Las Vegas is probably the most famous city in America, and it literally came from nothing! In the ’50s and 60’s Vegas was just up incoming. The vision of the town was for it to be something different from what the rest of American city’s look like. Vegas was not created to be another big American business city in America. There would be only one type of business dominating the Strip, and that’s 24/7 gambling with a luxurious twist.
If I am going to Las Vegas, there is one truth I always keep in mind. I’m going to be spending tons of money, losing tons of money, and eating tons of food. Early Vegas was way more of a sin city then what anyone can imagine today. In the days where the mob-controlled everything on the Strip, the sky is the limit on how crazy things can get. We put together some vintage photos of Vegas that will give you a true sense of how Vegas got its name and the legacy of what makes it the true Sin city.
You are looking at a picture of the poolside at the El Rancho Hotel. One of the first hotels to be opened on the Strip. This man took his paper with him to the ledge to make it clear to the girls that he was not coming to swim, but more so to mingle with them.
Everyone here looks so happy and calm, you can barely tell that this picture was taken in 1942, while the U.S. was in the midst of fighting a fierce war in Germany and the Pacific. Well, someone has to enjoy the freedom being fought for back in the home front, I guess.
This picture was taken in December 1952 at the Sands Hotel, and just like the Vegas of today, entertainment was a must between gambling sessions, and ask anyone who has been to the Strip, and they will tell you.
“There is not a second in the day, where there isn’t entertainment provided at the Casino. In the early 50s, the Sands hosted many stars daily such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin.
The number one priority of every Vegas casino was and always will be to keep you on the gambling floor as long as possible. One of the ways they could do this was to plant some of the world’s biggest stars right in the middle of it and show them spending and basking in fame.
The idea was that if you saw Frank Sinatra right there with you surrounded by girls, and having a great time, you could be him too, all you needed was money, and that you could make just by playing the slots until you win.
This picture of American megastar Sammy Davis Jr. laughing, eating, and having the time of his life is the perfect advertisement for the Sin City.
Here, young men can get a good meal with excellent company, and no worry’s in the world to be sensed in the air. Pictures such as this drove simple small-town Americans to save their money all year just so they can come over to the Strip and enjoy the luxury.
One of the most frequented between the bet events Vegas had to offer in her early days was the “Blue Bell Girls,” who were a group of dancers who came to the Stardust Resort all the way from Paris, France.
What was their act? Dancing elegantly while suspended over the diners on the restaurant floor. I’m not sure there was much eating here, everyone’s head seems to be bust looking up.
Back in the 1960’s animal welfare … N.G.O.’s were not yet mainstream, and definitely had little say in the mob ruled world of the Vegas Strip. This photo taken back in 1966 is the perfect example of that.
In the Vegas of the ’60s, a casino manager could bring an elephant all the way from Southeast Asia, and plant it in the center of a craps table in the middle of the Nevada Desert. One question comes to mind. Does the elephant crap while playing craps?
This picture was taken ten years after Frank Sinatra began his rigorous schedule of playing at the Sands Casino and Resort. Sinatra was one of the first American stars to book the infamous “Vegas Residency Gig.”
Why infamous? Stars from around the country, then and now, get offered a residency in Vegas all the time, and the money is out of this world! But, in return, these stars, in most cases, have to do a show almost every night and rehearse that show during the day. The “Vegas Gig” is notorious for exhausting all who attempt it, including Sinatra.
This here is a picture taken in 1955 at the Las Frontier Hotel of the Gabor Sisters. The Gabor Sisters were a powerful group of actresses who much like the Kardashian’s today,
would make their presence known the second they stepped foot on the Strip. On the left, you had Zsa Zsa, in the middle Magda, and on the right is Eva.
If Sin City was going to make a name for herself, then you best bet she needed to bring the star of stars in for a show, and what better star to bring to the Strip then the King of all Kings.
Elvis Presley. Presley was reported to be offered millions of dollars just to show up to a casino, and be seen having a good time. As just the dream of running into him in the Strip would drive ticket sales to Sin City through the roof!
This act of girls in tutu’s dancing on roller blades is called the Copa Girls, and it was such a money maker that they even go their own room inside the Sands Hotel, called the “Copa Room.”
Where patrons could order food but not take a bite as they were all too busy watching these girls ride around on stage.
In the 1960s even more so then today, you needed to be very wealthy to get to the Strip, let alone stay there, and naturally, some of the wealthiest people in America, are also some of the most famous people in the nation too!
Here we see a picture of ultra-celebrity of the time Bridgette Bardot spotted with her then-husband German industrialist Gunther Sachs Von Opel, in 1966.
Just how much did coming to Vegas cost back then. Well, let’s just take the price of the flight for contrast. If you were in …N.Y.C. and wanted to book a flight to Vegas in the 50s, it would have cost you anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 dollars just for economy class!
