Cover Page

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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pp. vii-xii

MORE THAN twenty-five years ago, when the University of Nevada Press was in its infancy, its founders asked me to prepare a general history of the state for use in the public schools because the only textbook available at that time was a quarter century old and was thought to be inadequate for the needs of that generation. I wrote The Nevada Adventure: A History and tried to make it adaptable for various levels of classroom use. About three years ago, the staff of the press convinced me that the time had come to attempt yet another generalized history of the state: one which explores the more remote corners, which tries to do justice to the southern regions that might have been previously neglected, and which puts the events of the last fifty years into a tidy conceptual framework....

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1. The Space and the Natural Setting

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pp. 1-17

HISTORY IS primarily a record of the tug-of-war between people and their environment. Half of their environment-the social milieu-humans construct for themselves. The other half they come to accept after settling in a particular locale. This chapter concerns Nevadans and the uses they have made of the state they have created.
The elemental components of the Nevada heritage are land, water, and the habitat that nature has provided. Since the days when Jedediah Smith and Peter Skene Ogden first probed the edges of this region in 1826, our predecessors cursed the desert and mountain terrain; they feared the blistering heat of summer and the blizzards of winter. But...

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2. Native Americans

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pp. 18-32

BY THE standards of world civilization, Nevada's recorded history is very short, but the prehistory of its inhabitants reaches back to the Old Stone Age. It is now commonly believed that the first immigrants from Asia reached the valleys of the Basin and Range province at least 12,000 years ago.
The time scale of Nevada's prehistory is stunning; this region has some of the earliest sites of human habitation in America. Leading archeological institutions, such as the American Museum of Natural History and the University of California, began extensive research in the 1930s. The Nevada State Museum in Carson City has long been a leading institution in the search for information about the prehistoric era in...

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3. The First Explorers

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pp. 33-42

THOSE WHO opened the Great Basin and the central Colorado River region to exploration and early settlement-the makers of the first maps-came from three directions and represented three cultures: Spain, the United States, and Britain or Canada. The entire Far West became an arena where the interests of these three competed, and the Nevada deserts were part of the stakes....

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4. Settlers on the Move, 1841-1850

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pp. 43-56

MUCH OF the history of America is the description of the massive westward migration of people of European descent. The earliest colonists from England came westward across the Atlantic Ocean to Virginia in 1607. After the Europeans had established their first towns and farms in Virginia, almost 200 years elapsed before their descendants crossed the Appalachian Mountains to settle, and the westward movement gained momentum. Between 1800 and 1840, citizens of the new nation pushed westward through the forests, from the Appalachian Mountains to the middle of the continent, and then west of the Mississippi River. For a few years they stopped at that point, like water behind a dam, because the arid prairies and the "Indian Barrier" presented many hazards. But they were eager for new land since the East...

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5. Three Cultures in Collision, 1850-1860

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pp. 57-73

IN THE middle of the nineteenth century, two groups of people established themselves and their industries wi~hin the territory that would eventually become Nevada. They were, first, members of the Latterday Saints church who had been sent by Brigham Young to expand the new Zion, and, second, a ragtag collection of mining men-accompanied by their camp followers-who had not done well in the California gold rush and were testing their luck in the mountain ranges of the Great Basin. These two contingents collided with each other and with the Indian peoples. After a brief skirmish, the Mormons withdrew to their Utah bases. It was a temporary, tactical retreat, not a complete surrender . In the case of the Native Americans, they were overwhelmed and their society was shattered, but they survived with an ethnic and social identity that is still being reaffirmed more than 150 years after the initial confrontation....

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6. The Early Comstock and Statehood

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pp. 74-90

THE CRUCIAL years in the shaping of the Silver State were 1860-1865 , the period in which the Union endured the tragedy of the Civil War. During the time between the election of Abraham Lincoln and his death four years later, a society that called itself "Nevada" materialized on the western fringe of the Great Basin. Its path to statehood was greatly accelerated by President Lincoln's struggle to save the Union. The constitutional provisions and symbols of Nevada were inspired by those years. The official slogan of Nevada, emblazoned on its flag, is the phrase "Battle Born."...

