From the 1930s to the 1960s, if you wanted a quick, simple exit from marriage, Reno was the place to go. “Divorce Seekers” (as they were called) flocked to Reno by the thousands, including Eastern socialites, movie stars and housewives, all seeking the “Reno cure”. For three decades, Reno held the undisputed title of “Divorce Capital of the World”.
In most other states, divorce required a waiting period of a year or more — and sometimes proof of adultery. But in 1931, Nevada made it simple to get out of the matrimonial bonds: A six week residency anywhere in Nevada at a hotel, boarding house, or exclusive divorce ranch; a list of nine legal grounds that required little proof; and an average of six minutes in court before a judge.
My fascination with this brief but glimmering period in Nevada history began a few decades ago when I met my husband, Bill McGee, a former Montana cowboy. After the war, from 1947 to 1950, Bill worked as the head dude wrangler on the Flying M E, Nevada’s most exclusive divorce ranch (as they were called). The Flying M E was 20 miles south of Reno in Franktown and catered to wealthy Easterners, socialites, and Hollywood celebrities. Most guests staying on the dude ranch were there to get a divorce.
For many years, I urged Bill to write a book about his time on the Flying M E. After all, how many former Nevada dude wranglers were “still above ground” (as the cowboys say) to tell the stories?
In 2004, we joined forces and co-authored The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler. This coffee table book has more than 500 black-and-white photographs (most never-before-published and from private family albums), is chock full of personal stories from people who lived through the era or their offspring, and includes bits of Nevada history. (For more about the book, see the page, The Book That Inspired This Blog.)
Today, few people know about this part of Nevada history and how Nevada led the way for other states in the liberalization of divorce laws. Through this blog and other endeavors, I hope to help preserve this fascinating history.
If you have a Nevada divorce story you would like to share, please leave me a comment on this blog or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Sandra McGee, Divorce Nevada Style