Lucky number “for Sagebrush State”.
In December of 1829 a Mexican merchant, Antonio Armijo, led his caravan to Las Vegas. Though it was winter – it had no effect on the climate of the local deserts: hot sun and burnt earth, scrub and monotonous landscape could drive anyone mad. It is no wonder that the guide at some point realized that they had lost their way! Armijjo was not disheartened and ordering to fix a camp, set a small troop to look for water. One of Antonio’s scouts – Rafael River- decided to take “an individual search” and soon he came across a wonderful source of fresh water – which is priceless in Nevada desert.
Rivera’s finding was of revolutionary significance. California was overwhelmed with “gold rush” and now the potential gold-diggers could considerably shorten the road to the gold-bearing lands.
A quarter of a century later, Mormons came to the source which was given a Spanish name Las-Vegas – which means “meadows”. They settled a fort to protect the Los Angeles-Salt Lake City mail route, they even mined coal, planted fruit trees, cultivated vegetables, but in 1858 they abandoned the settlement much because of the endless Indian raids.
The next stage of history of Las Vegas started only three decades later, when the epoch of conquest of the Wild west was in full swing. Railroad laid its tracks through the Valley, where Rafael once found his water supply, camp site was built for the passengers to have rest during the stops of the train. In a while, workshops, hotels, stores, cigar shops and surely saloon started sprout like mushrooms after the summer rains. In the saloons the passengers could not only have a drink or eat something, but also they had an opportunity to play cards, dice and roulette.
It is difficult to believe but until “sex revolution” in the late 60-s America had much more strict and patriarchal morals than Europe. Even the character of Dreiser’s “An American Tragedy” Clyde Griffiths knew that he could hook up with a foreign lady – as they were more light-minded than American women. The regulators of Nevada banned gambling within its territory under the pressure of the so-called “moralists”. A wild western custom to throw the coin up into the air when paying for the drink was also forbidden. In October of 1910 a local newspaper commented on this epochal event with evident rapture: “Stilled forever is the click of the roulette wheel, the rattle of dice and the swish of cards. ” You will hardly believe today that it was all about Las Vegas.
As the historians state, the ban did not even last a month. The authorities were fighting with illegal gambling houses for more than twenty years, but then simple economics prevailed. Upon the common belief Nevada was not so lucky as other states: it does not have any specific natural resources as in oil-bearing Texas or Oklahoma, no rich lands as in Iowa, no golden beaches and favorable climate as in Florida and California.
Today no one remembers who decided to allow in Nevada what was banned throughout the United states. But the job was done: Prohibited in all other states gambling was legalized in Nevada, and moreover the procedure of marriage and divorces was significantly simplified. The wheel started to spin and now the whole state benefited. Unlike Monte Carlo with its only casino, casinos in Las Vegas were literally sprouted, giving the pas probably to the hotels. Even in the worst times of the Great depression you could find work and earn money here – someone owned a casino, others were selling hamburgers, someone was changing the linen at the hotels and cleaning the ashtrays being grateful to the God for having the job and salary…