Old Las VegasHistory
While most people think of Las Vegas as being a desert, prehistoric southern Nevada was a virtual marsh.  Abundant water fed lush vegetation which, in turn, supported animals, both large and small.

Time passed, the landscape changed and the marsh receded. Mighty rivers that had once flowed acrossed the land, disappeared beneath it, and the lush vegetation that had been wetlands dried into an arid desert.  The rivers became occasional springs, and the springs became occasional oasis.  Such was the state of the area when the name "Las Vegas" was coined in 1829 by a young Spaniard named Rafael Rivera, the first European to find the valley. Rivera discovered an oasis of wild grasses fed by spring water. 

In 1844, famed "Pathfinder" John C. Fremont and his caravan stopped in Las Vegas on his return trip from California. 

"On May 3, 1844, after following the general line of the present Los Angeles-Salt Lake City Railroad, they reached Las Vegas in Nevada, an empty, marshy basin where two springs, warm but pure, gushed up with great force.  Their horses and mules, from want of water and grass, were becoming exhausted, while the continuous flinty rocks were cutting their hoofs to pieces."1
There was little interest in the area after Fremont's visit, until 1855 when Brigham Young assigned 30 Mormon missionaries to build a fort in the Las Vegas valley . These missionaries become the first non-natives to settle in the Las Vegas Valley, building an adobe fort in order to teach the Paiute Indians farming techniques. The Paiutes rejected their instruction, instead opting to occasionally raid the fort.  Because of this failure, the fort was abandoned in 1857.

During this time, other pioneers begin moving into the area and the Pony Express established a route through parts of Nevada to deliver mail. 

In 1859, large deposits of gold and silver were discovered beginning the state's mining industry.  The discovery had the added effect of causing a major influx of settlers hoping to "strike it rich."

In 1864, Nevada (which means "snow clad" in Spanish) was admitted into the union as the 36st state.

Farmers move in when the State Land Act of 1885 offers sections of land at $1.25 per acre and agriculture becomes a dominant industry for the next 20 years.

The completion of the main railway, linking Southern California with Salt Lake City, establishes Las Vegas as a railroad town. The availability of water makes Las Vegas an ideal refueling point and rest stop. The railroad is the principal industry in Las Vegas for the next 25 years. 
The original 110 acres
Despite all of this seeming activity, the city of Las Vegas was not founded until May 15, 1905, when 110 acres of land were sold at auction.  That original 110 acres is the land now situated between Stewart Avenue on the north, Garces Avenue to the south, Main Street to the west, and 5th Street (Las Vegas Boulevard) to the east.

In 1909 Las Vegas becomes the county seat for the newly established Clark County. Before this, the city was governed as part of Lincoln County. Las Vegas adopts its first charter on March 16, 1909 and becomes an incorporated city. While Clark County has a population of about 3,321 in 1909, the newly formed City of Las Vegas has only about 800 people residing in its approximate 19 square mile area (which, at the time, was less than 1 percent of Nevada's total population.) 

The State of Nevada legalized gambling on March 19, 1909 and one month later, the City of Las Vegas issues six gambling licenses.

At this same time, divorce laws are liberalized in the State of Nevada, making residency easier to attain. (Residency was, and still can be, attained after only six weeks.)  Short-term residents stay at "dude ranches," the forerunners of today's Strip hotels.

In 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, construction of the Hoover Dam begins bringing construction workers and their families to the area. The city's population increases dramatically which, in turn, boosts the area's economy. It will take 21,000 men to complete.  At it's completion in 1935, Las Vegas' population sits at approximately 8,400. 

The advent of World War II brings the defense industry to the valley's isolated location and Las Vegas' economy, once again, booms. Nearby Nellis Air Force Base (the home of the Thunderbirds) grows into a key military installation built to train B-29 gunners. 

It wasn't until after World War II that the extravagant resort hotels and gambling casinos associated with Las Vegas came into existence. Headliner entertainment and a country seeking a respite from gloom help to make tourism and entertainment the newest gold mine of Las Vegas. 

The Moulin Rouge, opened its doors on May 24, 1955 in the segregated part of town.  It was originally meant to provide a segregated hotel that would compete with whites-only hotels on The Strip.  However, African-Americans were slow in visiting it.  This unofficial boycott caused a subtle shifting of clientele and the Moulin Rouge became the first racially integrated hotel in Las Vegas.

