Exhibit to show Reno as world's divorce capital

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Reno Divorce Exhibit
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Exhibit to show Reno as world's divorce capital
A view of a hotel sign in Reno, Nevada, famous for speedy divorces. Circa 1940.(Photo by Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 20: Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner at Riverside Hotel Casino Restaurant. Sinatra told reporters 'You can safely say we will be married.' Sinatra is completing a two week Riverside singing engagement while he establishes a Nevada residence so he can get a divorce. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 20: Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner at Riverside Hotel Casino Restaurant. Sinatra told reporters 'You can safetly say we will be married.' Sinatra is completing a two week Riverside singing engagement while he establishes a Nevada residence so he can get a divorce. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 02: Divorce In Reno, Circa 1950-1960. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 02: Between 1950 and 1960, many Americans rented ranch at Reno, in Nevada, waiting the court decision on their divorce. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 29: Doris Duke, in her Reno home following her divorce, talking to reporters. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
14th June 1935: The American Divorce Court at Reno, Nevada. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Reno, Nevada, USA, Circa 1930's, An aerial view showing cars in the main street of Virginia Avenue in the town of Reno, the divorce capital of America (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
FILE - This Sept. 25, 1962 file photo shows comedienne Carol Burnett leaving court in Las Vegas, Nevada, with attorney Harry Claiborne after receiving a divorce from actor Don Saroyan. From 1931 to 1970, the height of the so-called “migratory divorce” trade, more than 325,000 marriages came to an end in the Silver State. (AP Photo, file)
Actress Phyllis Haver of the silent films era is shown as she leaves court in Reno, Nev., in 1945 as she ended her 16-year marriage to William Seeman, a wealthy New Yorker. (AP Photo)
Actress Ava Gardner dines with Spanish matador Miguel Luis Dominguin at a hotel at Reno, Nev., July 1954. Dominguin flew from Spain to be with the actress while she sits out the required six weeks residence for a divorce from singer Frank Sinatra. (AP Photo)
FILE - This June 19, 1954 file photo shows Barbara "Bobo" Sears Rockefeller meeting with the press as she arrives in Reno, Nev., for a 6-million divorce settlement from her millionaire husband, Winthrop Rockefeller. From 1931 to 1970, the height of the so-called “migratory divorce” trade, more than 325,000 marriages came to an end in the Silver State.(AP Photo, file)
Lana Turner, Hollywood motion picture star, pauses momentarily with her daughter, Cheryl, 9, after breakfast at a motel, June 28, 1952. The actress arrived here with a party en route to Lake Tahoe where Miss Turner said she was going to have a vacation. She said she was not going to Reno to divorce her husband Bob Topping, as news reports have stated. (AP Photo)
Actress Rita Hayworth with Kirk Douglas at Ciro’s Night Club, on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California, USA on March 14, 1952. Rita, who denied rumors of an impending romance with Douglas, may go to Reno later this month for her divorce hearing against Prince Aly Khan, unseen. Douglas divorced wife Diana, two years ago. (AP Photo)
Singer Frank Sinatra is seen at a Las Vegas nightspot where he opened a two-week engagement, with new love interest, actress Ava Gardner, Sept. 4, 1951. Sinatra is in Nevada completing a six-week residence requirement in order to obtain a divorce from his wife, Nancy and said the divorce would probably be filed in Reno. (AP Photo)
Mrs. Abby Rockefeller Milton, daughter of John L. Rockefeller Jr., enters a car at Reno, Nevada on July 13, 1943, for a trip to Lake Tahoe where she will live for six weeks. She has instructed the law firm of Thatch and Woodburn to prepare divorce proceedings against David M. Milton, New York attorney and business executive, whom she married in 1925. (AP Photo)
The wealthy Maharajah of Indore obtained a divorce from the former Marguerite Lawler Branyen, unseen, on July 6, and married Euphemia Warr Crane, also granted a divorce on the same day, at Reno. The Maharajah of Indore, wearing the uniform of commander-in-chief of the Indore, State forces, photographed with his bride on their honeymoon at Reno, Nevada on July 7, 1943. (AP Photo)
FILE - This Jan. 29, 1939 file photo shows roulette players at the Apache Casino in Las Vegas. Divorce-seekers who throng to Las Vegas to take advantage of the six weeks residence law find that time passes quickly at the gaming tables. From 1931 to 1970, the height of the so-called “migratory divorce” trade, more than 325,000 marriages came to an end in the Silver State. (AP Photo, file)
Washoe County Court House at Reno, Nevada on Nov. 13, 1931, where the divorce begins and sometimes ends for the luckless man or women who feels so inclined. Formerly where gold was taken from the hills of Nevada, it is now forthcoming from the thousands of persons who visit this “Mecca” yearly to indulge. The huge pillars in front of this building are supposed to be lucky and the applicant usually tries to touch them before going in. (AP Photo)
A view of the Riverside Hotel, Reno, Nevada, USA famous for divorces involving the wealthy, shown around May 15, 1931. (AP Photo)
Mrs. Florence Rice Smith, daughter of Grantland Rice, the sports writer, photographed with Peter Arno, noted caricaturist, during a stroll on one of the main thoroughfares June 16, 1931 of Reno, Nevada. Mrs. Smith went to Reno to divorce her husband, Sidney Smith, a New York broker. Arno, whose recent entanglement with Cornelius Vanderbilt and his empty gun, turns up and oddity which properly belongs in one of Arno's satires, is seeking separation from his wife, the former Miss Luis Long. (AP Photo)
Lady Inverclyde, also known as English actress June Howard, arrives at Waterloo Station, London on April. 15, 1932. Her recent Reno divorce from Lord Inverclyde is not recognized in Britain. (AP Photo/Staff/Putnam)
Striptease artist Lili St. Cyr leaves a Reno, Nev., courtroom after winning a divorce from her husband Edgar Friedman, July 22, 1959. They had been married since 1955. (AP Photo)
Gloria Vanderbilt Di Cicco is followed by attorney Lester D. Summerfield as she leaves the court in Reno, Nev., on April 21, 1945; one day after she obtained a divorce from Pasquale Di Cicco here, in a private trial, charging him with "unprovoked acts of cruelty." Later that day she marries, in a ceremony in Mexico, 58-year-old maestro Leopold Stokowski, co-conductor, with Toscanini, of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. (AP Photo)
Mrs. Abby Rockefeller Milton, daughter of John L. Rockefeller Jr., enters a car at Reno, Nevada on July 13, 1943, for a trip to Lake Tahoe where she will live for six weeks. She has instructed the law firm of Thatch and Woodburn to prepare divorce proceedings against David M. Milton, New York attorney and business executive, whom she married in 1925. (AP Photo)
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By MARTIN GRIFFITH

