Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Flashy Facts About Nevada

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Over the years, Nevada has enjoyed more than just 15 minutes of fame. After all, it’s home to the world’s foremost Liberace museum, its streets were once patrolled by both the Rat Pack and Wyatt Earp, and areas of its deserts are rumored to play host to some very special interplanetary tourists. Below, 25 lesser-known facts about the Silver State (on the house) to get you started.

1. Nevada is the country’s seventh-biggest state at 70,264,320 acres. However, the U.S. government owns 56,961,778 acres of that, according to a 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service [PDF], or around 81 percent of Nevada’s total area. The non-federally owned part of Nevada is actually smaller than West Virginia.

2. The state takes it name from the Sierra Nevada mountain range: "sierra nevada" is Spanish for "snowy mountains."


As one of the most mountainous states in the country, Nevada's peaks have snow throughout much of the year. But it's also the driest state in the country, with an average rainfall of around 9.5 inches.

4. Nevadans hold Guinness World Records for the longest concert by multiple artists (lasting over 372 hours), the largest margarita (at 8500 tart gallons), the most people simultaneously making sandwiches (1481 sandwich-loving souls in total), and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the costliest magic show ($28 million could buy a ton of top hats, plus plenty of rabbits to snooze in them).

5. According to the United States Department of Energy (DOE), the Nevada National Security Site, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site, accommodated 928 atomic bomb tests between 1951 and 1992 [PDF], including many underground detonations and a series of simultaneous ones, for a grand total of 1021 detonations. Underground areas of the site have been used for nuclear tests in recent years, but its days of atomic detonations ended more than two decades ago. Of course, not before thousands of civilian and military “downwinders” were exposed to high levels of radiation, National Geographic reports.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

6. Sufferers of coulrophobia might want to avoid Tonopah, Nevada, home to a clown-themed motel filled with creepy figurines. As if that weren't eerie enough, the lodgings are right next door to the Old Toponah Cemetery, where around 300 miners, outlaws, and other pioneers slumber eternally.

7. The so-called Silver State is actually one of the world’s largest producers of gold. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that Nevada’s Great Basin area provides around 11 percent of all gold in the global market and around 74 percent of the United States'.

8. As of 2014, Las Vegas had 150,544 total hotel rooms for rent. It would take one person 288 years to test-drive every one, according to the Retail Association of Nevada. Good thing there are so many options: The city hosted over 41 million visitors and 22,000 conventions last year [PDF].


On March 1, 1869, Nevada became the first state to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude" and establishes Congress's right to enforce it.

10. Opened in 1936, the Hoover Dam straddles the Colorado River on the Arizona/Nevada border. The most massive public works project in U.S. history, its 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete could pave a 16-foot-wide highway stretching from San Francisco to New York City [PDF].

11. Given the scope of the project, it makes sense, then, that Hoover Dam construction zones were the first to require entrants to wear hard hats.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

One statue in Boulder City pays tribute to, as Roadside America puts it, one of the "unsung workers" on the Hoover Dam construction site. Erected in 2007, the sculpture honoring Alabam, the Dam's self-proclaimed "sanitary engineer," shows the man toting rolls of toilet paper and a broom. "Alabam's role might not seem important, but it was," artist Steven Liguori has said. "Can you imagine cleaning latrines for 7000 men in 120 degree heat? Can you imagine the smell? Oh my god!"

13. Riveted blue jeans were the brainchild of Reno-based tailor Jacob Davis (born Jacob Youphes). In 1870, the Latvian immigrant came up with the idea of using rivets to strengthen the pockets on work pants [PDF]. As pants and overalls started to fly off shelves (at “premium” $3 prices, too), he contacted blue jean inventor and magnate Levi Strauss to see if Strauss would like to jointly apply for a patent. Strauss agreed, and a successful partnership was born.

14. As the Mark Twain House & Museum explains, one Samuel Clemens kicked off his writing career—and first took on the more familiar pen name of Mark Twain—while working for the Virginia City, Nevada, newspaper Territorial Enterprise, a job he took after silver prospecting didn't pan out.

15. If Reno and Vegas are making you feel a bit cramped, you can always take a drive down Highway 50, known as “The Loneliest Road in America.” In 1987, Life magazine suggested travelers on the 287-mile stretch between Fernley and Ely have "survival skills" to navigate the remote route.


