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It is fitting that the first recorded donation of materials to be placed in UNLV Special Collections in 1967 were the Charles Pember (Pop) and Delphine Squires papers. They are comprised of various documents including correspondence, unpublished manuscripts, real estate and property deeds, school records, photographs and many other historical materials dating from 1882-1958. As pioneer residents of Las Vegas, Charles and Delphine Squires were active in both business and civic activities that transformed the
the desert railroad stop into a thriving and prosperous community.
Squires, a businessman from Los Angeles, arrived in Las Vegas in February
to appraise the promising opportunities that would not doubt ensue during, before and after the great land auction to be held in May of that year. After a harrowing train trip from Los Angeles, he recalled the final approach to Las Vegas:
"with the vastness of the desert made glorious by the morning sun; the
vivid glory of magnificent mountains enclosing the valley on all sides;
…the train bumped slowly along and at last came to a stop near an old
passenger coach on a little spur, on which was nailed a piece of board
on which was painted the magic name “Las Vegas.”" (Squires, 268)
At his arrival, Squires and his business partners quickly checked into the newly opened tent hotel which was located at what today would be the corner of Main and Carson. One of the more interesting artifacts in the collection is the register of this hotel, Ladd’s Hotel, inscribed with the names of some of the first persons to arrive in Las Vegas in 1905 prior to the land auction. A scan of the page under the date February 13, 1905 shows the very faint signature of Chas P.Squires, Los Angeles.
Ladd’s Hotel became the Hotel Northern in April 1905, but by June of that year, had ceased to exist, a victim of the bigger and better (and more permanent) structures such as the Hotel Nevada. The register, which listed many names prominent in early Vegas history, was given to Squires by Captain James Ladd shortly before his death.
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After purchasing lots during the May 15 auction, and a rather unfortunate attempt to set up a tent hotel, Squires was involved in other business ventures, some successful, others not so successful. He was a partner in the First State Bank and also worked to bring electricity to Las Vegas as secretary of the Consolidated Power and Telegraph Co.
The collection contains numerous photographs of Las Vegas as it looked in the very early years after the railroad had been established including these which show the first railroad station which was just a railroad car, and a view through a railcar window of a very early Las Vegas.
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By April 1906, Squires apparently felt settled enough to have his wife, Delphine Anderson Squires and their children move from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
Delphine Squires was to become quite active in Las Vegas society, as one of the founding members of the Mesquite Club and Uh-Wah-Un Study Club. Another one of her most significant contributions was as a charter member of Christ Church Episcopal; she was present at the laying of the cornerstone in 1908 at the corner of Second and Carson Streets. She would later write histories of both the Mesquite Club and Christ Church Episcopal.
The Squires house on 407 Fremont Street (near Fourth) was one of the first residences built in Las Vegas. It was constructed out of concrete blocks much like the majority of buildings in Las Vegas in those early years. The photo displayed here shows the house as it looked under construction in 1906 with Delphine Squires perched within the frame of one of the front windows.
A later exterior view (see below) shows the house after its completion and once landscaping was completed. The Squires remained in this house for many years until these early homes were razed to make way for commercial development along Fremont Street.
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Las Vegas Age
Perhaps his most successful business venture was as publisher of the Las Vegas Age, a position he took up quite unexpectedly and somewhat reluctantly. One of three newspapers founded in Las Vegas in 1905, the Las Vegas Age was the only paper still standing by 1908. Although Squires first protested strongly against owning a newspaper when it was first offered to him, he eventually succumbed when the Age’s previous owner, C.W. Nicklin, offered it to him at the bargain basement price of $2300. In the spirit of civic-mindedness that characterized his life in Las Vegas, Squires noted:
"But something had started a train of thought which I was unable to sidetrack.
Now, just suppose I had a newspaper in Las Vegas, perhaps I could help revive
the poor, sick little town.” (Squires, 358)
Squires would own the paper for over thirty years, selling it to Frank Garside, owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1940. Shown here is an invoice listing the inventory of the Las Vegas Age office upon its sale to Squires and a photograph of two female typesetters at work on the paper.
