“Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” reads the sign welcoming you to the Sin City, and fabulous it is. Not many cities in the U.S have kept their reputation over 50 years the way Las Vegas have – it was always considered the city of unlimited fun and options, the place to go to unwind and have a good time, and that is still the case today. The city was founded in 1905 but it wasn’t until 1930, when the building of the canonical Hoover Dam attracted many newcomers to the city, that it began to take on its shape as the city of entertainment. It was later in the 30s when the casinos and showgirl industry were established to entertain the large community of male construction workers, and the rest is history.
Way back when
This photo shows the glorious city in the 50s, when it started to take shape. You can see the casinos and clubs are already there, waiting to entertain the construction workers of the Hoover Dam after a long day of work.
The city might not have had the flashing lights that characterize it today, but even back then it had plenty of hotels, casinos and clubs for the many visitors to choose from.
Among its most prominent hotels was the Flamingo – which was the house for the city’s biggest stars, including Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.
The iconic Flamingo hotel opened on the Las Vegas Strip on 1946 and was the third resort to open on the Strip, and the only one from that period that still operates to this day. The hotel was opened and owned by the notorious mobster Bugsy Siegel, one of the city’s most iconic names.
King of Rock and Roll
Speaking of Elvis Presley, Vegas was the second home of The King. It was in Vegas that Presley gained popularity and earned his eternal title as “The King.” Presley not only conquered the stage in Vegas, but also ladies’ hearts.
Presley spent his adult life in Vegas, where he flourished. That’s where he met his wife, Priscilla, and where he had many other romances. This photo was taken on the day of their wedding, on 1967 – in Vegas, where else.
Putting on a show
Showgirl theaters were a major attraction of the city at the time. It was originally planned to entertain the Hoover Dam construction workers, but ended up attracting many visitors to the city.
Showgirl acts were introduced in Las Vegas in 1941 by the famous El Rancho Vegas hotel. Later, they became a must-have in almost all hotels and casinos.
All play and no work
One of the city’s most prominent symbols are, of course, the casinos. Since gambling was legalized in Vegas, it made the city an attractive destination, and casinos were its trademark.
This photo was taken in 1959 and depicts the musical legend Frank Sinatra dealing Baccarat in the notorious Sands Casino. Gambling was for anyone, though, not only a-listers.
The main attraction
This photo, taken in 1966, captures an adorned elephant joining gamblers at a game of craps. This wasn’t a rare sight at these days in Vegas, though today it might seem unbelievable. It was taken at the Dunes hotel and casino, another leading casino at the period.
Gambling is for everyone, as it turns out, including animals. If the casino wasn’t attractive enough for the visitors of Las Vegas, the hotels made it top priority to keep their guests entertained at all times.
Twist and shout
This photo depicts a Bluebell showgirl in her backstage dressing room, getting ready for the performance. The Bluebells were a famous group of showgirl dancers from Paris.
The Bluebells distinguished from other showgirls since they were trained dancers, specifically ballerinas. Their show was one of the most luxurious ones in town, and the most luxurious guests attended them.
This photo shows a couple soaking the hot sun of Nevada in front of the Flamingo hotel. While most people preferred to sun bath at the poolside of the hotel, others enjoyed the front lawn of the hotel.
This photo was taken in the 50s and captures the atmosphere of the city back then – as much as it took pride in its hotels and casinos, it was also quiet and calm at times. Perhaps they preferred to stay outside since the hotel was one of the fanciest in Vegas, and much like today, not everyone could afford it.
Sun is up
Pools were a core attraction in Las Vegas hotels, and still are, due to the city’s hot climate. They were such a basic part of daily life for the hotel guests, that pools even had casinos inside them, so that you never had to leave the pool to enjoy gambling.
This photo was taken in 1954 and demonstrates a floating craps table. The hotels wanted to give their customers the best vacation, and so they even had dealers inside the pools.
The three sisters and socialites Zsa Zsa, Eva and Magda Gabor were another symbol of the city at the time. The actress Zsa Zsa Gabor (on the left) was a grand name at the time, and the three sisters were regular faces in the Las Vegas nightlife.
