Exhibits – Permanent
Nevada History Gallery Artifacts
Reno History Gallery Images
Permanent Gallery – Nevada History
Nevada: Prisms & Perspectives, the latest version of the Nevada Historical Society’s Wilbur S. Shepperson Nevada Gallery. All of the interpretation and collections—artifacts, photographs and maps—come from the Nevada Historical Society. Nevada: Prisms & Perspectives utilizes the Historical Society’s collections to tell five crucial stories about life in the Silver State. Each story is complete in itself, but all five are intimately related to each other.
Living on the Land
Although the eastern Sierra Nevada, the Great Basin, and the Sonoran Desert of southern Nevada appears to be a hard place in which to survive, people have been taking their living from the land here for more than 10,000 years. Native Nevadans learned to live easily on the land, taking only what they needed.
Riches from the Earth
The Great Basin has been the source of fabulous mineral wealth for hundreds of years. Native Nevadans for centuries mined salt and turquoise. More recently, prospectors heading back east from the first wave of the California Gold Rush found traces of the yellow metal in streams on the eastern slope of the Sierra. The real excitement began in 1859, however, with the “Rush to Washoe,” as thousands of former 49ers headed to the booming Comstock Lode camps of Virginia City, Gold Hill, and Silver City.
For decades, on their way to somewhere else people have been passing through what is now known as Nevada. Interstate 80, in fact, just about a mile south of here, is the latest version of U.S. 40, which was the Victory Highway, which was built along the route of the Central Pacific Railroad, which was along the path of the old wagon road the Donner Party took to get to California, which was also the route into the Sierra Nevada that took John C. Frémont and his party to Lake Tahoe, which was the path the Washoe used to move into the mountains for the summer season. Located east of Reno and the Forty-Mile Desert this modern superhighway follows the old Humboldt River route that brought so many pioneers to the Far West.
Everyone knows the truth about Nevada. It is a land of enchantment offering fun, food, and instant wealth. The Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight in 1897 brought notoriety to the Silver State. Then speedy divorce—”Renovation”—as well as quickie marriages, kept the state’s racy reputation alive. Gambling was made legal in 1931 in order to support tourism and business in the face of the Great Depression.
The Federal Presence
Although Nevada is the seventh largest state in the Union, the federal government owns 87 percent of the land. That simple fact has made the federal presence central to the development of the Silver State in the twentieth century.
Permanent Gallery – Reno History
Reno History Gallery – The Biggest Little City in the World is the latest version of the Nevada Historical Society’ Janice Pine Reno History Gallery. All of the interpretation and collections—artifacts, photographs and print ephemera—come from the Nevada Historical Society. Reno History Gallery utilizes the Historical Society’s collections to tell five themes about how Reno became the Biggest Little City in the World.
Tough Little Town on the Truckee
hen the first white men passed through this area in the 1840s, the land along the Truckee River was inhabited by Washoe and Paiute peoples. In the late 1840s and 1850s, thousands of travelers on their way to the California gold fields would linger a few days in the Truckee Meadows to allow their animals to feed on the native grasses before crossing the Sierra Nevada. The meadows, fed by the river, offered an oasis, but to travelers the river was also an obstacle.
Reno Noir: 20th Century Sin City
A mining boom that commenced in southwestern Nevada in 1900 gave the state an economic shot in the arm. Reno benefited from the new boom, both economically and through the arrival of George Wingfield, a millionaire who had made his fortune in Goldfield. From Reno, the powerful Wingfield ran and expanded his empire, which included such diversified endeavors as mining, banking, ranching, hotels, and politics. The coming of the twentieth century also began to change the spirit of the town, which then had a population of about 4,000. In 1903 Reno became an incorporated city (after an earlier unsuccessful attempt in 1897).
On the Road Again: Travel and Tourism in the Biggest Little City
From the beginning, transportation has been a significant theme in the history of Reno and the Truckee Meadows. The emigrant trails, stage roads, the Pony Express, highways, commercial aviation, and the railroad have all served to bring people and goods into and through the region. The transcontinental railroad, built through the area in 1868, represented the most important event in the sometimes sputtering creation of Reno. (In 1903, Reno’s neighbor to the east, Sparks, also began life as a railroad town – a new division point on the Southern Pacific Railroad.)
Every Day Reno: People, Places and Things
Against the backdrop of its “sin city” reputation and an economy that relies on the tourist trade, there is – and always has been – an everyday Reno, a place, where ordinary people live and work, go to school, worship, play, and socialize. This side of the Biggest Little City is represented through its homes, businesses, schools, and churches, its social organizations, government, local events, arts and culture, and, of course, people.