22 Photos from Las Vegas Booming in 1955

As photographed by Life Magazine in 1955 Las Vegas was a booming desert town. Driven by gambling, the migration due to high unemployment, and the glitz and glamour of the desert oasis.

At Las Vegas last week the temperate was up to a torrid 110 degrees and the townsfolk who operate the only large gambling center in the country welcomed the seasonable weather. With it they expected the usual bountiful summer crop of tourists trying out their luck and leaving their money behind. The sign of good times seemed everywhere … But with all this a shadow of doubt fell across Las Vegas, a worry that the boom it was set for has started to wilt.

In the past month, two new top-notch hotels opened. One was the $5 million Dunes, which lugged 120 slot machines in anticipation of the rush. The other was the Moulin Rouge, the first interracial hotel in Las Vegas, which welcomed back whites and Negroes to its accommodations and gambling tables. It had Joe Louis as part-owner and host, and a lively, lovely chorus in its floor show.

Like a gamble on a prolonged winning streak, Las Vegas had the feeling its run of luck couldn’t end. For more than a decade, it had parlayed one prosperous year into a more prosperous next year and went into the expansion more in the spirit of hunch than of calculated economics. The opening of the new hotels and of what Las Vegas hoped would be a new era of money-making was opulent and promising … But when the excitement of the opening died down, the town looked at its new places were customers were scarce and the betting light and wondered: Had Vegas pushed its luck too far?

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Alex Browne studied History at Kings College London and is an Assistant Editor at Made From History. He specializes in post-war history in the USA and Central America.