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His most significant achievement, however, was undoubtedly the work he undertook to secure the construction of Hoover Dam. In 1920, Squires was appointed to the League of the Southwest, a promotional organization with members from Nevada and Southern California, whose intent was to develop the Colorado River by constructing a dam. Out of that organization came a resolution (drafted by Squires) that called for a Dam to be constructed at or near Boulder Canyon to prevent the Imperial Valley from flooding and provide water for the states of the Southwest.
Eventually, seven states in the Southwest (California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming) formed the Colorado River Commission and began to work on the details of creating a compact that would be put before the federal government in order to finance and develop the dam project. Squires was appointed one of the three representatives from Nevada. Among the most important elements of the compact was determining how the water would be divided amongst the participating states. In early 1928, six out of the seven states signed the compact and it was sent before the US Congress for approval. Sent to Washington DC, Squires was instrumental in lobbying Congress to sign the bill (the Swing-Johnson Bill) that would result in the development and construction of Boulder (later Hoover) Dam.
A fascinating collection of correspondence in the collection details this work and includes both incoming and outgoing letters from notable figures such as Leigh Hunt, Governor James Scrugham, Tasker Oddie, Key Pittman, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.
In an excerpt from one of his letters (dated April 24, 1926) to colleagues at the First State Bank in Las Vegas, Squires writes of the difficulties he experienced in trying to get the Boulder Canyon Project Act passed while in Washington DC:
"If the bunch there wish, I will stay on this job until the things blows [sic]
up or goes through. While I have enjoyed some pleasant experiences, I
have also “sweat blood” through sleepless nights and worrisome days,
and I crave the peace of Vegas. But I am forced to agree with Doc., that
someone should stay on the job – that our Boulder Dam project means so
many millions to our city and to the state that nothing should be neglected.
Any how, I am doing my damndest, although that often is not much."
(Squires Papers, Box 3, Folder 5)
Squires, a lifelong Republican, would develop a deep respect for then Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover during the complicated process of securing the site and designing the intricate interstate contracts regarding the distribution of water from the dam. Correspondence from the 31st President of the U.S. to Squires features prominently in the collection. The letter shown here was sent to Delphine Squires from Hoover to comfort her upon the death of her husband of nearly seventy years in September 1958.
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Over the course of his fifty-plus years in Las Vegas, Squires was one of its biggest boosters, and was proud of his role as a Las Vegas pioneer. Having arrived during the close of the Victorian era, images of Charles and Delphine Squires in their later years (both lived into their 90s) show them fully engaged in 20th century Las Vegas life – attending the Helldorado Parade and enjoying fine dining in Strip hotels.
“Pop” Squires even took to writing a regular column in the 1950s for the city’s leading entertainment magazine, Fabulous Las Vegas, where his tales of Vegas past were mixed with reviews of the latest Strip hotel entertainment extravaganzas.
He noted fondly in his memoirs that Las Vegas had a tender place in his heart.
“we have traveled places and seen fine cities and alluring towns, yet for Delphine and
me, Las Vegas is our best loved. We always feel a touch of that same delight when we
return to this land of glory, which I felt on that bright morning of February 13, 1905.”
The Squires papers were donated by their daughter, Florence Squires Boyer, in 1967. Boyer herself left a rich legacy in Las Vegas, most notably a fascinating memoir of early life in the desert town in Las Vegas: My Home for Sixty Years. She is shown here in a portrait most likely taken in the late 1910s or early 1920s.
Of these early years she wrote:
“The early days in Las Vegas were not easy for women, the heat of summer,
the cold of winter even in the semi-tropical clime. The streets were rutted trails
with no sidewalks, and there was dust everywhere. No electric lights, no laundry,
and of course, no telephones.” (Squires, 122)
This exhibit shows but a small fraction of the fascinating documents and photographs that can be found within the Squires manuscript and photograph collections. Guides to these collections can be found online and in UNLV Special Collections.
Other works by Squires include:
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- Boyer, Florence M. (1967). Las Vegas: My Home for Sixty Years. University of Nevada, Oral History Project: Reno, Nev.
- Squires, Charles P and Delphine A. Squires. (1955). Las Vegas, Nevada ; Its Romance and History. s.n.: Las Vegas, Nev.
- Charles P. and Delphine Squires Collection. MS 9. Special Collections, UNLV Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas