Las Vegas in the 1950s – The Making of the City As We Know It
The 1950’s were a period of development for Las Vegas. It had established itself as one of the premier places for the Hollywood crowd to showcase their talent and enjoy relaxation, but the town was still in relative infancy. With a population of 50,000, there had be stupendous growth over the previous 20 years, but it wasn’t until the 50’s that the town started seeing some of the innovations and sights that we consider to be commonplace in Las Vegas today.
The building of the Desert Inn, opening in 1950, was something that Vegas hadn’t seen before. They paid ultra-popular names to help with the opening, and offered elegance that hadn’t been seen in a Las Vegas hotel, complete with an 18-hole golf course & tennis courts on the premises. These were things that hadn’t been seen on the strip to date. In ’51 the newly renamed Horseshoe began to host the world series of poker, a tournament that still survives to this day. In ’54, the buffet was introduced to Las Vegas, courtesy of the Showboat. Other innovations from that establishment include 24 hour bing & bowling, something that had never been done before.
One of the newest things to arrive on the Las Vegas strip, that has since become something that is synonymous with the city, is the high rise hotel. In 1955, the Riviera opened it’s doors and was the first hotel to break the ranch style that had been so popular over the years. At nine stories high, it was the tallest structure in the city. The Riviera paid Liberace over $50,000 to play in its’ Clover Room, one of the biggest sums paid to any entertainer in the city’s history.
The 50’s were a time that hotels competed for big name acts to come play in their establishments, hoping to drive more tourists to their hotels because of the fame of these entertainers. People such as Elvis were asked to perform. Acts such as the Lido do Paris were brought in to entertain thousands of Vegas tourists. The prices paid to these entertainers became more and more lavish and were driving more and more entertainers to the west. Nightclub owners from other states could not compete with what Las Vegas was paying their entertainers & this helped the city to become known as the place to be if you wanted to see the big names perform on stage. Stars the likes of Frank Sinatra & Wayne Newton launched their careers on the stages of Las Vegas.
Other innovations of the decade brought sporting events to Las Vegas, which were nationally televised. The PGA Tournament of champions was a notable event that helped to publicize Las Vegas as a sports lovers destination in addition to it’s
entertainment roots. Also, the wedding industry ramped up during the 1950’s and brought a lot of attention to the city for the ease of which you could be married. There were a number of celebrity wedding in the city that helped to publicize this industry.
Many of the conventions that have been used in Las Vegas to attract tourists began in the 1950’s. The 30’s and 40’s were the birth of the city & the 50’s are when it learned how to draw in massive amounts of tourists and their money.
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