North America

Wooden Wagon from Nevada Silver Mine

History

Nevada's harsh but rich environment shaped its history and culture. Before 1858 small Mormon settlements along the border of Utah sustained their communities through faith, but the secular western section stumbled along until the great silver strikes beginning in 1858 created boom towns and fabulous fortunes. After the beginning of the 20th century, profits declined while Progressive reformers sought to curb rampaging capitalism and its attendant miseries. They imagined a civilized Nevada of universities, lofty idealism, and social reform. But an economic bust during the 1910s and disillusionment from failures at social reform and a population decline of nearly one-fourth meant that by 1920 Nevada had degenerated into a "beautiful desert of buried hopes." The boom returned when big time gambling arrived in 1931, and with good transportation (especially to California metropolitan areas), the nation's easiest divorce laws, and a speculative get-rich-quick spirit, Nevada had a boom-and-bust economy that was mostly boom until the worldwide financial crisis of 2008 revealed extravagant speculation in housing and casinos on an epic scale.