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309 S. Valley View Blvd., LV, 89107
inside Springs Preserve

Come and Learn Some Secrets of Tea at the museum on June 22!


Are you interested in exploring a world of teas? Well, then come join us for Secrets of Tea, a tea tasting featuring global flavors! Louise Carruth, founder of Little Candle Tea Company, will give a multimedia talk on the local history of herbal tea drinking. Louise will discuss the particulars of tea leaves, their health benefits, and ideal ways to enjoy tea. In addition to her talk, she will lead a tasting of four different teas.

Tickets are $8/person or $15/pair. You may purchase them online.

UNLV prof sums up LV aviation from barn-storming to junkets

by Joan Whitely

Most Las Vegans take for granted the complex aviation system that delivers daily loads of tourists to town. But air access is precisely what enabled Las Vegas to grow into a tourist destination. That’s the thesis of UNLV professor Daniel Bubb, who spoke to the Friends at their May 16 meeting.

Perhaps the most ingenious use of aviation was in the mid-1950s by Warren “Doc” Bayley. Bubb documents this theory in his 2012 book, “Landing in Las Vegas: Commercial Aviation and the Making of a Tourist City.” The book combines his interests as a history professor and former commercial pilot.

Bayley’s Hacienda Hotel opened in 1956, but state authorities didn’t approve its casino until late 1956. Bayley kept the Hacienda afloat financially by arranging for an airline to fly tourists out to the Hacienda in a package deal that combined airfare and lodging. In effect he started the “junket” phenomenon, which powered Las Vegas tourism for decades.

crashed airplane
A small plane hangs over the baggage area at McCarran International Airport in memory of the role of Doc Bayley's Hacienda in popularizing visits to Las Vegas by air.

The first person to fly an airplane in Nevada was Frank Burnside, who trucked his 80-horsepower Morse airplane to Ely in parts, and assembled it to do demonstration flights. In early 1920, a travelling pilot visited Las Vegas, giving locals an airplane ride for $10 apiece. Not long after, Anderson Field -- the town’s first airstrip -- opened just south of present-day Sahara Avenue at the Las Vegas Strip.

Early aviation was unsafe by today’s standards, the UNLV professor pointed out. Planes - built largely out of wood and cloth -- were fragile. The planes’ airspeeds were low. No standardized training for pilots existed. “Daredevils on steroids” is Bubb’s definition of early pilots.

crashed airplane
But, crashes happened

There were no standards, either, for what constituted a runway, an airport or adequate airplane maintenance. In the years 1918 through 1927, the United States experienced 209 airplane crashes, involving the deaths of 38 pilots, historical statistics show. Finally, the federal Air Commerce Act of 1926 organized the burgeoning industry by setting safety standards for pilot, planes and airfields.

The same act, Bubb explains, switched the federal focus from subsidizing the industry rather than individual airstrips.

Gone were the days of “iron navigation,” which Bubb defines as the informal practice among pilots to “stay left of the railroad” in order to avoid collision. With no air traffic control or air maps, pilots were using the visual cue of railroad tracks to guide their flights.

Also in the ‘20s, the first national network of air routes to carry U.S. mail developed. Las Vegas was on a natural path between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. It also was determined to be a safer site for landing and takeoff than Reno. And so Las Vegas became the Nevada stop for air mail delivery. The first air service to stop in Las Vegas for mail pickup was Western Air Express, which eventually merged with another company to form TWA.

The early way we did airmail

Bubb ran out of time before he could have taken his Friends audience up to the 21st century. But, we have invited him back to talk in February 2020. Look out for the official announcement!

Old Native Roasting Pits Still Visible in Southern NV

by Joan Whitely

Circular depressions in the desert soil that hikers can easily miss are actually a significant sign of human culture. On May 18, visiting archaeologist Spencer Lodge recently told our Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas audience that those circles were actually roasting pits used by indigenous people. “They’re the original slow cooker,” Lodge said.

Lodge, who works for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, was talking about pits he has studied at the National Desert Wildlife Refuge just north of Las Vegas. The audience included some local Paiutes who have used roasting pits with Lodge to recreate the ancient way of cooking.

Location of the National Desert Wildlife Refuge

Most pits he has seen in the refuge are just under 11 meters wide. A telltale sign of a pit is a ring of whitish rock fragments in a circle. The fragments form a circular “midden,” which is composed of limestone rocks that were discarded after being cracked and broken by the pit heat. Some roasting-pit middens can even be seen on Google Earth, Lodge said.

