. Government officials even began telling the public that there was nothing to worry about, just as inquiries into the subject began.

The American government had launched a full scientific investigation in 1957 to find out the effects of exposure to radiation and radioactivity on health, and although this yielded many important discoveries in the field, doubts remained about the integrity of the findings and the possible conflict of interest faced by the researchers [Needs references].

The real issue regarding the emission of radiation did not concern the citizens of the surrounding areas of the Nevada Test Site, as it was those who were down wind from where the experiments took place who were in true danger. St. George, Utah, is an example of this, as it received the brunt of the fallout from above-ground nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site. Due to the winds routinely carrying the fallout from these tests directly through St. George and southern Utah. Marked increases in cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, bone cancer, brain tumors, and gastrointestinal tract cancers, were reported from the mid-1950s through 1980 [Needs references].

It is estimated that thousands of Americans have been exposed to varying levels of radiations due to the Nevada Test Site [Needs references]. To this day, it is easy to see the correlation between the atomic bomb tests and these radionuclides in American bodies, but it is hard to prove that the tests led to any serious health issues for those who were exposed to them, since they were mostly exposed to small doses. Traces of radiation emitted from the atomic bomb tests can be tracked through the air, soil and water of the areas surrounding the Nevada Test Site, especially in certain areas of Utah and Idaho. The overall damage done by the atomic bomb testing might never be quantified, but there is significant evidence that I has caused significant harm to those it was meant to protect.

Impact on Groundwater [Needs references][edit | edit source]

The spread of radiation was due in part to its exposure of groundwater by underground testing. When information detailing the radionuclide totals from the NTS was declassified by the US Department of Energy, the magnitude of the spread of these radionuclides by groundwater was finally apparent. While testing, the AEC (now the US Department of Energy) kept an inventory of forty-three radionuclides that have long half-lives. This inventory can be used to provide an estimation of the extent of radioactivity that occurred due to the underground nuclear tests conducted at the NTS. The exposure of individuals in this region to radioactive particles was increased by the contamination of their water source. The arid climate of Nevada means that groundwater is the only water source available, as there is a very limited amount of surface water sources to compliment it. Findings from the declassification of radionuclide totals of the NTS have led to the discovery that it is going to take approximately five hundred years for the radioactive isotopes from the nuclear testing at the NTS to decay.

The Legacy of America’s Atomic Mecca[edit | edit source]

The importance of the NTS to America’s nuclear weapons program during the Cold War cannot be understated. Of the 1,054 nuclear tests conducted by the United States before 1992, 928 were conducted at the NTS. Put another way, eighty-eight percent of all nuclear tests conducted by the United States took place slightly north-west of Las Vegas. The great spectacles provided by the NTS made it a boon to the local economy not only because of the jobs it provided, but also because of the “atomic tourists” that came to witness the deadly fireworks. As recently as 2004, 9,000 people a year were taking tours of the NTS, despite the end of full-scale testing in 1992. The history of the NTS is preserved by the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation and its Atomic Testing Museum.

However, the NTS remains more than just a tourist attraction, as it still conducts “subcritical” tests regularly. These tests are “subcritical” because the plutonium used does not reach critical mass (which would cause a nuclear reaction). The tests are intended to maintain the functionality of the American nuclear stockpile, ensure the NTS is ready to resume full-scale testing if necessary, and preserve the benefits that the NTS provides to the economy of Nevada (such as employment).

A Nuclear Culture[edit | edit source]

The post-war era was a period of massive expansion in the urban centers of Las Vegas and Reno. In the late 1930s, the population of Nevada was primarily rural; roughly two-thirds of its population was rural. In 1964, the population had shifted to only a third living in rural areas, the rest living in Las Vegas and Reno and their suburbs. Las Vegas in particular increased its population from 8,000 in 1940 to over 64,000 in 1960[1]. This was largely a result of the state’s relaxation on gambling laws that has led to its current reputation as a haven for casinos and resorts, as well as a focus on large infrastructure projects. Though growth was experienced across the entire state, it was these two cities that had really taken off from the economic boom of the time.

Growth and Testing[edit | edit source]

Experiencing such growth in the 1950s has led to Nevada and Las Vegas more specifically to be a prime example of the effects of the atomic era on American culture. In 1951, the United States government had established the Nevada Test Site, a location from which nuclear weapons would be tested. Senator Pat McCarran, who was on the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees, had made the state considerably richer by convincing the Truman government to use a large unused plot of land for testing their weapons. The mushroom clouds could be seen from Las Vegas a mere sixty-five miles away, becoming a large tourist attraction. The public generally approved of the testing during this time, as it had become a large boon for tourism. The first protests occurred in 1957, but were largely ignored by the public until the 1970s. While there was a moratorium on nuclear testing in 1958 under the Eisenhower administration, tests resumed in 1962.

Futurism and the Atom[edit | edit source]

The Fleischmann Atmospherium

The atom had become a symbol of modernity in the 50s, one that showed both the military and scientific prowess of the United States. This was taken as a great source of pride, an achievement only rivalled by the Soviets. Combined with the fairly recent consumerism that had taken over American lives, this became a prime opportunity to sell the public on nuclear technology. The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory was sold to children to allow children to create chemical reactions through radioactive materials. The Ford Nucleon was a conceptual car that was powered through nuclear energy, and with its futuristic design, it remains an excellent example of the naïve idealism of the 1950s. Many songs of the time had also had an atomic theme: The Five Stars’ “Atom Bomb Baby”, released in 1957, compared a woman to a one ton weapon of mass destruction whose blast would be equivalent to one million tons of trinitrotoluene. This was indicative of the coming changes to American culture, one focused on materialism and nationalism, perfectly represented by the city of Las Vegas. Images of these products were on billboards in the foreground of an atomic explosion, a typical picture of the time. These were the kind of products that were sold to the contemporary Las Vegans: a nuclear dream suspended by Communist fears and a penchant for destruction.

Futurism made its way into the rapidly expanding cities of Nevada, a sign of the optimism brought on by America’s victory against the Axis as well as its newfound love of nuclear technology. This period of growth and prosperity had allowed for futuristic designs to take hold in Las Vegas as modernity set in. The Huntridge Theatre and Moulin Rouge had been built during this time, both of which represented the opulence of contemporary America. With their straight, exaggerated features, they gave the city a look of what Americans had hoped the future would be; one of possibilities and endless growth. The Fleischmann Atmospherium Planetarium in Reno is an example outside of Las Vegas of modern architecture. This growth was not only experienced in Las Vegas; the state as a whole became richer and more vibrant. Nevada in particular showed America’s atomic future in its architecture by allowing expressionist designers to create a reflection of their culture. With so much of the state’s money coming from defense spending, and with the tourism generated from the blast sightings, much of this progress was made possible by the testing of atomic weaponry.

A Suburban, Nuclear Home[edit | edit source]

While less obvious and grand than modernist architecture, small, simple, suburban life had taken over American society. In cities all across America, massive amounts of housing was built to support war veterans and their new families that was outside the main areas of a city, a town-like experience in a metropolis. Here, nuclear families would have similar pastel-coloured houses on small plots of land where they would live the idyllic 1950s lifestyle. To support the massive increase in its population, Las Vegas had to build suburbs, though not entirely for the same reasons as other cities. In 1950, Prudential Homes built 640 houses in the western outskirts of the city, citing the Korean War as one of its reasons for doing so. Suburbs cropped up around the Strip to accommodate the influx of residents as well. While much of the population that had moved into these new suburban homes had flocked to Las Vegas for its tourism industry, these suburbs had to support the many people that worked at the Nevada Test Site. During the Cold War, it had been estimated that 125,000 people had been employed in that site alone, and with its location being so close to Las Vegas, many had to move into the city.

The Gaming Industry[edit | edit source]

Following the legalization of gambling in Nevada in 1931, the industry became dominated by attempts to capture the old-west themes of old-western saloons and fashion; however, the nature of the gaming industry would evolve drastically with the opening of the Flamingo in 1946. Also, with the outbreak of the Cold War and Cuba being unavailable to Americans as a place to gamble, mobsters such as Ben Siegel started to invest in Nevada. The state of Nevada and the city of Las Vegas are known for their active involvement in gambling, and much of the city and state’s gambling value derived from organized crime involvement in Las Vegas, as well as the rest of the state of Nevada since 1945. Mob involvement in the state was largely incited by the end of the Second World War, as the state of joy, celebration, and prosperity that the nation found itself in meant that many were seeking leisure.

Bugsy Siegel

Legalization[edit | edit source]

Las Vegas began as a small Railroad town in Southern Nevada, but would eventually experience large increases of population hand activity beginning with construction of the Hoover Dam in 1931. Much of the increased activity was rooted in workers heading into the town for leisure activities after their shifts. Gambling and drinking became favourite pass times of theirs.

Siegel and Growth, 1945-1989[edit | edit source]

By the end of World War II, industrial resources were readily available which allowed further development in Las Vegas as it saw its population grow exponentially. The first major hotel to be built (later named The Flamingo) was envisioned by a Californian named Billy Wilkerson. Billy noticed Las Vegas’ population growing as the Hoover Dam attracted tourists from all over America. The Flamingo—built along Highway 97, which ran right through Las Vegas and known as the Las Vegas Strip—was designed as an upscale hotel where visitors could gamble and escape from their daily lives, however as funding ran out, Billy handed the project over to well-known mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, who finished construction during the summer of 1945. Siegel made the decision to take over and continue building the “god-damndest biggest hotel and casino” in Las Vegas Valley in response to the opening of El Rancho in 1940 and the Frontier in 1942. Siegel named his hotel-casino the Flamingo, supposedly inspired by the nickname he had for his girlfriend: Flamingo Doll. Siegel had made his way to Las Vegas in order to finally achieve the success he had long been chasing after in New York and Los Angeles. “Bugsy” is credited with envisioning Las Vegas as a world renowned gaming spectacle, and with his Flamingo Hotel and Casino he would make his vision become reality. Using themes like Havana and Monte Carlo, Siegel built an economic empire that would flourish for decades to come, an epicentre of gambling and prosperity, originating from the funding of organized crime.

