Reno first met Laura Corey in December 1905 as she came seeking a divorce from her husband. William Ellis Corey was President of U.S. Steel and previously the president of the Carnegie Steel Company. Laura and William had married in 1883 with meager financial conditions but the president of U.S. Steel had left Laura for actress Mabelle Gilman.
At this prominent woman’s arrival in Reno, rumors began circulating that William and Laura Corey’s marriage would soon be 'Renovated,' a term later used to describe a Reno divorce.
The Corey family was a prominent one. The news spread of Laura Corey’s relocation to a place widely known to draw those seeking a divorce. Subsequently, newspapers across the country began following Mrs. Corey and cast predictions of an imminent divorce. Once Corey’s intent to divorce was confirmed, newspapers around the country highlighted Reno. Laura Corey’s quickie divorce propelled the city’s reputation as a divorce capital.
In the early 1900’s, Nevada law required a six-month stay to establish residency. Once an individual had obtained residency, they could seek a Nevada divorce.
While in Nevada, Laura Corey and her son Alan Corey were joined by her sister-in-law, Miss Ada Corey. Ada and Laura Corey seemed to immerse themselves in the community, according to local newspapers. Laura Corey and her son resided at the elegant R. L. Fulton Home.
Relocating across the country for six months generated great expense. However, with her means, Corey experienced a comfortable stay in Reno. In 1900, those who could migrate to obtain a Reno divorce had wealth and means. Over time, with transportation advances and Reno’s developing accommodations, middle class Americans could come to sever their marital ties.
Laura Corey filed for divorce on June 11, 1906 and the trial would take place on the last day of July. On July 24th, William Ellis’ family flocked to Reno for the divorce proceedings and testified in favor of Laura.
The divorce hearing was held at ten o’clock in the morning on Monday, July 31, 1906. Laura Corey had solicited the legal help of an east-coast attorney for her divorce. However, in coming years the city of Reno would swell with capable divorce attorneys. Laura was awarded $3 million in the divorce settlement. Crowds of newspapermen surrounded the Washoe County Courthouse to catch the first sight of the newly-divorced Corey.
In the wake of the divorce, a newspaper in the Corey’s home state of Pennsylvania noted, “The Carnegie Steel Company will drill a well 6000 feet. What an excellent hole for President Corey to crawl into.” The nation’s eyes were rested upon the Corey’s and the pains of such a public divorce. However, this publicity ultimately supported divorce migration to Reno for years to come.