If you’ve read our previous article about that historical decade, you already know that the 50s alone could provide enough material for numerous novels. Apparently, though, that wasn’t all of it. We went researching and found even more impressive pictures and tidbits to help you dive into that vintage Vegas vibe.
El Rancho Hotel
El Rancho was the first resort built on the Las Vegas Strip, which would become the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue.
On June 17, 1960, a fire destroyed El Rancho's main building, and El Rancho laid vacant for years.
College of Gambling
Ever wondered how casino dealers get so good at what they do? Well, there's a dice gamble class for dealers at the College of Gambling.
With the advent of the city experiencing such a major boom in visitors, there were soon more jobs than people and many flocked for the opportunity to work in this up-and-coming metropolis.
Here we have a betting shop for horse racing. When racing began in the late 1940s, it was a booming business.
With little competition and Las Vegas attracting those who wanted to gamble, it was only a matter of time before it became a major temptation in the radiant city of Las Vegas.
Aerial View of Las Vegas
This aerial shot was taken back when Las Vegas was calmer than chaos when one would mostly see potential instead of pandemonium.
From this aerial view, we can see what Las Vegas was about to become. You might even feel that the city is gaining steam and that the resort industry is a lucrative town feature.
While America was reeling, the Hotel Apache managed to create a one-of-a-kind experience for all visitors in the early days.
Not only did Hotel Apache have stained-glass windows, but it was also the first hotel in Las Vegas to feature an elevator.
The Main Strip
Captured here is the Golden Nugget, the Lucky Strike Club, and the infamously named Hotel Apache.
If people back in the 1950s thought these lights were bright and dazzling, they'd probably be blown away by the overwhelming glare in Las Vegas that we see nowadays…
Meet Vegas Vic
You’ve probably seen this large neon cowboy a few times in movies or on TV. This guy is known as Vegas Vic.
He was part of the sign for the Pioneer Club, a famous casino and cocktail bar on the Strip in Las Vegas that first opened in 1942.
Evel Knievel was the ultimate daredevil. Pictured here, Evel Knievel tried to jump over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
The jump was around 141 feet, and unfortunately, Knievel didn’t make it. Knievel crashed and wound up in a coma for 28 days.
The Queen of Rock and Roll
We’ve all heard about Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, but what about the Queen of Rock and Roll, Lillian Briggs?
Her single, “I Want You To Be My Baby,” was a favorite. In this rare photo from 1958, she was seen giving a fierce performance at the Sands Hotel.
Weddings in Las Vegas
Las Vegas became one of the country's most popular venues for "goin' to the chapel." Back then, it was considered very elegant to get married in Vegas, how times have changed!
Celebrity weddings of the 1950s sparked the trend that included singer Dick Haymes and Rita Hayworth, Elvis and Priscilla, and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
Show Girl Culture
During the 1950s many female performers were expected to hang out with the high rollers after their performances.
With showgirls, it was the opposite; they were placed on a pedestal, and it was decidedly difficult to play arm candy from a pedestal.
While Mayor Cragin intended to regulate Black residents out of sight, locals leveraged this to build a flourishing and close-knit community.
It was only in the 1960s that allowed for integration and gave African Americans a choice as to where they lived and shopped.
The "Black Strip"
From the 1940s to the 1960s, Las Vegas' Black community lived and worked in West Las Vegas or the Westside.
The 1943 act by former Mayor Ernie Cragin, who ordered segregation into law by denying new business licenses to Black-owned establishments unless they relocated west of the railroad tracks.
More Hotels on the Strip
As Vegas grew, the Strip saw new additions, like Thunderbird Hotel, the Desert Inn, and the Silver Slipper had joined the already well-established resorts.
Commercial and residential developments developed north and east of Charleston Boulevard. In the late 1950s, a large number of family home developments were built in the Las Vegas vicinity.
Almost Like the Wild West
It's surprising to see there were police officers in a city that felt like the Wild West. They were guarding $500,000 in silver coins that come from the World War II bond rally.
This photo could have been taken at the El Rancho Vegas, the Hotel Last Frontier, or one of the small gambling joints on Fremont Street.
