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New Exhibit Preserves Nevada's Unique Divorce Trade History


A new website works to document Reno's divorce history.

Reno was infamous as the “divorce capital of the world” for much of the 20th century.

Reno Public Radio’s Anh Gray sat down with local historian Alicia Barber to learn more about how a new exhibit is preserving this unique part of Nevada’s history.  

According to Barber, Reno was the divorce capitol of the country for six decades because of Nevada's unique laws that made it much easier.

"There were more grounds for a divorce that people could claim and the residency period to establish state residency and then to be able to benefit from state laws was much shorter," Barber said.

The number of people that came to the city for a divorce or were involved in the divorce industry actually helped the city get its nickname "the biggest little city," because Barber said "it was much more cosmopolitan than its size."

Several celebrities were divorced in Reno, including screen siren Rita Hayworth and American playwright Arthur Miller. 

Barber said those celebrities really put the city on the map. 

Besides changing the way people viewed the city of Reno, the divorce industry changed the way people viewed divorce.

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"Instead of being seen really has something scandalous, it was a way of showing how everyone from these different walks of life, from every day folks to celebrities, went through these same experiences," Barber said.

The actual landscape of the city was also changed and several buildings left over from that time period still stand, like old boarding houses, the Riverside Hotel and the Washoe County Courthouse.


Alicia Barber, Historian/Project Consultant/Interviewer/Writer,

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