If you’re looking for fun, sun, and a bit of sin, there’s no better place to go than the must-visit vacation destination, Las Vegas, hooked its tourists with its mesmerizing lights and lively casinos that fill the Strip, and the nightlife full of shows by world-famous performers and bottomless drinks. What used to be a barren desert landscape became the bright playground for rich thrill-seekers looking for indulgence, excess, and glamour during the 1940s. Check out these photos from its golden age dating back to the 1940s and 1950s. The days when the Strip was located on Fremont Street, showbiz stars such as Marilyn Monroe were patrons of the landmark while everyone was looking fab and dashing.
First Neon Sign In Las Vegas
Though the Golden Age of Las Vegas is considered to have truly begun during the 1940s and 1950s when the Rat Pack dominated the casinos and celebrities patronized the city’s hotels, Las Vegas’ casinos’ dated way before that. As a matter of fact, the first gambling hall got a neon sign back in the 1930s. Look at this photo taken of the Las Vegas Club, the first hotel gambling establishment to have a neon sign installed onto its entrance.
Las Vegas’ First Casino: El Rancho Vegas
Before the 1940s and 1950s, the city of Las Vegas was basically nothing but a barren swath of dirt, just a desert landscape with none of the hotels, buildings, and nightlife it’s known for today. But after investors took an interest in the dry wastelands and began building casinos to fill the desert, Las Vegas saw a rise in visitors and businesses. The image below was shot not long after El Rancho Vegas first began entertaining customers in 1942, and it shows why the casino became successful.
The First Days Of Fremont Street
Fremont Street, now known as part of “downtown Las Vegas” and off The Strip, was once the core of life in the glamorous desert oasis. When casinos first began ushering in customers along this now-famous street, neon lights hung from every crook of the lane to draw in visitors. Today, Fremont Street is still essential to Las Vegas, but it’s lost a lot of its old glamour. In this image, you can see the street way back before it was busy, and before it was enclosed with a huge overhead HD screen.
An Early Las Vegas Pool Party
It’s impossible to keep cool when you’re in a desert, so Las Vegas offers ways to beat the heat. Surprisingly, Las Vegas’ pools have been beloved from the very start of its days on The Strip. You heard that right: even during the early days, casinos and hotels have already been offering visitors the chance to enjoy refreshing pools under the sun. Check out this picture caught during the early days of Las Vegas’s first hotels. While the pool scenes in Las Vegas are much more flashy today, this was certainly the sight to see of its time.
The Flamingo During The 1950s
The Flamingo has been on the Las Vegas Strip itinerary since the late 1940s. However, evident from the picture below, it’s come a long way from what it looked like during its early years. The Flamingo was nothing but a low-level hotel and casino during the 1950s. It wasn’t until in that decade did a water tower and the famous shimmery pink “Flamingo” sign get erected, and since then, the hotel and casino rose to popularity.
Fremont Street At Its Height
As aforementioned, Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas was the must-visit place when you toured into the city in the 1950s. Tourists still recognize this stretch of casinos and hotels as the home of some of Las Vegas’ most iconic neon signs. Take a look at this rare photo of Fremont Street during the height of its popularity. As you drove along the way, you could gaze and be mesmerized by the gorgeous neon signs from the Golden Nugget, the Hotel Apache, and the Las Vegas Club.
The Tropicana Hotel First Appears On The Strip
Today, the all-white, stories-tall Tropicana establishment looms above The Strip near the MGM Grand. But back then, as seen in the picture below, the Tropicana used to be nothing more but a simple white sign. On a barren lot of Las Vegas territory during 1955, the hotel’s construction workers put up this billboard as the other builders prepared to lay the foundation for this hotel. Two years later, the Tropicana will open its doors for customers for the very first time, sparking decades’ worth of success with luxury suite rooms
The Copa Girls Perform At The Copa Room
The Copa Girls were one of the most iconic performers in all of Las Vegas. The Copa Girls performed for crowds that packed up to 400 people at the Sands Hotel. The Copa Room was their home base and it drew in massive audiences whenever their performance was scheduled. The Copa Room is furnished to look like the Copacabana: brilliantly colored and vibrant. If you’re in luck, there are times The Copa Girls performed alongside other famous singers of the times. See the photo below and appreciate The Copa Girls.
Muhammad Ali Fights In Vegas
What really skyrocketed the city’s popularity was the must-see Las Vegas boxing matches. Back in 1965, Las Vegas made history by hosting the first-ever boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson. Young Ali had already made a name for himself for his remarkable skills and his boxing victories, and the fight against Floyd Patterson was a battle for the heavyweight title. Muhammad Ali rose as the champion, though Patterson tried to taunt him by referring to him with his former name.