RENO, Nev. (AP) - For nearly six decades, Reno was known as the divorce capital of the world because of liberal divorce laws that drew hundreds of thousands of estranged spouses from across the country, including Arthur Miller, Jack Dempsey, Clare Boothe Luce and Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.

Now, a group of Nevada researchers is seeking personal stories from those who traveled to Nevada for "quickie" divorces from roughly 1910 to 1970.

The University of Nevada, Reno, library's Special Collections Department plans to feature recorded interviews in an extensive multimedia online exhibit about Reno's 20th century divorce trade, which hastened the acceptance of divorce in America.

"Reno changed the national attitude about divorce," said Donnelyn Curtis, head of special collections and project co-curator. "We're finding a feeling of liberation from the letters of women we have in our collections."

Organizers hope firsthand accounts about heading to Nevada for the "Reno cure" will lead to a better understanding about it, said Mella Harmon, historian and project co-curator.

It became a major industry for the state, spawning dude ranches where spouses stayed, and gave Reno an international reputation, she added.

"It's one of those important areas of history that has faded away and not everyone remembers Reno was known as the divorce capital of the world," Harmon told The Associated Press. "We thought it's something that needs to be captured in some way so people can understand the significance of the industry to the area."

By repeatedly passing legislation that shortened the time required to establish state residency, Nevada lawmakers encouraged what became known as the "migratory divorce." Estranged husbands and wives traveled to the Silver State to establish residency and take advantage of its lenient divorce laws. The time required for residency was lowered from six months to three months and, in 1931, to six weeks.

By the 1960s, other states had loosened their own divorce laws, rendering the migratory divorce unnecessary.

From 1931 to 1934 alone, people from 32 foreign countries and all 48 states at the time got divorces in Reno, Harmon said.

"Recognition about Reno's divorce trade entered the national consciousness in such a way that nearly everyone understood what it meant if people said they were going to Reno," said Harmon, an adjunct assistant professor in the university's Department of Anthropology.

While most divorce-seekers returned home, many chose to remain in Nevada, including former U.S. Rep. Barbara Vucanovich. She traveled from New York to Reno in 1949 to get a divorce and ended up staying and becoming the first woman to be sent to Congress from Nevada, serving seven terms in the House as a Republican. She died in 2013 at the age of 91.

Researchers not only want to speak with anyone who traveled to Reno for a divorce, but with those with a relative or close friend who did so.

In addition to personal stories, researchers will review essays, oral histories, novels, postcards, newspaper and magazine articles, and Hollywood films to include in the digitized project.

Scheduled for completion in July 2015, the project will be the most thorough portrayal of Reno's divorce industry in any format, Harmon said.

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