About the Project

Illuminating Reno’s Divorce Industry is an online exhibit sponsored by Special Collections at the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries

This project was made possible in part by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS grant #45310-14). The IMLS supports libraries in Nevada through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), administered by the Nevada State Library, Archives and Public Records.

The project team began a year-long effort in July 2014 to select, gather, digitize, organize, and curate a collection of materials to ensure that this important part of the history of the City of Reno, the State of Nevada, and the United States would not be lost and forgotten.

The project grew to be enormous, and will continue to grow. The coordinated thrust has ended, but some of the project participants will be adding more items to the exhibit library. Over a thousand items were part of the library at the launch of the exhibit, but there are more in the wings. Please contact us with suggestions and corrections.

About Reno’s Divorce Industry

The city of Reno played a transformative role in the history of divorce in the United States. By repeatedly passing legislation shortening the time required to establish state residency—from six months to three months and, in 1931, to six weeks—Nevada’s lawmakers encouraged what was known as the “migratory divorce.” Estranged husbands and wives from across the country and even the world traveled to Nevada to establish residency and take advantage of the state’s lenient divorce laws.

Within years of its first high-profile divorce in 1906, Reno gained the nickname of “Divorce Capital of the World.” The ease and popularity of the “Reno divorce” had national repercussions, helping to establish greater rights for women and hastening the acceptance of divorce in American society. By the 1960s, other states had loosened their own divorce laws, rendering the migratory divorce unnecessary.

Locally, Nevada’s divorce laws provided a unique cornerstone for Reno’s cultural and economic development, helping to shape the city’s identity and reputation for the first six decades of the twentieth century. A fundamental component of the tourism industry, the divorce trade influenced the development of housing patterns, commerce, society, and entertainment.  Additionally, while most divorce-seekers returned home after receiving their decrees, many chose to remain in Nevada, producing a lasting impact on the community.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.

The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this online exhibit do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.