Another star who visited Las Vegas was Comedian Phil Silver, known as "The King of Chutzpah." Here we see he gets in on the showgirl act.
Silvers gained significant fame when he starred in "The Phil Silvers Show," a 1950s sitcom set on a U.S. Army post wherein he played Master Sergeant Ernie Bilko.
In the late 19th century, Las Vegas was a desolate desert, but by the 1950s, this growing city had truly shaken off that image and formed its own identity.
The American gambling city is often mocked for its 'tacky' or 'flashy' appearance, but rather than ignoring this, Las Vegas has embraced it.
Las Vegas and Its Signature Design
Vegas's impact on the world of gambling can partly be attributed to their casinos' designs and with it, the world of glitz and glamour.
This only fuelled the demand for more gambling establishments to be built, each more dazzling than the next.
Up and Atom City
From the 1940s onward, Las Vegas experienced a military boom as World War II bases would now given way to Cold War facilities, most famously the Nevada Test Site.
Mushroom clouds were often seen from the hotel windows, and postcards were sold that proclaimed Las Vegas the “Up and Atom City.”
Defying the Odds
The 1950s was a pivotal decade in Las Vegas, and we have a lot to thank the early pioneers who laid the foundations for the tourist hub that Vegas is today.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the American economy was in flux. Las Vegas defied the odds and only grew.
Actor Mike Steele
The San Francisco-born actor known for "The Bat" and "The Lost Missile" would famously portray tough cowboys on-screen.
During his Vegas days, the actor performed in front of the Lucky Motel on East Fremont at the Helldorado Parade, circa 1957.
This may seem unusual but anything went down in Vegas! This was the celebrity animal of The Sands.
The famous chimpanzee would entertain the gamblers on the slot machine floor by providing laughs and just simply being cute.
Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher Get Married
Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher wed after breaking quite a few hearts along the way. This was Taylor's third marriage and Fisher's second.
They tied the knot at Temple Beth Shalom in Las Vegas on May 12, 1959.
American actress Debra Paget was famous for performances in films like Cecil B. DeMille's classic "The Ten Commandments", "Love Me Tender" and the risque snake dance in "The Indian Tomb."
Paget once at one point in her career was regarded as the woman who received more fan mail than Marylin Monroe.
The El Cortez
This is one of the oldest hotels still standing in Vegas today. The hotel opened in 1941 and is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.
While the interior has been revamped countless times, the exterior has remained largely the same.
Liberace Comes To Town
In 1955 Liberace visits Las Vegas for one of his iconic stints at the Riviera. He famously stopped to admire the trees at Marylin Parkway.
Guests would visit the spot 32 years later for his memorial service.
The First Ocean's Eleven
Las Vegas was home to many iconic film productions, most notably, the 1960 film Ocean's Eleven. Filming took place in 1959.
The film starred Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Angie Dickinson.
Louis Prima With His Wife and Musical Partner Keely Smith
The Louisiana native, Louis Prima AKA the King of Swing was a popular entertainer in Vegas lounges in the 1950s. The trumpeter even moved there with his wife, Keely Smith.
The club in which he performed was constantly packed. Prima was even invited by Sinatra to perform at Kennedy's inauguration party.
After multiple foiled developments, the Charles Pop-owned site was sold and the Flamingo Hotel and Casino was erected in 1946 by Bugsy Siegel.
It was the first luxury hotel in the area and was supposedly named after Siegels's girlfriend who was nicknamed "Flamingo."
Sinatra Owned a Casino
Not only was Sinatra a regular on the Vegas Strip, but he also loved to gamble. It would then come as no surprise that the entertainer actually owned a casino in Vegas.
Here we can see him dealing baccarat at the Sands Casino in 1959. A casino owner would have to be an avid gambler.
Aside from having roaring parties in hotels, Nevada was also a known test site for nuclear explosions (after all there was a military base there too!)
The test was conducted on July 5, 1956, and tested the explosion of a 75 kiloton device from a balloon.
As the general manager of the Riviera, Marshall Wright was one busy man, The Riviera Hotel and Casino opened in 1955 as the official first-ever high rise of the city.
It also happened to be the 9th resort of The Strip. In the 1955 opening, famed pianist Liberace was the headliner.
