Nevada’s basin and range topography was formed by geological events. The Nevada Basin physiographic region as well as central Nevada desert changed the course of the Humboldt River and Great Basin resulting in present day Nevada. The Washoe, Walapai, Shoshone and Paiute tribes were the original inhabitants of Nevada for more than a thousand years before the Euro-Americans arrived in Nevada in the 18th century.
Nevada became officially recognized as the 36th U.S. State on 31st October 1864 after telegraphing (the largest and most expensive transmission by telegraph) to the U.S. Congress. Nevada rushed to become a state to help ensure 3 electoral votes required for Abraham Lincoln’s reelection as well as strengthen republican congressional majority. Nevada’s rich but harsh environment shaped the State’s history, culture and future.
Nevada’s silver strikes are responsible for creating boom towns as well as fabulous fortunes in the 1850’s. Before 1858, there were only a few small Mormon settlements situated along the Utah border. Mining profits however started declining in the beginning of the 20th century as progressive reformers started fighting rampaging capitalism and all its miseries.
The reformers wanted a better and more civilized Nevada featuring universities, social reform and lofty idealism. The efforts of the reformers didn’t however bear fruit due to an economic bust experienced in the 1910s as well as other factors i.e. a decline in population by approximately 25% and social reform failures during the same time. Nevada’s economic boom returned two decades later in the early 1930s with the onset of big time gambling as well as good transport to other metropolitan areas in California.
The first ever European to set foot in Nevada was Francisco Garces. Nevada was annexed as part of Spain’s Empire in the North-western territory of New Spain. Nevada was in New Spain’s Viceroyalty administratively. Nevada became part of Alta California province in 1804 after The Californias split. The desire for self governance led to a number of attempts by Alta Californians to become independent from Mexico.
Explorers Jedediah Smith and Peter Skene Ogden set foot in Nevada for the first time in 1827 and 1828 respectively. Two decades later (in 1848), Mexico lost Alta California permanently as a result of the Mexican-American war as well as the Guadalupe-Hidalgo treaty. The United States acquired the new areas and governed them as territories like before. Nevada evolved first as a Utah territory before becoming Nevada territory. The evolution happened mainly due to the California Gold rush that utilized emigrant trails that passed through the area.
The Carson City convention held between July 4th and 28th in 1864 was responsible for granting Nevada Statehood to a large extent. A public vote also helped the situation since Nevada hadn’t achieved the minimum population requirement for acquiring statehood. Nevada had less than the required minimum population for statehood (40,000 people) at the time of seeking Statehood. To cement statehood, the University of Nevada was established in 1874 in Elko and later moved to Reno (in 1885).
Nevada’s early economic activities were sparked when the railroad entered the State in 1868. The state line crossed the Central Pacific Railroad paving way for many other railroads throughout the state to improve transport of supplies to miners and towns. The railroads were also used to transport minerals i.e. gold.
These activities attracted Chinese immigration. In fact, most railroad workers in Nevada were Chinese. The Chinese railroad workers worked tirelessly to connect western towns via railroad. Nevada’s Gold Rush as well as the mining industry began to slow down by the 1880s. This had many effects the most notable being a decline in population.
The mining industry however became vibrant again by the end of the 19th century with the discovery of new major gold and silver deposits in the towns of Tonopah in southern central Nevada in 1900 and Goldfield in 1902. This paved way for another boom.
At around the same time, agriculture began playing an important role in Nevada’s economy. The 1st water reclamation act was passed by Congress in 1902 paving way for Nevada’s first ever reclamation project dubbed the Newlands Reclamation project built near Fallon and Fernley towns in Northern Nevada. The Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge in Fallon is now a vital Pacific Flyway oasis for migratory birds.
Gambling was also one of Nevada’s early economic activities. It is however important to note that gambling wasn’t always legal in Nevada as many people tend to think. Gambling was a crime in Nevada before 1869 and for sometime after 1910. Nevada legalized gambling in 1931 onwards as an avenue for raising tax revenues as well as stabilizing the economy of the state.
The first ever casino in Nevada was located in downtown Las Vegas on Fremont Street. The first ever hotel-casino in Nevada (El Rancho Vegas) opened its doors to the public in 1941 on the current Las Vegas Strip.
While Reno and Las Vegas were enjoying an economic explosion in the 1950s, the desert area (which is 65 miles North West of Las Vegas) was going through a different kind of explosion. The United States military started testing atomic weapons above and below the Las Vegas dessert in 1951 all the way to 1992 when the testing ended. This paved way for tours to the test site in 2004 kick starting tourism.
From the beginning, Nevada has enjoyed tremendous growth and undergone very many changes. Tourism and gambling are however the two biggest industries as people from all over the world flock the state to see the testing site, gamble and enjoy the luxurious accommodation facilities. According to the latest statistics, Las Vegas receives over 50 million tourists every year generating over $45 billion in revenues annually.
Tourism is such a big industry in Las Vegas to the extent that the state became the first ever U.S. state to gain a license to start advertising in China. According to the CNTA (China National Tourism Administration) statistics, over 90% of all Chinese who visit the U.S. go to Nevada which is part of the reason why the state was the first to be licensed to advertise in China.
Las Vegas also attracts nationals from many other countries globally. As the state continues to grow and evolve, there are very many new places to visit and new things to do in Las Vegas from sightseeing to gambling and staying in the some of the best hotels in the world.