In a promotional event for 1996’s Independence Day (which features lots of action set in nearby Area 51), Nevada's State Route 375 was dubbed “The Extraterrestrial Highway,” as a nod to alleged alien activity nearby. The Associated Press reported that then-Nevada governor Bob Miller was on hand for the event, and that he had welcoming words for any future visitors: “Most people, when they look to the skies, see friend or foe. Not me. I see intergalactic tourists."

17. Since the 1920s, anthropologists and archaeologists from the American Museum of Natural History and other institutions have been unearthing ancient human artifacts in Nevada’s Hidden Cave, which give clues to early groups’ lifestyles and movements. The protected area served as a prehistoric stop-over shelter, and has preserved large troves of tools, trinkets, and coprolites. Still, researchers have determined that while it was convenient as temporary lodging, you really wouldn’t want to (and couldn’t) live there.

18. Covering just 11.5 acres of land, the micro nation of the Republic of Molossia can be found near Dayton, Nevada. Founded by James Spielman and Kevin Baugh in 1977, it was initially a "nomadic country," and was finally (per the Republic's website) "transplanted" to Nevada in 1995. It has its own navy, space program, bank, post office, and measurement system, among other features.

19. Nevada is home to the Washoe, Northern Paiute, and Southern Paiute tribes, among others, all of which played integral roles in representing and defending the interests of native groups during the U.S.’s aggressive westward expansion. The federally-recognized Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, for example, spent a good portion of the 20th century in a fight to regain parts of their territory, and successfully won organizational recognition in 1934. Meanwhile, the Northern Paiute religious leader Wovoka founded the powerful Ghost Dance movement of 1891, which spread throughout Western tribes and served as stirring commentary on the challenges of the era.

20. In the summer of 1864, with the Civil War roiling the south and a big election only months away, Lincoln supporters across the country hustled to secure statehood for pro-Abe territories. Nevada started putting together its state constitution on July 4 and managed to safely submit it to Congress just under the early November deadline. When the copy they’d sent by land didn’t make the trip, California Telegraph Company top gun James Guild managed to telegraph the entire 16,543-word Nevada constitution out on October 26, Benjamin F. Shearer’s The Uniting States explains. Two days later, it reached Lincoln’s hands in time and could be duly proclaimed.

21. Descended from the domesticated animals kept by mostly Spanish and native groups, almost half of the country’s wild horses live in Nevada, Smithsonian magazine notes, and about half of its wild burros, too.

22. Nevada is chock-full of hot springs: The Reno Gazette-Journal reports that many of the state’s more than 300 naturally-occurring springs can be found in the northern part of the state.

23. Some stereotypes are right on the money. Las Vegas is indeed the wedding capital of the world: the greater metropolitan area hosts more than 100,000 weddings per year, ABC News reports.

24. University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor David Damore calls Nevada the "original swing state": As the Las Vegas Sun reported, Nevadans have thrown their electoral votes behind 31 of 38 eventual presidents since statehood, and last missed the mark in 1976.

25. The residents and visitors of Nevada don’t let their arid surroundings keep them from enjoying seafood. As the Retail Association of Nevada boasts, more than 60,000 pounds of shrimp is consumed in Las Vegas alone per day, which is more than is gobbled down by the rest of the country combined.

Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Humans Might Have Practiced Brain Surgery on Cows 5000 Years Ago
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi

In the 1970s, archaeologists discovered a site in France containing hundreds of cow skeletons dating back 5000 to 5400 years. The sheer number wasn't surprising—human agriculture in that part of the world was booming by 3000 BCE. What perplexed scientists was something uncovered there a few decades later: a cow skull bearing a thoughtfully drilled hole. Now, a team of researchers has released evidence that suggests the hole is an early example of animal brain surgery.

Fernando Ramírez Rozzi, a paleontologist with the French National Center for Scientific Research, and Alain Froment, an anthropologist at the Museum of Mankind in Paris, published their findings in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. After comparing the opening to the holes chiseled into the skulls of humans from the same era, they found the bones bore some striking similarities. They didn't show any signs of fracturing from blunt force trauma; rather, the hole in the cow skull, like those in the human skulls, seemed to have been carved out carefully using a tool made for exactly that purpose. That suggests that the hole is evidence of the earliest known veterinary surgery performed by humans.