Flamingo Hotel and Casino

To fulfil his dream, Siegel leveraged political and personal favours from Senator Pat McCarran, who aided Siegel in approving construction, and (after breaking ground in December 1945) to secure priority for materials over other developments such as a housing development for veterans. Initial estimates for the construction of the Flamingo ranged from $1 to 2 million; however with Siegel’s tendency to pay up to $50 for tradesmen, flying in workers from California and Arizona, and paying little mind to the theft of shipments that would be sold back to Siegel soon after, the cost to complete the development increased wildly to $6 million. The Flamingo under Siegel would struggle to reach profitability. During the initial grand opening, which lasted two weeks, the Flamingo lost $300,000. The massive loses were due in large part to the dealers cheating and a general lack of turnout. The two factors combined prevented the odds to ever play in the favour of Siegel to generate a profit. Siegel’s operation required a personal image that lived up the image of the casino itself, which translated into a strict dress code that acted as a deterrent to guests. 1948 would see Gus Greenbaum take over the Flamingo and transform it into success and achieve the dream of Siegel, who was murdered in 1947. Greenbaum acted as the archetypal mob owner of a casino through his very controlled—iron fisted governance—of the casino. Cheating dealers were “dealt with” with brutal beatings and removal. By the end of his tenure at the Flamingo in 1955, six new casino-hotels emerged between 1948 and 1955 with each attempting to out the opulence of the previous through their theming and entertainment attractions. These additions were made possible by financial support and institutional lending by the Teamsters Union, hotels including, Sahara, Tropicana, and The riviera along with others were added to the Las Vegas strip. Old mormon bankers brought political and financial legitimacy and operated the business of the hotels while the mob fixed games and began racketeering. One of the more notable casinos, The Sands, opened in 1952, and became a leader in entertainment attraction headlined by France Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr, collectively known as the "Rat Pack"

Nevada and its Economical Growth in Relation to Gambling[edit | edit source]

Nevada and its Economical Growth in Relation to Gambling Nevada, specifically Las Vegas, is a place of constant growth and economical change. Largely thanks to its gambling culture, starting in the 1970’s the town has continued to boom. “Gambling is the largest employer in the state, the largest taxpayer, and [has] been the major export industry for Nevada’s economy for quite some time.” Republican Governor Bob List, of 1981, influenced the state's legislature to cut back the property tax and raise the sale tax from 3.5% to 5.75%, in attempt to shift the state’s earnings base to the latter. Overall, state property taxes decreased by an average of 50% over the year. There was a general increase of government spending throughout the late 1980s and the early 1990s, driven by gold and silver mining, heavy defense spending, and the continued boom in Las Vegas. The down turn of the economy proved only temporary and in 1994 and especially 1995, Las Vegas overcame with record profits and lead the state out of its crisis.

For more than two decades, the general income in Nevada has been among the supreme of the United States and, during this same period, the population expansion rate had exceeded all other states by a wide margin. The major contribution to the industry's rapid growth was the growing population of California and other western states, and the willingness of society’s attitudes towards the activity of gambling.

Among many, one result of the casino industry’s immense growth and profit potential in partnership with its finite financial alternatives was to encourage less orthodox means of raising investments. After essentially ignoring the gambling industry, Nevada began to tax the commerce in 1945, placing jurisdiction under the Nevada Tax Commission. In the next few years, after exposure to widespread infiltration of gambling, the Gaming Control Division within the Tax Commission in 1955 was established in Nevada. The industry of gambling did not become a dominant tourist attraction until after World War II, from then until the later 1970s, the expansion was at a rapid pace aiding to the growth within Las Vegas and most of Nevada. “Through legislation designed to attract tourists, Nevada parlayed its advantageous location next to populous California and its accessibility by rail from many locations into making the state a tourist attraction.”

On one hand, gambling can have significant potential to generate winnings from its clientele while earning profits for casino operators. On the other hand, the gambling industry has never been granted the status of a fully legitimate commercial activity; for numerous reasons, such as gambling has been classified as a pariah industry, one that poses risks to the social and political aspects of Nevada. Nonetheless, in the 1960s at Stateline on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, gambling began to grown in this third area of Nevada. Large-scale casinos in Nevada continue to consistently outperform middle-sized and small casinos in their geological markets, allowing the government officials to completely support the growth of this industry.

Becoming the icon for modern popular culture, Las Vegas is the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United State. Powered by the vibrant economy, Las Vegas Valley has seen their population catapult from 273,000 in 1970 to roughly 1.2 million by 1998. Unlike most western states, Nevada has no inheritance-estate-gift taxes, franchise tax as well as personal or corporate income tax. Doubled with inexpensive housing, cheap fuel costs, and the convenient location, Nevada’s development has evolved. “Between 1990 and 2010, Las Vegas arguably became the largest tourist destination in America.” A grand total of 10 million visitors in the early 1980s, Las Vegas saw an increase of 19 million bringing their yearly total to 29 million tourists in 1996.

Unfortunately, In the year 2000 Las Vegas experiences a delay from the exploding dot-com bubble, over-expansions, and the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. Alongside the Great Recession, southern Nevada ruined the aspired belief that gambling was recession-proof or at least recession-resilient. It is critical to acknowledge the damaged the Great Recession caused to major American Gaming companies, many continue to be heavily in debt and struggle to recover into the 21st century. Nevada, especially Las Vegas, pushed through this doubtful time and “[by] 2006, there were roughly $30 billion in capital investment projects underway on the Las Vegas strip or elsewhere in the Las Vegas Valley.” In 2007, the Las Vegas metro area became the fastest growing district of the United States. Las Vegas was at its peak in the year of 2007 with the gambling revenue over 14% of the previous year, to an all-time high of $6.7 billion.

Over the years, the tourism in northern Nevada had a high degree of seasonality, guided by climate, but overcame to some degree by an array of well-marketed high profile events. Unfortunately, one out of six jobs had vanished in 2010 when Nevada’s seemingly endless boom had come to an abrupt end. “The region's economic output shrank by approximately 10% in real terms from 2007 to 2010.” Exploiting the need for a new approach to economic development, The Great Recession brought not only devastation but also a sense of urgency. “In order for Nevada to be successful, southern Nevada needed to quickly build a regional economic development organization to partner with a newly formed Governor’s office of Economic Development while leading the southern charge for business attraction, retention, expansion and community development.” This new ‘Economy Theory’ went on to prove beneficial, Southern Nevada established the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (otherwise known as LVGEA) and it quickly emerged as one of the most prominent economic development organizations in the western United States.

Las Vegas and Organized Crime After the Second World War[edit | edit source]

The Mob’s interest in Nevada came from the state’s population, size and prosperity at the time. Prior to the influence of organized crime, Nevada was small with a desolate population, making it easy for organized crime to be conducted and minimizing the chance of legal interference. Many of the mob men travelled from large cities to take the advantage of the undeveloped land, including: Chicago, Detroit, New York and Cleveland. Men such as Tony Cornero (Southern California), Guy McAfee (Los Angeles), and Phillip Marlow recognized the potential that Nevada held due to cheap land and legalized gambling. Although gambling and organized crime go hand in hand, Las Vegas and Nevada created opportunity for casual business men as well. Burt Cohen, a renowned Las Vegas hotel executive spent a great deal of his life shaping the gaming industry in Vegas. Cohen grew up in the hotel business, and he saw the opportunity for hotels and tourism in the rising state of gambling. Cohen would contribute to the uprising of major attraction in the city, such as Caesars Palace and Circus Circus.

Although Las Vegas and its gaming culture would provide the state of Nevada with economic prosperity, the gambling, drug and alcohol abuse and mob influence would also have negative effects on the population. The opening and thriving of the great metropolis’ large casinos have almost completely diminished the opportunity for small businesses to be successful in the state. The Pro-casino lobby in Las Vegas would argue that casinos create jobs and opportunities for the people of the state, however most would argue the opposite. Former officials have ensured that the driving source for casinos is definitely not for the betterment of society. Regardless of its context, Las Vegas has the highest per capita tourism rate in comparison to all of the other states in the nation. Nevada’s economic success has motivated other regions to attract tourists using gambling, especially Atlantic City, Las Vegas’ largest gambling competition.

In the early 1940’s, banks shunned casinos for moral reasons. This made room for organized crime syndicates to push illegal money through the casino system and finance the Las Vegas metropolis. This fashion of financing was typical in the state of Nevada from the 1940s into the 70s, however organized crime has become conducted in a different manner today. Although the activity of criminals is less obvious and upfront, the city of Las Vegas is still heavily influenced by the mob and its interests. Las Vegas is considered a pinnacle in post-modern urbanism, and some believe that they can truly make it in the state of Nevada. With one good hand, one roll of the dice or one spin of the wheel ones future could change quite drastically, which is why the area attracts so many tourists from so many different places. Local investors, producers and financial figureheads have invested a tremendous amount of capital in the state, and the city of Las Vegas has been a centre piece in promotional literature for decades.

Howard Hughes

Corporate Ownership, 1969-present[edit | edit source]

By 1969, mob domination of the gaming industry in began to decline, however it would not completely end until the 1980s, due to the Corporate Gaming Act, 1969. The hope of the act by the Nevada Legislature was to attract public corporations to invest in, and further develop, gaming in Las Vegas and Nevada by allowing greater control over operations. Howard Hughes was the first of these new corporate owners to invest into the gaming industry in Las Vegas. Huges helped supplant mob ownership by buying up several hotel-casinos in the city beginning in the late 60s. After casually buying the Desert Inn for 13.2 million dollars, Hughes was determined to mold Vegas into his financial empire. Following the purchase of his new home, he bought his legitimacy and was given the green light by Nevada Gaming Control Board to pursue his vision. He had a knack for creating revolutionary concepts and understood the mindset of a gambling millionaire, which he used to his advantage while expanding his empire. He continued by buying various other hotels on the strip, weeding out mob bosses and organized crime in the process. However mob operations would not cease in Las Vegas until a federal and state operation was conducted to clean up the Stardust hotel-casino. Following the end of mafia ownership, Las Vegas became to expand in all direction in addition to beyond just the gaming industry. The Mirage opened as an upscale and high-stakes casino in the early 1990s. It would prove to be a successful model to be emulated by several new mega-properties including Excalibur, Luxor, MGM, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, etc. In order to draw tourists beyond simple gambling, a small number of resorts attempted to capture a family destination atmosphere, however these would ultimately fail within a few years, but goes to show the level of risk the resort companies are willing to take to secure new guests and expand beyond their roots. MGM and Luxor both underwent remodelling nearing $250 million to replace the unused arcades, rides, and other family attractions.The industry next turned to the world of food and shopping to attract new tourists to Las Vegas to generate increasingly more profit. Prior to the complete corporate dominated era of Las Vegas, food in the city consisted of mostly cheap buffets, however Las Vegas transformed itself into providing world-class dining to supplement the gaming industry. In 1998, the largest industries were services (40.7% of earnings), construction (11.6%), and state/local government (10.0%). By the early 2000s, Las Vegas hosts 4 of 17 five restaurants in the US and contains the highest concentration of luxury shopping in the world, with the notable example of Caesar’s Forum.

