History of Las Vegas

Table of Contents

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Las Vegas history is very interesting. The name Las Vegas came into existence in 1829. It was coined by a member of the Spanish exploration trading party called Rafael Rivera.

The city was officially founded as a settlement on May 15, 1905. This was after 110 acres of located between Garces Avenue and Stewart on the north were annexed by the railroad company.

After the completion of the railroad that connected Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, Vegas became a railroad town. It quickly became attraction point and a stopover for farmers who mainly came from Utah. In 1911, the city was made part of the newly formed Clark county.


As the town continued to grow, more and more people started to stream in. Freshwater was also pipped into the railroad town. The year 1931 experienced a lot of urbanization. This is after work begun at the Boulder Dam, which brought in a huge number of male workers.

There were several casinos and theaters built mainly by mafias. The electricity being generated at the dam also led to the rise of hotels within the city. When Howard Hughes arrived in 1966, Vegas became more like a family tourist capital. Many people desired to visit the tow for personal experience.

Native Americans

Prior to becoming what it is today, the town was occupied by Native Americans for more than 10,000 years. There is plenty of archeological evidence such as pictographs, baskets, petroglyphs, and many other things that prove Native American’s occupation of the area.

It is believed that the Paiutes settled in the region as early as AD 700. They migrated from the adjacent areas during summer and spent winter in the valley.

Mormon settlers

During the mid-19tth century, Mormon and Mexican settlers crisscrossed the city on their way to California via the Old Spanish Trail. Mormons who resided in Salt Lake City went to Nevada to guard a mail route. In the process, they mined lead, planted fruits and vegetables before abandoning the area in 1858.

The rise of gambling

With a lot of ranchers and railroad workers, the spirit of gambling quickly sprouted in the city. Drinking, gambling, and prostitution became the order of the day. The city moved to ban casinos and gambling in 1910 but nothing much changed.

The widespread disregard for the law led to the rise of organized crime that threatened the security of the entire region. Several East Coat gangsters quickly found a home in the city.

In 1931, Gambling was again made legal in the city. New casinos were built and prostitution became a norm along Freemont Street. The main target of the prostitutes were thousands of workers employed at the Hoover Dam.

World War II slowed down the economic growth of the city. However, the Nellis Air Force Base that was situated close to the city was used as a training ground. The camp led to the opening of the first hotel in the city called Rancho Vegas in 1941.

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The growth of the strip

The growth and expansion of the El Rancho Vegas motivated other people to start operating hotels along highway 91 in the late 1940s. East Coast mobster Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel were among the people who built hotels along the strip.

After Siegel was killed in 1947, his other mobsters carried on with the vision he had for the town. The New Frontier, the Sahara, and the Sands and the Riviera were all built between the 1950s and 1960s. Most of the hotels were built through racketeering and drug trafficking money.

Later on, most of the mobsters started receiving funding from credible financial institutions and groups such as the Mormon church and Wall Street banks. Many tourists started flocking the city to gamble and to see famous musicians such as Elvis Presley perform.

The Mega Resort and close of an era

In 1966, Howard Hughes who had visited the city and was staying at Desert Inn decided to buy the hotel after abandoning his plans of leaving the city. He later decided to buy several more hotels, driving way the mobsters who owned most of the hotels in the city.

By the 1980s, the mafia-owned casinos and hotels had vanished. Steve Wynn started a unique trend in the design of hotels and construction called the Mega hotel. It became the attraction and great admiration of the city. By 1994, Vegas boasted of over 86,000 hotels.

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