Hoover Dam took 4 and a half years and in many ways was the defining event in
Las Vegas History, as workers hungry for excitement would head downtown to
Fremont Street's bustling gambling and drinking joints.
Workers lived at "Boulder City" which practically emptied on payday when Fremont Street in Vegas burst alive with gambling, drinking, nearby prostitution.
Founded 1905, Las Vegas was a railroad town. 1922 saw problems that almost sank the city. How to make money in the desert?
1931 - solid reputation as "Rogue State" by legalizing casino style gambling. Fremont grew very fast with gambling parlors. Dam was a huge tourist attraction even in 1932 when 100k people visited. Vegas known as "Gateway to Hoover Dam". 1935 - with it's completion, the Hoover Dam workers leave Boulder city and Fremont Street is no longer prosperous.
In 1938 many illegal gambling experts, kicked out of Los Angeles, moved to LV. By 1940 syndicated crime was becoming
Lansky sent Segal in 1941 to eliminate a rival 'race wire'.
Before the mob, LV was basically a train depot plus a row of gambling joints on Fremont. 1945 - Mob buys El Cortez after years of simpling investing in other casinos.
1946: 3 miles away, on the road to LA, Segal suggested a big resort, outside of city and it's slot tax. This was NOT the first, it was the THIRD on the strip. Mob 1.5MM to invest in Wilkinsons? project, the FLAMINGO. The first "swank" hotel, completed in 1947. Segal killed in 47, Lansky takes over.
Skimmed cash. Intertwining of the gambling and legit community - it was the gambling that was fueling the legit developments as well.
Kefauver probes in 1950. US Senate investigates organized crime all over the USA. TN democrat. Did not have much affect on LV, in fact may have helped establish more mobsters there as illegal gambling in other sections of the country closed.
How to make LV appealing to mainstream USA?
"In it but not of it" said one LV resident.
1951: Atomic Bomb experiments. "Testing" at teh Nevada Proving facilities. One every five weeks on average in Mojave, 64 miles from downtown LV. Marketing turns this positive with "shot calendars" and roadmaps to help tourists watch the blasts.
1963. Above ground stops due to test ban treaty. Tourism booming.
Jubilee at Bally's, huge, long running show. 23 years.
Leisure, consumerism, Motoring for fun contribute to growth. By mid 1950's LV is "everywhere" in ads and culture as
Downtown and Strip, which is now fast becoming the best known part of the vegas experience. Stardust, Tropicana, Dunes. All bankrolled by mob.
Binyon "make little people feel like big people", bootlegger, killed two back home in tx? Horseshoe is first casino to ply with free drinks. They take any bet.
Sands - miss atomic bomb contest.
1955: New strip resorts use big shows, buffets, lavishness to bring visitors and attention. Performers paid highly.
1957: First topless dancing at the Dunes.
1955: 7MM visitors per year, almost all to strip.
50's pop triples to 127k? people. Water problems. West side is sprawling squalor. Home to African Americans who had come to LV to work, many in defense plant. Hotels kept them in low paying jobs. Rigid segregation keeps blacks out of casinos. Even the black entertainers were
1955? Moulin Rouge breaks segregation barrier, adds third late show. entertainers start to demand rooms in the hotels, allowing blacks in audience. Market forces trump the color barrier. NAACP calls for march on the LV strip. Day before the planned protest mayor and locals agree and finalize lifting Jim Crow at EVERY bar, hotel, casino in vegas. This was the MOULIN ROUGE AGREEMENT. But another decade before full segregation.
Ocean's 11 movie. Rat pack at Sands COPA room.
Mob still in control, part of the glamour for ordinary person. High water mark. Pinnacle of Vegas' "Cool Era".
Kennedy had been coming to Vegas for years ... Judith Exner. Kennedy admin launches biggest attack on vegas in history.