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Useful Notes / Nevada

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Vegas is down at the bottom, since that's probably what most of you were searching for anyway.

The 36th state admitted to the United States, and quite possibly the one with the most outsized cultural influence.

Nevada (nuh-VADnote -uh, from Spanish nevada meaning "snow-capped mountain") — nicknamed the "Battle-born State" after its origins in the American Civil War, the "Sagebrush State" after one of its most common plants, and the "Silver State" reflecting its mining heritage — traces its origins back to the western regions of the Utah Territory, carved away because of the discovery of gold and silver deposits that the feds wanted more direct control over. For most of its history, mining, especially of silver, was Nevada's main industry, and despite developments over the course of the 20th century it remains a considerable part of the state's economy. Around 3/4ths of its population lives in the Las Vegas metro area at the very southern tip of the state, wedged between the California and Arizona borders, with most of the rest living around Reno near the border with California. In addition to California, Arizona, and Utah, the state also borders Idaho and Oregon to the north. More than 80% of Nevadan land is owned by the federal government, the highest percentage of any state.note  The state capital of Carson City is also one of a very small number of "independent cities" in the United States—i.e., cities that are not part of any county.note 

Nevada has an interesting history. It holds the distinction of being the least-populous state in the history of the United States, achieving statehood in 1864 with a population of less than 12,000 — less than 1/5th of the prescribed minimum of 60,000 residents for new states. At the time, the American Civil War was raging, and the Republican-controlled Congress was worried about Abraham Lincoln's chances in the upcoming presidential election; many Americans simply wanted an end to the fighting and were willing to make terms with the Confederates to make that happen. Nevada's statehood was rushed to shore up Lincoln's electoral vote share, as the state's mining-dominated economy leaned its politics heavily toward the Republican party. As it turned out, Lincoln won the election handily and didn't need Nevada's 3 electoral votes, but statehood can't be revoked! Nevada retained the distinction of being last in population for almost 100 years. In the 1940 census, it recorded a population of just over 110,000, less than half of the next-least-populous, Wyoming, and fewer people than New Bedford, Massachusetts, a town you've never heard ofnote .

Nevada's situation changed, however, in the early 20th century. The state had very loose laws regarding various vices like alcohol and gambling, which made it an attractive destination for anyone involved in those businesses; it was the first state in the Union to establish no-fault divorce, leading to the now-mostly-Forgotten Trope Divorce in Reno, and remains the only state with fully legalized prostitution.note  Over the decades, Las Vegas grew from a tiny mining town to an entertainment powerhouse, and the city is still the center of the American gambling industry and the live entertainment that sprung up around it — it's a main center of magic, burlesque, circuses, you name it. The state's population exploded in response, reaching one million by the late '80s and now just over three million — most of whom are transplants from other states, as only 25% of Nevadans were born there. Today, tourism catering to those looking to indulge in the state's libertarian philosophy is by far Nevada's largest industry.note 

Besides mining and tourism, the other main element of Nevada's economy is all that previously mentioned federal land, most of which is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and caters to tourists more interested in nature than casinos. A good chunk of it, however, is military land, including the famed Area 51 that supposedly holds all the secret alien spacecraft captured by the Air Force or whatever. (Seriously, though, it's a heavily guarded spy plane testing site. Don't try and storm it.) The vast expanses of virtually empty desert and its historically low population made it an attractive location for the military to conduct tests far from prying eyes and without much risk to the locals. The military's presence in the state expanded during World War II, when Nevada politicians pushed the federal government to build airfields and military bases in the state; this caused the population to increase by over 45%, jump starting the population boom in Reno and Las Vegas. The federal government, including the military, is one of Nevada's largest employers and federal employees make up a significant portion of in-movers.

Despite its libertarian bent, Nevada has a good bellwether status in U.S. politics; it has voted for the overall winner of each election since 1912 save for Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Donald Trump in 2016. Nowadays, in part due to the influence of Californian migrants living in Vegas and Reno, as well as a large and rapidly growing Hispanic population, it tends to lean more Democratic than Republican; it currently has two Democrats in the Senate and both state legislative chambers are under Democratic control, though its races are still fairly competitive and it has had Republican governors and senators in its recent history, with the state electing Republican Joe Lombardo (former Sheriff of Clark County) to the governor's office in 2022. A political county map of Nevada is basically a sea of red with a tiny speck of blue around Las Vegas and a strip of blue along the California border north of Lake Tahoe. Joe Biden won exactly two counties in the state (Clark and Washoe, also losing Carson City), but since Clark County accounts for 74 percent of the state's population, that was more than enough for Democrats. (Not to mention that of the remaining 26% of the population, more than half is in Washoe County.)

In fiction, it mostly exists to be the home of Las Vegas, though Reno is also popular in older works or period pieces, as it was Nevada's largest city until Vegas' population explosion. The other main purpose of Nevada is in sci-fi and/or conspiracy media focusing on Area 51 and other military testing sites in the state. The pre-statehood Nevada Territory can show up in Westerns too, as its tiny population makes it a convenient setting for stories taking place far away from civilization.