The 1950s were a defining era of Las Vegas. It’s a decade that saw the rise of the Riviera, the Sands, and the Dunes, where the likes of Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop flocked to the Strip along with millions of other tourists. There were dancers, mobsters, weddings, and the glitz of post-war America.
Customers gamble at a Las Vegas casino pool in 1957. Gambling wasn’t the only attraction during this decade, as some of the biggest stars of film and music performed and brought entertainment to the city.
Dean Martin performs at the Sands in 1957. The Copa Room was the showroom for the hotel, and it was the stage for some of the greatest names in the entertainment industry.
Mamie Van Doren sings “Teddy Bear” during her first night club appearance at the Riviera Hotel in 1957. The sex symbol is known for being one of the first actresses to imitate the look of Marilyn Monroe.
Frank Sinatra performs at the Sands in 1954. He typically played at Sands three times a year, sometimes a two-week stint, which brought in a lot of business.
Cars drive down Fremont Street in Las Vegas in 1955. The street was named in honor of explorer John Charles Frémont and is located in the main downtown casino corridor.
Hotel owner Jake Freedman rolls dice at a craps table at the Dunes in 1955. The casino closed one year after Freedman bought it.
Former heavyweight champion Joe Louis signs a contract purchasing part interest in Las Vegas’s $3,000,000 Moulin Rouge Hotel in 1954.
Fremont Street at night in 1955. It is among the most famous streets in the Las Vegas Valley, besides the Las Vegas Strip.
Showgirls perform Jackpot at a casino in 1955. The showgirls worked constantly, sometimes even up to three appearances in a day.
Frank Sinatra and Audrey Hepburn at the Sands in 1956. The two actors were both Oscar winners the same year (1954), yet never appeared in a film together.
Actors Peter Lawford and Judy Holliday by the pool of the Sands in 1953. The two were costars in the romantic comedy It Should Happen to You.
Opera singer Marguerite Piazza watches guests play roulette at the Sands in 1955. After her opera career she joined the supper-club circuit, performing jazz and pop in venues like the Sands in Las Vegas.
Sammy Davis Jr. during his wedding to Lory White at the Sands Hotel in 1958. They would divorce two years later.
Frank Sinatra and actress Ava Gardner at the opening of his nightclub in 1951. The couple got married that year.
Showgirls dance on stage in 1952. The iconic Vegas showgirl first started in the 1950s and the idea came from Paris.
Actress Jayne Mansfield poses by the pool of the Dunes hotel in 1955. She died in a car accident at the age of 34.
Bert Lahr plays dice in 1952. He is best known for his role as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.
Liberace and Elvis Presley jam backstage at a night club in 1956. They first met when Liberace went to the Frontier to see Presley perform. Presley returned the favor and went to the Riviera to see Liberace’s act.
Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, and Kim Novak at the Sands hotel on September 14, 1956. During its heyday, the Sands was the center of entertainment and activity on the Strip.
Elvis Presley in front of a concert poster at the New Frontier Hotel. The resort hosted Presley’s first Vegas appearance in 1956.
Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. goof around in a dressing room in 1958. Martin’s nickname was “The King of Cool.”
Jayne Mansfield at the roulette table in 1958. The nightclub entertainer and singer was one of the early Playboy Playmates.
Women sit and pose on a rocket outside the Stardust Resort and Casino in 1958. When the hotel opened, it had the largest casino and swimming pool in Nevada.
Eddie Fisher performs in 1958. He was one of the most popular artists during the ’50s and even hosted his own TV show.
Dean Martin deals at a casino in 1958. He was a member of the “Rat Pack,” which was made up of a group of entertainers that performed in Las Vegas at casinos.
Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor before his show in 1959. Fisher’s first wife, Debbie Reynolds, was Taylor’s best friend at the time of his first marriage.
Sammy Davis Jr. and Clint Eastwood at the Sands hotel in 1959. Davis was instrumental in bringing a change in racial policy at the Sands.
Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor leaving their wedding in 1959. Fisher and Taylor would divorce in 1964.
Showgirls in the dressing room of the Stardust Hotel in 1958. From 1959 to 1964, the hotel’s convention center was reserved for “high roller” guests and The Stardust showgirls.
Fremont Street in Las Vegas at night in 1955. The Golden Nugget is a luxury hotel and was the largest casino in the downtown area—it’s also the oldest casino still in operation today.
Swimmers look through underwater portholes in a pool at a Las Vegas hotel in 1955. Pools were a must, even in the ’50s, since temps in the summer can easily surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
A 1959 photoshoot at the Sands hotel around a casino craps table.
Austrian actress Mara Lane getting waiter service in the Sands pool in 1954. Many celebrities visited Las Vegas to enjoy the high luxury accommodations offered at hotels in the area.
Named after the iconic Paris nightclub, the Moulin Rouge casino was the first desegregated hotel casino in Las Vegas.
Patrons trying their luck at the blackjack table in the Moulin Rouge casino. Sadly, the casino closed in 1955.
By 1954, over 8 million people were visiting Las Vegas every year, resulting in around $200 million being spent at casinos.
Jake Freedman, the owner of the Sands hotel, at a roulette table. He was often seen wearing matching cowboy-inspired outfits with his wife, Carolyn, because, why not?
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.
Mae West making her nightclub debut at Hotel Sahara. After her cinematic career ended, she continued performing in Las Vegas.
Showgirls Joy Skylar and Florence Walters practice their golf game in Las Vegas prior to a showgirl golf tournament held at the Desert Inn Country Club in 1953.
Dorothy Dandridge dances in a sequin leotard during her Las Vegas nightclub debut performance at the Riviera Hotel.
As Las Vegas grew in popularity throughout the ’50s, available lots grew in value. Here, a hotel site plot was being sold for $3 million in 1955.
Rita Hayworth and her fourth husband, Dick Haymes, after their wedding in Las Vegas. The couple was married for two years before divorcing in 1955.
While filming the movie The Nat ‘King’ Cole Story in Las Vegas, Nat King Cole dances a number with a showgirl.
The Bluebell Girls pose on aerial platforms at the Stardust Hotel. This well-known group typically performed at the Lido Nightclub in Paris, France, but journeyed to Las Vegas in 1958.
In a photo that sells the allure of the desert, actor Sir Noël Coward poses in a tuxedo with a cocktail and a cigarette in 1955.
Showgirls dressed in colorful sequins and feathered corsets perform at the Moulin Rouge in 1955.
Visitors flock to the slot machines in hopes of winning a quick pay out at the Desert Inn Casino in 1953.
Hollywood heavy hitters, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, pose with their wedding cake following a Las Vegas ceremony in 1958. The couple was married for 50 years.
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