Learning about Las Vegas
Those of you attending Retrofit LV may be visiting Las Vegas for the first time. It is a fairly young city, having celebrated its centennial in 2005, but has held a powerful place in the public’s imagination for much of that century. Stereotypes abound, but those of us who live here and have been immersed in its history are aware of the richer story behind the headlines. If you are interested in learning more about the city, here is a brief listing of books that can provide insight. There are certainly many more available, so feel free to inquire for suggestions of other titles of interest.
Su Kim Chung, Chair of Local Arrangements
Head, Special Collection Public Services
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
General History of Las Vegas
Schumacher, Geoff. Sun, Sin and Suburbia: An Essential History of Modern Las Vegas. (2004)
Primarily a history of Las Vegas as it experienced tremendous residential growth in the 1990s. Perhaps more of a focus on real estate and city planning and less on the Strip and downtown.
Paher, Stanley. Las Vegas: As It Began, As It Grew. (1971)
The best source for early Las Vegas history – begins with the Paiutes, then moves into the Spanish Trail days, then the Mormon Fort, O.D. Gass and the Stewarts. This was the first monograph history of Las Vegas and many of the photographs in the book are from our collections
Moehring, Eugene. Las Vegas: Resort City in the Sunbelt. (2000)
This is the classic scholarly monograph on Las Vegas – note that it focuses on the years between 1930-2000 so only summarizes the early history of Las Vegas.
Moehring, Eugene, and Michael Green. Las Vegas: A Centennial History. (2005)
This is a scholarly monograph on the first 100 years of Las Vegas history. Unlike Resort City in the Sunbelt, it goes back to the founding days of Las Vegas in the early 1900s.
Land, Barbara and Land, Myrick. A Short History of Las Vegas (2004)
This is just what it says but still provides a very good overview of Las Vegas for the beginner. It will make you familiar with the names and places and dates that are significant in Las Vegas history.
Hopkins, A.D. and K.J. Evans. The First 100: portraits of the men and women who shaped Las Vegas. (1999)
Profiles of the movers and shakers in Las Vegas from pre-1900 – 2000 from Helen Stewart to Bugsy Siegel to Steve Wynn. Fun to read one profile at a time!
Chung, Su Kim. Las Vegas Then and Now (2012 edition)
Although primarily a photograph history, it provides a good overview of various sites and landmarks in Las Vegas as they have evolved over the years
Gaming & Casinos –
Hess, Alan. Viva Las Vegas : after hours architecture. (1993)
A useful overview and history of Las Vegas casino architecture by a noted architectural historian. It is 20 years old now so does not provide coverage on the newer casinos, but still a good source.
Schwartz, David G. Suburban Xanadu: the Casino Resort on the Las Vegas Strip and Beyond. (2003)
A scholarly work that focuses on the development of casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip but also considers casino resorts outside of Las Vegas. Looks at issues such as organized crime involvement in Las Vegas casinos and the growth of corporate ownership on the Las Vegas Strip. Schwartz directs the Center for Gaming Research in UNLV Special Collections.
Schwartz, David G. Roll the Bones: the History of Gambling. (2006)
Great for a comprehensive all-in-one look at the history of gambling both nationally and internationally going back to Roman times. Although there is much content on the history of gambling as it developed in Las Vegas, the book provides a wider view of gambling as it spread throughout the U.S.