Las Vegas can be found in the western United States and is located in the state of Nevada. Las Vegas, Spanish for 'The Meadows', was originally discovered in 1829 by a party of explorers led by Antonio Armijo, a Mexican trader searching for a route to Los Angeles. Before the discovery of the valley the route, Las Vegas was referred to as the 'journey of death'. However, exploration for water revealed an abundance of springs in the valley that reduced the journey by several days.
Las Vegas remained virtually unknown until 1844, when explorer John C. Fremont, made an entry in his travel log detailing how his expedition camped at the springs. Nevertheless, it was another ten years before Las Vegas became a permanent settlement for Mormon missionaries from Salt Lake City. They built a fort to create a mail stop between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, becoming the first non-Indian settlement to do so. It was also the Mormons' intention to teach farming to the Paiute Indians. However, in 1857 this was abandoned when the Paiutes raided the fort and rejected their teachings.
In 1902, U.S. Senator William Clark from Montana bought the rights to the Mormon settlement, along with water rights and 2,000 acres of land. It was his intention to develop a town and he managed to construct a railroad for steam locomotives.
The town was officially founded in 1905 and incorporated in 1911 with a population of only 800. Initially strict anti-gambling laws governed the state of Nevada but this all changed in 1931 when gambling was legalized throughout the state of Nevada. That same year divorce laws were liberalized in Nevada, making Las Vegas the place to obtain a divorce after only six weeks of residency.
It was after World War II that Las Vegas began to develop its reputation of 'Sin City'. Hotels and casinos were developed and entertainment and tourism became the valley's largest employer. Accordingly, by the 1960s wealthy businessmen were being attracted to the city. Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian was a major player in developing the modern city; he bought the Flamingo and in 1968 opened the biggest hotel in the world, the International Hotel.
Now, a hundred years after its conception, Las Vegas is the largest city of the 20th Century with a population exceeding two million. Wonderful resorts are still being created, all bigger and more luxurious than ever. Finally, Las Vegas remains the strongest contender for the world's major international tourist attraction.
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