It is believed Rafael Rivera was the
first of European descent to view the Vegas Valley. This was
as recently as 1829. He named it Las Vegas, Spanish for “The
Meadows.” Abundant water and natural desert fauna and flora
made Las Vegas a great stop for those traveling to
California, reducing the time the trip took by several days.
First Vegas Marketing Campaign: 1844
It wasn’t “What happens in Vegas stays in
Vegas.” In 1844 John C. Fremont arrived in Las Vegas and
kept a journal of some of the natural springs. His writings
inspired many to settle here.
City, Stopping Point in a Religious Pilgrimage?: 1855
Maybe not a pilgrimage, but the Mormon
Church chose Las Vegas as the perfect place to build a fort
as a halfway point between Salt Lake City and Las Angeles.
The remains of the fort can still be seen on the corner of
Las Vegas Blvd and Washington Ave.
Nevada is a State: 1864
Nevada was admitted into the Union as the
36th State in 1864. Sure Las Vegas isn’t all of Nevada...
but have you visited Nevada outside of Las Vegas? (Sorry
Was a Mining City before it was a Gambling City: Late 1800’s
– Early 1900’s
Many precious metals were discovered here
in the late 1800’s which brought a number of people to the
area. As part of the State Land Act of 1885, prospectors and
those who wanted to settle could buy chunks of land for
$1.25 per acre. Along with prospectors came farmers, and for
the next 20 years agriculture dominated the economy in
southern Nevada. In early 1900’s the main railway from Salt
Lake City to Southern California was completed. Vegas was
the perfect stopping point between because of the abundance
Las Vegas is a City: 1905
On May 15th 1905 Las Vegas became a city.
On July 1 1909 Nevada Legislature created Clark County named
after William Clark who was key in bringing the new railway
through southern Nevada. By 1911 the Vegas population was a
whopping 800 people and by 1930 had only grown to 5,165
Hoover Dam and Gambling: 1931
One of the largest man-made structures
and perhaps the most ambitious engineering feat of the time
and ever previous to that point, the Hoover Dam began
construction in 1931 and brought a huge influx of workers.
The dam would allow much more of the Vegas valley to be
populated and would supply electricity to much of Nevada,
Arizona, and California. Also in 1931 gambling was
officially legalized in Nevada, though it had not been
enforced prior to that point.
and the 1940’s
With the war looming, the defense
industry came to southern Nevada, and even today the Nevada
test site is a large part of the local economy. The Vegas
Valley is the perfect location for large industrial
complexes, specifically defense, because of inexpensive
electricity and an abundance of natural minerals.
The “Roaring 40’s” as they were called were especially good
for southern Nevada. By 1945 people were in the mood to
live, and with legalized gambling, inexpensive electricity,
and cheap land, many resort hotels began popping up all over
the Vegas Valley. It was not long before tourism became the
number one industry in the area.
is the Bomb... 1951
The first atomic bomb was detonated at
the Nevada Test Site north of Las Vegas in 1951. Many came
to see the event, unknown in large part at the time were the
dangers of fallout from a nuclear explosion even from a
distance. In 1963 the Test Ban Treaty was signed stating all
atomic tests must take place underground.
It was not until 1955 that Moulin Rouge
opened, it was Las Vegas’ first racially integrated hotel.
Vegas through the 60’s
Peace, love, and money. That might have
been the motto of the time. Howard Hughes led the corporate
charge to buy casinos from the traditionally mob connected
owners. Soon gambling was legitimized, at least in Nevada.
Gambling was renamed “gaming,” profits increased, tourism
increased, and Las Vegas was well on its way to becoming the
“Adult Playground” it is today.
Vegas: 1980’s – Present
Car bombs and indebted gamblers with
missing digits are a thing of the past and most of the
properties are publicly traded. Tourism has shifted from the
old-school Downtown area, with a history deep in mob
folklore and celebrity tails of the Rat Pack, Elvis, and
others, to the current Strip. For a brief time casinos flirt
with the idea of making Vegas a “family” destination, but it
is quickly realized there is no shaking Vegas as the adult
playground, and why would they want to anyway? Starting in
1980 Las Vegas has a population of only 164,674 people. With
7% increase per year growth fueled by over 9% job growth in
the 80’s, Las Vegas in only 10 years nearly triples in
population while the greater Vegas area reaches over a
During the 90’s growth continues. The Fremont Street
Experience opens in an attempt to revive the Downtown area.
Las Vegas is now the largest Metropolitan area founded in
the 20th century.
In 2007 the Downtown area undergoes an almost complete
renovation, making it truly the “Second Strip.” Today Las
Vegas is the world’s number one tourist destination.