How Did The Biggest Little City Get Its Name?
How Did The Biggest Little City in the World Get Its Name?
The answer goes back to the late 1800s, when people were flocking to major metropolitan centers like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. In the decades after the Civil War, widely known as the "Gilded Age," cities like these were capturing the national imagination-and much of the nation's wealth-with their soaring skyscrapers, electric streetcars, and booming industries. Smaller places wanted a piece of the action, too.

Reno, which a local reporter named the "Biggest Little City on the Pacific Coast" as early as 1901. The phrase wasn't about size so much as attitude. Our city was saying, it might be small, but we were big in vision, pride, and opportunities.

A postcard printed by city boosters in 1910

Local businessmen promoted Reno as "The Biggest Little City on the Map" in the summer of 1910, when the heavyweight prizefighting championship between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries brought thousands of spectators to town. They were greeted with promotional cards featuring the slogan superimposed over a map of the world.

Calling Reno a "city" in 1910 was a bit of a stretch-since the population only hovered around 10,000-but the town had an urban quality that did take many by surprise. Visitors often arrived expecting to find a backward frontier outpost and instead found a university, a charming downtown, and an air of cultural sophistication owing in no small part to the cosmopolitan crowds who were beginning to visit Reno to get a six-month divorce.

Original Reno Arch 1926 - If you're building a Arch, it's never a good idea to put an expiration date on it.

The City held a contest in 1929 to adopt an official slogan, it was no surprise that the "Biggest Little City in the World" was the victor.  The Reno City Council put up a $100 prize for the best slogan (about $1,475 in today's dollars.) 

The entries started rolling in, including:
"Reno, the Best Out West" 
"East or West Reno Serves Best" 
"Reno, the West's Highest Assay"
"Reno, Biggest Little Town on Earth"
"In Progressive Reno, Loiter, Linger, Locate"
"Reno, A City You'll Like"

Against that lineup, it's not hard to see how it won out. The day "The Biggest Little City in the World" was selected is recorded in the March 14, 1929 edition of the Reno Evening Gazette.

The city's official slogan was added to the Reno Arch in 1935.

The phrase was added in neon to the arch that had been installed over Virginia Street just a few years earlier. Now gracing the city's most photographed landmark, the slogan gained even more media exposure after Nevada legalized gambling and even quicker divorces in 1931. At that point, Reno finally had the title of The Biggest Little City in the World.

Reno Arch 2018
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