The labor disputes occurred just after Francis G. Newlands became a U.S. senator from Nevada. Newlands saw the future of Nevada not in mining, but in reclaiming the desert for agriculture by using irrigation. He believed agriculture could change Nevada’s boom-and-bust mining economy. Newlands was instrumental in passing the National Reclamation Act of 1902, which devoted the money from public land sales in 16 states to the construction of irrigation in desert states. Early projects were scheduled for Nevada. During this period Nevada also banned gambling (in 1910) and tried to limit the Reno divorce business, which had gained national and international attention after the turn of the century after it became known that under Nevada law many grounds existed for divorce. Divorce was much more difficult to obtain in other states at that time.
After World War I ended in 1918, attempts to suppress what others called immorality gave way to the values of a commercially oriented, wide-open frontier society that permitted such behavior. Illegal gambling, legalized prostitution, easy divorces, and the sale of alcoholic beverages in violation of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States became features of life in Reno and the small railroad town of Las Vegas. These businesses grew after 1931 when construction work began on Hoover Dam. In 1931, early in the Great Depression, gambling was again made legal and state residency required to obtain a divorce was reduced to six weeks. Social reform did not much interest Nevadans in the post World War I period. The death of Newlands in 1917 dealt a severe blow to progressive reform in the state.
Leaders who had begun their careers in mining towns dominated the state for the next 40 years, when Nevada approved businesses (gambling and prostitution) that other states called immoral.
George Wingfield, Key Pittman, and Pat McCarran all began their careers in these mining towns. Wingfield first emerged as the economic mogul who, along with U.S. Senator George Nixon of Nevada and New York financier Bernard Baruch, put together the enormously profitable Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company. Through his control of several Nevada banks, Wingfield influenced both parties in the state from the 1910s until 1932, when the Wingfield banking chain collapsed. McCarran was elected to the Senate in 1932 and remained influential in Nevada until his death in 1954. Critics have identified McCarran with the anti-Communist crusade of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. McCarran sponsored the controversial Internal Security Act of 1950, which required members of the Communist Party or Communist-front organizations to register with the government; allowed the internment of Communists during times of national emergency; prohibited the employment of Communists in defense plants; and prevented anyone who had been a member of a “totalitarian” government from entering the United States.
The federal government played an increasingly larger role in Nevada life after the beginning of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The recovery programs of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt included public projects such as the construction of the Hoover Dam. World War II (1939-1945) brought military air bases to Reno and Las Vegas. The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service managed much of the 86 percent of the state still owned by the federal government. During the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission chose a Nevada site to test nuclear weapons in the 1950s, bringing additional jobs and prosperity to southern Nevada. "Nevada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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