It could be said Las Vegas probably has the most interesting historical background of any city in the world especially concerning the ‘Vegas’ we know today.
According to historical accounts, this area was visited by Rafael Rivera, a Mexican trader. These lush green fields were given the name Las Vegas which is Spanish for ‘the meadows.’ As late as 1993 this area has become a mecca for archeologists. In addition to the discovery of a prehistoric mammoth believed to have existed some 8 to 15,000 years ago, many finds reveal the presence of an American Indian population based on the number of artifacts uncovered.
By 1844 John Fremont and the US Army Corps of Engineers had visited the Las Vegas Valley in preparation for a conflict with Mexico, the outcome of which was the area became an official United States territory. Fort Baker, built around this time remains a very popular visitor destination
It seems the history of Las Vegas is an account of one land acquisition change after another. As far back as 1855 Brigham Young tried to control the valley in the interests of the Mormons. Around 1881, ownership fell into the hands of Archibald Stewart whose wife, Helen, was named the 1st postmaster in 1844. By 1905 the Las Vegas area had become a city with Peter Buol acting as its 1st mayor.
It is interesting to note that one of the world’s most well-known areas devoted to entertainment and casinos was, in the year of 1910, an area where none of these pursuits would have been legal. At that point the only entertainment was provided by saloons where it was declared illegal to “flip a coin for the price of a drink”.
This history of Las Vegas could have taken a drastically different path had it not been for the building of the Hoover Dam in 1931 which boosted the population from 5,000 to 25,000. Electric power generated by the dam led to the birth of ‘the strip’ as we know it since this was quickly followed by casinos and clubs springing up everywhere with gambling being once again legalized.
Around the 1940s clubs where being built associated with seedy characters such as Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky owners of The Flamingo (1946). The dawn of the 1950s brought entertainers to town such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Carol Channing. Since the venue for shows and the gambling activities occupied the same space, US Senator Estes Kefauver led hearings in suspicion of this area as a mecca for organized crime.
Despite the development of the ‘strip’, history currently denotes Las Vegas as having one of the highest unemployment and foreclosure statics in the United States.