Las Vegas has long pervaded the American imagination with images of Elvis, showgirls, gambling, and nonstop neon. Its reputation as “Sin City” has attracted millions of tourists in the seven decades since gaming was legalized in Nevada. And, in recent years, its ranking as one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States has prompted scholarly inquiry into its status\ as a phenomenon of urban development.
History of the City :
Long before Las Vegas became synonymous with gambling and entertainment, it owed its existence to the natural springs of the area, which attracted first Spanish explorers and then 19th-century Mormon missionaries to the desert oasis. “Las Vegas” is Spanish for “the meadows”–a name chosen because of the lush grass that flourished from the natural artesian water supply. There is little documentary evidence of these early visitors; far more plentiful are the records documenting the arrival of the railroad in the early 1900s–the event that first put Las Vegas on the map. UNLV’s collection holds corporate records from the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad (SPLASL), whose land auction in May 1905 signaled the birth of modern Las Vegas, and the Union Pacific, which bought out SPLASL in 1921.
One of the events responsible for transforming this small town into a major gaming and entertainment destination was the construction of Hoover Dam, from 1931 to 1935, which brought in workers and their families to swell the population of Las Vegas and nearby Boulder City, and successive waves of tourists to view what is still considered to be one of the wonders of modem civil engineering. UNLV contains a near-complete photographic record of Hoover Dam and its environs before, during, and after construction along with related items such as the oral histories of men who helped build it, the diaries of a chief engineer and a medic who worked at the construction site, and colorful ephemera that has promoted the dam as a major tourist attraction. …
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