Northern Nevada’s gold and silver mines were a close second to the gold mines found in 1849 at Sutter’s Mill in California. The rush to Virginia City in the late 1850s even brought Samuel Clemens to the Comstock where he failed as a miner but wrote regularly for the Territorial Enterprise under the synonym of Mark Twain.
Around the turn of the 20th Century, Goldfield and Tonopah became the nations largest gold and silver mining location. Al W Moe’s book, The Roots of Reno tells the story of their hey-days and the saloon owners that moved from those dusty mining towns to Reno
When the gold-veins of Tonopah and Goldfield ran out, the casino owners moved to Reno, where even greater riches awaited. Together, a group of four men (Nick Abelman, Bill Graham, Jim McKay, George Wingfield) took over Reno’s casinos and held sway over the town for the next three decades.
Together they administered policy, collected juice, ran politicians, and owned the red-light district and most of the town’s casinos.
Reno was truly Hell on Wheels in the 1920s. The rest of the nation considered the town Sodom and Gomorra, but that’s only half the truth. Reno offered everything in the way of adult entertainment, from speakeasy’s and houses of ill-repute, to open gaming – legal or not. And it took plenty of sins by the founding fathers to make Reno “The Biggest Little City in the World.”
When that wasn’t enough they took over the banks and laundered money for crooks like “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Alvin Karpis, and Ma Barker’s boys, and offered safety to “Baby Face” Nelson. It was a good gig.
The Reno Four dictated policy all over Northern Nevada, taking special care of Reno and Lake Tahoe casinos up until the late 1950s. Their influence made Reno before Bill Harrah or “Pappy” Smith ever arrived, needing an introduction and permission to build their own casinos, Harold’s Club and Harrah’s.
Reno and Lake Tahoe each produced a colorful and exciting history of casino gambling, and The Roots of Reno tells the story well, with plenty of vintage photos of the clubs that made the towns famous. The final chapters tell about Frank Sinatra’s adventures at the helm of the Cal-Neva at North Shore Lake Tahoe – his time with Marilyn Monroe, and Sam Giancana’s hidden interest in the casino.
The Roots of Reno is just $14.99 – and if you want the Kindle edition for just $3.95 you can be reading in two minutes!