Nevada Public Radio Listen Live

"BBC World Service"
Facebook Twitter Follow Nevada Public Radio

Support Nevada Public Radio
September 20, 2013


In 2014, Nevadans will celebrate our sesquicentennial … the one hundred and fiftieth birthday of our statehood.  September 2013 marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of our NEAR statehood. Sort of.

In December 1862, the Nevada territorial legislature passed a bill to, quote, frame a constitution and state government for the state of Washoe. According to the bill, the territory would vote in the following September on whether they wanted statehood and to elect thirty-nine delegates to a constitutional convention.  If they said yes, the convention would meet in November.

William Morris StewartOn September 2, 1863, voters in Nevada territory went to the polls.  They made themselves clear. They voted FOR the convention, 6660 to 1502.  In November, the delegates met.  It was an impressive group. It included a future United States senator, William Morris Stewart; a former governor of California, J. Neely Johnson; a future governor of Nevada, John Kinkead; and a future congressman from Nevada, Thomas Fitch.  The convention chairman was the chief justice of the territorial supreme court, John Wesley North.

EsmeraldaWith the Civil War on, the delegates opposed secession and states’ rights.  They debated what to call the proposed new state.  They didn’t like Washoe all that much.  They talked about Humboldt, as in the river, and Esmeralda, as in the Spanish word for emerald and the heroine of a popular novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The big issue was how to tax mining.  North and Stewart led the factions.  North wanted proceeds taxed like any other property.  Stewart wanted only net proceeds taxed, with depreciation and deductions allowed first.  The convention voted two to one for North’s view, so the original Nevada Constitution taxed mining like any other property.

Once the convention adjourned and the constitution went out to the people, that was one controversy.  There were two others.  One, voters would decide something else besides the constitution.  They also would vote on who would hold the first state offices.  The problem was that in those days, we didn’t have secret ballots and electronic voting.  Voters literally would have to split their tickets, and that didn’t happen all that much.  This also meant that there would be political in-fighting over who to support, and that would reduce any unity over the constitution.

The other controversy had to do with Stewart.  He claimed that what the constitution said about mining taxes didn’t matter.  First, he read the document as saying that the legislature still could tax mining differently.  Second, Stewart made clear that he would make sure that happened.  Well, Stewart had a lot of power.  He was the attorney for most of the major mining companies of the time, many of them based in San Francisco.  Nevadans today still claim not to like it when people come in from the outside and tell us what to do.  They also felt that way back in the 1860s.

Between all of these factors, in January 1864, Nevadans voted down their constitution, 8851 to 2157.  In a four month period, Nevadans switched from supporting statehood by a four to one margin to opposing it by a four to one margin.  Now they would have to find a solution so they could have a constitution and statehood.  Spoiler alert:  eventually, they did.

See discussion rules.


Jan 24, 2015 | 1964 Election, Part 2
As politics go, winning one election doesn't necessarily mean an easy victory in the next one. The first Las Vegas resident to be elected to the Senate faced more challenges the second time around.

Jan 17, 2015 | 1964 Election, Part 1
By the looks of one election, Nevada's political climate in 1964 may have appeared somewhat contrary to what was going on in Washington where there was talk of "the Great Society." The election in Nevada reflected strains in the Democratic Party.

Nov 29, 2014 | 1914 Election, Part 1
Statewide elections in Nevada can certainly get interesting as was the case in 1914. A remarkable election when the results are really, really close. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.

Nov 28, 2014 | 1912 Election, Part 2
About one-fifth of Nevada's population went to the polls in 1914. And they made some notable decisions. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.

Nov 13, 2014 | Women's Suffrage in Nevada
A century has gone by since 'women's suffrage became a reality in Nevada. The push to give women in Nevada the right to vote was not an easy endeavor. We take a look at how that change came about on Nevada Yesterdays.

Oct 31, 2014 | One Hundred Fifty Years
Was it 'silver' or politics that tipped the scales in favor of Nevada statehood, 150 years ago. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.

Sep 5, 2014 | The Beatles
It's been a half century since the Beatles had a 'hard day's night,' right here in Las Vegas. The real thing - John, Paul, George and Ringo - arrived on August 20, 1964. Their performance lasted for about 30-minutes as part of a show that included the Righteous Brothers and Jackie DeShannon.

Aug 22, 2014 | Civil Rights Act
When the Civil Rights Act was passed a half century ago, not everyone within Nevada's political circles was onboard with it. The decision was not a simple one for some Nevada Senators.

Aug 1, 2014 | Bob Bailey
How much can one person accomplish? If you're like Bob Bailey, quite a bit. From show business to civil rights on the Strip, Here's Senator Richard Bryan with a look back at the life of Bob Bailey.

Jul 11, 2014 | Remembering Bob Faiss
Mixing law with the gaming industry seemed a natural fit for one Las Vegas attorney, who passed away recently. Here's a look back at the influence of attorney Bob Faiss on the gaming industry.

May 16, 2014 | Viva Las Vegas
"Viva Las Vegas" turns 50 in a few days. We'll hear how Las Vegas itself starred in the iconic movie, along side Elvis. Moviegoers got a taste of Southern Nevada and a song to go with it!

May 9, 2014 | Sagebrush Rebels
A rancher challenging federal authority over land rights in Nevada has been in the news recently, but it's not the first time the subject has been a hot topic. Remembering the "Sagebrush Rebellion" on Nevada Yesterdays.

Apr 18, 2014 | Metro Battles Corruption and the Mob
Efforts to drive organized crime out of Las Vegas, left one former Metro officer, Kent Clifford, with some controversies of his own.

Mar 21, 2014 | Natalie Rittenhouse
Family connections run deep for some pioneer families of Southern Nevada. Perhaps they aren't too well known these days. They should be. They are among the important pioneer families of southern Nevada.

Mar 7, 2014 | Test Ban
Strange as it may seem now, there was a time when detonating a nuclear bomb was healthy for Nevada's image.

Feb 21, 2014 | Green Felt Jungle
The pen is mightier than the roulette table? Some books over the years have tested that notion. Fifty years ago, a book about Las Vegas became a best-seller. But not everyone was happy with what the book had to say about the influence of organized crime on Las Vegas casinos.

Jan 16, 2014 | Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fifty years have gone by since Martin Luther King, Jr. made his way to Las Vegas, in a visit that had an impact. Local leaders had won the right to patronize once segregated casinos, but they hoped King would reinvigorate the local movement.

Jan 3, 2014 | Treaty of Ruby Valley
A treaty that was signed in the territory of Nevada 150 years ago is still raising questions. The Western Shoshone tribe has been offered tens of millions of dollars by the US government, but they say no thanks. In 1974, sisters Mary and Carrie Dann of Beowawe, became symbols of the tribes resistance.

Dec 5, 2013 | Lon Simmons
We take a look at how a legendary sports-broadcaster forged a path from Las Vegas to Candlestick Park. Switching from pitcher to broadcaster turned out to be a home run decision for Lon Simmons. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.

Nov 20, 2013 | JFK and Las Vegas Connections
Elements of John F. Kennedy's ties to Las Vegas have been mixed in with the puzzle-pieces surrounding his death. Las Vegas and Nevada were part of the orbit of the Kennedys, their allies, and their enemies. Senator Richard Bryan connects the dots on Nevada Yesterdays.

Web hosting facilities provided by Switch.