Trepanation, or the practice of boring holes into human skulls, is one of the oldest forms of surgery. Experts are still unsure why ancient humans did this, but the level of care that went into the procedures suggests that the surgery was likely used to treat sick patients while they were still alive. Why a person would perform this same surgery on a cow, however, is harder to explain.

The authors present a few theories, the first being that these ancient brain surgeons were treating a sick cow the same way they might treat a sick human. If a cow was suffering from a neural disease like epilepsy, perhaps they though that cutting a hole in its head would relieve whatever was agitating the brain. The cow would have needed to be pretty special to warrant such an effort when there were hundreds of healthy cows living on the same plot of land, as evidenced by the skeletons it was found with.

Another possible explanation was that whoever operated on the cow did so as practice to prepare them for drilling into the heads of live humans one day. "Cranial surgery requires great manual dexterity and a complete knowledge of the anatomy of the brain and vessel distribution," the authors write in the study. "It is possible that the mastery of techniques in cranial surgery shown in the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods was acquired through experimentation on animals."

Either way, the bovine patient didn't live to see the results of the procedure: The bone around the hole hadn't healed at all, which suggests the cow either died during surgery or wasn't alive to begin with.

How the Log Cabin Became an American Symbol

Many Americans have a special fondness for the log cabin, viewing it as the home of heroic pioneers, or at least a great weekend escape. But it wasn’t always this way. The log cabin was originally disdained here in America—and it took decades of pop culture and political shifts to elevate the structure to the vaunted status it holds today.


While there’s plenty of imagery portraying log cabins in the English colonies of Plymouth and Jamestown (established in Massachusetts and Virginia, respectively), these depictions couldn’t be further from the truth. The English had no history of log cabins—they preferred more “refined” frame houses, and would sometimes squat in subterranean dugouts until they could be built. In fact, the log cabin was first constructed in the New World in the short-lived colony of New Sweden, established in the Delaware River Valley in 1638. Such structures had been around continental Europe for centuries, and the Swedish colonists were simply using a skill that had been passed down through generations.

Log cabins might have remained a Swedish anomaly in the New World had it not been for the German and Scots-Irish who adopted them after arriving in the mid-1700s. But none of these log cabins looked much like the quaint, cozy structures we revere today. They often had dirt floors, were crawling with lice and other pests, and were prone to drafts; as one traveler remarked around 1802, the gaps between logs were "filled up with clay, but so very carelessly, that the light may be seen through in every part." Yet as uncomfortable as these cabins were, they offered impoverished immigrants an invaluable slice of freedom. Cheaper and far easier to construct than finer homes, the log cabin thus became the go-to home for newcomers to the New World, helping millions of desperate refugees turn their dreams of settling in America into a reality.

But the practicality of the structure did nothing for the log cabin's public image, or that of its inhabitants. Benjamin Franklin wrote that there were only two sorts of people, "those who are well dress'd and live comfortably in good houses," and those who "are poor, and dirty, and ragged and ignorant, and vicious and live in miserable cabins or garrets." Dr. Benjamin Rush, Surgeon General of the Middle Department of the Continental Army and a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, said the cabin dweller was “generally a man who has out-lived his credit or fortune in the cultivated parts."

As for cabins themselves, they were generally seen as “rude” and “miserable,” and no self-respecting American would deign to live in one. Not permanently, at least. Cabins back then were temporary stepping stones meant to be abandoned once something better could be afforded; barring that good fortune, they were to be covered with clapboard and added to as the cornerstone for a finer home.


But the log cabin and its inhabitants’ public image got a makeover after the War of 1812. The nation had just defeated the British for a second time, and Americans were feeling good, forging their own identity and distinguishing themselves from the old world. Log cabins—ubiquitous and appropriately rustic—started taking on an all-American sheen.

Soon enough, writers and artists were portraying them in a positive light. One notable example is James Fenimore Cooper’s 1823 novel The Pioneers, where the house of protagonist Natty Bumppo is described as being “a rough cabin of logs.” That scene in turn is thought to have inspired artist Thomas Cole’s 1826 painting, Daniel Boone Sitting at the Door of His Cabin on the Great Osage Lake. Together, these works helped spark an entire movement that saw the pioneer as a hero. Log cabin dwellers were no longer disdained for their rough edges; these same edges were what made them romantic and distinctly American.