In 1956, the rapidly growing city, annexes one square mile of land, its first such addition since it incorporated 45 years earlier. Also during that year, Harold Minsky, of burlesque fame, introduced topless showgirls in his "Minsky's Follies." Minsky's introduction of a Paris-style revue, complete with scantily clad women, would forever change the "face" of the city.

Betty Willis, Las Vegas resident (her father, Stephen R. Whitehead, was Clark County's first assessor) and artist, designed the landmark "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas."  Erected in 1959, the sign was purchased for $4,000 by the county.

By this time, the city's population has grown to 64,405 (more than 22 percent of Nevada's total population) and its area covers approximately 25 square miles (less than 0.02 percent of Nevada's land.)

Led by Howard Hughes, corporate hotel-casino building and buying skyrockets during the decade of the 1960s.  They have the necessary finances to funnel large sums of money into the industry and gambling begins its transition to the gaming industry of today.  Bigger money means bigger stars and headliners, too, as symbolized by Elvis Presley's opening at the International Hotel (now the Las Vegas Hilton.)

With the legitimacy of the gaming industry, Las Vegas' economy slowly continues to grow.  That economic growth, in turn, supports a city population which has by now grown to 164,674. 

By the mid 1980s, Las Vegas begins booming again and annual population increases nearly 7 percent each year. This growth spurt  causes the city's population to increase from 186,380 to 368,360 (almost doubling between 1985 and 1995.) 

The 1990s saw the destruction of many of the old casinos and the construction of present day mega-resorts.  Increased hotel and entertainment facilities require increased staff, the result being a 9.18% annual increase in jobs.  In turn, the increased number of jobs have resulted in an ever-growing population and city.

The US Census estimates the 2003 population of Las Vegas was 517,017 spread over 113 square miles. 

The city celebrated its 100th birthday on May 15, 2005 commemorating the auction of the original 110 acres on May 15, 1905 .  In true Las Vegas fashion, the celebration began on December 31, 2004 and lasted throughout the entire year of 2005!  Viva Las Vegas, Baby!

Sources and Additional Off Site Reading:
1Excerpt from Fremont's "Report, Second Expedition" as quoted in Fremont, The West's Greatest Adventurer by Allan Nevins (Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1928.) 
The Little Village of Las Vegas, AmericanHeritage.com

Fremont Street ExperienceFun Facts
Las Vegas sits at an elevation of 2178 feet (664 m) and has an average temperature of 66 degree fahrenheit.

The city of Las Vegas celebrated its 100th birthday on May 15, 2005. The event celebrated the May 15, 1905 land auction when 110 acres of land in downtown Las Vegas were auctioned off. 

A 1910 law made it illegal to gamble in Las Vegas. The Nevada Legislature later approved a legalized gambling bill in 1931.

The first hotel and casino to open in Las Vegas was the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino in 1906. 

The Hoover Dam was completed in 1935. It took a total of 21,000 men five years to complete the structure. 

The Moulin Rouge, the city's first racially integrated hotel, opened in 1955. 

In 1957, topless showgirls debuted on the Las Vegas Strip in "Minsky's Follies" at the Dunes. 

The famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign was created in 1959 by Betty Willis. 

In 2004, more than 37 million people visited Las Vegas. Compare this to 1970 when a mere 6.7 million people visited the city. 

More than 22,000 conventions were held in Las Vegas in 2004. 

In 2004, visitors stayed an average of 3.6 nights. 

More than 5,000 people move into the Las Vegas valley on a monthly basis. 

Las Vegas is home to Clark County School District, the fifth largest school district, which currently handles more than 280,000 students. 

The famous Las Vegas strip is for the most part, not within the city limits of Las Vegas. The majority of the strip is located within Clark County. 

The Stratosphere Hotel and Tower, at more than 1,100 feet, is the tallest building west of the Mississippi and the fifth tallest building in the United States. 

A marriage license costs $55 in Nevada. 

Many couples choose to marry in Nevada because there is no blood test or waiting period.

Fremont Street was closed to traffic in 1994. The Fremont Street Experience opened in December 1995.

In 1959, the cost of a shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate Casino was 99 cents.

In 2005, the cost of a shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate Casino was 99 cents!

There are 12.5 million LED bulbs in the overhead canopy of the Fremont Street Experience.

In 1910, the population of Clark County (the county in which Las Vegas is located) numbered 3,321.

In 2004, the population of Clark County was 1,715,337.

At last count, 84 different languages were spoken by Clark County residents. What are the top three? English, Spanish and Tagalog.

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