Nevada is as rich in history as it is top-quality entertainment and travel destinations. Join us as we celebrate our wonderful state’s colorful past.
If you were to ask the average Western history buff to name the most infamous desperados of the late-19th century frontier, he would no doubt rattle off such names as Jesse James, John Wesley Hardin, and Billy the Kid. It is highly unlikely that such monikers as “Big Jack” Davis, “Three-Fingered Jack” McDowell, “Fighting Sam” Brown, or “Farmer” Peel would ever come up. And yet, these products of a raw and often lawless Nevada, as well as dozens of their contemporaries, were every bit as piratical as their more notorious counterparts.
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Little-known Facts of our Official State Emblems
There’s a state locomotive? Indeed there is. While most people can name our state animal or state song, all told there are 22 official state symbols as designated by the Nevada Legislature. The seal was first designated in 1864 and was updated in 1866, when the motto was changed from Volens et Potens—willing and able—to All for Our Country. Our cobalt flag was not officially adopted until 1905, and since that time there have been four iterations of the blue flag. Our current design was adopted in 1991.
Five Fools on a Flume
That ancient adage—a fool and his money are soon parted—might have found its purest form of expression in a little-known incident that occurred in 1875 Nevada, had it not been for a hefty dose of dumb luck.
The incident in question was triggered by the curiosity of an East Coast journalist who decided to visit The Comstock and see what the mining boom was all about. A chance invitation to see how the lumber that built the mines was being moved from Lake Tahoe was extended, and he ended up with a story he never could have imagined.
History Men: E Clampus Vitus
If you’re a consumer of Nevada history, E Clampus Vitus may play a bigger role in your life than you’d expect. Sure, you may think that this group of men, donning red shirts and badge-clad vests, only gathers occasionally to attend events like the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry in Virginia City, but truth be told, their influence packs a real wallop.
The Territorial Enterprise
When William Jernegan and Alfred James pulled the first sheet of the Territorial Enterprise off an old Washington hand press in Genoa on Dec. 18, 1858, a newspaper legend was born that has endured to this day. Future editor Lucius Beebe wrote in his 1954 book “Comstock Commotion: The Story of the Territorial Enterprise” that what would become one of the mightiest voices in Nevada journalism had a raucous beginning.
“Thus, in a mist both blasphemous and alcoholic, prophetic of things to come, was born the paper that was shortly to be the pattern and glass of frontier journalism everywhere, and eventually was to achieve immortality as one of the romantic properties of the Old American West,” Beebe writes.
Law, Order, and a Game of Chance
Wyatt heard about the Nevada gold strikes while living in Los Angeles. He and his wife, Josephine, had recently returned from an extended trip in Alaska, where for the first and only time, he had prospered. They moved to Tonopah in January 1902, two months shy of Wyatt’s 54th birthday. The couple soon discovered, however, that the initial boom was over. Unemployment was high, and many residents had moved on. Further exacerbating matters, the Earps were greeted on their arrival by a two-week blizzard.
Jacob Davis and the Genes of our Jeans
When a jean-clad crowd filters into Reno’s Knitting Factory on concert nights, it’s unlikely many know they are entering the site where fashion history was made.
Formerly known as 31 Virginia Street, the property housed the family home and tailor shop of Jacob William “J.W.” Davis. Although Jacob’s work normally consisted of making tents, wagon covers, and horse blankets, he accepted odd jobs from time to time.
After slumbering for almost 90 years, the historic locomotive Glenbrook is once again under steam, blasting its whistle just a short distance from where it first started operating in 1875. This Memorial Day, the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City is set to host the official unveiling of the newly restored locomotive, giving the public its first chance to see an incredible piece of the area’s history come to life.
The Glenbrook—a narrow gauge, 2-6-0 locomotive—first ran as part of the railroad created by the Carson & Tahoe Lumber & Fluming Company (C&TL&F), which supplied mine timbers, lumber, and cordwood to the Comstock.
Leading Ladies of Nevada’s Legislature
On Election Day in 1918 the Nevada State Journal took an unusual stand: The newspaper endorsed a female candidate for the state Assembly. No woman had ever served in the Nevada Legislature. In fact, women did not vote in state elections until 1916.
Nevertheless, the Reno paper reminded its readers that Republican candidate Sadie Dotson Hurst “has taken an active part in public matters” and assured them…
Silver State, Gold Records
Nevada leaves a lasting impression on people for many reasons. Case in point: Nevada has been a keen source of musical inspiration for more than a century.
Just ask Dan Reynolds, lead singer of Imagine Dragons—an American indie rock band from Las Vegas—who has admitted there would be no band without Sin City. Or Brandon Flowers, frontman of Las Vegas American rock band The Killers, who told attendees at the 2013 Life is Beautiful festival that many of the band’s songs took place on the very Downtown Las Vegas streets they were standing on.
Experience “The 36th Star”
As Nevada celebrates its sesquicentennial, the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno is giving visitors the chance to explore the state’s heritage through its exhibition, “The 36th Star: Nevada’s Journey from Territory to State.” Three years in the making, this one-of-a-kind exhibition brings together—for the first time—key documents and artifacts to help place Nevada’s legacy into the broader context of the Civil War and American history. The centerpiece is a four-day presentation of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
The best view of Nevada’s gold- and silver-mining days can still be seen from the Bowers Mansion porch. On a warm summer afternoon, you can sit back and enjoy the same view once seen through the eyes of early Nevadans. If you use your imagination, you can picture guests arriving for a picnic: the women in their Victorian dresses; and picnic hats covered with white Swiss and green ribbons. They arrive from every direction by horse and buggy, and train.
Battle Born Birthday Cakes
The Nevada Centennial Commission Final Report of 1964 declares, “It’s unlikely that anyone will soon attempt to repeat the feat of making so gigantic a cake.” On March 21, 2014, a similar party will occur in Carson City at Carson-Tahoe Hospital’s Sage Café. The Nevada 150 signature event is free and open to the public.
The Metropolis That Wasn’t
Many of Nevada’s ghost towns boomed, prospered, and faded in the 1800s, when the state was largely undeveloped and had no major population centers. It’s hard to believe that a city that existed in the 1940s—an era of jet engines and color television—has all but vanished.