Nevada favors a highly individualistic political culture, giving it a libertarian–conservative political philosophy in an open society. Wealth from mining and gambling reinforced the individualistic ethic that early settlers brought with them. The libertarian ethic appears in the opposition of most Nevadans to big government, big labor, and big business. Labor unions, especially the SEIU which organizes hotel and casino workers, thrive among the minority workers in Las Vegas. Belief in limited government leads to an electorate that backs a pro-choice position on abortion while opposing the Equal Rights Amendment for women. The state's ongoing battles with the federal government involve the longstanding water rights dispute between Native Americans, backed by the federal government, and Nevada's ranchers; and the decade-long fight against the establishment of the nation's first permanent nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain.

In the 2010s, many analysts agreed that the Las Vegas economy is recovering, with improving conditions in tourism and the housing market for 2013. Prices are rising and there has been a large increase in the million dollar home market, with many new custom homes being built. January 2013 marked the 19th consecutive month with home sales higher than the same month in the previous year. In addition, Las Vegas was named America's Top Turn Around Market for 2012 by Trulia.

Las Vegas in 2019 was a city in a state of constant change. New hotels, casinos, and attractions were opening all the time, and the city was constantly evolving to meet the needs of its visitors. The Park MGM is a hotel and casino opened in December 2018. It's a rebranding of the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, and it features a new spa, pool complex, and restaurants. The T-Mobile Arena opened in April 2016. It's home to the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team and the Las Vegas Aces basketball team. It's also a popular concert venue. Resorts World Las Vegas is a hotel and casino that opened in June 2021. It's the first new casino on the Las Vegas Strip in over a decade. It features a 117-foot tall Ferris wheel, a spa, and a variety of restaurants. Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is a hotel and casino opened in January 2021. It's the first Virgin Hotels property in the United States. It features a rooftop pool, a spa, and a variety of restaurants. Circa Resort is a hotel and casino that opened in December 2020. It's the first new casino on Fremont Street in over a decade. It features a 180-foot tall Ferris wheel, a spa, and a variety of restaurants. These are just a few of the new buildings that have opened in Las Vegas as of 2023. The city is constantly evolving over the years.

The COVID-19 pandemic reached the city in Las Vegas in March 2020, having various effects such as business closures and time. This has also led to mass cancellation of events and festivals. That was confirmed to have reached the U.S. state of Nevada. By the reasons of concerns about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Nevada governor Steve Sisolak declared a state of emergency on March 12, 2020. Four days later, Nevada reported its first death. On March 17, 2020, Sisolak ordered the closure of non-essential businesses in the state, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Grocery stores were among the businesses considered essential, and restaurants were allowed to provide drive-thru, takeout, and delivery services. At the end of March 2020, Sisolak announced a 90-day moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for commercial and residential tenants. The moratorium would be extended several times over the next year.

Various protests were held against Sisolak's shutdown order beginning in April 2020. Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman was also critical of the shutdown and its length, urging Sisolak to reopen the state. Goodman was widely criticized after suggesting that Las Vegas become a control group to test the effectiveness of social distancing. Nevada launched the first phase of its reopening on May 9, 2020. Restaurants, retailers, outdoor malls, and hair salons were among the businesses allowed to reopen, but with precautions in place, such as limiting occupancy to 50 percent. A second phase went into effect on May 29, 2020. It allowed for the reopening of state parks and businesses such as bars, gyms, and movie theaters. Casinos began reopening on June 4, 2020.

Overall, Las Vegas continues to evolve, with many places being constructed and built. The city also continued to open more retail, which are largely high end. Furthermore, it continues to attract and gain more tourists from around the world. Many recent buildings of 2020s decade include Area15, Circa, and Resorts World, all of which are unique to Las Vegas. It will continue the urban sprawl of Las Vegas and its county.

Las Vegas Strip will look different in 2020s since the brand new decade will bring new designs such as reshapes and these new LED lights on the edges of the Luxor and the debut of Mayfair Supper Club. The Las Vegas Convention Center completes its extension to the Strip with convention business being more bigger than other buildings, which will gets its own renovation in 2021 to 2024. Allegiant Stadium opened in 2020, which welcome new raiders and fans. Other new events include MSG Sphere rounding out the Vegas skyline, Flamingo Steakhouse's rebirth in the vintage style, mysterious Area15 opens its doors, complicated relationship with Asian dining, a lot of new residencies, Resorts World preparing a newer debut, Caesars Forum emerges as a new event space, Wynn getting a few recent restaurants, Hard Rock transforming into a Virgin Resort, new kind of food tour that hits The LINQ in the Strip, new burger and drive-in, and Truth & Tonic being the first all-vegan restaurant on the Strip of Las Vegas. It is suggested that the downtown will look different with the overhead of Vision video and $15 million renovation of its own with new roadwork in the Fremont East District. Also, Downtown Grand in Las Vegas is expanding widely with this establishment of a second hotel rise.

Nevada in Popular Culture (1865-present)

Entrance to Las Vegas at night.
Entrance to Las Vegas at night.

Mining and the Gold Rush in the Silver State[edit | edit source]

The state of Nevada, nicknamed ‘The Silver State’, is historically rich and has been instrumental to economic growth in the Southwestern United States. The longevity of the states nickname serves as a testament to its roots and, it continues to fit surprisingly well in modern contexts. Nevada is known worldwide for its large collection of casinos, bright lights, stage shows, crime, and massive amounts of gambling. However, the story of how it got this nickname is also very interesting. The state of Nevada received this name from the mass amounts of silver, gold, various valuable minerals like breccia, and other volcanic rock based minerals that were mined in the state from the middle of the nineteenth century up until the middle of the 20th century. Prospecting and mining silver deposits became synonymous with the state and became paramount in shaping Nevada’s identity. Nevada's mining industry was the leading contributor in a diversifying population, employment opportunities, industrial growth, and nationwide notoriety. An immigrating Mormon population for the outskirts of Nevada began mining as early as 1846. It was during this time that the settlers discovered the Comstock Lode, a silver ore deposit located under Mount Davidson. News spread quickly of the initial strikes, and in turn generated a wave of migrants in search of prosperity.

The Comstock Lode[edit | edit source]

The Comstock Lode was a very profitable deposit of gold, silver, and other precious minerals located under Mount Davidson and its surrounding geological landscape. Discovered in 1859, the site measured twenty-one thousand feet by one thousand feet. Ironically, the mineral that the state was named after was not originally what miners were looking for. Miners who traveled to Nevada in hopes of finding gold, were met with dismay upon striking deposits of rich blue material. Unbeknownst to them, they stumbled upon something that would be the catalyst for urban development. It wasn't until professional mineralogists arrived, and revealed that the mysterious blue material was actually high quality silver. As a result, the mineral began to harvested almost exclusively and revolutionized the mining industry in Nevada.The Comstock Lode was the first major silver deposit in America and can be attributed to the end of the California Gold Rush.

Mining Towns and the People of Comstock[edit | edit source]

From 1860 on, Nevada underwent a mining boom. Many mining towns built up around the Comstock Lode, the two largest and most profitable being Virginia City and Gold Hill. These towns thrived off of consumerism, consisting mainly of gambling halls and saloons. The emergence of these industries contributed to the popularity of casino culture, specifically in modern day Las Vegas. The states newly found prosperity allowed the entertainment and hospitality industries to thrive off of wealthy workers. Drinking and gambling became a popular pastime amongst miners. The abundance of wealth inevitably lead to increased crime rates in the majority of these mining townships. The lure of prosperity attracted an ethnically and socio-economically diverse population. These population was comprised of laborers, missionaries, charlatans, criminals, lawyers, writers, reporters, actors, visionaries, and investors. Mark Twain was the most notable figure residing in the state of Nevada when he wrote the book 'Roughing It'. Men and women came from a variety of different backgrounds and social castes. People of the upper classes would live next to people of middle or lower classes, all in an attempt to raise their social status. Large mining companies paid their workers four dollars a day on average, which they then spent on goods and services in town. The population Comstock grew from a few small groups to about 25,000 in the mid 1870’s. This is considered as the most profitable period during Nevada's mining boom. Nevada experienced exponential fiscal and monetary gains in subsequent years, earning four billion dollars from 1859-1880. The mining industry experienced an unprecedented decline up until 1940. Exports experienced a dramatic decline as the value of silver began be depreciate.

It's easy to see how the discovery of the Comstock Lode and the mining of it is important to the history of Nevada. The Comstock Lode caused an surge in immigration and increased productivity capacity within the mines. This generated massive amounts of wealth for the better part of ninety years. Ironically, the nickname of the state came from a mineral that was initially tossed aside in favor of mining for gold. Mining created a largely diverse community equipped for the rapid development of infrastructure. However, many of these mining towns were abandoned once the natural resources were depleted. The Comstock Lode left a mixed legacy once all was said and done. One half of its legacy consisting of old run down buildings lost in the desert, and the other the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip.

Nevada in Film[edit | edit source]

Film Depictions of Organized Crime in Nevada[edit | edit source]

Nevada has been depicted in many Hollywood movies throughout the history of cinema, typically through its largest city, Las Vegas. Many of these films focus on criminal activity in the state, especially organized crime. Some examples of this are Francis Ford Coppola’s classic film, The Godfather, and its sequel, The Godfather Part II. In these films, the criminal Corleone family owns a number of casinos and hotels in Las Vegas and Reno during the early twentieth century, and the titular Godfather, Michael Corleone, resides in the Nevada countryside on Lake Tahoe. These films display grisly murders, criminal dealings with corrupt Nevadan politicians, and the sinful excess of these cities taking place in the early twentieth century. The 1991 movie, Bugsy, also shows criminal influence in Nevada by telling the story of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, the mobster who was instrumental in the creation of the Flamingo Casino as well as the formation of Las Vegas as a gambling mecca. However, it neglects the fact that the idea for a casino in the middle of the Nevada desert did not come from a New York gangster, but from an investor named William Wilkerson. Criminal activities on the strip are again dramatized in Martin Scorsese’s 1995 film, Casino. Here, the mafia influence behind the Tangiers Casino, based on the real life Stardust Casino, is displayed in casino overseer and Mafioso Ace Rothstein, who fraudulently skims casino profits off the top for the mob, and is nearly assassinated by mobsters when the FBI uncovers the corruption. Several murders, such as the brutal beating and burial of enforcer Nicky Santoro and his brother in the desert by the mob, are depicted in the film, and the message that Las Vegas is surrounded by similar shallow desert graves is often repeated. Less violent crimes are also portrayed here, such as blackjack players attempting to cheat the casino, which is dealt with brutally by the gangsters.