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7. Colorado Steamboats, Eldorado Canyon, and the Second Wave of Mormons

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pp. 91-100

NEARLY 500 miles southeast of Carson City, another piece of the Nevada tapestry was fashioned even as the state was being born, although this region did not yet belong to the new territory and state. Within the watershed of the Colorado River-where the Mormon Trail left the Colorado Basin and where the Mormon missionaries had abandoned their Las Vegas outpost in 1858-other prospectors were probing the Mojave....

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8. The Era of the Boomtowns, 1865-1878

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pp. 101-113

IN THE fourteen years between October 1864, when Nevada attained statehood, and the end of 1878, the early Nevada mining frontier enjoyed its greatest era of production and prosperity. For several of these years, it was hailed as the most important center for the production of precious metals in America. Several exciting new mining districts opened in the eastern counties, and the residents of the Comstock Lode witnessed the discovery of one of the biggest ore bodies in world history -the fabled Big Bonanza. It produced tens of millions of dollars and many scandals, and then-with greater speed than it had arisen-the boom collapsed, leaving the state in borrasca-the Spanish term for "a bad wind," which the miner translated as "out-of-ore and out-of-luck."...

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9. The Railroads and Their Towns

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pp. 114-132

CONTEMPORARY NEVADA owes more to its railroads than it does to its mines. The most durable and prosperous communities in Nevada in the twentieth century have been those towns that were established by the railroad companies. Reno, Las Vegas, Sparks, Elko, Winnemucca, Lovelock, and Caliente all came into existence and ultimately survived because they had important stations along transcontinental "bands of steel." Virginia City, Gold Hill, Carson City, Minden, Pioche, Eureka, Austin, Tonopah, Goldfield, and Hawthorne all shared, at times, the advantages of a branch railroad. Nevada witnessed the building of more than a hundred mining towns between 1860 and 1910, but only a few of them continued to exist in the 1990s....

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10. The Livestock Oligarchy and the Agricultural Frontier

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pp. 133-148

THE FABRIC of Nevada society that emerged from the 1860s and 1870s consisted of more than mining camps and railroad towns. These latter outposts-together with the mining speculators and railroad barons-got much attention from the pioneer press and therefore from the early historians. But beyond the tumult of the more notorious towns were those communities devoted to husbandry or those isolated ranches where women and men tried to force the desert to yield to the plow and sustain their livestock....

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11. Crusaders for Silver, Indians' and Women's Rights

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pp. 149-161

NEVADA WAS not alone in facing economic troubles between 1880 and 1900. All of the states of the inland Far West also endured hard times. This was the era when miners, farmers, and other producers of raw materials throughout the West and South found themselves trapped by a tight monetary policy imposed by the eastern bankers and industrialists. And in this period the abundant output of products from the earth drove prices downward. The more grain, cattle, and ore that laborers produced, the weaker the price structure for these items became. People in the younger states were regarded as colonists within the new American empire. As the nineteenth century approached its end, the discontent of these frustrated westerners jelled into the movement called populism. In Nevada, this movement took an unusual form because its spokesmen were leaders of the so-called Silver Crusade....

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12. The Second Mining Boom

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pp. 162-179

IN THAT long interval between 1880 and 1900, when Nevada's economy was in desperate straits, hope for a revival in the state's basic industry never quite died. The newspapers continued to report the activities of promoters and prospectors, who from time to time spread the word of a remarkable discovery. Some truly believed they had made one; others were simply trying to find financial backers to keep them going. At the same time, Nevadans continued to look to the outside investors and the government for help with railroads and/or reclamation projects that would boost the development of the state's resources....

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13. The Second Era of Railroad Building

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pp. 180-202

THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY mining boom stimulated a new era of railroad building throughout Nevada. Between 1900 and 1910, at least a dozen companies laid more than 1,500 miles of track and sent trains through parts of the desert that had never previously been disturbed by the sound of a steam locomotive. At times there were more men working on railroad construction and operation within Nevada than in the mines or on the ranches. Although many of the small lines did not survive, the construction work of these companies had a more lasting influence on Nevada's history than did the mining booms....