Frank Sinatra Getting Into Character At The Dunes
If there was any band that corresponds with Las Vegas’ Golden Age during the 1940s and 1950s, it’s the Rat Pack. And the most famous personality within the Rat Pack was Frank Sinatra renowned crooner and talented dancer. Frank Sinatra was a patron to the luxuries of Las Vegas, so much that he actually had a part in developing the city’s reputation for glamour, extravagance, and celebrity sightings. The reasons why Frank Sinatra adored the fun of Las Vegas is as seen in this photo. In 1955, Sinatra was passing his time at The Dunes, a popular hotel on The Strip between 1955 to 1993, due to the fact that The Dunes needed a celebrity testimony to attract customers and media attention. Sinatra posed for his picture to be taken, surrounded by a harem of women meant to mirror the hotel’s theme about Arabian Nights.
The Glamorous Blue Bell Girls Of The Stardust Hotel
Back in the glamour days between the 1940s and 1950s, Vegas let you in on one-of-a-kind shows that you can’t see anywhere else. During the 1950s, one of the most extraordinary and exhilarating shows on The Strip was hosted by the Stardust Hotel. Every night, the Bluebell Girls take the stage of the Stardust Hotel, giving the audience a cabaret show like no other. The Bluebell Girls originate from Paris, and when they came to America, they brought with them an exceptional kind of performance that wowed the public. Their booming popularity dominated the Las Vegas performance scene for more than 60 years.
Audrey Hepburn In A Vegas Casino
During Las Vegas’ Golden Era, one of the greatest world-known artists was Audrey Hepburn. Deemed as the paragon of fashion and one of Hollywood’s big-name stars, Audrey Hepburn was one of the many showbiz personalities who patronized Las Vegas during the 1950s. Seen in this candid photo below are Audrey Hepburn and her husband, Hollywood restaurant owner Mike Romanoff, spotted by a lucky Las Vegas who happened to be in the same casino as them.
A Famous Casino Owner Takes A Huge Gamble
Jake Freedman just established one of the most famous Las Vegas hotels on the same street that’s now popular as The Strip. He opened the Sands Club, a casino-hotel with 200 vacancies — and it promptly became the favorite of the famous Rat Pack. As a matter of fact, the Sands Club became such a hit in Las Vegas that the original Ocean’s 11 film was shot in the casino. The casino owner is about to lose $10,000 — $90,000 in today’s money — on a single risky gamble.
The Sands Welcome The Rat Pack
If you were in Las Vegas back in the day, there was one band everyone’s hoping to meet while strolling around: the Rat Pack. The Rat Pack that truly made the city into the playground for the grand and glamorous during its golden age. Composed of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Joey Bishop, the Rat Pack were the epitome of Las Vegas glamour. These men stunned fans and audiences with sharp suits and incredible voices every time they performed.
An Early Performance By Las Vegas Showgirls
While there are fewer performances, the showgirls of Las Vegas are still around to preserve the Golden Era’s feel and style. During the 1950s, The Strip was still new to having entertainment opportunities. Showgirls performed impressive shows while wearing sparkling, striking outfits with notable headdresses and skirts. As shown in this photo, glitter and feathers weren’t the constant when it comes to showgirl fashion. Depending on the show’s theme, the showgirls could dress up in various kinds of unique and stunning outfits — an example of this is this memorable dice-inspired look below.
A Peek Inside The Bluebell Girls Dressing Room
The Bluebell Girls of the Stardust Hotel are some of the most famous performers to ever grace the Las Vegas Strip. While the Bluebell Girls cabaret performances were all exquisite and impressive, few people got a chance to see the glitz and glamour come to life. In this photo, you can glimpse a rare sneak peek into what it was like to get ready as a Bluebell Girl.
Frank Sinatra Performing At The Copa Room
Since the Rat Pack has been performing in the City of Sin for a decade, musicians and artists of all sorts were coming in to get a taste of Vegas fame. Here is Frank Sinatra, Mr. Las Vegas himself, who kept performing on the many stages in the City of Sin for his entire career. He sang to audiences in various hotels and casinos. In the photo below, you can get a glimpse of one of Frank Sinatra’s performances in the Copa Room.
Elvis Presley Takes Up Residency In Vegas
A Vegas residency is being remarked as a great way to rebuild a career, and it’s all thanks to Elvis Presley. You heard that right: the popular method for artists who want to keep performing but stop touring was a trend started by Elvis Presley himself. In 1970, Elvis began a 5-year residency at the Las Vegas International Hotel. In this photo below, he’s just begun his residency contract, getting ready to rock out with his band to awe audiences across America.
Showgirls Playing Slots
This photo captures a glimpse of the two traditions of Las Vegas complementing each other. You can see Kim Smith, an off-duty showgirl, trying her luck at a slot machine. The slot machines back in the 1950s are different from today’s electronic and digital versions, making it more of a thrill to take the gamble. And as shown here, Kim Smith is enjoying herself! In this photo, you can see Kim Smith, a Vegas showgirl who’s off duty, trying her luck at a casino’s slot machine.
A Crowded Gambling At El Rancho
El Rancho was truly a must-see destination. Whether you want to take part in the many vices and fun opportunities in Las Vegas, El Rancho was the icon of the early days in the City of Sin. This photo from 1960 in the days before the El Rancho Las Vegas burned down captured one last glimpse of what it was like to be a part of the thrilling games on one of its many gambling tables.