The Ferron and Bracken Photograph Collection depicts Southern and Central Nevada and other western states from 1890 to 1961. The photographs primarily depict the development and growth of early Las Vegas, Nevada; mines and mining operations in Southern and Central Nevada; towns and mines in Nevada; and the Hoover (Boulder) Dam and the Colorado River.
Finding Aid PDF
Scope and Contents Note
The Ferron and Bracken Photograph Collection depicts Southern and Central Nevada and other western states from 1890 to 1961. The photographs, collected or taken by Union Pacific Railroad agent Walter Bracken, primarily depict the development and growth of early Las Vegas, Nevada; mines and mining operations in Southern and Central Nevada; towns and mines in Nevada; and the Hoover (Boulder) Dam and the Colorado River. The items described include photographic prints, postcards, negatives, and slides; items listed are photographic prints unless otherwise specified.
Collection is open for research. Portions of this collection have been digitized and are available online.
Materials in this collection may be protected by copyrights and other rights. See Reproductions and Use on the UNLV Special Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permissions to publish.
Materials are arranged into four series:
Series I. Early Las Vegas, Nevada photographs, 1900-1961;
Series II. Southern and Central Nevada photographs, 1890-1950;
Series III. Hoover Dam and Colorado River photographs, 1926-1960;
Series IV. Locations in the Western United States photographs, 1892-1914.
Biographical / Historical Note
Railroad agent, developer, and civil engineer Walter Bracken was born in 1870 in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. In 1901, while surveying Nevada for the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad, he recommended that the railroad purchase the Stewart Ranch from Helen Stewart in order to build the railroad through Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1904 the railroad took possession of the ranch. Following completion of the railroad in 1905, the railroad announced that it would auction its land parcels for development of a new town. On May 15 of that year, the Clark's Las Vegas Townsite Auction was held, during which the lots for downtown Las Vegas were purchased. Bracken purchased one of the lots on Fremont Street.
Bracken became the head of the Las Vegas Land & Water Company, which had been started as a subsidiary of the railroad, and was one of the most powerful men in Las Vegas. During his tenure, the company installed Las Vegas’s first water system and he strived for better working conditions for railroad workers. By 1941 Bracken had become the head of operations for the Union Pacific Railroad in the Las Vegas Valley. Though his authority increased, many of the repressive policies of the railroad continued, including the housing segregation of African-American settlers.
In 1905 Bracken married schoolteacher Anna Johnson. They lived on Fremont Street from 1905 to 1942 and then moved to a new home on 7th Street. Anna Bracken died in January of 1950, and Walter Bracken died in July of 1950.
Hopkins, A. D. "Walter Bracken," Las Vegas Review-Journal. February 7, 1999. http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/walter-bracken.
Burbank, Jeff. "Clark's Las Vegas Townsite Auction," Online Nevada Encyclopedia. September 27, 2010. http://www.onlinenevada.org/articles/clarks-las-vegas-townsite-auction.
Ferron and Bracken Photograph Collection, approximately 1890-1961. PH-00001. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
Walter Bracken gifted his collection of photographs and historic memorabilia to Ruth Ferron, wife of former Las Vegas Mayor W. E. Ferron. Materials were donated to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries Special Collections Division in several installments from 1977 to 1980 by Ruth Ferron, Barbara Ferron Doyle, and Shirley Ferron Swanson; accession numbers 79-221, 80-24, and 80-53.
Materials were processed by Special Collections staff. In 2016, as part of a legacy finding aid conversion project, Lindsay Oden wrote the collection description in compliance with current professional standards. In 2021, Sarah Jones corrected a number of photograph descriptions.