The remains of a roasting pit

Early people used roasting pits, in part, to cook plants that are inedible raw. According to Lodge, men usually dug the pits while mostly women collected plants. Some plants they collected to roast and eat. Others they collected were green plants used to layer over the cooking plants. The green plants shielded the cooking plants from the layer of soil that was then poured into the hot pit in order to trap the heat.

Desert Indians used their pits to slow-roast agave “hearts,” from which the stiff leaves had been cut, and ate them in a way similar to how we eat cooked artichokes, Lodge explained. They turned certain roasted plants into something similar to modern fruit leather. From some plants that they roasted, they extracted a sugary liquid to create what Lodge calls the "first energy drink."

The pits also allowed Southern Nevada natives to roast green pine nuts in late summer. The process allowed the natives to harvest early, before animals would eat the ripe nuts. The migratory bands then were able to stockpile food for the winter, too.

The pits dotted desert slopes and alluvial terraces, and were available for any migratory Indian band. When a large party gathered, the roasting in multiple pits created a night landscape of red circles, according to a written account from the early 1900s.

Intern Spotlight: Jorge Llontop

This month, the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas (NSMLV) is fortunate to recognize yet another talented UNLV graphic arts intern, Jorge Llontop, 26.

Intern Jorge
NSMLV Intern Jorge Llontop

Jorge, Peruvian-born, came to Las Vegas with his family in 2001. He graduated from Northwest Career and Technical Academy High School, received an Associates of Science Degree from the College of Southern Nevada (CSN), and will complete his Bachelors of Science in Graphic Design and Media from UNLV this semester. Jorge worked in the hospitality industry and in retail while completing school.

Design, once a hobby, has now become his passion. He chose UNLV because UNLV is the university of my city, and I do have a sense of pride from growing up in Las Vegas. The community here is so inviting and accepting. And, also, in-state tuition!

Jorge participated in every NSMLV project, including the NSMLV Education Field Trip Reservation packets, the Helen Herr introduction label for the exhibit that began in March, the Spanish translation labels for the museum exhibit brochures, and the rebranding of the Friends of NSMLV. Jorge enthusiastically believes that NSMLV has a great collection of this citys history available for future exhibits and research.

Jorge's project
One of Jorge's projects

One of the highlights he mentioned in working with NSMLV was meeting Sarah, the volunteer. [It] was such a great experience for me. I could tell her and the rest of the team are really passionate about the citys history, and it just makes the internship that much better.

Jorge hopes to start his career as a junior designer for the MGM Corporation or one of the local nightclub corporations. Eventually, he hopes to be a creative director for a retail brand. After graduation, Jorge will work as a museum employee helping to design the Latin Music Legends in Las Vegas exhibit , which opens during Hispanic Heritage Month, beginning in September. While seeking career opportunities, he also hopes to have more time for his hobbies, which include photography, illustration, and live music.

All events held at the museum and are free with paid admission or membership. No registration required unless otherwise noted. Friends general meetings are the 3rd Thurs. of month. The museum is at 309 S. Valley View Blvd., inside Springs Preserve, LV 89107
Sat June 8 1-5 pm Summer Family Program: Nevada Skies Nevada's dark skies make it one of the best places in the country for star gazing. Aspiring astronomers will learn all about planets and stars, and even take a peek at the sun through a special telescope. Museum event for children
Sun June 9 1-3 pm Pinot's Palette Painting Event at Boca Park Join us at Pinot's Palette for an afternoon of step-by-step group art lessons accompanied by wine. Friends event
Sat June 15 1-5 pm Summer Family Program: Pony Express We'll use a giant map of Nevada to trace the route taken by these famous riders. Museum event for children
Thu June 20 6-7 pm Friends General Meeting Derek Weis of the Neon Museum will give a presentation titled "Neon in Vegas." Friends event
Sat June 22 8am-5pm Summer Family Program: Old-Fashioned Toys What did kids do for fun before video games and tablets? Try out some old fashioned toys and make some of your own to take home! Museum Event for Children
Sat June 22 1-3 pm Secrets of Tea Louise Carruth, founder of Little Candle Tea Company, gives a multimedia talk on the local history and overall benefits of properly preparing and drinking tea. Tickets are $8 person - or $15 for two. Purchase tickets online. Friends event

To see the complete schedule for the year, please go to our Events page.

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