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Raising the Stakes 1946-1960

With the end of World War II, Las Vegas began to boom like never before. A host of resorts followed the El Rancho Vegas and Hotel Last Frontier along Highway 91, a road that, by 1952, had become the "Las Vegas Strip." The city would never be the same again.


El Rancho Vegas
Manis Collection

While the gambling clubs of downtown appealed to gambling habitués, many visitors found them small and crude. With the construction of the El Rancho Vegas, south of San Francisco Street on the Los Angeles Highway (today Sahara and the Strip), the town now had a first-class resort, though it was miles south of downtown.

The El Rancho Vegas would light the way for future growth on what would become the Strip.

El Rancho Vegas
Manis Collection

The El Rancho Vegas was revolutionary because, unlike downtown gambling halls, it was as close to a full-service resort as Las Vegas had ever seen.

Because of the desire to keep players near the tables, casino resorts like the El Rancho developed a range of amenities that could fulfill all of guest’s needs. This photo shows just how isolated and self-contained the early resorts were.

Last Frontier
Frontier Hotel Collection


The Last Frontier was the first themed casino in Las Vegas. It was so thoroughly Western that, instead of a car, the resort sent a stagecoach to pick up guests from the airport.

Flamingo Promotional and Public Relations File

The Flamingo has been one of the most storied resorts of the Strip since its opening in late 1946. Although the infamous Bugsy Siegel is often identified as the Flamingo's founder, Billy Wilkerson was actually the visionary who started building the luxurious casino.

By the time this invitation was issued, he had been pushed aside by the combative Siegel, whose brief,unsuccessful involvement with the project ended with his June 1947 murder.

Manis Collection
The self-contained resorts of the Strip catered to average Americans by offering more than just gambling: they packaged an entire sun- drenched vacation for prospective guests, in which carefree days by the pool were followed by high-stakes nights at the tables.
Desert Inn
Las Vegas News Bureau Collection
The Desert Inn, with its 18-hole golf course and lavish accommodations, would become a leader on the new Strip. On opening night, the casino--then the state's largest-- was packed. As can be seen, casinos have certainly come a long way

Wilbur and Toni Clark Collection

Wilbur and Toni Clark Collection

Wilbur Clark, the affable public face of the Desert Inn, was a well-traveled advocate of the casino who, it seems, never failed to impress with his charm and generosity.








Here, the wife of then-Senator John F. Kennedy thanks Clark for the gift of a portable television.









In this letter, evangelist Billy Graham expresses his appreciation for Clark's hospitality and enlightening "explanation of gambling."






Fabulous Las vegas

A host of enthusiastic boosters championed the cause of Las Vegas as a vacation destination.


Publisher Jack Cortez's Fabulous Las Vegas, one of the first magazines dedicated to Las Vegas nightlife, touted the wonders of the town to all who would listen.






As can be seen, the magazine highlighted casino openings and community events like the annual Helldorado parade.

Sands Collection

In the fall of 1954, when this photo was taken, the Strip was not very imposing. The one- and two-story buildings rarely communicated the excitement that was possible within them, though their oversized neon signs often did.




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Last modified Monday, 30-Aug-2010 20:42:16 UTC