Reno’s uncentennial

A few days ago, VSA Arts of Nevada held a festive party to celebrate Reno’s 139th birthday. It seems like we were just celebrating the city’s centennial.

No, wait—we were just celebrating the city’s centennial! It was 2003 that the city government staged an elaborate celebration of Reno’s 100th birthday. The mayor signed proclamations, a commemorative coin was struck and there was a poster contest and parties—so how come we’re already at birthday 139?

The simplest answer is that city government misled us. 2003 was the 100th anniversary of the city’s incorporation—its second incorporation. The actual centennial—the 100th anniversary of the founding of the town by the Central Pacific Railroad on May 9, 1868—was celebrated in 1968. And its original incorporation was celebrated in 1997 (Inside View, RN&R, March 19, 1997).

Amazingly, few reporters turned up the 2003 hoax. One of the few reporters who checked out the city’s story and laid out the whole tale that year was Gazette-Journal reporter Don Cox. His story was ignored by other journalists. (RN&R noted the multiple incorporations in its story, “Reno turns 100,” March 20, 2003.)