The Tomiyasu Family Photograph Collection (approximately 1908 to 1991) consists of black-and-white photographic prints of the Tomiyasu family and their farming business in southern Nevada.
Finding Aid PDF
Scope and Contents Note
The Tomiyasu Family Photograph Collection (approximately 1908 to 1991) consists of black-and-white photographic prints of the Tomiyasu family and their farming business in southern Nevada. The photographs depict the family and their farm, located in what is today Sunset Park. The collection contains photographs of the machinery, fields, and livestock on the farm. Lastly, the collection contains photographs of Bill Y. Tomiyasu Elementary School; George Goto, the artist who created the Japanese garden at Tomiyasu elementary; and photographs of the Tomiyasu family at a Salvation Army event.
Collection is open for research.
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 by topic.
Biographical / Historical Note
The Tomiyasu farming and ranching business began in 1914 after Yonema “Bill” Tomiyasu bought forty acres of land in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tomiyasu migrated from Japan to California in 1898 and promptly began farming. He relocated to Las Vegas because of a California law that restricted immigrants from owning land for agricultural purposes. Tomiyasu originally grew alfalfa due to how well it grows in dry climates. Within a few years, Tomiyasu became proficient in farming the dry soil, becoming the lead supplier of melons, peppers, brussel sprouts, lettuce, cabbage, onions, carrots, radishes, and beets for Las Vegas stores and restaurants.
Tomiyasu married his wife, Toyono, in the late 1910s and they had two boys, Nanyu and Kiyo, and two girls, Uwamie and Mamie, “Mimi.” Throughout the 1920s the Tomiyasu business expanded, and became the largest produce supplier for Hoover Dam workers. During those years, the Six Companies Inc. operated a store near the Hoover Dam project in Boulder City, Nevada, which the Tomiyasu farm regularly supplied with fruits and vegetables. Tomiyasu eventually purchased an additional 120 acres for farming and ranching in the 1930s. In addition to farming, the Tomiyasu family raised chickens and turkeys. By 1940, Tomiyasu supplied produce not only to the residents of Las Vegas and Boulder City, but also to Beatty, Jean, Goodsprings, and Sloan, Nevada.
Although Tomiyasu taught his children the farming business, they all attended college in pursuit of different careers. While Tomiyasu remained in horticulture the rest of his life, but following World War II, he primarily grew landscaping plants. Tomiyasu later lost his land due to a misunderstanding in a loan contract. Despite the loss of land, Tomiyasu continued to manage a plant nursery until his death in 1969. The city of Las Vegas commemorated Tomiyasu in the late 1980s by naming an elementary school and a street after him.
Clark County Parks & Recreation, “Yonema ‘Bill’ Tomiyasu: Pioneering Horticulturist and Landscaper,” Accessed November 27, 2019. https://www.clarkcountynv.gov/parks/Documents/sunset-construction/tomiyasu-ranch.pdf
Hardy, Nancy. “Asian-Pacific Heritage Month Photo Essay: The Tomiyasu Family”, UNLV Special Collections and Archives, April 29, 2016. Accessed November 27, 2019. https://www.library.unlv.edu/whats_new_in_special_collections/2016/04/asian-pacific-heritage-month-photo-essay-tomiyasu-family
Green, Michael with Susan A. Myers. Nevada: A Journey of Discovery, Gibbs Smith, (Salt Lake City: 2005), 175.
Tomiyasu Family Photograph Collection, approximately 1908-1991. PH-00294. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
Materials were received by UNLV Special Collections and Archives; accession number 2019-149.
In 2019, as part of an archival backlog elimination project, James Howard processed the materials, wrote the finding aid, and entered the data into ArchivesSpace.