Book recalls 150 years of Nevada’s civic life, characters

A century-and-a-half’s worth of saints, sinners, winners, losers and just normal folk trying to make it through the day, inhabiting an area of 111,000 square miles, give or take, and doing what they do or did against a social, political and historical backdrop that’s as colorful as any state in the union’s and even, we daresay, many small countries.

We call it Nevada, and in honor of its 150th birthday, Geoff Schumacher and a collection of Nevada’s finest writers and photographers have assembled “Nevada: 150 Years in the Silver State” ($29.95, Stephens Press, distributed by University of Nevada Press), the official commemorative volume of Nevada’s sesquicentennial celebration.

Distilling 150 years of Nevada history into a single book is a tall order. Although it’s not intended to be a comprehensive history of Nevada — really, what single book could be? — “Nevada: 150 Years in the Silver State” is a wide-ranging, highly readable book that long-timers and newcomers alike will find fascinating.

As the book’s editor, it was Schumacher’s challenge to meld the work of dozens of contributors — some of whom you probably know and others of whom you’ll just be getting to know — into a manageable whole.

Schumacher came to the gig already well-versed in Nevada. His own books include “Sun, Sin and Suburbia: An Essential History of Modern Las Vegas” (as well as its update, “Sun, Sin &Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas Revised and Expanded”) and “Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia &Palace Intrigue.” He grew up in Southern Nevada, attended the University of Nevada, Reno, worked at the Las Vegas Sun, edited Las Vegas CityLife, and oversaw rural publications for Stephens Media (which also owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal).

Still, Schumacher calls the sesquicentennial book one of the most ambitious he has tackled, partly because of Nevada’s complex diversity.

“I like to say there are three Nevadas,” he says. “There’s obviously, Las Vegas, and then there’s the Reno-Sparks-Carson City corridor, and then there’s rural Nevada — everything else — which constitutes by far the largest area geographically but represents about 5 percent of the state’s population.”

Planning for the book began in late 2012.

“I knew at the outset that I needed to solicit advice from a lot of people across the state to make sure that we cover our bases,” Schumacher says.

Out of that grew the notion that the book would be written by a lot of people, he says.

“We’d look for authorities around the state — writers, journalists, historians — who had the best handle on certain topics,” he says.

Ultimately, 75 writers contributed to the book. Each, he says, possessed a good understanding of certain aspects of state history and culture.

“In a lot of cases, I’d suggest topics to writers and they came back with something better or something different, based on their knowledge,” Schumacher says. “So that whole interaction with writers played a role in how the book developed.

“We knew going into this that there really was no way we could be comprehensive and cover 150 years of Nevada history,” Schumacher adds. “So we didn’t try.”

Instead, the goal was to offer readers stories about essential historical elements of Nevada’s evolution and development, and augment those with interesting, sometimes personal, sidebars.

Take, for instance, University of Nevada, Reno journalism instructor Frank X. Mullen’s rundown of how Reno became a mecca for divorces during the late ’20s and ’30s, paired with an offbeat sidebar by author Patricia Cooper-Smith about “Reno divorce literature,” the stories and plays written by, or about, those soon-to-be-unwed souls who were stuck in Reno while waiting out the state’s residency requirement.

The book covers the state’s origins, civic life, education and Northern, Southern and rural Nevada. There’s even a chapter about sports in Nevada, a topic, Schumacher notes, that’s often ignored in history books.

The most idiosyncratic pieces are “My Nevada” essays in which writers chronicle their own Nevada experiences, ranging from University of Nevada, Las Vegas English professor and author John H. Irsfeld’s ode to the days of convenient parking to Reno author Willy Vlautin’s tale of “Christmas in McDermitt, Winnemucca and Elko,” which hasn’t been adapted into an Oscar-winning short film but needs to be.

“I think what we wanted to accomplish with the essays was to not make this completely a history book,” Schumacher says. “Not everybody who is celebrating the sesquicentennial is obsessed with the state’s history, so we wanted this book to have a contemporary aspect to it as well.”

“The other part of the book that is contemporary is a section we call ‘Destinations,’ ” Schumacher says. “It’s a travel section. If you’re looking for places to go in Nevada or to explore the natural environment, we have writers who, once again, knew these topics really well.”

The most surprising thing is that, with all of the information it packs, the book comes in at just less than 300 colorful, well-designed pages.

“To be honest, the book was not supposed to be as long as it is,” Schumacher says. “But being a writer and an editor and a journalist, I really wanted the writing to be good.

“A lot of other coffee table books, really, it’s about the photos first and the text second. In this case, really, the text came first. We have some amazing photos, and I’m really proud of the collection of photos we have in the book that, I think, makes it into a coffee table book legitimately. But the text is really what drove it.”

The book is perfect for — and, Schumacher says, designed for — repeated sessions of picking up, delving into for five or 10 or 15 minutes, and then putting down until the next encounter. Designer Sue Campbell “just did a brilliant job of taking this mishmash of text and photos that I threw at her and helping to turn that into an organized design,” Schumacher says.

For Nevadans both Northern and Southern who never venture out of their own personal Nevadas, Schumacher hopes the book will provide an incentive to get out and see what the rest of the state has to offer.

“There are a lot of interesting parts of Nevada people, certainly in Las Vegas, have no clue about,” he says, “and, conversely, people in Northern Nevada don’t realize that Las Vegas has a lot of things happening beyond the Las Vegas Strip and beyond the gambling environment.”

Contact reporter John Przybys at or 702-383-0280.

Contact reporter John Przybys at or 702-383-0280.

Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like