Sammy Davis Jr. and His Eye Patch
Sammy Davis Jr. lost his left eye in a horrific accident. After the recovery, he was back on the stage. In the opening of first his performance back, the entertainer removed his eye patch and revealed his glass eye.
He then continued as normal with the show. Here he is doing the act backstage.
The Martin & Lewis duo was wildly popular and the two would do performances in Vegas often. The two collaborated together until their bitter breakup in the year 1956.
Above is a picture of a better time when Martin and Lewis performed together for an ABC show. The duo performed together for 10 years.
The Showboat Hotel
Not every hotel in Vegas was an automatic success. There were a few that hit tougher times, mostly due to their locations. The Showboat Hotel that opened in 1954 was in the North End of the Boulder Strip.
It had some tough years until they come up with a super cheap breakfast deal that outdid competing establishments. It became more popular among local residents. In 2005 it was demolished.
Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn
This was the fifth resort ever built on the Stip. It had some mind-boggling amenities like an 18-hole golf course and a beautiful observation deck that overlooked all the swimming pools.
The hotel's entertainment hall, the "Crystal Showroom" saw people like Bobby Darin and Liberace and Howard Hughs.
Thunderbird Air Show
Vegas wasn't always glitz and glamor. Sometimes there was some military action. Pictured here is the first Thunderbird air show with F-84 Thudnerjest.
The jets flew over Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
The queen of burlesque dance, Tempest Storm was a regular at many Las Vegas clubs. At the peak of her career, she was even dubbed "The Queen Of Exotic Dancers."
Tempest storm's career spanned over 60 years. She also had some success on screen and recently featured in a documentary about her life.
John F. Kennedy Visits
Prior to his presidency, Kennedy often visited the Sands Hotel throughout the 1950s. As a friend of Frank Sinatra, the eventual 35th president would often show up at performances in Vegas.
Here is pictured with Peter Lawford, his brother-in-law who happened to be a member of the famous Rat Pack.
Las Vegas Boulevard
Photographed here is the intersection of Paradise and Las Vegas Boulevard. In the lower-left section, you can see the Desert Inn Golf Course and Las Vegas Park.
The park was a horse racing track that lasted just a few years in the mid-50s.
Jack Entratter Greets Marilyn Monroe at the Sands
Nicknamed "Mr. Entertainment", Jack Entretter was known for managing the legendary Copacabana nightclub in New York City in the 1940s and the Sands Hotel and Casino in Vegas.
Entretter was a magnet for the hottest stars of the decade. It wasn't uncommon to see the man rub shoulders with celebrities like Monroe.
Mae West Makes Her Debut
The actress, playwright, and comic known for her bawdy style of humor made her Vegas debut in Hotel Sahara in 1954.
While her screen career was a distant memory in the '50s she still managed to forge herself a mightily successful career in the Vegas club scene.
The Mint Casino
Gamblers at The Mint casino in 1958. This is the same casino that was featured in the 1972 novel by Hunter S. Thompson, "Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas."
Pictured above is practically a full house of gamblers playing the slot machines in 1958.
Cowboy Jake Freedman
Sands hotel owner Jake Freedman would visit the roulette tables and often don some type of glitzy cowboy outfit.
Here he is with his wife, Carolyn wearing matching white outfits.
Business Was Good
Business in Vegas was booming back then and every day it felt like it was getting busier and busier. By 1954 an average of 8 million people were visiting the city.
Casinos were raking in around $200 million a year.
Patrons at the Moulin Rouge Casino flocked to the Blackjack tables where the hotel proved, once again that the only color that mattered was green. Here we see a photograph taken from 1955 of a mixed crowd of gamblers.
Sadly after a series of fires, the casino shut down that same year.
The Moulin Rouge
Built in 1955, The Moulin Rouge was the first integrated hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Before that, African Americans were denied entry unless they were staff or entertainers.
The Moulin Rouge changed that and paved the way for more integrated establishments across the city and even the country.
Austrian British star Mara Lane stayed at the Sands Hotel in 1954. Here she is pictured in the pool while getting service from a waiter.
Lane was the daughter of the Russian-born pianist mother Olga Mironova and father Briton John Bolton (an Englishman.)
