History of Las Vegas

Do you know anything about the history of Las Vegas? We really hadn’t paid much attention to that section in our guidebook until the man checking our passports at McCarran International Airport asked if we were

History of Las Vegas

related to Benny Binion who used to own the Horseshoe Casino, now Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel

Image of Binions Las Vegas



After spending the long flight back to the UK day dreaming about how we could be descendents of a (hopefully) very wealthy casino owner and therefore heirs to a huge fortune we looked up Benny Binion and quickly discovered that apart from anything our last names are spelt differently! (We're Bennion not Binion) But in our quest to prove we were Binion’s long lost relations we stumbled across the colourful history of Las Vegas casinos and more...



In the beginning...

Did you know that once upon a time Las Vegas was just a marsh hidden from discovery by the Mojave Desert, known only to the Native Americans? They left petroglyphs throughout the Las Vegas Valley which you can still see today. There are some impressive ones out at Red Rock Canyon. They do some great trips out to the Canyon where you can learn more about the Native Americans and the history of Las Vegas.

History of Las Vegas



The Meadows

A Mexican Trader, called Antonio Armijo, stumbled upon the Las Vegas Valley, in 1829, when he was leading a group of 60 men to Los Angeles. The party gave the area the name Las Vegas which in Spanish means ‘The Meadows.’

John C Fremont came to Las Vegas in 1844. He found two springs and wrote a journal about them which became very popular.


Mormon missionaries

In 1855 Mormon missionaries arrived in Las Vegas with the purpose of converting the Paiute Indian population. However, they left in 1858. (Indian raids are said to have contributed to their decision to leave.) You can still see what’s left of the Mormon Fort at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Washington Avenue.

History of Las Vegas



36th State

In 1864 Nevada became the 36th State.


Here come the Farmers

In 1885 farmers arrived buying up sections of land for $1.25 per acre. For the following 20 years farming was the principal industry of the area.


Railroad Town

Las Vegas became a railroad town in the early 1900s following the completion of the railway between Southern California and Salt Lake City making Las Vegas a good point to stop refuel.


Becoming a City

Las Vegas was established as a City on 15 May 1905 when Union Pacific auctioned hundreds of lots, in the downtown area, (now home to the Fremont Street Experience) to a raft of eager buyers.

In 1909 Clark County was created. Las Vegas became part of Clark County instead of Lincoln County.


Hoover Dam

Construction of the Hoover Dam began in 1931 and was completed in 1935. All the workers required to work on the Dam boosted the population and economy. There are many tours you can take of the Hoover Dam and learn more about its construction and how this affected the history of Las Vegas.

History of Las Vegas




Legalised gambling

1931 was a big year for Vegas; it was then that gambling became legal in Nevada.


The Rise of Tourism

After the end of World War Two in 1945 Las Vegas hotel history was made as more and more resorts began to appear in Sin City such as the Flamingo

Image of the Flamingo Las Vegas

and tourism became the city’s dominant industry. The city’s first racially integrated hotel, Moulin Rouge, opened in 1951.


Famous Las Vegas Sign

History of Las Vegas

The ‘Welcome to Vegas’ sign is iconic. It’s been a landmark of the City since it was created by Betty Willis in 1959. It's a poular photo spot for visitors.


Going Legit

Until the 1960s the Mafia dominated the city. However, legitimate businesses flourished after 1967 when a law was passed which meant gambling licences could be acquired by publicly traded corporations. Las Vegas continued to grow at a tremendous rate since in the 1970s and 1980s. You can lear more about the Mafia and Las Vegas by taking a Vegas Mob Tour


Image of Las Vegas at night

Fremont Street Experience

In 1995 the Fremont Street Experience opened. It’s a pedestrian mall with a huge canopy of neon lights (1500 ft by 90ft) known as Glitter Gulch comprising 12 million lights making it the biggest screen in the World.

History of Las Vegas



Centenary Celebrations

On 15 May 2005 Las Vegas was 100 years old. The City celebrated throughout the year 2005.

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