Las Vegas In Film and Television[edit | edit source]

Las Vegas is nicknamed “Sin City” for its affiliation with vices such as gambling, drugs, alcohol, and prostitution, and it is this sinful aspect of the city which is most commonly dramatized in film. The aforementioned Casino notably captures this with Sharon Stone’s character Ginger McKenna, a drug addicted former prostitute who marries the protagonist, Ace Rothstein. Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls also depicts the sleazy nature of Sin City, dramatizing betrayals and back stabbings between strippers and prostitutes as they attempt to rise to the top of the Vegas nightclub scene. Leaving Las Vegas shows the vices of Vegas by portraying a suicidal man’s attempt to drink himself to death in the city, and his blossoming relationship with a prostitute. Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas depicts two men taking the opportunity of a work assignment in Las Vegas to take a great deal of hallucinogenic drugs, again representing the city as a sinful hub. A more recent film which demonstrates this association is The Hangover, where four men on a trip to Vegas for a bachelor party take in the numerous vices of the city on a night-long bender, including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, gambling and theft. Frank Miller, creator and writer of the comic book Sin City, uses Las Vegas' nickname as the title of his series. In this fictional world, Sin City is said to be located in the American south-west, presumably bearing geographic semblance to Nevada.

As illustrated by the previously listed films, depictions of Las Vegas, and Nevada in general, in film tend to be negative, focusing on the city as a hotbed of organized crime and debauchery. While there were mafia influences in the city in the past, and prostitution, gambling and alcohol use are prevalent in Vegas, today it is much safer and becoming more focused on family entertainment. Yet films and television still depict it as Sin City instead of Las Vegas, likely due to positive audience response to this narrative. The Hangover was the highest grossing R-rated comedy ever when it was released, and Casino was also a box office success.

Las Vegas' portrayal as a city of gambling and crime has received a more sensationalized approach in films like Ocean's Eleven (1960) starring the Rat Pack, and its reboot trilogy from the 2000's starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts. Serving as comedic heist themed ensemble pieces, these films depict Danny Ocean and his crew using their unique skills to rob a series of casinos on the Las Vegas strip. Instead of violence or grit, the films are much lighter and depict Ocean and his group instead using their cunning to rob targets.

The city of Las Vegas' portrayal with vices and crime extends into TV as well with procedural cop shows and dramas like Vega$ and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation portraying a seedy yet seductive underbelly to the glamour and lights of the Strip.

Reno in Film and Television[edit | edit source]

Another major Nevada city, Reno, also makes a number of appearances in film and television. Reno’s lax divorce laws in the twentieth century made it an ideal place for many unhappy couples to end their marriages, and several films use this idea of Reno as a plot point. One example of this is John Huston’s The Misfits, in which Marilyn Monroe’s character is in Reno for a quick divorce and ends up falling in love with a cowboy in the Nevada desert. Reno was also mentioned in the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, when the protagonist’s cheating wife vows to divorce her cuckolded husband in Reno, which he forbids.

Comedy Central aired the series Reno 911! from 2003-2009. Created by Robert Ben Garant, the satirical mockumentary features the outlandish trials and tribulations of the Reno Police Department. Staring Cedric Yarbrough, Niecy Nash, Robert Ben Garrant, and Thomas Lennon, the show developed a cult following and has been working on a Netflix revival.

Nevada Countryside in Film and Television[edit | edit source]

One iconic film set and filmed in Nevada is Wes Craven’s horror classic The Hills Have Eyes. This film depicts a family on vacation being attacked by cannibalistic savages who live in the Nevada desert. The famous Twilight Zone episode I shot an Arrow Into The Air, depicts astronauts landing on a supposed asteroid only later finding out they crash-landed in the Nevada desert. Writer, and creator, Rod Sterling, closes with the quote: "Practical joke perpetrated by Mother Nature and a combination of improbable events. Practical joke wearing the trappings of nightmare, of terror, and desperation. Small, human drama played out in a desert 97 miles from Reno, Nevada, U.S.A., continent of North America, the Earth and, of course, the Twilight Zone."

Nevada Film Industry[edit | edit source]

More than just a backdrop, Nevada has for decades served as a shooting location. From the Mojave Desert being used to film serials and pictures like Hazards of Helen (1915) or Helldorado (1945), to more recent films that capitalize on Las Vegas as a location such as Rain Man starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, Nevada has been intertwined with Hollywood. The 1980's in particular saw the cementing of this relationship, and as such the influx and creation of businesses like catering, tent sales and hotels become a major source of income for the state.

The Strip Revolutionizing Popular Culture in the U.S.[edit | edit source]

The most well known part of Nevada is Las Vegas and in Las Vegas is The Strip. The city was founded in 1905 and in its first few decades, it was a dwindling small town. Las Vegas rose from a remote Mormon frontier as a small railroad town which eventually evolved to to an international entertainment center. The first infrastructure development began in 1941 on what is known today as “The Strip,” which sparked a new kind of lifestyle for Americans all over the country. The town experience a brief economic boom during the construction of the nearby Boulder Dam in the early 1930’s. Workers could not drink or gamble in Boulder City enticing their return to Las Vegas after a days work. Everything changed when casino gambling was legalized in 1931. During this time, there was an increase in popularity of the automobile, inexpensive land, and cheap electricity, as well as progressive attitudes towards gambling. This change in attitude allowed for the growth of casinos and resorts, which established Las Vegas as a city of indulgence, entertainment, and pleasure.

In the beginning of the 1950’s, defense spending and tourism were the main focuses of establishing the growth of a city and the recognition of Las Vegas as a metropolitan state. In order to entice tourists to visit Las Vegas, wealthy investors, businessmen and politicians devoted time and resources to increase the amount of resorts, conventions centers, and hotels. Las Vegas’s growth was contingent upon attracting more tourists, and in the 1940's a new airport was built to make transportation to the city easier. Along with the construction of a new airport, the city braced themselves for the preparation of Interstate 15. This highway was built from Utah to Southern California bringing prosperity and easy continental access to Las Vegas as well. For people in the central parts of the US, the Interstate made the drive to Vegas quicker and more efficient. Additionally, Las Vegas was benefiting from the post-war boom. Suburban shopping centers and financial establishments, such as the Bank of Las Vegas were thriving. As well as the creation of new government buildings, Las Vegas was honoured as the nations nuclear test site. Las Vegas was put on the map when the test site effectively detonated the first bomb in 1951. As much development as there was going on in the city, most of the commercial and residential development was in the emerging Strip suburbs. Developments on the Las Vegas Boulevard South attracted homebuilders, business owners, and civilians to the south of the city limits. Once this was established, Vegas was ready to expand and cater to the hotel industry.

The first beginnings of the Strip can be traced back to hotelman Tom Hull, who decided to build a motel-casino in 1941. The first hotel was named El Rancho with a neon windmill roof designed to attract tourists. The previously empty desert between the boulevard and the highway began to fill with commercial centers and residential development. Major resorts such as the Dunes and Riviera, the Hacienda, Tropicana, and Stardust were all venues that sparked the early success of the strip. Las Vegas also offered opportunities from those leaving notorious crime organizations in the East Coast. In decades before it established itself, Nevada struggled to achieve respectability among other states in the US as public perception saw it as a place for mobsters, and scandals. Men transformed themselves from criminals to successful businessmen running world-class enterprises. Wealth and luxury lead to the increase in tourism. Resorts fueled by extravagant golf courses, pools, and raunchy shows all intrigued those to experience the secrets of the Strip. In 1980 Las Vegas had about 46,000 hotel and motel rooms and was visited by just under 12 million people. By mid-1996 the number of hotel and motel rooms in Las Vegas had swelled to over 94,000, more than any other single city in the United States. Hotels on the Strip have evolved from a one night visit to huge mega buildings that some people even resided in. A great example is Caesars Palace. It is not only a hotel but has an indoor shopping centre, a casino, large variety of restaurants, and theater shows. The hotel has created a luxury palace with every need and every want imaginable. Hotels such as Caesars Palace, Bellagio, The Mirage, or the Wynn have started a new trend for hotels. Why bother leaving the hotel when everything you need is under one roof? This idea of all inclusive luxury is what drove people to visit.

The Bellagio Hotel

The influxes of resorts eventually lead to the Strip being wealthier than Las Vegas itself and its suburbs. However, Las Vegas should be recognized for more than the Strip. From the 1920’s onward, the cities politicians pushed for state legislators, congressional delegations, federal bureaucrats military commanders and local endeavors to promote new projects. The promotion of new projects allowed for the Silver State to lean away from its previous primary industry of mining towards the more urban entertainment industry it is known for today. The journey from the 1950’s to what Las Vegas is today proved an uneasy path. A clear example was in 1957 when the Nevada Council of Churches made demands they saw necessary to create a functioning society. They required state legislators to end twenty-four hour gambling and to close casinos from 2 A.M. to 8 A.M. They wanted to see a reform in the liberal marriage and divorce laws as well as the creation of a government funded study to confirm the social and economic effects of gambling on the residents of Nevada. Religious groups challenged and revolted against the immoral activities that the Strip promoted. Politicians leading anti-gambling campaigns proposed in the senate to increase federal taxes on casinos and all table game and slot winnings.

Despite the continuous attempts to altar the life of the Strip, Las Vegas culture still was vibrant and booming. Las Vegas became one of the fastest growing metropolises in the country. The population soared immensely between 1970 and 2000, from 270,000 to more than 1.3 million. Originally Las Vegas was intended to be an oasis of excitement for tourists to visit for a few days, it was never intended as a place where people would live. Since the start of the 21st century, and through tremendous advertising and funding, Las Vegas’s industries have been called more recession-proof than the rest of America. As more resorts and casinos were constructed, it became clear that this would be a major American city. Gambling became the fabric of Las Vegas's economy and created a vibrant and world-renown culture. As the second largest contributor to Nevada’s GDP in the early 21st century, entertainment had become very significant. As well as being known as an entertainment hub, Las Vegas culture began to thrive in sports as well. Horse racing was a major draw that was established in 1930. Popularity of sports betting increased throughout the next forty years. Caesars Palace started to host world championship fights starring celebrity boxers such as Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson.