Las Vegas gambling tables were filled with the rich and the beautiful, as can be seen in this 1959 photoshoot of some folks gambling at a craps table at the Sands Hotel.
Many high rollers would waltz into these places with beautiful dates on their arms and would receive special treatment from hotel staff.
The Las Vegas Pools
Today Las Vegas is filled with luxury resorts and hotels. It was during the 1950s that this truly took off. In the image below, vacationers look through underwater portholes that were built in swimming pools.
With the temperatures that easily went over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, pools were simply a must in every resort.
The Golden Nugget
The Golden Nugget in Freemont street in 1955 was one of the hottest spots in Sin City. It was built in 1946.
Real estate mogul Steve Wynn bought a share in the Nugget, by 1973 he was the main stakeholder and the youngest casino owner in the city.
Showgirls would quickly prepare for the back-to-back shows, running to the dressing room for some last-minute touch-ups.
Their performances at the Stardust Hotel were some of the best in the biz. Here is a picture of showgirls preparing for a performance in 1958.
Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor Leaving Their Wedding
Taylor lost her previous husband, Mile Todd to a plane crash. She turned to her best friend Eddie Fisher for comfort. Next thing they were married.
Many hearts were broken along the way. Even theirs as they, unfortunately, divorced in 1964.
Sammy Davis Jr. was one of the first African American performers in Las Vegas to get equal treatment.
Prior to that, these establishments wouldn't' even host their talent and would give them boarding facilities outside the hotel. Here he is pictured with Clint Eastwood in 1959 at the Sands Hotel.
Fisher Strikes Back
In 1959 Eddie Fisher leaves his wife Debbie Reynolds for actress Elizabeth Taylor. The moment their divorce was finalized, he wed Taylor. The couple actually got married in the Las Vegas synagogue.
The breakup was devastating for Reynolds as she and Taylor were best friends.
Dean Martin Deals
Here we have actor, singer, and comedian Dean Martin dealing a hand at one of the casinos in 1958. Martin was one of the guys that made up the "Rat Pack."
The Rat Pack originated through the many links and parties that took place at the home of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.
American singer and actor Eddie Fisher was massively famous in the 1950s. He sold millions of records, had his own TV show, and was even married to Debbie Reynolds and then Elizabeth Taylor.
The image above is from one of his greatest Vegas performances ever, taken in the year 1958.
The Stardust Resort
Another popular resort was the Stardust Resort and Casino that opened in the year 1958. It had the largest casino and swimming pool in the whole state of Nevada.
The resort was famous for its large neon sign and topless showgirls. It also attracted a fair amount of underground activity.
Mansfield was not only a 1950s sex symbol but she was also an accomplished musician and stage actress.
The famous Vegas entertainer played the violin and the piano and even appeared on a British TV show in 1957 where she recited a line from Hamlet.
Kings of Cool
Dean Martin may have gotten the nickname "The King of Cool" but Sammy Davis Jr. was no less cool than him.
Here you can see the duo goofing around in Martins's dressing room in 1958.
Elvis's Vegas Debut
Elvis Presley's first-ever Vegas concert took place in 1956 at the New Frontier Hotel. The event created a major stir in the city and thousands of fans flocked to see the king swing those hips.
Years later Elvis Presley would return to Vegas. By then, however, his career would be drastically different.
Desert Tinsel Town
On September 14, 1956, Frank got Lauren Bacall a three-tiered cake for her 32nd birthday and decorated it with the words ‘Happy Birthday Den Mother’.
Later it would be discovered that Bacall and Sinatra were having an affair while Bacall's husband, Humphrey Bogart was dying of cancer. Sinatra reportedly even begged Bacall to marry him.
Liberace and Elvis Presley Jamming
Two big-time performers over here. Liberace and Elvis Presley were fans of each other and first met when Liberace went to see the king of Rock and Roll perform.
Presley then got the opportunity to go see Liberace's act at the Riviera. The two reunited with a backstage jam in 1956.
Bert Lahr Plays Dice
Bert Lahr AKA The Cowardly Lion from "The Wizard of Oz." loved to hit the Vegas gambling scene.