This photo captures the Gabor sisters at a cocktail party in Vegas in 1955. The party was held in honor of the sisters, celebrating their show at the Last Frontier Hotel.
Reaching for the stars
Even if you weren’t around in the 60s, you probably heard the name Evel Knievel. That’s because he was the most acclaimed stunt performer of the period, and his playground was, you guessed it, Vegas.
Evel Knievel had a long romance with Vegas, and he was the first stunt man that decided to jump over the famous fountains of the Caesars Palace. This photo captures him during the amazing stunt at 1967.
A night to remember
This photo was taken at the Copa room of the Sands hotel – a prominent hotel in Las Vegas at the time, and the home of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others.
The Sands hotel and Casino opened its doors to the masses in 1952, and it was considered the it-place to be. The photo depicts the “Copa girls” at the grand opening night of the hotel in 1952. Since then, the place became a prominent part of the history of Vegas.
A Vegas legend
This photo depicts several of Las Vegas’ biggest symbols – the musical legend Frank Sinatra surrounded by showgirls at the grand opening of the famous Dunes hotel.
The picture was taken in 1955, when the Dunes was one of the most acclaimed hotels on the Las Vegas strip. Today, its place was taken by another famous hotel – the Bellagio.
A gambling legend
An elephant joining a gambling game in casinos at the time wasn’t a rare sight, but this is no regular elephant. The picture shows Tanya, the Siamese elephant, who was a regular performer on the stage of the Dunes hotel.
The picture was taken in 1966 at the Dunes casino, where the elephant was a regular. In this picture, she joined gamblers at a blackjack table.
The Copa girls
We already mentioned the Copa room of the Sands hotel, but we didn’t stress enough how popular it was back in the glory days of Vegas. Like any respected hotel at the days, it had its own first-class showgirls.
This photo captures the Copa Girls posing for the camera at the Sands hotel in 1955. Showgirls, in the Sands hotel and anywhere else, were out on a pedestal – they weren’t expected to hang out on the Strip and accompany random men, on the contrary – they were to be looked at, but never touched.
Marriage capital of the world
Among its many names, another thing Vegas is known for is being the Marriage Capital of the World. Due to the easy process of acquiring a marriage license and its minimal costs, Vegas became a popular destination for couples seeking to get married quickly and efficiently.
Vegas offers various types of weddings, but nowadays most people choose one of the many wedding chapels spread on the Las Vegas strip.This has become a proper tradition in Vegas. Each year, around 120,000 marriages are performed in Vegas.
Stars of the times
This photo shows husband and wife Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens posing in front of their headline signs on opposite sides of the Vegas strip, in 1969. Much like today, back in the 60s in Vegas it wasn’t uncommon for people from the entertainment industry to be married.
Unfortunately, as much as they seem happy posing in front of their grand signs, the couple divorced two weeks after the picture was taken.
The El Rancho hotel and casino was the first hotel to open on the street that would only years later become known as the Las Vegas Strip.
This photo was taken at the summer of 1942, during the years of World War Two. It demonstrates three girls and other vacationers bathing in the El Rancho pool, probably trying to ease their minds from news of the war.
The first hotel
Hotel Apache, shown in the photo, is one of the oldest hotels and casinos in Vegas. It opened its doors in 1931, soon after gambling was legalized in Vegas.
As it was one of the very first hotels to open in Vegas, hotel Apache is known for being the first hotel to have an elevator, and the casino is known for being the first casino to be fully carpeted. It might not be as impressive as the Sands or the Dunes, but the hotel has left its mark on the history of Vegas.
This photo, taken in 1940, depicts the contestants line up for a beauty pageant the Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. Beauty pageants have been around longer than you think: Miss America, probably the most renowned beauty pageant, had been around since 1921.
You must admit, though, they did lose some of their glory over the years. The costumes and the bridge of the Treasure Island casino aren’t around anymore, and so looking at this picture sends you back in time.
The only thing differentiating this photo from a poolside photo of a Vegas hotel today is the attire. How different was the fashion back then, with the hats of men and swimming attire of the women.