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14. New Urban Experiments: Reno and Las Vegas Since 1940

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pp. 203-222

THE SOCIAL and economic history of this desert state has changed so dramatically since World War II that an almost entirely new Nevada has emerged, with a distinctive economy and a set of expectations and priorities essentially different from those of the miningrailroading -ranching society that existed before 1940. The hybridized heritage retains much of the old landscape and the symbols of the earlier frontier, but these were gradually being adapted or erased by newer forms in 1990....

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15. Land and Water: Changing Policies and Uses

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pp. 223-241

LET US return to the basic thesis of this narrative: the region named Nevada is a desert land, and the society in Nevada came into existence, survived, and evolved by a series of adaptations to that condition. The Native Americans, prospectors, ranchers, and town builders all made strategic decisions about how to deal with this rugged terrain. All fashioned their communities around the fact that the land was vast and arid and the water scarce....

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16. Nevada Governments: Federal, State, and Local

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pp. 242-260

THE CONSTITUTIONAL system in the United States makes a basic assumption about the American people; they prefer to scatter their governmental assignments widely among those who exercise the public trust. Political responsibility is divided, by the people's choice, between the federal and state governments, and the state's authority is further subdivided into local governmental units. The citizen owes allegiance to both the federal Union and the state, and gets services from and pays taxes to both. This distribution of authority has evolved over two centuries, since the time when the original thirteen states created the federal Union to assure greater cooperation and a "common defense" in a threatening world. The Union is a remarkably flexible arrangement that has worked well for two hundred years, except for the tragic period of the Civil War....

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17. Gambling and Tourism

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pp. 261-276

IN THE last half of the twentieth century, Nevadans have found a distinctive way to combine the peculiar geography of their region with the benefits of the federal system and their own individualistic esprit to form a prosperous economy. We have briefly touched on these developments earlier in our study of the growth of Las Vegas and Reno. Underlying this new economy is the evolution of the tourist business, stimulated by the expansion of legalized gambling. After much ambivalence to social policy for the first seventy years, Nevada then led the way for the next fifty years in making acceptable a business that was widely regarded elsewhere as socially improper....

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18. Community Building in the Silver State

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pp. 277-296

EVERY GROUP of people who live together in a republican or democratic system must face basic questions about the conduct of their civic life. How will they educate their children and meet the need for trained specialists for the future? What will they do about those unfortunates among them who are in need, those who have acted violently, or those who are socially incompetent? Will the society take any steps to cultivate the arts and sciences and to preserve their heritage in an orderly way?...

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19. The Struggle for Equal Rights

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pp. 297-312

ONE OF the most difficult challenges that Nevada's civic institutions have faced in their 125 years of history has been to offer the fundamental rights and privileges of society to all its citizens. The frontier experience did not guarantee equal rights to all; from the beginning, many elements of society were systematically excluded from political and economic opportunities that white men took for granted. For decades, women and nonwhite males fell beyond the protection of the law....

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20. The Twelve Northern Counties

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pp. 313-332

IN THE previous chapters, we have explored many dimensions of the Nevada experience. The terrain of this state was once infamous as a dangerous barrier for emigrants on their way to California. Later it became the site of several silver and gold bonanzas. It has been regarded both as a lonely outback suitable only for sheepherders and prospectors, and also as a mecca for experimenters and bettors. It has a reputation as the world's foremost nuclear-testing laboratory, and its citizens are recognized as highly creative promoters of tourism and gambling. It is frontier country for organized crime and also for those who would eliminate the mobsters. In population, Nevada is one of the smallest of the fifty states in the Union, but it invites and receives more intense national publicity than many others. It is a testing ground for unorthodox social theories and an outpost of solid American conservatism. Because the state is so large and its centers of population so widely scattered, no single generalization about it will suffice for a historical summary. It is not, in the broadest sense, a single commonwealth, but rather a kaleidoscope of variety and change....

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21. The Five Southern Counties

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pp. 333-350

THE FIVE southern counties do not constitute a clear social or political unit any more than do the twelve northern counties that were discussed in the previous chapter. The communities in the southern triangle, however, do have some historical factors in common. Most industries, major towns, and social institutions are of twentieth-century origin, and this region has been more dramatically transformed by the defense-related activities of the U.S. government than have the northern counties....

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 351-362

Index

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pp. 363-375