History of Nevada

History of Nevada

On March 2, 1861, the Nevada Territory separated from the Utah territory and adopted its current name, shortened from "Sierra Nevada" (Spanish for "snowy range"). Eight days prior to the presidential election of 1864, Nevada became the 36th state in the union. Union sympathizers were so eager to gain statehood for Nevada that they rushed to send the entire state constitution by telegraph to the United States Congress before the presidential election and they did not believe that sending it by train would guarantee that it would arrive on time. The Nevada state constitution remains the largest and costliest transmission by telegraph. Statehood was rushed to the date of October 31 - coincidentally Halloween - to help ensure Abraham Lincoln's reelection and post-Civil War Republican dominance in Congress. [ Rocha Guy, [http://dmla.clan.lib.nv.us/docs/nsla/archives/myth/myth12.htm "Historical Myth a Month: Why Did Nevada Become A State?"] ] As Nevada's mining-based economy tied it to the more industrialized Union, it was viewed as more politically reliable than other Confederate-sympathizing states such as neighboring California. It is a common misconception that one of the reasons Nevada was granted statehood was its large deposits of silver and gold. This is merely a myth, however, and would have been illogical in that Congress had unlimited control over these resources when Nevada was a territory and only limited control after Nevada became a state. [ [http://www.nevadaweb.com/nevadaca/rocha-2.html ] ]

Nevada achieved its current boundaries on May 5, 1866 when it absorbed the portion of Pah-Ute County in the Arizona Territory west of the Colorado River, essentially all of present day Nevada south of the 37th parallel. The transfer was prompted by the discovery of gold in the area, and it was thought by officials that Nevada would be better able to oversee the expected population boom. This area includes most of what is now Clark County.


Mining shaped Nevada's economy for many years (see "Silver mining in Nevada"). When Mark Twain lived in Nevada during the period described in "Roughing It", mining had lead to an industry of speculation and immense wealth. However in the late 19th century, Nevada found it increasingly more difficult to compete with states such as Colorado and Utah in the mining industry.Fact|date = December 2007 There was even talk of stripping away statehood, the only time in American history such an action was discussed in CongressFact|date=February 2007. However, the rich silver strike at Tonopah in 1900 is thought to have saved the state from near collapse.Fact|date = December 2007 This was followed by strikes in Goldfield and Rhyolite, lasting well into the 1910s and making Nevada a dominant player in mining once again.

Gambling and labor

Unregulated gambling was common place in the early Nevada mining towns but outlawed in 1909 as part of a nation-wide anti-gaming crusade. Due to subsequent declines in mining output and the decline of the agricultural sector during the Great Depression, Nevada re-legalized gambling on March 19, 1931, with approval from the legislature. At the time, the leading proponents of gambling expected that it would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, re-outlawing gambling has never been seriously considered since, and the industry has become Nevada's primary source of revenue today.

In 1935, construction began on Hoover Dam, located outside Las Vegas near Boulder City. Thousands of workers from across the country came to build the dam, and providing for their needs in turn required many more workers. The boom in population is likely to have fueled the legalization of gambling, alike present-day industry. Both Hoover Dam and later war industries such as the Basic Magnesium Plant first started the growth of the southern area of the state near Las Vegas. Over the last 75 years, Clark County has grown in relation to the Reno area, and today encompasses most of the state's population.

Nuclear testing

The Nevada Test Site, convert|65|mi|km|0 Northwest of the City of Las Vegas, was founded on January 11, 1951 for the testing of nuclear weapons. The site is composed of approximately convert|1350|sq mi|km²|-1|lk=on of desert and mountainous terrain. Nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site began with a one-kiloton of TNT (4 terajoule) bomb dropped on Frenchman Flats on January 27, 1951. The last atmospheric test was conducted on July 17, 1962 and the underground testing of weapons continued until September 23, 1992. The location is known for the highest amount of concentrated nuclear detonated weapons in the U.S.


Over 80% of the state's area is owned by the federal government. The primary reason for this is that homesteads were not permitted in large enough sizes to be viable in the arid conditions that prevail throughout desert Nevada. Instead, early settlers would homestead land surrounding a water source, and then graze livestock on the adjacent public land, which is useless for agriculture without access to water (this pattern of ranching still prevails). The deficiencies in the Homestead Act as applied to Nevada were probably due to a lack of understanding of the Nevada environment, although some firebrands (so-called "Sagebrush Rebels") maintain that it was due to pressure from mining interests to keep land out of the hands of common folk. This debate continues to be argued among some state historians today.


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