As well as Las Vegas making its mark through the Strip and gambling, sports and politics played a large role in what established Las Vegas as a great city. One of the most visited places on earth, Las Vegas’s impact in books, films and other interpretations of popular culture give the city a position of great appeal to the world. In addition to being an entertainment centre, Las Vegas has proven to be the cultural, financial, and economic hub of Nevada. The city that never sleeps holds many iconic attractions that infiltrates our popular culture and draws us in to learn the secrets of the Strip. Over the last decade and a half Las Vegas has created a part of pop culture that most can relate to. Vegas has merged into an adult playground where anything goes, and anything is possible. Known for its ridiculous hotels, extravagant nightclubs and bar scene, diverse group of locals, and of course The Strip , Vegas is a place where individuals can let loose and indulge in the pleasures of "Sin City". Walking down the strip it is not uncommon to see costumed visitors-pairs of brides and grooms, men wearing fraternity letters, and squadrons of bikers clad in silver-studded black leather.

As you drive into Las Vegas from the airport or out of town, it is hard to miss the array of billboards that confront you along every major road. Giant, garish images and verbal invitations promise free slots and cheap buffets, while larger-than-life lines of dancers grin from static poses above the freeways. This city has embodied the definition of pop culture. In a society that places gender stereotypes and norms as well as societal perceptions of who you should be as a person, Vegas offers a world of the weird and eccentric where anyone is welcome. The biggest thing Las Vegas has to offer is its truly exceptional diversity. People from every generation, race, religion, and sexual orientation all come together in one place to co-exist in harmony. Las Vegas also played a huge role in establishing what we know was as a nightlife scene. The evolution of nightlife was started in Las Vegas. Dinner theaters, burlesque clubs, huge nightclubs, and the notion of over the top parties was started in Vegas. Vegas had a major influence on pop culture and laid the framework for how we perceive exorbitant lifestyles today. The Strip is a constant hub of activity. The constant need for expansion gave developers endless possibilities to create and design unparalleled world wide metropolis. Being able to provide so many options for whatever your want or need is why Vegas is the striving, successful city we know today. Change has been seen in Nevada’s stance in popular culture over the course of a half century. Since 1950 change from a rough mob regulated state, to an emerging profitable market of entertainment means a great deal for the view of Nevada in the media. Now areas of Nevada such as Las Vegas offer people potential to live comfortably, as well safely visit the tourist hotspots. Nevada now seems to have a prominence in popular culture as a destination unlike any other.

Attractions of Las Vegas and the Strip[edit | edit source]

During the early days of the Strip in the thirties and forties, a variety of thrilling entertainment acts and performances could be found. At the El Rancho Vegas hotel, guests enjoyed performances by actors, comedians and musicians such as Nat King Cole, Jackie Gleeson, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

More recently, a large variety of attractions can be found along the Las Vegas Strip. Such as museums like the Liberace Museum containing the world's largest rhinestone at an 115,500 carat piece of lead glass weighing 50.6 lbs. Other museums include Madame Tussands Wax Museum boasting a large collection of celebrity sculptures such as Jackie Chan, Katy Perry, Barrack Obama and even fiction characters like Master Chief from the Halo video game series. Other museums include the Venetian's various art galleries, the Elvis Presley Museum, and the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. Featuring a series of exhibits on the mob's involvement in gambling, smuggling and prohibition in the United States as well as Nevada and Las Vegas, the site draws on Vegas' history of crime and mafia involvement through figures like Al Capone, Elliot Ness' operation to arrest the infamous mob boss and pieces like the St. Valentine's Day Massacre blood stained wall. Not just crime or pop culture, the city is home to a variety of art galleries such as the several at the Venetian. Opened in 1999 by Las Vegas real estate developer and mogul Sheldon Adelson at a cost of $1.5 billion, the Venetian hotel hosts two galleries from the New York Guggenheim Museum as well as an extensive collection of motorcycles from 1868 to the present known as, The Art of the Motorcycle. Further hotspots include Adventuredome (formerly Grand Slam Canyon), an $75 million amusement park opened in 1993 and featuring a 68 ft. high waterfall, animatronic dinosaurs, rollercoasters and a water flume ride. The site is an example of some of the family fun to be had in Vegas.

The Strip is also home to a variety of shows and entertainment such as Siegfried and Roy. For 27 years the duo mesmerized tourists and guests with their glamorous act featuring white tigers performing a series of tricks, to the audiences' delight. From 1990 until 2003, Siegfried and Roy performed in thousands of shows at the Mirage Hotel & Casino taking in $45 million in ticket sales annually. Unfortunately, the spotlight and shows ended to the duo's horror when the white tiger Mantecore attacked and mangled Roy Horn's neck amidst that night's stage performance.

Rules and Regulations of the Las Vegas Strip[edit | edit source]

The Las Vegas Strip, known worldwide for its lavish hotels, mega casinos, and a night life that could rival any city in the world. These are just a few of the reasons millions of people a year travel to Las Vegas, Nevada or ‘Sin City’ as many call it. The history of the Strip is very interesting and there aren’t many cities that can really offer the same entertainment that Las Vegas can but to understand how it became the landmark city that it is today you must look back to the history of the City. Once the history and background of the city is understood it is important to look at the various rules and regulations that are in place in order to keep the city from getting too overrun by the Strip and its businesses. The rules are also used to help keep the public areas family friendly and not to mature that families stop traveling to Vegas with children.

Las Vegas is an interesting city that has been founded on the backbone of the Mafia and its Mobsters who had previously made most of their money from bootlegging illegal alcohol in the prohibition era. A group of former rival mobsters got together just before the re legalization of alcohol which in turn eliminated their bootlegging profits, this new organization was called “The Syndicate.” Ben ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, was the founder of one of the first Las Vegas Strip Hotel-Resorts called the Flamingo in the year 1946. After other mobsters saw the success of the Flamingo they began to pour money into the area building new hotels, and casinos that would make Las Vegas a hot spot for Mob run businesses. The mobsters would have someone run the hotel, resorts, and casinos who had no criminal record in order to avoid police and then they would take money out of the businesses tax free, this would actually help Las Vegas become the city that it is today.

After the Mafia had built up Las Vegas it continued to grow as a sort of desert oasis that had been designed around the premise of making money and giving people pleasures that may otherwise be frowned upon in other states. This is why the processes of keeping Las Vegas in check and making sure it does not get to out of hand and still caters to all ages. Las Vegas is labeled as ‘Sin City’ because it is a city built around pleasure and material things which is why it is such a great tourist destination. However, it has begun offering more than just gambling and drinking, it now offers family shows and attractions making it a much more family friendly city. The significance of building safe communities throughout Las Vegas, especially surrounding the Strip would be a major theme for several decades. The clash between the old and new Las Vegas themes is seen by tourists as they are walking down streets and being handed flyers for adult services out in public where there are children and families. This can cause issues for a variety of reasons, first is if a parent is out with their kids on vacation and someone starts soliciting adult services this could cause someone to not want to come back for another vacation. It does not help having these companies trying to compete with each other in crowded public spaces. “These conditions directly affect resort patronage, particularly at resorts abutting premium canvassing locations.” This shows the changing culture in Las Vegas a city that was built on illegal operations now must create and follow laws in order to maintain its status as one of the world’s most famous tourist locations.

The use of laws and new bills has been an important factor in keeping Las Vegas a profitable and beneficial part of Nevada as a whole due to it being a huge part of Nevada’s state economy. The hotels must maintain a high customer per night rate in order to maximize profits. That is why the issue with canvassing in Las Vegas is one of the things they still deal with due their illegal past and they are now taking actions trying to maintain its name as a world tourist destination. Las Vegas is a much different city than what it was in its early days as a mob run paradise catering to all pleasurable desires. Now it is much more progressive and has diversified its culture as a city. However, now it has a global reputation as one of the most famous tourist cities in the world. It has something for everyone whether it is a show on the strip or a night out in the casinos the city can be the perfect spot for a bachelor or bachelorette party or a family vacation to see some of the world most famous entertainers. To keep this reputation of being a place for everyone they must regulate what goes on and what is visible to the public. This is why the issue with the canvassing for adult services is important because it is capable of decreasing the number of tourists if they don’t want to come back due to the street harassment from solicitors. Rules and regulations are being put in place in order to reduce canvassing and keep the streets a family friendly area. Las Vegas is an important part of the history of Nevada and has a past unlike anywhere else.

Sin City versus Family Resort Paradise[edit | edit source]

In the late 1980’s much of the Strip began to change from the neon lights and adult-centric tourist location many had loved to a much tamer version of itself. The Strip became not only a gambling focused hub in the west, but rather on becoming an all-inclusive entertainment resort. This change was spear headed by Steve Wynn, one of the major players in the development of The Strip in recent history. The goal was to make The Strip more fun than any other location in the United States for a growing demographic. This was because gambling had become more and more welcomed around the United States, with lotteries, casinos and other wagering becoming more widely accepted. Casinos and hotels started becoming themed, dropping the typical bright neon lights and beginning to adapt “Disney-esque” themes. This would lead The Strip to start marketing itself to not just a place for adults, but also for families to go and enjoy the tourist location. Las Vegas would continue this effort to become an entertainment hub rather than a strictly gambling focused city until the early 2000’s, with the City housing 9 of the 10 largest hotels in the world at the time.

In the early 2000’s, when Las Vegas began to enter a tourism slump, they tried reverting to their old roots, and tried to become the city it once was before the family focused Strip emerged. This slump might have had occurred due to the terrorist attacks on 911, making United States citizens choose local gambling locations over flying to Las Vegas. The city began offering less family orientated things, such as the introduction of the adult Cirque du Soleil show “Zumanity”, and the even changed the city motto to “What happens here, stays here”, to try and attract their original demographic, among many other things.

The Strip would continue to evolve, trying to maintain its edgy image, while also providing for children when they were brought along. This problem of what the strip should market itself as is still occurring and being looked into today, with tourism boards trying to figure out what to do about the situation. The University of Nevada Las Vegas has done research into the issue, determining that the Strip’s main attractions of gambling and nightlife, are not sustainable marketing tactics for their tourism.

The Show Girls of Las Vegas[edit | edit source]

The phenomenon of the French inspired showgirl in Las Vegas truly began in 1952 when entertainment director Jack Entratter’s first show featuring Danny Thomas premiered. Enthralled by the beauty and lifestyle these women led in advertisements in papers, audiences and actresses like Betty Bunch flocked to these stages to perform or just watch the act at hotels like the Sahara. The dresses alone costed $12,000 which when adjusted for inflation is $107,205.66 in 2016. Many Americans considered Las Vegas to be primarily a gambling resort when in actuality the entertainment industry plays a significant role in global marketing. Las Vegas wasn’t the only city in the United States that show girls were prevalent in. Cities like Miami, New York, and Hollywood put on similar shows as to the ones in Las Vegas. However, the modern day show girl survives only in Las Vegas which is affectionately referred to as a “time-warp museum of popular culture.”

