History

Unknown Nevada: Historical nuggets that raise even expert eyebrows

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UNLV history professor Michael Green just published Nevada: A History of the Silver State, the most comprehensive text of its kind in decades. Though he’s considered a foremost expert on Nevada’s past, even Green encountered a few surprises during his research.

1. There be earthquakes. The Twittersphere exploded weeks ago when a 4.8 earthquake struck Caliente and rattled neighboring cities, but the recent quake wasn’t that unique: Wells in the northeast shook a few years ago, and a 7.2 earthquake rocked Fallon in 1954, literally moving mountains. “If you live in a mining state, you’re in a state where there have been a lot of earthquakes,” Green says. “Something created those mountains.”

2. The Kefauver hearings didn’t really clean up Nevada. In some ways, they made it worse. In the early 1950s, Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee set out to clean up interstate mob activity. While the committee did clean up some states, it encouraged a lot of criminal activity to move here. “We tend to think his efforts of reform prompted Nevada to behave better,” Green says. “It didn’t—it really had the opposite effect.”

3. There’s a lot we don’t know. Partly because we have only two universities, partly because out-of-state scholars dismiss Nevada and partly because criminals didn’t bother to write things down, Nevada has a deficit of historical information. But it’s getting better. Green says: “Nevada is the state version of Cool Hand Luke. We have a failure to communicate.”

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