A History of Las Vegas

By Tim Lambert

The Foundation of Las Vegas

For hundreds of years, Native Americans lived in the area where Las Vegas now stands. They grew corn and squashes. Then in 1829, a Spanish trader named Antonio Armijo led a group of men through the area. They called it Las Vegas (Spanish for ‘The Meadows’).

Then in 1844, an American named John C Fremont of the US Topographical Corps explored the region. In 1855 a group of Mormons settled in the region but in 1858 they moved on.

Permanent settlement began in 1865 when a man named Octavius Gass set up a ranch called the Las Vegas Ranch. In 1881 it passed to Archibald Stewart. When he died in 1884 his wife Helen took over. In 1903 she sold the ranch to a railroad company. They built a railroad through the area in 1905. As soon as the railroad was completed a new town was founded.

The Growth of Las Vegas

The city of Las Vegas was incorporated in 1911. At that time it was a small settlement with a population of about 1,000. However, it soon grew much larger. By 1920 Las Vegas had a population of over 2,000.

Then in 1931 work began on building the Hoover Dam. As a result, the population of Las Vegas boomed. Meanwhile, the state of Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, and casinos were founded in Las Vegas. In 1941 El Rancho Vegas opened as the first resort on The Strip. After the Second World War Las Vegas thrived on gambling. Its population boomed. By 1960 Las Vegas had more than 64,000 people.

The Dolphin opened in 1946. The Riviera opened in 1955. Then in 1966 the reclusive millionaire Howard Hughes moved to Las Vegas. The same year, 1966 Caesars Palace opened. Circus Circus opened in 1968. In the late 20th century Las Vegas continued to grow very rapidly. Its population boomed.

Meanwhile, The Liberace Museum opened in Las Vegas in 1979 and the Fremont Street Experience was built in 1995.

21st Century Las Vegas

In 2005 Las Vegas celebrated its centenary. The same year, 2005 the Museum of Atomic Testing opened. The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement opened in 2012. The same year a new Las Vegas City Hall opened.

Today Las Vegas continued to thrive on tourism, gambling, and weddings. In 2019 the population of Las Vegas was 651,000.