Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Marcia M. Gallo

Second Committee Member

Joanne Goodwin

Third Committee Member

Andy Kirk

Fourth Committee Member

Barbara Brents

Number of Pages



Over the fifty years examined in this thesis, the interactions between federal and local officials shaped prostitution policy in Las Vegas and Clark County. At times that federal authorities were concerned about prostitution in the county, local leaders balanced tradition and economic necessity in their responses. In the early twentieth century, prostitution's benefits to the local economy outweighed fear of federal reprisals, so local officials worked to protect the city's brothels. By the start of World War II, the federal government's increased power and presence in the West made local officials more willing to abandon the tolerance for prostitution in the community and pursue an aggressive campaign of enforcement against suspected prostitutes. In the years immediately after the war, county and city officials undertook a "war on vice" that targeted brothels that periodically emerged in various parts of the community. Finally, in 1954 a federal raid on one of Southern Nevada's most successful brothels initiated a series of events that led to a permanent end for brothel prostitution in Clark County. This thesis illustrates the connections between two important histories: the growth of Las Vegas from a small railroad town into a modern resort city, and the expansion of the federal government's power and influence during the first half of the twentieth century. Prostitution serves as a lens through which to view how these two narratives are linked.


Brothels; Cities and towns – Growth; Federal government – Influence; History; Nevada – Clark County; Nevada – Las Vegas; Prostitution – Law and legislation; Sexuality; Urban; Vice control; Women


History | Social History | United States History | Women's History | Women's Studies

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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