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Timeline: Las Vegas

1829-1945 | 1946-2005  


Spanish explorers led by Antonio Armijo search for water on the route to Los Angeles. Probably directed by the Paiute or Ute peoples, the party finds springs in the middle of the desert, and name the area Las Vegas, Spanish for "the meadows."


Expeditions of John Fremont 'Pyramid Lake.' May 13: John C. Fremont camps at Las Vegas Springs and makes note of the oasis. His published journal brings more travelers to Las Vegas on their journey west.


January 24: James Wilson Marshal finds gold near Sacramento, California. Within one year, 90,000 people move to California in hopes to strike it rich. The country's center moves west, bringing railroads, banks and telegraphs with it.


Hoping to secure a location between Salt Lake City and Southern California, Mormon missionaries settle in the area of modern Las Vegas. The settlers build a fort, plant gardens, and keep watch over the mail route.


Helen J. Stewart portrait. Mormon settlers abandon their post in Las Vegas due to internal disputes about mining. The ranch eventually falls under the ownership of Mrs. Helen Stewart, and becomes the basis for Senator William Clark's Las Vegas Town Site.


April 12: The Civil War begins with the battle at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.


Nevada State Capitol, Carson City, Nevada. October 31: Nevada is admitted to the Union as a state, in part to garner President Abraham Lincoln three more votes in Congress. The capital is Carson City.


April 9: The Civil War ends as General Robert E. Lee surrenders the Confederate Army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant.


The completion of the transcontinental railroad enables the westward expansion of the country.


William Clark campaigning on private railroad car, 1905. U.S. Senator William Clark of Montana begins surveying land in hopes that he can connect the transcontinental railroad from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles through Las Vegas, calling it the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad.


Home Bakery and Delicatessen, McWilliams Original Las Vegas Townsite, 1905. John T. McWilliams buys 80 acres of land, in what is now West Las Vegas, and sells plots. The McWilliams Town Site becomes home to some 1,500 residents with banks, bakeries, saloons and three weekly newspapers.


Las Vegas Auction of lots in Clark's Las Vegas townsite. Senator Clark's railroad is completed, and plans are announced for auctioning off lots on his town site.

May 15: On reduced railroad tickets people travel from Los Angeles and Salt Lake City to buy Las Vegas lots at Senator Clark's auction. Las Vegas is born as Clark sells 600 lots for $265,000.

September 5: The McWilliams Town Site burns to the ground.


Fremont Street about 1912. The first telephone wires are installed on Fremont Street in Las Vegas in the Hotel Nevada office of Charles "Pop" Squires.


The State of Nevada bans gambling. Illegal gambling continues, and is generally accepted, until gambling becomes legal again in 1931.


March 16: Las Vegas officially becomes a city.


U.S. enters World War I. Las Vegas becomes a busy depot as Nevada's plentiful metals pass through en route to aid the Allied effort in the war.


November 11: World War I ends. The need for Nevada's metals dramatically decreases. Businesses in Las Vegas go bankrupt. Las Vegas, now mostly a railroad maintenance stop, employs about 400-800 people. There is little to draw visitors to the area.


Pouring liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition. The 18th Amendment, Prohibition, is ratified. All consumption, manufacturing and selling of liquor is banned. Soon after, Congress passes the Volstead Act penalizing those who violate Prohibition.


Initiated by Herbert Hoover, the Colorado River Compact is signed by seven western states to equally divide the water of the Colorado River. Later in the year, the first of the Swing-Johnson bills to authorize a high dam and canal is introduced in Congress.

E.W. Griffith is the first Las Vegan to run for major office in a Nevada general election.


Edward Taylor announces plans for Las Vegas' first "high-class resort," called Twin Lakes. It would include boating, fishing, an outdoor swimming pool and a dance hall.


The Las Vegas City Commission votes to pave Fremont Street from Main to Fifth and then provide an additional $6,000 to match federal funding to pave Fremont to the city limits at San Francisco Street, now Sahara Avenue.


