Las Vegas is situated in the desert, and receives less than 2cm of rain per month. It is hot here. The average high during July and August is 40c/104f. The two other summer months of June and September have average highs of 35c/96f.
The Spanish referred to the route through the valley as "jornada de muerte," journey of death. Rafael Rivera was the first person of European ancestry to discover the valley. At the time, it had an abundant indigenous water supply. The valley was named Las Vegas, Spanish for "The Meadows."
Typical of American settlers, one of the early missions here was setup to convert the native Americans (Indians). In 1855, Brigham Young assigned 30 Mormon missionaries to build a fort in the Las Vegas valley. Their primary purpose was to teach the Paiute Indians farming techniques. The Paiutes would periodically attack the fort until it was abandoned in 1857.
During the late 1800's, the principal industry of Las Vegas was farming. During the early 1900's, the principal industry was transportation and supporting business. In 1905, Salt Lake City was linked to Southern California by rail. The availability of water made Las Vegas an ideal refueling point and rest stop.
In 1931, Gambling was legalized in the State of Nevada. Divorce Laws were liberalized in the State of Nevada, making residency easier to attain. A "quickie" divorce could be attained after six weeks of residency. These short-term residents stayed at "dude ranches."
During this time, the Great Depression was ravaging the world economy and society. As part of governmental relief, the Hoover Dam project placed thousands of people to work. Now it is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
By 1967, the Nevada Legislature allowed corporations to own Casinos. In 1968, the recluse and millionaire Howard Hughes bought the Desert Inn and four other casinos in 1968. Beginning in 1989, Las Vegas hotels and casinos started building 2000+ room hotels.
In 1989 and 1990, the Mirage and Excalibur opened with 3.039 and 4.032 rooms respectively. By 1998 and 1999, the 3.000 room Bellagio Hotel and Hotel Paris opened at a cost of $760 million and $1.8 billion respectively. As a comparison, the world famous Plaza Hotel in New York City has only 805 rooms.
For more information, click on Las Vegas History,