Nevada: What happens here makes for great history

Carson City
The state capital was founded in 1858, a year before the discovery of the Comstock Lode mines. Between 1870 and 1890, more than 56 million silver and gold coins were produced here at the U.S. Branch Mint. Today the old mint is the site of the Nevada State Museum. Exhibits range from a full-size replica of a working silver mine to a life-size figure of a 17,000-year-old Imperial Mammoth elephant that was excavated from Black Rock Desert in 1972. The Nevada State Railroad Museum displays more than 50 pieces of railroad equipment from the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. Many of the pieces were obtained from Hollywood studios, which frequently used the discarded locomotives and railroad cars in movies and television shows.

This northern Nevada city was founded in 1859 by Charles Fuller, who built a log bridge across the Truckee River. He charged a toll to men headed to Virginia City in search of gold that had been discovered there. Ever the entrepreneur, Fuller also provided gold seekers with a place to rest and eat. Two years later Fuller sold his bridge to Myron Lake. When the Central Pacific Railroad reached Nevada from Sacramento in 1868, Lake made sure that his crossing was included in its path by deeding a portion of his land to Charles Crocker, an organizer of the Central Pacific Railroad Co. In 1868, the town was officially established and named after Civil War General Jesse Reno. In 1871, a local tailor named Jacob Davis started reinforcing his canvas pants with copper rivets. He later patented this idea with his canvas supplier, Levi Strauss, and the sturdy pants became known as Levis. This city was Nevada’s main gambling destination until it was surpassed by Las Vegas in the 1950s. Today, Nevada’s third-largest town is the cultural and commercial center of northern Nevada. It promotes itself as the “Biggest Little City in the World.” Opened in 2003, the modern Nevada Museum of Art has permanent collections displaying more than 4,000 works organized around general themes of land and environment. A special exhibit on display until May 27, Andy Warhol’s Dream America, gives visitors a chance to drink in Campbell soup cans and celebrity portraits. The National Automobile Museum displays about 220 historic vehicles from the late-19th century through the 1960s. Since most of them once belonged to casino owner William F. Harrah, this museum is often referred to as the Harrah Collection. Hot Rods: A ‘Cool’ Collection is a special exhibit on display through April. A photo exhibit titled Time Capsule: The Back Roads of Northern Nevada will be on view through May.

Boulder City
Located about 20 miles from Las Vegas, this town was originally built by the Bureau of Reclamation to accommodate workers who were building Hoover Dam. The Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum’s interactive displays vividly describe the great social and economic forces surrounding the 1929 Stock Market Crash and Depression. These factors drove thousands of unemployed people from their homes all across America into this isolated desert town because it was one of the few places in the nation where men could find work. Especially compelling are the oral histories recorded as these modern pioneers tell about their lives in Boulder City and at the Hoover Dam construction site in the desperate years of the early 1930s. Mothers describe how they set up households in the sandy wastes along the Colorado River. Dam workmen tell stories of the dangers they faced while creating a structure unlike any attempted before.

Las Vegas
The first permanent non-Native-American settlers in the Las Vegas Valley were Mormon missionaries who built an adobe fort along Las Vegas Creek in 1855. They successfully farmed the area by diverting water from the stream. Today, Old Las Vegas Mormon State Historic Park is in the downtown area. It includes a remnant of the original adobe fort, which serves as a visitor center with interpretive displays. Future development plans include the re-creation of many historic features and a larger visitors’ center. The Liberace Museum houses a rare piano collection, elaborate costumes and antiques that once belonged to the flamboyant entertainer. Highlights include his trademark piano-shape ring with 260 diamonds, his Rolls-Royce covered with mirror tiles, and his Louis XV desk that was once owned by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Other specialty attractions include the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, Las Vegas Club Sports Hall of Fame, Elvis-A-Rama Museum, Las Vegas Art Museum, Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum and the Atomic Testing Museum.