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October 25, 2012
Nevada observes its 148th birthday starting today with a variety of events in the capital culminating in the Nevada Day parade on Saturday.
With just two years left until the Silver State’s sesquicentennial, Nevada Day is always a good time to reflect on the history of the state punctuated by its wild economic fluctuation.
The phrase “boom and bust” is familiar to anyone who has grown up in the state. Over the last few years we’ve become well acquainted with the bust part as the recession has taken a big bite out of the boom that was the housing industry.
But looking back, Nevada’s always been like that.
People stumbled into precious metals as they were crossing what was then considered a vast wasteland. Once folks found out you could get rich by digging a hole, or in some cases just by looking in the right spot, prospectors and speculators spread out into every corner, crag and canyon looking for gold and silver.
Towns sprang up and just as quickly collapsed as ore was discovered, mined and then hauled off.
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Mining just set off the first boom, there were others after that. In the 1920s, Nevada attracted the wealthy with its tax structure. At some point we decided that people shouldn’t have to subject themselves to a Byzantine bureaucracy to get a divorce, or that gambling wasn’t all that bad.
Each of these things sparked a boom, and often a bust. When that happened, some people would move on to the next boom, others would cling to the hope that the boom would return and still others began cooking up a new scheme. Most folks won’t know what triggers the next boom until it happens, and that’s part of the excitement.
It’s easy to be a Nevadan when everything’s going great.
The real Nevadans are those who’ve seen both sides of the Silver State’s economic coin, and stuck it out.