New books trace Vegas’ colorful history

Jan 16, 2006 1:02 AM

Three new books that either trace the history of Las Vegas or portray the city as it is today have arrived at Gambler’s Book Shop, and they’re perfect for coffee-table gift items or for the historian who is curious about the most colorful city on the continent.

The three are Young Las Vegas Before the Future Found Us: 1905-193l by Joan Burkhart Whitely (236 pages, hardbound, $29.95), Nevada Yesterdays: Short Looks at Las Vegas History by Frank Wright (124 pages, hardbound, $24.95) and We All Live in Vegas by Francois Paolini (168 pages, hardbound, $24.95).

Young Las Vegas begins with the location, a rare oasis in the middle of a dangerous desert. It continues by tracing the impact of the railroad on the then-tiny location and offering reasons why the town flourished. Was the city-to-be lucky or did it become opportunistic as the West grew? Land was cheap but air conditioning virtually non-existent. Life was tough; if you owned a car or truck early on, you had luxury. It certainly wasn’t the kind of place you’d think about raising a family.

Through pictures (many of them never before compiled and put under one cover), some wonderful captioning and narration by a fine journalistic historian, the story unfolds, from the turn of the century to the days of the Boulder (Hoover) Dam, and how water, wonderful divorce laws, gambling and Depression-era jobs all came into play to trigger the city’s thunderous growth.

Anyone who formerly lived in Las Vegas, or has plans to move here will enjoy this picture-history book, which also includes what notorious Block 16 (the red light district of its time) looked like, along with the earliest casinos and which streets were named after various pioneers.

At the start Las Vegas was a western version of Mayberry. Andy, Deputy Fife, Gomer, Goober and Aunt Bea might have been here — but how it changed and how the world changed since those early days makes for a delightful book.

The late Frank Wright (he was curator for the Nevada Historical Society) in Nevada Yesterdays traces the city’s history from its first beginnings in 1905 to the modern era with narration and photos of people, significant events and the men and women who shaped the city. The book answers most questions of the "when did it happen?" type regarding the casinos of the 40s and 50s; how education, sports, the military base, the Strip, culture all began and evolved to help diversify the city.

We All Live in Las Vegas contains more than 300 color photos by a world-famous photo-journalist. It captures the brilliance, imagination and uniqueness of the city via its ever-evolving architecture, internal and external design.

For first-time visitors, those who have never visited the city and for people of other nations, seeking to emulate Las Vegas through design or style, Paolini’s book is a fine reference, but it is also a colorful tribute to those with the foresight and imagination to keeping the glorious merry-go-round in perpetual motion.

These books and more are available at the Gambler’s Book Shop (Gambler’s Book Club). The store’s web site is www.gamblersbook.com. The toll free number is 1-800-522-1777.