We won’t get in too much into why flying was so expensive back then. But at least once you made it to the hotel, you could enjoy spending more money gambling in the middle of a pool.
Back in the ’60s if you wanted to impress your fellow co-workers in your.N.Y. office, you get a selfie with extravagant Vegas Show Girls of the Tropicana Casino & Hotel.
This picture was taken in the early, and shows the girls in action wearing what looks to be an appropriated version of Brazilian “Carnival.”
The hotel’s in the Vegas strip used to have every detail of your trip planned out for you. All so that you could be as close to the gambling floor as possible.
One of the ways they did this was to have a shuttle that would take you around strategic locations around the resort with shuttles such as this one.
If you were a young man or woman living in small towns around the country, and you saw a picture like this on the paper, of some of the most famous singers in the country all coming together to sing and mingle in the Strip, it would be more then you need to convince you to get yourself a ticket too and hopefully meet one of them.
This is a picture of “The Rat Pack,” featuring Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop.
Nowadays it is very well known in Vegas that basically anyone can show up in one of the hundreds of 24/7 wedding chapels and tie the knot. But this tradition had to come from somewhere.
This picture was taken on July 14th, 1943, and shows stars Betty Grable, and Harry James getting hitched on the Strip, and I must say that cake looks delicious!
The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, was not the only monarch in town. So, it was the Queen of Rock and Roll, Lillian Briggs. Briggs hit it big in the music scene of the 1950s and was very quickly picked up for a residency in the Sands Casino and Resort.
Her debut album, “I Want You to Be My Baby” was a smash hit that sold more than one million copies. This photo from 1958 captures her fierce stage presence on the mic.
This picture gives a glimpse backstage with the Bluebell Girls. Here we see one of the many dancers in the group getting ready for the show. These girls would work round the clock to perfect their performance on stage, as they would be performing for some of the wealthiest people in the world.
It may look fun, but these girls were reportedly worked to the bone, with little or no time for a personal life. They lived, ate, and breathed the Sin City.
If you were planning a trip to Vegas in the 60s and 70s, you needed to make sure you looked and felt your best on a daily basis. As anyone out in the pool or on the gambling floor was powerful enough to make you or break you.
This is the Morocco Beauty Salon at the El Morocco motel where girls from around the country would spend every morning getting their looks in order before going out to mingle with the country’s elite.
Here is a photo you don’t see every day. On the left side of the picture, we see actor Humphrey Bogart, producer Sid Luft, actress Lauren Bacall, actress Judy Garland, and Jack Entratter (manager of the Sands hotel).
On the right side of the table is Hollywood restauranteur Mike Romanoff (who’s face is mostly hidden), singer Frank Sinatra, Gloria Romanoff, actor David Niven, and Hjördis Niven.
Today’s “Nitro Circus” act goes around the world and gives audiences and exhilarating shows featuring some of the most dangerous stunts ever done by man.
None of it would have been possible without the work of the legendary motorcycle stunt artist Evel Knievel. Here we see Knievel jumping over the fountains at Caesars Palace.
Before there were machines that would exchange our cash for change, there were actual people that would do the job. Here we see one of the legendary “Change Girls” at work.
Right there at the slot, there to give you more change the second you run out. I have to say, just by looking at her, this job seems stressful.
See that big cowboy on the upper left corner there? You have probably seen him in the movies before, as he is a very iconic Vegas sign. His name is Vegas Vic, and he was part of a symbol for the Pioneer Club, Casino, and Cocktail Bar that was opened on the Strip in 1942.
The Mascot was finished in 1951 and became a permanent landscape of the Vegas Strip ever since.
Noel Coward was an Oscar-Wild-style performer and playwriter. He exuded an exceptional sense of style and had a love for the colorful and theatrical charm that Las Vegas had to offer.
Here he is seen in a photo taken in 1955 as he is posing in front of the Hotel Marquee. The sign behind him bearing his name, and promoting his cabaret show that was incredibly popular at the time.
Here we see a rare image of Elvis Presley and Liberace. In the time between 1969, and 1976, Elvis had sold out 636 shows in hotels around the Strip.
This picture was taken in 1955 when Liberace checked in on Elvis, and get some inspiration from the King himself. Earlier that day, Elvis had also paid a visit to the Riviera Hotel to get a glance of Liberace’s show as well.
This picture was taken on August 1969, as Elvis took the stage at the Las Vegas International Hotel, where the King would be booked to play a residency of four whole weeks back to back for the sum of half a million dollars.
That’s the equivalent of almost three and a half million dollars today. Sounds worth the round the clock work to me!