While Lahr will be immortalized in the cowardly lion, he was also a popular stage actor.
The legendary showgirl dance originated in the early 50s in Paris. Here they are on stage in 1952.
Since then it became a staple of the Las Vegas late-night entertainment scene.
Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner
After a successful career during the 30s and early 40s, Frank Sinatra hit a major slump. It was Vegas, however, that turned things around for him.
It was also the time he had his very fiery and publicized marriage with actress Ava Gardner. Here's the couple at the opening of his club in 1951.
The Dream Girl
Jayne Mansfield was obviously a hugely iconic sex symbol in the 1950s and early 1960s. She shot to fame after some small stage productions and a minor part in the CBS show "Lux Video Theatre."
Here Jayne poses by one of her favorite spots — The Dunes poolside in 1955.
The Opera Singer
Famed opera singer Marguerite Piazza was a Las Vegas headliner. Originally hailing from New Orleans, Piazza was also a radio and TV star during the 1950s.
As a Las Vegas regular, the opera singer transitioned into a jazz career, performing at the supper-club circuit in popular venus.
Actors Peter Lawford and Judy Holliday
"Rat Pack" member, actor and socialite Peter Lawford would often spend his time in Vegas. The actor also happened to be the brother-in-law of President John F. Kennedy.
Here you can see him helping actress Judy Holliday out of a pool in the Sands Hotel in 1953.
Jayne Mansfield Having a Go
One of the earliest Playboy Playmates, Jayne Mansfield was also a legendary nightclub performer and a fixture in the Vegas scene.
Here she can be seen with actress Rita Moreno and actress and dancer Gloria Paul at The Dunes Roulette table in 1955.
Sinatra and Hepburn
Frank Sinatra and Audrey Hepburn appeared together at the Sands Hotel together. The two happened to win Oscars in the year 1954 but not ever actually appear in a film together.
It was not an uncommon sight to see such glamorous and high-profile celebs in the Las Vegas party scene.
Everybody loved showgirls. They were practical the face of the raunchy Vegas night-life of the 1950s. These women or just "girls" as they called them would work constantly.
Potentially, they would do up to three performances a night. Pictured here are some super talented Vegas girls performing Jackpot at a casino in 1955.
Joe Louis Signs
Joe Louis was a heavyweight champion signed a contract with the Las Vegas Moulin Rouge Hotel in the year 1954. He would often appear for fans and do "tourist greetings."
He was one of the first African American boxing champions to reach celebrity status. His image was highly publicized and eventually became quite strictly managed.
Jake Freedman Rolls The Dice
One of Sin City's pioneers, Jack Freedman was known for putting Vegas on the map and making the Sands the epicenter of entertainment and celeb hangouts.
Freedman could occasionally be spotted throwing down some dice at the craps table and being huddled by crowds.
A Buzzing Freemont Street
The famous Freemont Street is a landmark in the city of Las Vegas. It was named after the famed explorer John Charles Frémont.
Cars whizzing down the street in 1955 were a common occurrence. Of course, as the years went by, throughout the decade, the street got busier and busier.
Frank Sinatra at The Sands
Sinatra was a Las Vegas regular and would typically perform at the Sands about three times a year and would often stay for two or three weeks at a time.
Needless to say, his shows filled up the city bringing millions of dollars to the hotels and to the tables.
Mamie Van Doren at The Riviera Hotel
Starlet Marylin Monroe spawned a new kind of sex symbol, the "blond bombshell" look. Mamie Van Doren appeared in her first-ever nightclub appearance in the Riviera Hotel in 1957
She sang the song "Teddy Bear" in a memorable performance that imitated Marylin Monroe.
Legendary crooner and official "King of Cool", Dean Martin was one of the city's biggest music acts. People flocked to see his performance in the Copa Room, a showroom at the Sands Hotel.
The showroom was home to some of the era's most iconic entertainers. Frank Sinatra was also no stranger to the Copa Room.
While Las Vegas offers tons of attractions, its main pull is, of course, gambling In 1957, hotels and casinos started to get creative and offer gambling spaces in pools.
Vacationers could take a dip, cool down, smoke a cigar, and start raking in that cash right from the water.