Jack Entratter is often credited as the driving force behind the transformation of a small town in the desert to the massive entertainment paradise it is today. He spent his life living in nightclubs, and had an uncanny ability in acquiring talent for his illustrious productions. His role as entertainment director for the Sands hotel and the Copa Girl showcase allowed the artistic freedom break free from tradition. He decided instead of using show girls as entertainment during intermissions, he would make them the spectacle. Entratter was known for having a specific formula that he would apply when selecting applicable candidates for his shows, which he considered to be “the American look.” Entratter was focused on showcasing beauty rather than putting on a dance performance like his competitors aimed to do.

Art and Fashion[edit | edit source]

The costumes associated with showgirls are notorious for their complexity, brilliance, expense and provocative design. With the sole intention of emphasizing the sexual appeal of the women who wore them, costume designers took inspiration from French fashion and made the "showgirl" costume a creative outlets for their most extravagant creations in fashion and set design.

In the context of the tourism trade, the nature of the business lead to cut-throat competition. Casino shows competed for notoriety and audiences, which led producers and costumers to indulge in more and more outrageous and provocative shows that really put the sin in “Sin City.” Perhaps the pinnacle of this competition would be Harold Minsky’s introduction of topless dancers in his production. Nudity has always been prominent in the art associated with Las Vegas and the fashion associated with show girls is a testament to that. With nudity comes controversy and controversy breeds interest. Madame Bluebell, the founder and manager of the Bluebell Girls, defended the costumes by saying “Everyone knows our shows are tasteful and wholesome, and no one complains about exploitation. My girls ask to dance topless; it’s their choice.”

The implication arose that many of the performers and dancers were little more than “glorified, gussied-up call girls” when in reality many of these girls were enrolled in university in the pursuit of degrees and achieving careers outside of dancing while also establishing families. Las Vegas was a pioneer in pursuing economic equality for women and being a show girl was considered one of the best jobs a girl could have with all of the accommodations and steady work that came with it.

The “Folies Berger” premiered on December 11th 1959 at the Tropicana resort. In the beginning of the show girl era there was an immense pride in being a part of the production. The performers would often leave their makeup on after the show in order to be recognized in the lounges and bars around the strip. The environment during the 20th century productions from the 50s through the late 70s was a lot different in comparison to later years. The early years of the production are often remembered fondly as a time that the production team had a close family dynamic rather than the corporate feel of the modern era. This is attributed to the transfer of power of Las Vegas from the mafia to the mega-corporations of the 21st century. This transition also included the quality of performance conducted during the shows. In the early days the performers were only expected to be aesthetically pleasing and in the words of Bill Garbett “They couldn’t chew gum and walk at the same time.” In the more modern productions showgirls are seasoned professional dancers.

The End of an Era[edit | edit source]

The showgirl phenomenon reached its zenith in the mid-1960's. As time went on, tastes in entertainment and art changed along with it. This change in popular culture left but two major show girl acts remaining: “Jubilee” and “Folies Bergere.” The last of the two, “Jubilee” had its final showing in February 2016. In the 21st century, much of the eroticism showcased in productions has been set aside for more family-friendly shows. Though the original showgirl era ended in order to make way for new shows aimed at new audiences, the impact on the art world is forever etched in the history of Las Vegas with the Showgirl Art Competition Exhibition hosted by the Nevada State Historical Society. The image of the showgirl is expected to remain a part of Nevada’s rich history of popular culture a long time. “You can implode hotels and sell off the contents,” Varney told The New York Times at the Reno exhibit’s opening, “but art won’t vanish. Art is forever.”

Las Vegas and Prostitution[edit | edit source]

Legislation was passed in 1971 that allowed for the practice of prostitution in almost all counties in Nevada. However this law excluded counties that had a recorded population larger than 200,000 during the previous census, so consequently, this meant that in Clark county (which contains Vegas), Washoe (which contains Reno), Douglas and Lincoln, prostitution still remained illegal. Because of this, one of the primary issues that the state of Nevada deals with is the concept of sex trafficking, and Las Vegas was deemed the thirteenth highest city for “high intensity child prostitution… where the average age of a child prostitute [is] fourteen.” Although it is hard to exactly know the number of sex trafficking victims because there is “no uniform method among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to collect data.” In addition, not only is Las Vegas known as a hub of sex trafficking, but it is also one of the highest states for violence against women, and the violent nature of “sexualized city culture make[s] it easy for sex traffickers to blend in and profit from selling women and children. Finally, with the legalization of brothels, the government requires the girls to be examined on a weekly basis and receive blood texting on a monthly basis. This may seem like a beneficial law for all parties involved, however, because the “prostitutes do not receive health benefits, they pay the full expenses… [and after all other expenses] this leaves many women earning only nineteen-to-twenty-one cents per dollar.”

However, it has been argued that the legalization of prostitution may not be the worst thing for Nevada, and that it has reduced sex trafficking and the violence against women. By taking the power out of the hands of illegal pimps and placing it in the hands of the state, which can regulate the practices within the legal brothels, it frees prostitutes from the threat of violence and provides a more hygienic outlet within the sex industry. In addition, as many as one third of Nevadans support the notion of legalizing brothels in Las Vegas, and the former mayor Oscar Goodman even “proposed a downtown red-light district or ‘little Amsterdam’… [with the idea being] that a regulated, visible sex industry would significantly minimize the need for and underground industry where sex trafficking can thrive.” Another benefit of having the industry of prostitution regulated by the government is it allows for the government to maintain the industry of commercial sex out of the public eye. Additionally, in Nevada, “the local governments impose licensing requirements on brothel owners and require the location of brothels to be kept off the beaten path, away from schools or churches.”

Area 51[edit | edit source]

Geography[edit | edit source]

Situated in southern Nevada, Area 51, also referred to as Groom Lake, lies 90 miles north of Las Vegas. The military base measures six miles wide by ten miles long and operates as a federally governed airspace. With the Mojave Desert residing to its west, Area 51 boarders AEC Nevada Test Site, the center for nuclear weapons testing beginning in early 1945. Area 51 is part of the largest government-controlled land parcel in America, the Nevada Test and Training Range. This facility is unique to Nevada and there is no other facility like it in the continental United States. Area 51 sits just outside of the Nevada Test Site. Most of the activity inside is classified when active. The Nevada Test sites are home to over 1,949 detonations spanning across 30 test sites over the course of 47 years. The purpose of Area 51 was to advance military science and technology before any other foreign powers in the world. Everything on this site is restricted government land.

Military History[edit | edit source]

Area 51 is the primary testing location for American aerospace reconnaissance engineering. Conducting its military operations under heavy secrecy and remote surveillance, the base has been documented to have been the testing site for various innovative military aircraft technologies since the 1950’s. The Groom Lake airfield began operation in 1942 functioning as an air base during World War II and subsequent Cold War, playing a significant role in reconnaissance and weapons testing. These projects include the Lockheed U-2 spy plane, and the notorious project OXCART. Declassified information on the both the OXCART story and the Lockheed incident have since surfaced as CIA publications have emerged in recent years. These early projects, like Groom Lake, the U-2 spy plane, and A-12 OXCART spy plane were all declassified yet the name Area 51 on military reports is always blacked out. Government projects have been hidden for decades all in the name of national security.

U-2 Aircraft[edit | edit source]

The U-2 was a specially designed reconnaissance aircraft perfected by Richard M. Bissel of the CIA. Becoming an operational piece of military equipment in 1956 and used as a primary source of intelligence gathering during the Cold War, the U-2 was revolutionary reconnaissance technology. Despite initial testing’s confirming its trackability on radar, it remained in military operation until May 1st 1960, where pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down while in Soviet air space. After this travesty, significantly more resources were put into design improvement. Bissel continued to design an aircraft that would build on the imperfections of the original U-2, and concluded that increasing the aircrafts speed and maximum altitude would make it next to impossible to track on radar. The funding needed to turn the theoretical craft into reality was exceedingly expensive and getting approval would require the backing of high level military scientists and officials. After receiving government funding in 1958, the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation began conducting anti-radar studies, aerodynamic structural test and preliminary engineering designs on the revised U-2 aircraft. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation was selected as the manufacturer and given the go ahead in 1960 to produce twelve aircraft.

Thanks to timely development and its revolutionary reconnaissance ability, U-2 flights revealed information swinging the arms race in Americas favour. Intelligence was collected exposing the Soviets preparedness for intermediate attacks against Europe than a long-range attack on the United States. Knowledge of the USSR’s relative military strength was instrumental in preventing a full-scale war.

Project OXCART[edit | edit source]

Preceded by project GUSTO, Project OXCART, was the name given to the program that would continue to develop and improve on the subsequent models of the original U-2 aircraft. Plagued with its fair share of design problems, Lockheed and its engineers primarily faced monetary limitations. Materials for the construction of the aircraft were expensive and scarce. The aircraft’s imaging system remained a highly difficult component to perfect. Once a final design was submitted for manufacturing, Lockheed’s head designer, Clarence L. Johnson, renamed Lockheed’s original U-2 design the A-12. Pilots to operate the aircraft were also a scarce commodity. Along with having to meet the strict physical criteria of under 6 feet and 175 pounds, prospects were required to present strong mental fortitude and stability to operate and harness the power that the A-12 would posses. Upon completion of the aircraft, a testing location was required to test the machines newly developed technologies. As many aircraft bases were considered during this selection process, Area 51 emerged as the most suitable due to its unrivaled security and remoteness. Construction at the newly selected airbase base commenced to implement a runway large enough to accommodate the A-12. On April 30, 1962, after numerous delays, the A-12 took to the skies for the first time. The craft was reported to have been extremely stable and highly responsive. The program ceased operations in 1968, lasting a span of ten years. Declassification of Project OXCART occurred in 2007.

