I was recently contacted by Turner Publishing with the offer to receive a complimentary copy of “Historic Photos of Reno” by Donnelyn Curtis. All they asked of me in return was that I provide an honest review of the book here on my website. I replied that I would be happy to do so, and the book appeared at my doorstep just a few days ago.
As an amateur photographer and writer, a graduate of the University of Nevada, and a former resident of Reno, I assumed I would find great pleasure in combing through the composition of someone who has made a career out of compiling and organizing historical information about the area. I was not disappointed.
Donnelyn Curtis is the Director of Research Collection & Services and head of Special Collections at the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries, where she has been a librarian since 1998. She embarked upon the painstaking task of compiling some of the most poignant and compelling black and white photographs, complete with text and captions, that Reno historians have meticulously gathered over the years. The combination of context and imagery provides a window into the raw soul of a city that has weathered a a rich and sorted past.
The images, text and captions are organized in distinct periods:
- Hub of the Mining Boom (1868-1909)
- Emerging Playground (1910 – 1949)
- New Approaches to Economic Development (1930-1949)
- Growing and Thriving (1950-1979)
The “Biggest Little City in the World” has always taken an unconventional approach. Long before Las Vegas, Reno, Nevada was referred to as “sin city.” Gambling, prize-fighting, prostitution, and divorce were prevalent. There was a certain lawlessness that attracted people to Reno. Adversely, since Reno’s beginning a strong, moral community of men and women have carved out their lives against the beautiful backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the Truckee River which rolls through the center of town. These lawless and law-abiding factions contributed to a menagerie of people and pursuits that have defined the course of Reno’s creation and expansion. There are so many facets to Reno, Nevada, and “Historic Photos of Reno” brings that to light.
It is eery, exciting, and educational to follow your way through the pages and see the history of the city of Reno, Nevada unfold. Curtis digs up forgotten people and places that stare up at you from the pages and remind you all things change and human time is fleeting. The photographs project personality and feeling that speaks a thousand words. You will look into the eyes of both ordinary and exceptional individuals that contributed to the uniqueness of Reno’s identity. You will learn for whom the city was named after, how it got its start, and what carried it forward into the modern age.
What is it about us that loves to peer into the past? I for one saw so many similarities to where Reno was and is now. Entrepreneurs and motivated minds working hard to reinvent the city and carry it forward into the future. A relentless desire for a new and improved identity, and yet, a strong connection to a proud history and the land it was built on.
Curtis will be doing a book signing at signing at the Meadow Wood Court Barnes & Noble on June 14th from 2-4pm. Get out and pick up a signed copy. It is the good storytellers who give us greater context.