May 23: Daily passenger air service begins in Las Vegas, adding the use of airmail service by Western Express. Las Vegas is the only intermediate stop on the new commercial airway, which places it importantly and definitely on the air map of the country.


During a decade of nationwide Republican ascendancy, Clark County distances itself from the rest of the state and supports Democratic candidates for statewide offices.


Maude Frazier becomes the superintendent of the Las Vegas Union School District and opens a new Las Vegas High School in 1929, reflecting the city's growth. Frazier goes on to lead a fight to create a university in southern Nevada, to create the Clark County School District, and to pass a civil rights bill.


December 21: The Boulder Canyon Project Act passes in the House and Senate, placing the nation behind the construction of a dam on the Colorado River.

Run by Ernie Cragin and William Pike, the El Portal Theatre opens on Fremont Street, just in time for the spread of "talkies" that began replacing silent pictures. The first film it shows is a prerelease of Ladies and the Mob, starring one of the biggest movie stars of the 1920s, Clara Bow.


Gateway to the Boulder Dam Sign. The Las Vegas Review-Journal becomes a daily newspaper, reflecting the city's growth -- and the awareness of the potential for additional growth.

September 7: Work begins on the Boulder Dam. Settlers move to Las Vegas in hopes of working on the project, which is only 30 miles away. Between the fall of 1930 and the spring of 1931, more than 42,000 unemployed workers come to Las Vegas in hopes of landing one of the 5,000 jobs available during the Great Depression. Las Vegas markets itself as "The Gateway to the Boulder Dam."


The Union Pacific Railroad connects its Las Vegas tracks with Boulder City.


Apache Casino roulette. The Nevada Legislature repeals the act banning gambling. Although gambling has flourished underground, it has officially been illegal for years.


Senator Patrick A. McCarran. Nevada politician Patrick McCarran is elected to the U.S. Senate. An eventual chairman of the Judiciary Committee, McCarran would become the one of the most powerful politicians in Nevada's history.


Prohibition is repealed.


In order to bring people to the city, Las Vegas boosters begin "Helldorado Days." Las Vegans attempt to capitalize on the city's frontier roots, marketing the city as a vacation spot in the theme of the Old West.


Tourists enjoying the view of Hoover Dam. September: President Franklin Roosevelt dedicates the Boulder Dam. With the completion of the dam, Las Vegas once again slows down.


Las Vegas' Highway 91 is partially paved as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal public works program.


Authorities in Los Angeles begin cracking down on illegal gambling circuits. Seeking refuge, many of these ousted gamblers and gangsters flee to Las Vegas.

Los Angeles police commander and casino operation Guy McAfee opens "The 91 Club" on Highway 91, later known as "the Strip."


'Six Weeks in Nevada - Divorce Courts - The Cure.' January: Ria Langham waits out her six-week residency requirement in Las Vegas to divorce her husband Clark Gable. The ensuing publicity briefly garners Las Vegas the title of "Divorce Capital of the World," until the title is seized again by Reno in the 1950s.


The population of Las Vegas is 8,422.


El Rancho Casino. Thomas Hull expands his regional hotel chain, the El Rancho, to build the first resort on Highway 91.


Handling hot magnesium ingots produced at Basic Magnesium, Inc. By this time, each week more than 4,000 people were graduating from the Las Vegas Gunnery School, later known as Nellis Air Force Base.

In the midst of World War II, Basic Magnesium, Inc. is soon developing five million pounds of magnesium every day. Crafted into lightweight airplane wings, the magnesium is then shipped across the globe to help Allied efforts in the war.


Liberace program from Riviera Hotel. November: Liberace makes his Las Vegas debut. The showman, who would be described by Time magazine as "a synonym for glorious excess," would become a staple of Vegas entertainment, and by 1972 would be earning a record $300,000 a week, more than any other Vegas headliner at the time.


August 16: World War II ends. Nearby Nellis Air Force Base and the Basic Magnesium, Inc. plant have combined to bring more than 12,000 new residents to Las Vegas. Military men, many of whom were employed at Nellis Air Force Base, stay in the Las Vegas area, lured by cheap land at $5 per acre.

1829-1945 | 1946-2005  

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