Conspiracy and UFO’s in Popular Culture[edit | edit source]

Plenty of controversy exists amongst skeptics and conspiracy theorists surrounding Area 51. In popular culture and mainstream media, accounts of alien and UFO sightings have become synonymous with the military base. Countless television, radio, and movies have depicted the base as the center for extra terrestrial activity, more specifically, Area 51 and the Roswell incident. With insufficient evidence and speculatory claims, Area 51 remains an enigma to believers and skeptics alike. According to a CIA study on UFO's, declassified in 1997, the Air Force had originally been running two programs. One was called Project Saucer, later changed to Project Sign, and the other was an Air Force public relations campaign called Project Grunge. Project Sign was established to investigate Air Force UFO concerns and the other was intended to show the nation that the Air Force had no UFO concerns.The point of these projects was to convince the public that UFO's were nothing unusual or extraordinary.These projects did little to appease the public as the nuclear arms race was in full effect and fear of the end of the world was high. Although there has been no proof confirming UFO authenticity, the United States Air Force conducted a series of investigations in the late 1940’s to late 1960’s called Project Blue Book. Project Blue Book’s primary function was to research and investigate the legitimacy and potential national threat UFO’s may present. From 1947 to 1969, 618 sighting were reported in Project Blue Book, and to this day, 701 of these remain unidentified. After the termination of Project Blue Book in 1969, the United States government concluded UFO sightings did not present a threat to national security and there was no sufficient evidence indicating that the unidentified aircraft were of extra-terrestrial descent. There are several universities and professional scientific organizations, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which have considered UFO phenomena during periodic meetings and seminars. Many of these sightings during the 1950’s and 1960’s have been linked to the U-2 and A-12 aircrafts.The U-2 was being repeatedly mistaken for a UFO Dates of UFO sightings and respective aircraft testing are consistent with one another. These public hysterias were unwelcome to analysts but it was something they had to address. CIA officers had more important issues to deal with. Given their revolutionary design and flight at unprecedented altitudes, it is apparent how they would have been perceived as ‘otherworldly” by an observer. The extra-terrestrial phenomena surrounding Area 51 has transcended into mainstream culture and is embedded in the fabric of Nevada’s culture. The National Atomic Testing Museum features an Area 51 exhibit located just northwest of Las Vegas.

Further Reading

Articles[edit | edit source]

  1. A. A. Earle “From California.” Independent Standard. June 8, 1860.
  2. Allen, Rebecca. "Alta California Missions and the Pre-1849 Transformation of Coastal Lands." Historical Archaeology 44, no. 3 (2010).
  3. Anderson, Kathryn. "Steps to Political Equality: Woman Suffrage and Electoral Politics in the Lives of Emily Newell Blair, Anne Henrietta Martin, and Jeannette Rankin." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 18, no. 1 (1997): 101.
  4. Atherton, William. “Construction of Hoover Dam Is Uncle Sam’s Biggest Job: How Giant Hoover Dam Will Look.” New York Times March 8, 1931, 126.
  5. Bennett, Dana. “The Up-Growth of New Industry: Transformation of Nevada’s Economy, 1918-1929.” Nevada Historical Society Quarterly 52 (3): 175-197.
  6. Bennett, Dana R. "Smokin' in the Boys' Room: A Case Study of Women State Legislators in Nevada, 1919–1931." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 31, no. 1 (2010): 89-122. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed November 05, 2016), 89.
  7. Bernhard, Bo J., Michael S. Green, and Anthony F. Lucas. "From Maverick to Mafia to MBA." Cornell Hospitality Quarterly (Many 2008): 177-190.
  8. Bowers, Michael Wayne. 2006. The Sagebrush State, 3d Edition: Nevada's History, Government, and Politics. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2006, 27.
  9. Brodhead, Michael J. "Military Presence in Nevada, 1843-1988." Nevada Historical Society Quarterly (1989): 271-275.
  10. Bullard, F. Lauriston. "Abraham Lincoln and the Statehood of Nevada." American Bar Association (1940): 26.
  11. Carr, L. 2008. "Rationalizing the Cold War Home Front." IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 27 (3): 13-18. doi:10.1109/MTS.2008.929007. http://resolver.scholarsportal.info/resolve/02780097/v27i0003/13_rtcwhf.
  12. “The Carson Valley Massacre.” Mountaineer Extra. May 26, 1860.
  13. Cox, Thomas R. "Before the Casino: James G. Scrugham, State Parks, and Nevada's Quest for Tourism." The Western Historical Quarterly 24, no. 3 (1993): 333-50. doi:10.2307/970754, 333.
  14. Dichamp, Christiane Fischer. "Let Them Speak for Themselves: Women in the American West, 1849-1900." Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1977.
  15. Douglas, William A. and Pauliina Raento. "The Tradition of Invention: Conceiving Las Vegas." Annals of Tourism Research 31, no. 1 (2004): 7-23.
  16. Fenich, George G. "Casino Gaming and Crime: Belief are Changing." Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education (1998): 37-41.
  17. Foster, Jonathan. “Stigma Cities: Birmingham and Las Vegas in the National Newspaper Media, 1945-2000,” Nevada Historical Society Quarterly (Winter 2007): 301.
  18. Frohmberg, Eric, Robert Goble, Virginia Sanchez, and Dianne Quigley. 2000. "The Assessment of Radiation Exposures in Native American Communities from Nuclear Weapons Testing in Nevada." Risk Analysis 20 (1): 101-112. doi:10.1111/0272-4332.00010. http://resolver.scholarsportal.info/resolve/02724332/v20i0001/101_taoreifnwtin.
  19. "FROM CALIFORNIA." New York Times. Jun 8, 1860. 2.
  20. Glenn, Edward, P., Christopher Lee, Richard Felger, and Scott Zengel. "Effects of Water Management on the Wetlands of the Colorado Delta, Mexico." Conservation Biology 10, no. 4 (1996): 1175-1186.
  21. Glotfelty, Cheryll. "In my backyard: Nevada's literature of resistance to atomic testing and nuclear waste." Southwestern American Literature 34, no. 1 (2008): 55+. Academic OneFile (accessed December 2, 2016). http://go.galegroup.com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=guel77241&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA207324368&asid=b20d377daf991f4279c12022548db176.
  22. Gomes, John M. "Golconda's Glory Days: 1898-1910." Nevada Historical Society Quarterly. 50, no. 2 (2007): 145-68.
  23. Hacker, Barton C. "Elements of controversy: the Atomic Energy Commission and radiation safety in nuclear weapons testing, 1947-1974." University of California Press (1994).
  24. Harmon, Mella R. "Getting Renovated: Reno Divorces in the 1930s." Nevada Historical Society Quarterly 42, no. 1 (1999): 46-68.
  25. Hostetter, Ellen."Boomtown Landscapes." Material Culture 43 (2011): 64.
  26. Hutcherson, Austin. “Early Mining Districts of Nevada’s Comstock.” The Historian 8, no. 1 (1945): 5-18.
  27. James, Ronald M. "Drunks, Fools, and Lunatics: History and Folklore of the Early Comstock." Nevada Historical Society Quarterly (1992): 215-220.
  28. Jarvis, Bob. ”Will Casino’s return to Cuba.” Florida Sun (December 14, 2014).
  29. Kant, Candace C. "City of Dreams: Las Vegas in the Cinema, 1980-1989." Nevada Historical Society Quarterly 33, no. 4 (1990): 1-12.
  30. Kearny, Thomas. "The Mexican War and the Conquest of California: Stockton or Kearny Conqueror and First Governor?" California Historical Society 8, no. 3 (1929). doi:10.2307/25178018.
  31. Kersten, Earl W. "The Early Settlement of Aurora, Nevada, and Nearby Mining Camps." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 54 (1964): 490.
  32. Knack, Martha C. "Newspaper Accounts of Indian Women in Southern Nevada Mining Towns, 1870-1900." Banning, CA: Malki Museum, 1986, 85.
  33. Littlejohn, David. "The Real Las Vegas: Life Beyond The Strip." (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
  34. Mayhall, Laura E. Nym. "Reclaiming the Political: Women and the Social History of Suffrage in Great Britain, France, and the United States." Journal of Women's History 12, no. 1 (2000): 172-181. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed November 06, 2016): 174.
  35. Macilwain, Colin. "Nuclear triggers get subcritical scrutiny." Nature 387, no. 6635 (June 1997): 751.
  36. Marino, Stephen. ""Wind Blew Down"/"Wind Came Up": The Misfits and the Imagery of Arthur Miller." Nevada Historical Society Quarterly 52, no. 1 (2009), 33-47.
  37. McCracken, Robert D. "Las Vegas: The Great American Playground" (Expanded ed. Reno, University of Nevada Press, 1997), 99.
  38. Meyer, William E. H. "An American "Precedent"? Propaganda in American Movies: The Case of the Hollywood Jews." Literature/Film Quarterly 27, no. 4 (1999), 271-275.
  39. Moehring, Eugene P. and Michael S. Green. "Las Vegas: A Centennial History." Reno: University of Nevada Press (2005): 147.
  40. Morgan, H. Wayne. "Western Silver and the Tariff of 1890." New Mexico Historical Review 35, no. 2 (April 1, 1960). Proquest.
  41. Moss, George. "Silver frolic: Popular entertainment in Virginia city, Nevada, 1859-1863." Journal of Popular Culture 22, no. 2 (Fall 1988): 1. https://www.proquest.com/docview/1297352293 (accessed November 13, 2016), 5.
  42. Moss, Steven E. et al, “The effects of 911 on casino revenues: a comparison of Mississippi and Las Vegas,” Academy of Marketing Studies Journal 8.2 (2004), 33.
  43. “News From The Pacific.” Richmond Dispatch. March 28th, 1860.
  44. Peck, Gunther. "Manly Gambles: The Politics of Risk on the Comstock Lode, 1860-1880." Journal of Social History 26, no. 4 (1993): pp. 701-723.
  45. Petry, Nancy. “National Gambling experiences in the United States: Will History Repeat Itself?,” Addiction 108 (2013), 1032-1037.
  46. "Pyramid Lake-- Causes of the Outbreak--Exaggerations and Panics..." New York Times. Jun 13, 1860.
  47. Russel R. Elliot, “History of Nevada “The Physical Environment 2, no.2 (1973): preface, 14, accessed November 10, 2016.
  48. Scott, Cathy. “Sex and sin city: after a recent slump, Las Vegas has decided to drop its efforts to establish the Strip as a family destination, return to its roots and do what it does best: market itself as an adult destination, a chic, upscale version of its old self--sexy, edgy and worldly,” Business Traveller 28 (2004), 54.
  49. Shepper, Wilbur S. "Nevada: A Beautiful Desert of Buried Hope." Nevada Historical Society Quarterly 34, no. 4 (1991): 439-66.
  50. Smith, James F. "Ben Siegel: Father of Las Vegas and the Modern Casino-Hotel." Journal of Popular Culture. 1-22.
  51. Strauss, Jessalynn "Becoming Respectable: A History of Early Social Responsibility in the Las Vegas Casino Industry." UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal 19, no. 2 (2015).
  52. The Project on Vegas, Strip Cultures: Finding America in Las Vegas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), 33.
  53. "US Resumes Nuke Weapons Experiments." Peace Research 30, no. 2 (May, 1998): 17.
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  56. Ventura, Patricia. “Learning from Globalization-Era Las Vegas,” Southern Quarterly 42 (2003), 97-112.
  57. Wallis, John Joseph. "The Political Economy of New Deal Spending Revisited, again: With and without Nevada." Explorations in Economic History 35, no. 2 (1998): 140-170.
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Books[edit | edit source]