This photo was taken at the Royal Nevada hotel around 1956, at the glory days of Las Vegas. You can see the vacationers enjoying the hot Nevada sun and feel the atmosphere of the city of entertainment and pleasure.
On first glance, this seems like another casino photo, but the dealer in this table is no other than the entertainment king of the 60s Dean Martin. In this photo, taken in 1958, the sensation of the entertainment industry performed as a spare-time croupier running the roulette at the Sands.
Martin was part of the Vegas Rat Pack, an informal group of entertainers frequented the casino scene of Las Vegas, including Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
This photo, taken in 1973, captures the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali standing in front of the Caesars Palace marquee, minutes before one of his biggest fights in Vegas.
As for many others in the show business at the time, Vegas was an important milestone in the boxer’s career – that’s where many of his fights were held, and where he gained popularity.
The mighty Dunes
This is a postcard of the Dunes hotel from 1956. It might not seem like much on the outside, but the Dunes hosted some of Vegas’ most legendary events.
This photo depicts the front of the hotel with the vintage cars of guests parked in front, and it provides us with a glimpse of the old days of Vegas and an opportunity to momentarily step back in time.
Las Vegas was so attractive, even the Beatles made it there to try the slot machines. This photo from 1964 depicts the band’s members trying their luck on the slot machine.
The photo was taken during a trip when the band came to perform in Vegas. At the time, there was only one venue in the city large enough to host this concert, and that was the Las Vegas Convention Center. With all due respect to Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, no one filled a venue like the Beatles.
Sign of the times
The photo shows the manager of the famous Sands hotel, Jake Freedman, rolling dice with gamblers in his casino. Freedman frequented his casino with his wife and enjoyed watching the gamblers, as well as joining in for some fun.
Freedman’s vision for the hotel was to build the most luxurious hotel in Vegas, to accommodate the most glamorous stars. Its iconic name, “Sands,” was given to the hotel thanks to the desert climate – Freedman’s shoes became full of sand when he visited the property.
This photo shows Elvis Presley during a concert in Vegas, but not just any concert. This was one of Presley’s most successful shows.
The photo was taken in 1969 during a much-anticipated show at the International hotel, after Presley had already accumulated a reputation and a fan base.
This photo, which dates back to 1954, shows a crowd checking the results of horse races all over the U.S, in a Vegas betting shop.
Vegas was the capital of gambling, and so even checking the results of horse races were held as public events.
The magic of Vegas
This is a promotion poster by United Airlines from the 70s. Back then, air travel wasn’t as common as it is today, and taking a plane was considered only for the adventurous.
The poster appeals to these adventurous people, those seeking fun and entertainment. United Airlines knew how to appeal to an audience, and the poster demonstrates the magic of Vegas.
Vegas back then offered its visitors any gambling activity imaginable, much like it does today. This included casino gambling and bingo.
While most indulged in the Vegas casinos, some enjoyed a more quiet game of bingo. This photo from around 1948 shows the Bingo Club of Vegas.
A city Landmark
The Riviera is one of the most popular hotels of the Vegas Strip to this day. it opened its doors to the public in 1955 and operated until 2015. At the time of its opening, the Riviera revolutionized the hotels industry in Vegas, thanks to its groundbreaking design.
This photo shows the Riviera Casino around 1955, the year the hotel opened. The Riviera was considered a city landmark, and so it operated as the shooting location for different Hollywood productions, including the hit films 21 and The Hangover.
We mentioned that King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley had many affairs in Vegas, one of them with the actress/singer Ann-Margaret. Their romance wasn’t long, but it was extremely photogenic.
This photo was taken in 1964, when the duo were rehearsing for a show together.
we wouldn’t change much about this city, but one thing that definitely changed for the better is the uniform of the casino dealers.
This photo, taken sometime during the 50s, demonstrates the uniform of the dealers, unsurprisingly, at the Circus Circus casino – a very fitting name.
Living the dream
This photo, taken in 1956, captures 60s starts Frank Sinatra and Audrey Hepburn spinning heads at the Sands hotel and casino.
Though stars like them weren’t a rare sight at the Sands hotel at the time, this picture was taken two years after both Sinatra and Hepburn won an Academy Award.