Saturday, October 25, 2014


 pages 137, 139-142 

"The temperature was 112 degrees on May 15, 1905, when Senator William Clark came to establish the new town site for his railroad depot.  He had  bulldozed forty acres clear of desert scrub, laid out the main streets in a grid, and announced an auction to sell numbered lots on a map.  The bidders were speculators from Los Angeles and agents for eastern investors.  Some bidders brought their own tents.  Others stayed in a tent hotel named Hotel Las Vegas.  The auction platform was erected roughly where the Plaza hotel-casino stands today in the old downtown.

The investors were bidding on twelve hundred parcels.  Each lot was 25 feet wide and 140 feet deep....  These lines on paper represented a future town with streets, stores, saloons, housing, churches, schools, electricity, plumbing, and a septic system.  In the spirit of Gilded Age speculation and the town's gambling future, Senator Clark's auction drew the speculators into a f4renzy of bidding for numbered squares on a map at grossly inflated prices...

Senator Clark had a name for being a dishonest businessman.  His unsavory reputation derived from documented accounts that he had bribed Montana state legislators to appoint him senator; the profusion of legal suits brought by former business partners who accused him, with good evidence, of cheating them out of profits; and his marriage to a teenager forty years his junior who had been a ward in his home.  Senator Clark was from Butte, Montana, and had made his first fortune in copper smelters.

Mark Twain, who first came to Nevada in 1861, when his brother was appointed secretary to the governor of Nevada Territory, later wrote about Senator Clark and judged him to be considerably worse than the average Gilded Age robber baron: "He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary."  Although Clark County, which includes most of southern Nevada, is named for the dodgy senator, there is no statue of this Las Vegas founding father anywhere to be seen..."

UNREAL CITY is C 2014 by Judith Nies and published by Nation Books (National Institute and Perseus Books Group

Missy here!  I do wonder if Anna's relationship with W.A. was what made W.A. Clark's life really worthwhile and if in it he experienced love, acceptance, and escape from business.  I suspect so.  In this author's case the comment about "marrying a teenager" certainly obscures the possibilities.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a real story here.