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Episode 58: Nevada: The Wild Rise of Sin City with Sharon McMahon

podcast Nov 29, 2021

In this episode, Sharon walks through the last two centuries of history in Las Vegas to uncover the making of America’s “Sin City.” The Las Vegas strip has not always been glitz and glamour and its history is marked by brushes with Spanish settlers, the mafia, wall street millionaires, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and most of all, the U.S. government. Tracing back to the 1820s, Sharon explores how Las Vegas developed from illegal speakeasies during prohibition to modern mega-resorts that attract over 42 million visitors annually. Listen to learn how the Hoover Dam, the 18th amendment, and atomic bombs turned Las Vegas into the entertainment mecca we know and love today. 

Links to Full Episode:

This Episode Will Teach You:

  • Las Vegas by the decade from 1820-today 
  • Atomic Bomb tourist excursions in Las Vegas
  • The man who planted Las Vegas on the map 
  • Why the 1930s was a pivotal decade for Las Vegas 
  • What was Las Vegas like during prohibition? 
  • When did construction on the Las Vegas Strip begin? 
  • The little known ties between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Las Vegas 

3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • During this time 100 years ago, Las Vegas looked far different than it does today. In 1921, America faced prohibition, and the state of Nevada outlawed gambling. Las Vegas quickly became a stomping grounds for criminals and outlaws with little regard for the law. Illegal speakeasies and casinos gained popularity and Las Vegas quickly gained a reputation for illicit activities like drinking, gambling, and organized crime. 
  • The 1930s was the most pivotal decade in Las Vegas history. After years of operating illegally, Las Vegas finally gained government. In 1930, the Hoover Dam was commissioned by President Hoover in Las Vegas and after its construction, became a popular, legal tourist attraction. In 1931, Nevada reversed its gambling laws as a result of the Great Depression which therefore legalized casinos. Lastly, in 1933, the United States government repealed the 18th amendment prohibiting alcohol. Those actions allowed Las Vegas to develop a thriving economy where drinking and gambling were legal and the population exploded as a result from just 5,000 in the early days of the Great Depression to over 25,000 at the end. 
  • Las Vegas exploded in real estate over the last century. Fremont street was where Las Vegas first gained popularity in prohibition days, however, as the diversity of visitors expanded, so did the need for higher class accommodations. The American Mob monopolized on the opportunity and began developing luxury hotels beyond Fremont Street where the modern epicenter of Las Vegas sits today, known as the Strip. Over time, Las Vegas transitioned from its old west roots to a Hollywood image of glitz and glamour. Finally, in the 1960s, Las Vegas transitioned ownership from the American Mob to corporate America when millionaire Howard Hughes bought $300 million worth of real estate and transformed the Strip into a conglomerate of mega-resorts including the Bellagio and Caesars Palace.

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