Vault 119 is an irradiated, abandoned ruin located under the Teton Mountains. Constructed by Vault-Tec before the great war, it was meant to test the interaction between academics and criminals trapped inside. It became a small war zone for generations. Two large tribes, the Painted Sons and the Asherites emerged from the Vault. Finally with the ascension of Lord Protector Denton Van Kyp the Vault was destroyed and the Teton Protectorate was formed.
Vault 119 was the brainchild of Cornelius Gould, a New York born sociologist and longtime employee of Vault-Tec. As a child, Gould was physically frail, and the abuse he suffered both at home and from his peers lead to him having an unhealthy fascination with the nature of violence. At a young age he began studying philosophical works, and as an adult, he became a talented professor of sociology.
Gould never married and lived alone for most of his life. He proved unable to keep a stable relationship. Seeing the escalating violence in the world he penned several influential articles that were published in several journals. Gould asserted that America should have enacted genocide against the Chinese after the Boxer Rebellion. He blamed this "missed chance" on America's "spineless Christian superstitions" and "the moral hypocrisy of mercy." He asserted that atomic war was now inevitable and that the corrupt old world would be burned away. From the ashes, a perfect civilization built on materialism and strength would rise. Gould cynical writings were censored by the Federal government, who felt that they were too incendiary. However, it was not long after this that Gould was contacted by Vault-Tec. They were interested in his ideas, and before he knew it Gould became part of Vault-Tec's labyrinthine corporate structure.
Vault Tec approved on Gould's general nihilistic philosophy and unstable lectures and allowed him to formulate his own elaborate social experiment. Gould proposed locking humanity's highest and lowest common denominators in a vault and seeing which group would dominate. Vault-Tec approved the concept and dispatched Gould to carry it out.
Gould was initially enraged when he found out that his vault had been assigned to Idaho. He felt the location was too rural and homogenous for the experiment, and that he had been cheated of the more familiar coastal populations. However, Gould's excursion to Idaho's prisons soon changed his mind. He found a great diversity of criminals, and began recruiting for the project. He drew from some gangs, such as chapters of the Aryan Nation and inland branches of the Chinese Triads. He even drafted a few domestic terrorists. However, most of those selected had no long-term affiliation. The criminals he selected we handed over to Vault-Tec, organized into labor teams and sent to work on the Vault's construction. Vault 119 was constructed under the Teton Mountains in what was once Grand Teton National Park. Decades ago the Federal Government had privatized the land and sold into to corporations for exploitation. A sizable silver vein was discovered but no gas, and the company that handled silver production was bought out by Vault-Tec and eventually evicted in favor of the Vault.
With the criminal element taken care of, Gould turned to the second part of the plan. He had not realized it, but Eastern Idaho had a concentration of Colleges. He recruited widely across these. The candidates were not limited to professors, but also included bright students. These people would be the bulk of Vault population, and represented a vast array of disciplines. Because the Vault was in a relatively isolated place, Gould petitioned Vault-Tec to build a sizable resort nearby it. These building had a beautiful view of the Teton Range, and hosted numerous diversions. Candidates and their families were invited to stay and work in this community close by the Vault.
When the bombs fell the Vault's residents were rushed inside. As the initial shock faded they found to their horror that they were not alone. The prisoners were also in the Vault, still bound as forced laborers. The new overseer Gould calmed the residents, ensuring them that the issue would be felt with, and made sure they settled in. About a week after moving underground he called a meeting and announced that they as a community would decide the fate of the prisoners. Initially, the vault dwellers took the middle route between exile and liberation, and voted to keep the prisoners in their state of bondage. For years, the prisoners remained prisoners. However, the moral dilemma moved many to agitate for a second vote. Five years after moving underground, a second vote was called and this time the prisoners were freed.
Historical records are unclear but it is believed that Gould was killed and the Vault fell into chaos.