With National Dog Day on the calendar later this month (August 26), it seems the perfect time to look at some of the pooches who provided love and companionship to early Las Vegas residents. Historical photographs from UNLV Libraries Special Collections & Archives show that dogs of all sizes and breeds were family pets, even if the lack of air conditioning made it difficult to escape from the scorching summer temps.
Taking it way, way back to the early days of Las Vegas, the photo above shows a couple camped near the Las Vegas Creek on the Las Vegas Ranch property (near modern-day Las Vegas Boulevard and Washington Avenue), with their beloved dog who appears to be an American Staffordshire Terrier. With its door and an outdoor bench, the tent did have a few comforts of home, and the broom must have certainly come in handy to sweep away the dust from their earthen floor. It’s likely that this photo was taken prior to the Clark’s Las Vegas Town Site Auction in May 1905.
Photos Courtesy of UNLV Libraries Special Collections & Archives: Ferron-Bracken Photo Collection
Walter Bracken was a Las Vegas pioneer even before the May 1905 town site auction. As a civil engineer, he arrived in Las Vegas with a survey team for the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad in 1901. He then took over the old Las Vegas Rancho property after its purchase from Helen Stewart and became postmaster in 1904. As point man for the railroad and the Las Vegas Land & Water Company, Bracken was instrumental in shaping early Las Vegas. Shortly after the 1905 auction, he married Nevada native Anna Johnson, who had been a school teacher in the mining community of Delamar. Although the couple would later build a home at 410 Fremont St., they initially lived on the ranch property. The Brackens appear to have been devoted owners of two English Pointers who appear with them in many early photos. The dogs were not only beloved pets, as shown in the photos of Anna with the dogs on the porch of the old ranch house and in the backyard, but also worked, as shown in the photo of Bracken and a colleague hunting with them on the banks of the Las Vegas Creek.
One of our all-time favorites is this dog on a donkey that was snapped in the backyard of Mamye Stocker’s house on 503 S. Third St. This charming photo was taken in the early 1920s, a few years before Stocker became noteworthy as the first recipient of a gaming license after the legalization of open gaming in March 1931. Donkeys were a common sight on early Las Vegas streets, especially before city stock laws were passed in 1911. Judging from the number of photos of Stocker in our collections that feature her with pets over the years, she was clearly an animal lover.
It’s probably not a stretch to guess that “Salt Lake,” the friendly-looking Border Collie shown with the Rivero family in this photo, was named after the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad. When this photo was taken in 1926, Fremont Street was still a residential area, and the family lived near the area where the Mint Hotel would later be constructed. The area is now the western section of Binion’s. Members of the Rivero family owned Frank’s Cafe on Fremont Street in the 1930s, which was likely one of the first restaurants to sell Mexican food in Las Vegas.
Su Kim Chung has been immersed in the history of Las Vegas since she began work in the UNLV Libraries Special Collections Division in 1999. She is the author of multiple editions of the book Las Vegas Then and Now.