Beyond The Mafia
Italian Americans And The Development Of Las Vegas
Publication Year: 1996
Published by: University of Nevada Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Las Vegas is the largest city in the United States founded in the twentieth century. For a quarter century after 1905, it remained a sleepy railroad town. But beginning with the construction of Boulder Dam and continuing with the economic opportunities provided by World War II, and especially by the existence of legalized gambling, its growth was striking-rising from 5,165 people in 1930 to 127,016...
Preface: The Interviewing Process
Soon after beginning my research in October 1988, I conferred with colleagues who had studied Las Vegas's history. Eugene Moehring and Ralph Roske of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas History Department, Roosevelt Fitzgerald of the Anthropology Department, and Candace Kant of the Community College of Southern Nevada Social Sciences Department urged me to interview senior Las...
I received encouragement and assistance from many, none more than Donna Shandler Balboni, my wife. She proofed every sentence, usually several times, made numerous valuable suggestions about the integration of material, and urged me to press forward when repeated rebuffs from potential interviewees weakened my resolve. My goal of writing a book about the Italian-American...
Las Vegas has provided opportunities for economic advancement to hundreds of thousands of immigrants since its establishment in 1905. It has also provided those who have sought fame or power a chance to attain civic leadership positions. Essentially a railroad town until the Nevada legislature re-legalized gambling in 1931, Las Vegas welcomed entrepreneurs regardless of their ethnicity...
1: The Early Years: From Laborers to Successful Entrepreneurs
Italians and their descendants have always played a major role in Nevada. Nevada's first Anglo-European settlers did not arrive until 1850, and the first Italian Americans came in the 1860s to work as miners on the Comstock Lode. With the primary goal of farm ownership, these previously landless peasants usually saved most of their meager wages to buy property. Compared with the East Coast, where...
2: The Rapid Growth Years: Italian Americans Come to Las Vegas
During the twenty years following the second and successful opening of Bugsy Siegel's Flamingo Hotel in 1947, Italian Americans provided the building blocks for Las Vegas's gambling industry, the foundation upon which the town rapidly grew into a major resort city in the Sunbelt.1 They were well represented among the dealers, pit bosses, floormen, shift bosses, and casino managers. A rare week...
3: The Corporate Era: Italian Americans Prosper
Italian Americans contributed to both the reality and the myth of Las Vegas during the corporate era that began when Howard Hughes purchased the Desert Inn in 1966. Italian Americans, particularly those with expertise in gaming, continued to migrate to Las Vegas from the cities of California, the Midwest, and the East Coast through the early 1990s. In addition, the children of Italian Americans...
4: Italian American Organizations: Preserving Ethnic Heritage in a Time of Assimilation
Italian Americans are now fading into the twilight of ethnicity. Few among the almost 15 million people who identified themselves as fully or partly of Italian descent in the 1990 U.S. Census have not acquired the language, dress, manners, and values of American society, and the great majority no longer prefer their co-ethnics as neighbors, friends, or even spouses. Indeed, it is rare to meet...
5: Conclusion: The Immigrant Upraised
Andrew Rolle wrote in the concluding chapter of his study of Italian immigrants in the West that for Italian immigrants "life was not a disappointment but, rather, a challenge, even an adventure.... They generally escaped ethnic crowding, slums, ghettoes, and a large measure of prejudice, partly because of the western outlook. Western attitudes were often generous and easy going, especially in small...
Afterword to Paperback Edition
Since the publication of the hardcover edition ten years ago, men and women of Italian ancestry are still choosing (along with the 40-50,000 others from across the nation) to make their homes in the Las Vegas area each year. Unlike during the years immediately following World War II, though, Italian Americans are no longer disproportionately represented among the migrants, and those who come...
List of Interviewees