Planes, Trains and Automobiles…and Women!
Nancy Hardy, Public Services Outreach Assistant, has created a delightful photo essay to round out Women's History Month. Enjoy these fun photographs from our collections!
Since the arrival of the railroad at the beginning of the 20th century—and the subsequent land auction that founded Las Vegas—women have played a critical role in the city’s growth and cultural development. Interestingly, the evolution of transportation documented by photographs in UNLV Libraries Special Collections also tells us a great deal about women’s contributions during that era. Here we’ve gathered images that visually convey a part of the story of women, transportation, and even fashion from Las Vegas’ and Nevada’s earliest days.
This photograph was taken in about 1912 along the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad in Las Vegas. It’s hard to imagine unpaved desert streets and the havoc they must have played on clean hemlines! (David Coons Collection, PH: 0023-0013)
As the town was settled, women took on many traditional and non-traditional roles. Above, Anna Bracken is pictured at the Las Vegas post office in about 1908. Before marrying railroad agent and early postmaster Walter Bracken, Anna graduated from the University of Nevada and taught school in the booming mining town of Delamar—now a ghost town. The Brackens were among the earliest of the prominent families in Las Vegas history. (Ferron-Bracken Photo Collection, 0001, Album 3, 10.3)
These unidentified typesetters for the Las Vegas Age newspaper (ca. 1905-1915) may have set not only type, but also new directions for women in the workplace. (Squires Collection, PH: 0002-0010)
As automobiles came onto the scene, it may have been the fashion of the day that precluded women from changing a tire. This scene shows women in Nye County receiving some early roadside assistance. (Round Mountain Album, 0357, Album 1, 7.3)
The automobile also facilitated the efforts of trailblazing women. Pictured here is Anne Henrietta Martin, the first woman to run for the U.S. Senate. She ran two times in Nevada, in 1918 and 1920, losing both elections. Yet, Anne's other accomplishments included receiving an M.A. in History from Stanford in 1897, and establishing the University of Nevada's department of history. (Nevada State Historical Society Photo Collection, PH: 0033-0008)
In the early 1930s, Depression-era workers migrated to the area for construction jobs on the then-Boulder Dam site. Women aided in the struggle to raise families during this most difficult of times. Here a woman and her three children accept food being distributed from a truck in “Ragtown,” near Black Canyon in August of 1931. (Union Pacific Railroad Collection, PH: 0043-0032)
By the 1940s, western-themed gambling establishments were cropping up in Las Vegas, as well as “hotel courts” for motorists, like the Chief Hotel Court, located at 1201 Fremont St. Mamye Stocker and her dog appear to be a bit road-weary, but we also may remember that many women during the early part of the ‘40s were involved in hard work of the war effort at home. (Today, the refurbished neon sign of the Chief Hotel Court is on display at the northeast corner of the Fremont Street Experience and 4th Street.) (Harold Stocker Collection, PH: 0006-0012)
The late ‘40s and early ‘50s brought air transportation to Las Vegas. This photograph of women boarding a Bonanza Air Lines plane at Alamo Field (later McCarran Airport) reflects a time when air travelers wore the height of fashion—particularly this group of prominent Las Vegas women. The second woman from the left is Alta Ham, for whom the Fine Arts Building at UNLV is named. Noted female pilot and Bonanza Airlines Vice President Florence Murphy (in glamorous hat) stands next to Las Vegas pioneer Delphine Squires who is pictured in the light-colored fur coat. (Squires Collection, PH: 0002-0056)
As Las Vegas took on a reputation for glamour in the 1950s-60s, so did the women who populated shows and casinos. In this novel photo, a Sands Hotel showgirl drives a tram, taking guests to their rooms near the pool. Quite a unique mode of transportation—and fashion! (Sands Hotel Collection, PH: 0287-0094)
If you’d like to learn more about women and their part in the history of Nevada and Las Vegas, UNLV Libraries Special Collections’ Nevada Women’s Archives includes manuscripts, photographs and oral histories documenting the many women that have transformed the history of Las Vegas and southern Nevada.