Seeing the Harrah cars recalls the day when inventors in hundreds of locations across the United States created horseless carriages in their own shops. The autos built operated on steam, electricity, and gas. Many tinkerers gave birth to a beloved industry that had made 25,000,000 vehicles by 1925. Automobiles changed the nation. No family wanted to remain carless.
This facility in Reno is dubbed the National Automobile Museum became of the standard it set that others copied to create a veritable nation of car museums. The situation inspired people like Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, and writer Clive Cussler to gather vast collections of cars and other vehicles. Many museums made their cars undrivable by removing the parts that made them go before exhibiting them, but not Harrah. He learned in one of his first purchases of a Maxwell auto the value of knowing before buying, so he established a vast research facility at the place where he first began exhibiting his collection in Sparks, NV. His cars always remained usable. Seeing what is left of his collection in the National Automobile Museum in Reno makes one clearly able to understand the impact of the car on American and world society. Being there is like driving through centuries of innovative auto designs. Many of his cars are exhibited in street settings with period decor nearby. One is left to ponder human design achievements of unsurpassed quality while browsing among his autos. A wander through this museum is a chance to see the best cars produced worldwide in the 20th century until Harrah’s death in 1978. His is truly a horseless carriage collection of unsurpassed quality with many rare and experimental autos included, like the one-of-a-kind and much honored Phantom Corsair seen just below.
Reno’s original biggest little city arch is just outside this museum spanning Virginia Street downtown. The car is at the root of our industrial growth, and millions of Americans worked to develop this industry. I suspect that most people in the USA can name a family member or friend who worked in an automobile factory.
I will complete this series on the National Automobile Museum and Bill Harrah’s remarkable car collection another day. I learned in this museum that Bill Harrah was a Reno/Tahoe phenomenon. He did not expand to Las Vegas and its famous Strip until 1973. He opened his first casino in downtown Reno in 1946, and by 1955 he expanded his growing empire to nearby Lake Tahoe. By 1973 his Lake Tahoe casino/hotel was the largest complex of its kind in Nevada. He made gambling establishments respectable that year by becoming the head of the first gaming company in history to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. There are still 14 Harrah complexes in existence.