  1. Andrew J. Dunar and Dennis McBride, Building Hoover Dam. (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1993), 100-108.
  2. Ardus, Mathew O. Wild Horses and Their Management by the Bureau of Land Management. New York: Nova Science, 2009.
  3. Babcock & Wilcox Company, Hoover Dam. (New York: Babcock & Wilcox Company, 1933), 6-9.
  4. Bannon, John Francis. The Spanish Borderlands Frontier 1513-1821. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1974.
  5. Bengston, Ginny. Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone Land Use in Northern Nevada Reno: SWCA Environmental Consultants, 2003.
  6. Bolton, Herbert Eugene. Spanish Exploration in the Southwest 1542-1706. New York: Barnes & Noble Inc., 1946.
  7. Bowers, Martha H. and Hans Muessig. History of Central Nevada: An Overview of the Battle Mountain District. Reno: Nevada State Office of the Bureau of Land Management, 1982.
  8. Bowers, Michael W. The Sagebrush State, 3rd Edition: Nevada's History, Government, and Politics. Reno: University of Nevada University Press, 2006.
  9. Cathy H.C. Hsu, Legalized Casino Gaming in the United States: The Economic and Social Impact. New York: The Haworth Press, 2013.
  10. Davies, Richard. The Main Event. Reno: University of Nevada Press. 2010.
  11. Davis, Sam P. "The History of Nevada", 2 vols. Reno, NV: Elms Pub., 1913.
  12. De Steiguer, J Edward. Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's Mustangs. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2011.
  13. Dixon, Kelly J. Boomtown Saloons: Archaeology and History in Virginia City. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2005.
  14. Driggs,Don. Nevada Politics and Government, Conservatism in an Open Society. Lawrence, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 1996.
  15. Dobie, J. Frank, and Charles Banks. Wilson. The Mustangs. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1952.
  16. Dufour, Charles L. The Mexican War; a Compact History, 1846-1848. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1968.
  17. Dunar, Andrew J. and Dennis Mcbride. Building Hoover Dam: An Oral History of the Great Depression. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1993.
  18. Dunn, Helen. Indians of Nevada: Volume 1. Carson City: Nevada Department of Education, 1973.
  19. Dunn, Helen. Indians of Nevada: Volume 2. Carson City: Nevada Department of Education, 1973.
  20. Dunn, Helen. Indians of Nevada: Volume 3. Carson City: Nevada Department of Education, 1973.
  21. Dunn, Helen. Indians of Nevada: Volume 4. Carson City: Nevada Department of Education, 1973.
  22. Fehrer, Terrence R. and F. G. Gosling. Battlefield of the Cold War: The Nevada Test Site, Volume 1: Atmospheric Nuclear Weapons Testing 1951-1963. United States: Department of Energy, 2006.
  23. Fox, William L. In the Desert of Desire: Las Vegas and the Culture of Spectacle. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2005.
  24. Fehrer, Terrence R. and F. G. Gosling. Origins of the Nevada Test Site. United States: Department of Energy, 2000.
  25. Frohmberg, Eric, Robert Goble, Virginia Sanchez, and Dianne Quigley.The assessment of radiation exposures in Native American communities from nuclear weapons testing in Nevada. Risk Analysis 20, no. 1 (2000): 101-112.
  26. Fuller, John D. P. The Movement For The Acquisition Of All Mexico. New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 1936.
  27. Haines, Francis. Horses in America. New York: Crowell, 1971. 185-195
  28. Hitzik, Michael. Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century. New York: Free Press, 2010.
  29. Hulse, James W. The Silver State, 3rd Edition: Nevada's Heritage Reinterpreted. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2004.
  30. Hulse, James W. Nevada, The Silver State: Nevada's Heritage Reinterpreted. 3rd ed. Reno, Nevada: University of Nevada Press, 2004.
  31. Hulse, James W. The Silver State, 3rd Edition: Nevada's Heritage Reinterpreted. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2004.
  32. Jacobsen, Annie . Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base .New York City Back Bay Books, 2012
  33. James, Ronald M. and Elizabeth Raymond. Comstock Women: The Making of a Mining Community. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1998.
  34. James, Ronald M. The Roar and the Silence: A History of Virginia City and the Comstock Lode. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1999.
  35. James, Ronald M. and Kenneth H. Fliess. "Women of the Mining West: Virginia City Revisited". In Comstock Women: The Making of A Mining Community, edited by Ronald M. James and Elizabeth C. Raymond, 17-39. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1998.
  36. Skolnick Jerome H. “A Zoning Merit Model for Casino Gambling” 1, no. 1 (1984): 49, http://journals1.scholarsportal.info.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/pdf/00027162/v474i0001/48_azmmfcg.xml
  37. Johnson, David Alan. Founding the Far West California, Oregon, and Nevada, 1840-1890. Berkley: University of California Press, 1992.
  38. Jones, Karen and John Wills American West: Competing Visions. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). EBSCOhost.
  39. Kolvet, Renee Corona, and Victoria Ford. The Civilian Conservation Corps in Nevada: From Boys to Men. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2006.
  40. Las Vegas and the Railroad: Southern Nevada the Boomtown Years, University of Nevada Libraries, the coming of the railroad. https://muse-jhu-edu.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/article/431098/pdf
  41. Laxalt, Robert. Nevada: A Bicentennial History. Nevada: University of Nevada Press, 1991.
  42. Mapp, Paul W. The Elusive West And The Contest for Empire 1716-1763. North Carolina: University of North Carlonia Press, 2011.
  43. McCracken, Robert D. Las Vegas: The Great American Playground. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1997.
  44. Meed, Douglas V. The Mexican War, 1846-1848. New York: Routledge, 2003.
  45. Powell, Miles A. “Cities Sagebrush, and Solitude” Urbanization and Cultural Conflict in the Great Basin 85, no. 4 (2016): 634, http://phr.ucpress.edu/content/85/4/634
  46. Moe, Al W., Nevada's Golden Age of Gambling: The Casinos 1931-1981. Arizona: Create-Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2012.
  47. Moehring, Eugene and Micheal S. Green. Las Vegas: A Centennial History. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2005.
  48. Moreno, Richard. A Short History of Carson City. Nevada: University of Nevada Press, 2011.
  49. Nevada, “The Almanac of American Politics” 1, no.1 (2014): paragraph 2, https://www.proquest.com/docview/1651174495
  50. Paher, Stanely W. Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps. Berkeley: Nevada Publications, 1970.
  51. Reid, James. Uncovering Nevada's Past. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2004.
  52. Reid, John B. and Ronald M. James. Uncovering Nevada’s Past: A Primary Source history of the Silver State. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2004.
  53. Rothman, Hal. The Grit Beneath the Glitter: Tales From the Real Las Vegas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
  54. Rothman, Hal. The Making of Modern Nevada. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2010.
  55. Elliot, Russel. R and Williams D. Rowley, History of Nevada. University of Nebraska Press, 1987.
  56. Ravage, John W. Black Pioneers: Images of the Black Experience on the North American Frontier. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1997, 68.
  57. Ryden, Hope. America's Last Wild Horses. New York: E. P.Dutton &, 1970.
  58. Stevens, Joseph E. Hoover Dam: An American Adventure. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988.
  59. Southern Nevada: The Boomtown Years (University of Nevada: Digital Collections, 2009)


  1. Teaford, Jon C. The Rise of the States: Evolution of American State Government. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.
  2. Thomas, Heather Smith. The Wild Horse Controversy. South Brunswick: A. S. Barnes, 1979. 37-54
  3. The Historical Landscape of Nevada”: Development, Water, and the Natural Environment: Las Vegas: University Libraries Digital Collections. http://digital.library.unlv.edu/collections/historic-landscape
  4. Titus, A. Costandina. Bombs in the backyard: atomic testing and American politics. No. 25. University of Nevada Press, 2001.
  5. Trenton, Patricia and Patrick T. Houlihan. Native Americans. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1989.
  6. Work Projects Administration. Nevada: A Guide to the Silver State. Portland: Binfords & Mort, 1957.
  7. Young, Significance of Boulder Canyon Project, 70. United States Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth census of the United States: 1930: Unemployment, Volume 1. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1931), 609.

Websites[edit | edit source]

  1. Bawany, Afsha. “Selling Las Vegas” UNLV News Centre, June 7, 2011, Accessed November 10, 2016, https://www.unlv.edu/news/article/selling-las-vegas.
  2. Bennet, Dana R., and Mona Reno. "Nevada Suffrage Timeline." Nevada Suffrage Centennial. Accessed November 06, 2016.https://suffrage100nv.org/about/suffrage-timeline/.
  3. Boyer, Paul. "Manifest Destiny." The Oxford Companion to United States History Accessed November 10, 2016. Doi: 10.1093/acref/9780195082098.001.0001.
  4. Boyer, Paul. "Mexican War." The Oxford Companion to United States History Accessed November 10, 2016. Doi: 10.1093/acref/9780195082098.001.0001.
  5. Donahue, Debra L. "Western grazing: the capture of grass, ground, and government." Environmental Law, Fall 2005, 721+. Academic OneFile (accessed November 13, 2016) http://go.galegroup.com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=guel77241&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA141802020&asid=1f13ad0050d72ac24a994f69b85c8768.
  6. Edwards, Jerome. “Nevada Statehood,” Online Nevada Encyclopedia, Last modified October 21, 2009, http://www.onlinenevada.org/articles/nevada-statehood.
  7. Finkelman, Paul. “Thirteenth Amendment” Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass. Accessed November 12, 2016. Doi: 10.1093/acref/9780195167771.001.0001.
  8. "Miss Anne Martin, of Reno, Nevada, Legislative Chairman of the National Woman's Party on Behalf of the National Suffrage Amendment." The Library of Congress. Accessed November 28, 2016. https://www.loc.gov/resource/mnwp.275006/.#Nevada Women's History.
  9. "Illuminating Reno's Divorce Industry | Reno Divorce History." Reno Divorce History. Accessed November 3, 2016. http://renodivorcehistory.org/.
  10. "Women's Biographies: Nellie Michele Davis." Nevada Women's History. Accessed November 07, 2016. http://www.unr.edu/nwhp/bios/women/davis.htm.
  11. Pfaff, Christine. "Safeguarding Hoover Dam During World War II: Part I," National Archives 35, no.2, https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2003/summer/hoover-dam-1.html.

Films[edit | edit source]

“The Mexican-American War,” Films Media Group, 2008.