15 Historical Photos Of The Early Days Of Las Vegas

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Every big city has to start from somewhere, growing from a small town into a bustling place of promise and, eventually, a cultural Mecca. Take a look at a few historical photos of Las Vegas to take you back in time through its many changes.

1. The very, very early days

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Just like every other major city in the world, Las Vegas started from extremely humble beginnings. Here we can see laborers in the first stages of construction during the city’s early days.

2. The cheapest Vegas real estate you’ll ever see

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$3 million might sound like a lot of money, but in modern times it would cost a whole lot more to purchase land for a casino. Before it was the gambling capital of the states, it was just empty real estate.

3. A bird’s-eye view of progress

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Moving right along, Las Vegas blossoms into a small town with some major thoroughfares.

4. The Arizona Club: as “Old West” as it gets

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No, this isn’t the set of an old western. This is the inside of the Arizona Club, a glamorous “wild-west” saloon that served as the cornerstone of what would eventually become The Strip.

5. Just your average, everyday horse-drawn ice delivery

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In this very clearly old photo, we see a crew with a horse-drawn carriage making an ice delivery to an early Vegas grocery store (which wouldn’t have had a refrigerator at the time).

6. Casino culture in full swing

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In the 1940s, the Vegas Strip and its exciting casino establishments were finally in full swing. Since this photo was taken, the Pioneer Club and the Las Vegas Club have closed, but the Monte Carlo is still going strong.

7. The magnificent Boulder Dam (now known as Hoover Dam)

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Here’s an early shot of the Hoover Dam from 1942 when it was known as the Boulder Dam to most locals. In 1947, President Truman officially gave it the Hoover name.

8. A little harmless nuclear testing

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In this somewhat haunting photo, soldiers watch the explosion of an atomic bomb during the first of several Desert Rock Exercises conducted in the Nevada Proving Grounds northwest of the city.

9. Vegas has always been a pageant town

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Las Vegas and pretty girls go hand-in-hand. Here we see some vintage beauties competing for a title in a room that’s significantly less glamorous than it would be today.

10. Elvis plays at the International Hotel

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Likely taken in the late 60s/early 70s, this photo commemorates Elvis’s residency at Vegas’s International Hotel. The King set a record in the summer of 1969 for the most consecutive shows at the International with a whopping 58 performances in a single month.

11. A Sin City snowstorm in 1958

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Snowfall is pretty minimal in Las Vegas, so when this photo of a “snowstorm” was taken in 1958, it likely gave upper-midwesterners a good laugh. The highest reported accumulation in Vegas history was 7.4 inches in 1979.

12. Christmastime in 1960

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Vegas! Just because it’s called Sin City doesn’t mean it isn’t a beautiful place to be for the holidays. It was certainly true in 1960 when this photo was snapped!

13. A postcard photo from the Last Frontier, 1954

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This beautifully-posed photo of Vegas vacationers hanging out around the pool at the Last Frontier hotel graced the front of one of the hotel’s postcards in 1954. Incidentally, that’s probably not safe diving board practice. Where’s the lifeguard?

14. Vacationers outside the Sahara, 1958

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A trio of pals chats outside the Sahara Casino (now the SLS Las Vegas Hotel and Casino) with their fancy cars. Everything about this candid 1958 snapshot screams “vintage.”

15. Clint Eastwood outside the Sahara, 1977

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Skipping ahead in time, here’s the Sahara in 1977. This time, we see a 47-year-old Clint Eastwood looking remarkably good for his age during the filming of The Gauntlet.

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