If you were in with the right the crowd back then, maybe you would have had the company of some of the most famous Americans of Hollywood. Here we see a photo taken in 1956 of Audrey Hepburn hanging out with some of her friends and loved ones on the Strip.
On the right is her husband Mel Ferrer, between them, is Mike Romanoff, a renowned Hollywood chef, and the one and only Frank Sinatra.
There is a never-ending stigma on a Las Vegas weddings that only people who are rouge and, on the road, get hitched on the Strip, but it has also been quite the destination for some of Hollywood’s most in love couples of history.
Here we see the very level-headed Paul Newman, and Joanne Woodward looking very in love as they tied the knot in Vegas in 1958. The two would stay married until Newman’s passing in 2008.
In this picture, we are seeing the owner of the Sands Club himself. A man by the name Jake Freedman. His biggest rival at the time was the Dunes Resort. One day he took it on himself to come and show some chutzpa at the Dunes and gambled away ten thousand dollars.
It may not seem like much, but the equivalence today is just under one hundred thousand dollars. That’s a lot of money to be giving to your rivals.
At first glance, it looks like this picture gives us a sense that it is a lucky night, and everyone is having fun. But let’s not forget that taking a good picture in the 50s was not cheap, and this picture was probably taken by the Casino itself to portray beautiful people,
having a great time with no worries in the world. The last thing any casino would want is for their potential guests to think that they will be losing money on the slots!
Pictured below is the central Strip of Las Vegas in the 1950s. On the left, you can see the Golden Nugget Gambling Hall and the infamously appropriating “Hotel Apache” on the right. This photo is giving us everything we need to know about Las Vegas.
It’s often said that driving to Vegas at night is a lot of fun. For hours on end, there is nothing but darkness, desert, and stars, and as you get closer and closer, you start to see the lights of the Vegas Strip shine from afar. A true metropolis in the middle of the desert.
The Desert Inn opened in the early 1950 and is one of the first hotels to open in the newly formed Sin City. The first year of operation was relatively slow that all changed though one year later when Frank Sinatra took a gig to perform there.
This gave the Inn enough clout to stay opened for five decades until it sadly closed its doors in the year 2000 when it was demolished. But hey, 50 years is a good run in my book!
This is a picture of the original entrance to the Flamingo Hotel. The Flamingo was one of the first luxury hotels in Vegas, and it opened its doors in 1946. The man behind the dollar?
No other than notorious 40s mobster Bugsy Siegel, and the rest of his cronies. Rumor has it that the hotel was named after one of Bugsy’s old girlfriends Virginia Hill, who he nicknamed “Flamingo.”
When the Stardust Resort opened its doors in 1958, people flocked from around the nation to see what was hiding inside. By this point, every American knew about Vegas, and Stardust needed to do something different to stand out.
Aside from housing a hotel, resort, and a casino, the Stardust also housed one of the largest pools in the world at that time, and more importantly, the largest swimming pool on the Strip.
Casino’s may look like they run themselves, but just ask the leader of the free world, (You know who I’m talking about.) They are actually a very expensive business to run! The expense of a casino can be unimaginably vast, and in some cases, casinos need to make millions of dollars a day in floor profits just to make up for it.
One of the most expensive things in running a casino is the upkeep. Just imagine acres and acres of carpet, gold, silver, and mirrors that need to be spotless round the clock, seven days a week.
Having a name like Hotel Apache would have never flown had it been opened in 2019, and for obvious cultural reasons, but the Apache opened in 1932, at a time where cultural appropriation was widely accepted in American society.
Opened during the great depression for America’s elites, the Apace featured state of the art stained glass windows and was the first Vegas hotel to feature an elevator.
When you visited the Vegas Strip in her early days, one of the first things that would catch your eyes is the smoking cowboy nicknamed “Vegas Vic.”
The sign for the Pioneer Club is still around today, and many tourist flocks from around the country to get a selfie outside. At the Pioneer, much like all of Vegas, you could gamble at any hour of the day or night.
This photo was taken from high above the Strip in the year 1964. At the time Vegas was calmer than it was chaotic.
It may look empty from above, but on the ground, there was still plenty of action going around. From this view, we can see what Las Vegas was, and it’s all the more cooler when you think about where she is today.
Despite Vegas today being a city filled with mostly gambling, eating and partying, the town started out as a small western suburban town, with very few residents.
This picture was taken in 1905 on one of the city’s most famous streets today, “Fremont Street.” Then it was nothing but a handful of quaint buildings and homes, and today it is full of money food and sin.
Despite, all the betting and partying, Vegas has and always will be a true place for family, and guests of all ages. There is always something to do for everyone. Whether it’s sitting by the pool, going to see a show, or trying your hand on some cards.
I have yet to meet a person that said they are having a hard time there. These sisters are a perfect example of that!