Originally inhabited by Native American tribes, the United States acquired the Nevada region from Mexico following the 1848 Mexican War, and it became the 36th state to join the union in 1864. Until the discovery of silver within its borders in 1869, Nevada had a sparse population.
The original Native American tribes in the Nevada area included the Washoe, Paiute and Western Shoshone. A number of Spanish and American explorers, including Jedediah Smith, explored the area. Nevada means "snowcapped" in Spanish. Mormons founded the first permanent settlement near Genoa in 1848, following the Mexican war. However tensions between Mormons and the federal government eventually forced the Mormons back to Utah.
The area saw little migration until the discovery of the Comstock Lode, known as the largest U.S. silver deposit, in 1859. The federal government organized the area into a territory on March 2, 1861, and the area joined the union as a state in 1864. The railroad came to Nevada in 1868. Further boom-and-bust cycles followed more mining finds in Nevada throughout the 19th century.
Liberal divorce and gambling laws helped keep Nevada growing through the 20th century. Reno and Las Vegas took particular advantage of the state's lax rules, building large casino industries and making Nevada a major tourist location.