Reno's Big Gamble: Image and Reputation in the Biggest Little City

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 33%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $22.84
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 34%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (9) from $22.84   
  • New (3) from $36.37   
  • Used (6) from $22.84   


When Pittsburgh socialite Laura Corey rolled into Reno, Nevada, in 1905 for a six-month stay, her goal was a divorce from the president of U.S. Steel. Her visit also provided a provocative glimpse into the city's future.

With its rugged landscape and rough-edged culture, Reno had little to offer early twentieth-century visitors besides the gambling and prostitution that had remained unregulated since Nevada's silver-mining heyday. But the possibility of easy divorce attracted national media attention, East Coast notables, and Hollywood stars, and soon the "Reno Cure" was all the rage. Almost overnight, Reno was on the map.

Alicia Barber traces the transformation of Reno's reputation from backward railroad town to the nationally known "Sin Central"—as Garrison Keillor observed, a place where you could see things that you wouldn't want to see in your own hometown. Chronicling the city's changing fortunes from the days of the Comstock Lode, she describes how city leaders came to embrace an identity as "The Biggest Little City in the World" and transform their town into a lively tourist mecca.

Focusing on the evolution of urban reputation, Barber carefully distinguishes between the image that a city's promoters hope to manufacture and the impression that outsiders actually have. Interweaving aspects of urban identity, she shows how sense of place, promoted image, and civic reputation intermingled and influenced each other-and how they in turn shaped the urban environment.

Quickie divorces notwithstanding, Reno's primary growth engine was gambling; modern casinos came to dominate the downtown landscape. When mainstream America balked, Reno countered by advertising "tax freedom" and natural splendor to attract new residents. But by the mid-seventies, unchecked growth and competition from Las Vegas had initiated a downslide that persisted until a carefully crafted series of special events and the rise of recreational tourism began to attract new breeds of tourists.

Barber's engaging story portrays Reno as more than a second-string Las Vegas, having pioneered most of the attractions—gaming and prizefighting, divorces and weddings—that made the larger city famous. As Reno continues to remold itself to weather the shifting winds of tourism and growth, Barber's book provides a cautionary tale for other cities hoping to ride the latest consumer trends.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700615940
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 9/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 332
  • Sales rank: 1,398,697
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Alicia Barber is visiting assistant professor of history at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she serves on the city's Historical Resources Commission and the board of directors of Preserve Nevada.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


Introduction: Becoming "The Biggest Little City"

1. "In the Middle of a Frightful Plain": THe Quest for a Reputation

2. "A Frontier Post of Civilization": Chasing Modernity in the Progressive Era

3. Selling Reno in the Consumer Age

4. "City of Sinful Fun": Reno Hits the Mainstream

5. Big City Struggles in the Biggest Little City

6. A New Reno for the New Millennium







Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)