A "Harrison & Tyler" woodcut used in the 1840 campaign
A "Harrison & Tyler" woodcut used in the 1840 campaign
Library of Congress // Public Domain

Similar shifts occurred in the political realm during the 1840 election. President Martin van Buren faced an uphill battle for reelection that year, and a politically aligned newspaper thought it could give him a leg up by launching a classist attack against rival William Henry Harrison: “Give [Harrison] a barrel of Hard Cider, and settle a pension of $2000 a year on him, and my word for it, he will sit the remainder of his days in his Log Cabin.” In other words: Harrison was an ignorant hick.

It was a lie—the wealthy Harrison actually lived in a mansion—but most of the public didn’t know it, and his rivals assumed voters would scorn Harrison’s poverty. They were wrong: Millions of Americans still lived in log cabins, struggling day-in-and-day-out, and they were not impressed. (“No sneer could have been more galling,” John McMaster wrote in his 1883 A History of the People of the United States from the Revolution to the Civil War.)

In no time at all, Americans rich and poor were displaying their Harrison love and log cabin pride by holding cabin raisings and patronizing specially-constructed log cabin bars, marching in massive parades with log cabins pulled by teams of horses, and purchasing heaps of Harrison-themed, log cabin-stamped merchandise, including tea sets, hair brushes, and hope chests. With his eye on the prize, Harrison gamely played into this fib, telling frenzied crowds that he’d rather relax in his log cabin than run for president, but that he had heeded their call to run for the White House. That fall, he won handily.

Though Harrison died 32 days into his term, his log cabin campaign became a reliable template for candidates in the years ahead. Franklin Pierce downplayed his family’s wealth in 1852, instead focusing on a brief time spent in a log cabin as a baby. James Buchanan did the same in 1856, and Lincoln’s log cabin youth was brought up consistently come 1860. “Like President Harrison, Mr. Lincoln has spent about one third part of his life in a log cabin,” one biography read.

"Across the Continent: Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way" by Frances Flora Palmer
"Across the Continent: Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way"
Frances Flora Palmer, Library of Congress

Log cabins became an even more persistent presence in the arts, culture, and commerce in the decades ahead, making cameos in iconic images like Frances Flora Bond Palmer’s 1868 painting Across the Continent: Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way, in which the cabin is the symbol of an ever-expanding American empire. The log cabin also figured into tales high and low, such as The Log-Cabin Lady—a prescriptive memoir about escaping low-class drudgery—and The Log-Cabin Bishop, an uplifting account of a man who brought religion to the frontier. The Log Cabin Library dime novels even peddled swashbuckling adventures to young boys.


Most powerful in terms of ingraining log cabin adoration in young Americans, though, were the scores of false histories that projected the log cabin back onto Plymouth and Jamestown. Historians of the late-19th century had heard so much about the log cabin that they just assumed it was key to American growth and expansion, leading to assertions like John G. Palfrey’s 1860 claim, “[Settlers] made themselves comfortable in log-houses,” and images like W.L. Williams 1890s painting, Plymouth in 1622. The latter shows the colony as a smattering of log cabins and was widely distributed to elementary school classrooms, cementing the image of a cabin-laden Plymouth.

A set of 1970s Lincoln Logs
A set of 1970s Lincoln Logs
Tinker*Tailor loves Lalka, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

From then on, the log cabin was portrayed as the ultimate proverbial rag from which the rich nation of the U.S. had emerged, as when historian Warder Stevens declared in 1916, “The story of America is written in log cabins.” It’s this tradition of myth-making and believing that inspired subsequent outpourings of log cabin nostalgia: Lincoln Logs in the interwar years, log cabin chic of the 1990s, and today’s reality programs showing urbanites fleeing to the woods.

These days, the log cabin is emblazoned on money and sewn onto flags; it fascinates modern artists like Will Ryman (who created a gold-resin-covered log cabin at the New Orleans Museum of Art); and it appears in music of all genres, from country crooner Porter Wagoner’s 1965 track “An Old Log Cabin for Sale” to T-Pain and Lil Wayne’s 2008 romantic rap “Can’t Believe It.” That said, perhaps the log cabin itself is the nation’s greatest rags-to-riches story; it went from being sneered at as a poor immigrants’ hovel to being revered as an American icon. Not bad for something that writer John Filson, discussing Boone’s home circa 1784, described as “not extraordinary.”


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