Nevada State History – 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know

You might know some fundamental facts about Nevada such as the state’s capital and its biggest city (listed below) but have you ever wondered how the state got its name or how Las Vegas became the entertainment epicenter it is today? Whether you’re planning a move, a visit or you’re just plain curious – we break down 15 off-the-beaten-path facts about Nevada.

POPULATION: 3,132,970 (as of 2020)
CAPITAL: Carson City
STATE BIRD: Mountain Bluebird
BORDER STATES: Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and California


#1 Nevada Takes its name from the Spanish word, neive, roughly meaning “snow-clad”

You might be thinking, wait a minute – isn’t Nevada among the driest regions in the United States with a semiarid climate and low precipitation? While true, the name Nevada comes from the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains, positioned along the state’s western boundary.


#2 Herbert Hoover’s Dam

The Hoover Dam is a National Historic Landmark and has been rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders. The project was constructed during the Great Depression between 1930 and 1936 and named after Herbert Hoover. Aside from being a massive tourist destination, sitting just 7 miles from Boulder City, the dam is used for flood control, hydroelectric power, irrigation, and water supply. Today, the Hoover Dam’s energy helps to power Nevada, Arizona, and California.


#3 How did Vegas become Vegas?

In 1966, Howard Hughes bought $300 million worth of hotels which began an era of mega-resorts and casinos. In 1989, the Mirage was opened and over the next twenty years, the Las Vegas strip was transformed into massive structures replicating Egypt, Paris, ancient Rome, and Venice which in turn drew crowds from over the world seeking escapism and entertainment.

#4 Voting Rights in Nevada

In 1869, Nevada was the first state to ratify the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving African American men the right to vote and setting a standard for the rest of the country to soon follow suit.


#5 Nevada’s Silver & Gold – What’s the rush?

When silver was first discovered in Nevada in 1859, there was so much of it that silver could be shoveled off the ground after it had formed on the surface of the desert over millions of years. This led to a silver-rush migration, earning the state’s nickname, “The Silver State”. Nevada is not only known for its silver but its abundance of gold too. As the fourth-largest producer of gold in the world, the state supplies nearly 75 percent of all gold mined in the United States.


#6 At One Time, Gambling was Outlawed in Las Vegas

It’s hard to imagine Las Vegas without gambling, but in 1910, it was outlawed in Nevada. Gambling culture was still prevalent in the city, however, as the practice continued in speakeasies and illegitimate casinos. Gambling was finally legalized in 1931, eventually leading to the Las Vegas scene we know today.


#7. Nevada or Nevada? A Controversy in Pronunciation

You may have heard people pronounce Nevada a few different ways. Some say Ne-VAH-duh while others say Ne-VAD-uh, but which is it? While there is no official or mandated pronunciation, most natives of the state pronounce Nevada as Ne-VADD-uh – with “VADD” rhyming with “BAD”.


#8. Blue Jeans Were Invented in Nevada

When you think of the classic American blue jean, stereotypical images of the American west may come to mind, and for good reason. In 1873, two immigrants, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patented the iconic Levi Strauss & Co. blue jean in Reno, Nevada. The addition of metal rivets to work pants created stronger pants for mining utility, creating the iconic blue jean look we know and love today.


#9 Nevada is Home to More Hotel Rooms Than Anywhere Else on the Planet

Las Vegas has over 150,000 hotel rooms to accommodate its over 40 million visitors per year.


#10 The Federal Government Owns More Than Half of Nevada

Nearly 85% of land in Nevada is owned by the federal government for a variety of uses. In fact, more nuclear weapons have been tested by the government in Nevada than in any other state in the country.


#11. Nevada is Home to More than half of North America’s Wild Horses

Kept by mostly Spanish explorers and native groups, the descents of these once domesticated animals can be seen in large numbers. Many of these wild horses can be seen in the eastern part of the state and east of Reno.


#12. Nevada is Home to Area-51

Just over 100 miles from Las Vegas in the middle of the Nevada desert, is the classified testing facility of the United States Air Force. The area is closed to the public and the restricted airspace covers over 500 square miles of land. Due to the site’s secrecy, Area-51 has been a hotbed for conspiracy theories over the years.


#13. Las Vegas is the Wedding Capital of the World

Over the last century, Las Vegas has gained a reputation for its kitschy quick, and easy weddings. In response to a 1912 law passed in California that required a three-day waiting period for marriage licenses to be processed, Las Vegas responded by competing as one of the easiest places to obtain a marriage license. Vegas has become famous for the concept of “drive-through weddings” – you don’t even need to get out of your car at the Chapel of Love’s drive-through window. Due to the city’s marriage accessibility, Las Vegas processes over 100,000 weddings per year on average, earning its reputation as the wedding capital of the world.


#14 Nevada Has the Highest Shrimp Intake in the Country

It may come as a surprise that a landlocked state like Nevada consumes more shrimp than anywhere else in the country. On average, nearly 60,000 pounds of shrimp are consumed per day in Las Vegas.


#15 There is No State Lottery in Nevada

Nevada is one of the few states in the country without a lottery. Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to gamble your money in Nevada.



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