Since Las Vegas was founded on May 15, 1905, when the Union Pacific auctioned off land around its new railroad shops, the city has grown from a ramshackle village to a sprawling metropolitan area of well over a million people. Such phenomenal growth was never a sure thing - in its first decades, the town languished as a railroad company town and market center for nearby ranches and mines. The construction of Hoover Dam in the 1930s brought thousands of workers, some of whom decided to stay, and World War II and the Cold War brought others, including military personnel and workers at the Nevada Test Site. But it was when Nevada legalized casino gambling in 1931 that Las Vegas met its destiny. This act, combined with the growing popularity of the automobile, cheap land and electricity, and changing national attitudes toward gambling, led to the fantastical casinos and opulent resorts that became the trademark industry of the city and created the ambiance that has made Las Vegas an international icon of pleasure and entertainment.
Eugene Moehring and Michael Green have studied and written about Las Vegas for many years, and in Las Vegas: A Centennial History they offer a detailed and deeply knowledgeable account of the growth of this unique city, the impact of politics and of wars, and the city's struggle to establish diversified economy. Here are the larger-than-life characters who shaped the city, as well as the business and civic decisions. The authors' scope extends chronologically from the first Paiute people who settled around the artesian springs that gave the city its name, right up to the construction of the latest megaresort, and geographically far beyond the original township to include the several municipalities that make up the metropolitan Las Vegas area. They consider various aspects of city building such as the role of developers; the creation of infrastructure, services, and transportation; the struggle to obtain a reliable source of water; the function of cultural, civic, educational, and religious institutions; and of ethnic minorities. Las Vegas: A Centennial History celebrates the city's unparalleled growth in the brief century of its existence.
It also offers fresh insight into the process of city building in the American West, where urban needs and aspirations must contend with water scarcity, isolation, erratic economies, highly diverse populations, and the rocky relationship between the need for civic order and the Western spirit of independence. That Las Vegas has become one of the nation's major cities in so brief a time reflects the prodigious energies of its people and a happy convergence of events and circumstances. Its story will engage residents and visitors alike, as well as all readers interested in the history and workings of an American city.