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JOUR 413 Media History: Reno History

Special Collections website

Reading room hours: M-F 9:00-5:00; other hours by appointment

775 682-5665


The assignment

Media History Project: 150 Years of Reno in the Media

Explain the historical significance of a person, event, place, and/or innovation that made an important contribution to the public image of Reno. Perhaps a journalist or public figure helped develop how Reno was viewed outside of the state or region. Maybe a particular event or place was pivotal in telling or selling the story of Reno. Maybe a new media technology marked a turning point in how people view Reno.

  • Identify and conduct research about a person, event, place, and/or innovation that is significant to media history in our city, state, or region
  • Find and analyze sources and artifacts that can help you tell the story of your subject's historical significance
  • Create a multimedia presentation that uses your research to explain the significance of your subject, placing it in present-day historical context

The final product will be either a 10-image picture story with captions and 1-minute audio narration, or a 1-minute video utilizing 10 images and voiceover narration, explaining your subject’s historical significance to your audience. 

150 Years of Reno in the Media

Reno History

Reno is celebrating its sesquicentennial (150th birthday) in 2018.

"Reno has always had a high media profile, from the magazine articles accompanying its founding in 1868 to the present day. The city’s early fame derived from its support for activities largely frowned upon elsewhere, combined with a steady parade of famous visitors who brought the spotlight with them. State laws enabling faster and easier divorces led to Reno’s reputation as the “Divorce Capital of the World” for six decades, and Nevada’s legalization of gambling in 1931 set it apart from the rest of the country until Atlantic City opened its first casinos in the late 1970s. Quick marriages, prizefighting bouts, and even prostitution (legal within Reno city limits until World War II) brought additional attention to the small western town. Still, visitors were often surprised to find the city surprisingly civilized and cosmopolitan for its size, the meaning behind the official slogan, “The Biggest Little City in the World.” In more recent years, Reno’s image has suffered some hits, largely due to the decline of its central casinos. Throughout its history, the city’s unique combination of attributes has made it rich fodder for film, television, theater, fiction, and media of all forms." -- Alicia Barber

Special Collections houses a wealth of published and unpublished materials documenting all aspects of the political and social history of Reno.

An important tip: History research is time-consuming. Start early!

Finding Background Information

Books in Special Collections, recommended for general history:

Barber, Alicia. Reno’s Big Gamble: Image and Reputation in the Biggest Little City


Examples of books on more specific topics:

Clifton, Guy. Dempsey in Nevada.

Raymond, C. Elizabeth. George Wingfield : owner and operator of Nevada

Find other sources books in the library catalog.


     Nevada Historical Society Quarterly 

     America History and Life

     UNR Library OneSearch (limit results to "Journal Articles" in the left column)

Online sources for background information:

     Online Nevada Encyclopedia

     Reno Historical (website and app)

     Illuminating Reno's Divorce Industry

Finding Primary Sources on Reno History

     Newspaper Archive Database



To order digital copies of Special Collections photos, use the shopping cart within the online collection and/or our order form for not-yet-digital photos. In the "notes" section of the form, mention that you are using the photo(s) for Journalism 413 and you will not be charged. Photos for personal use are $12 each.

     Oral Histories

The library of the Nevada Historical Society, at the north edge of campus, is also a rich repository of primary sources. It is located at 1650 North Virginia Street. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 12-4.

Special Collections Librarian

Donnelyn Curtis's picture
Donnelyn Curtis
Special Collections, 3rd Floor, MIKC
Room 216
775 682-5668; 775 772-3957

Journalism Librarian

Teresa Schultz's picture
Teresa Schultz
Room 214H
Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
University of Nevada, Reno

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