Nevada wasn’t all Hollywood glamour and bright lights during the ’50s. Lest we forget, the state was also the site for Operation Project 56 – a series of four nuclear tests conducted by the United States Government between 1955 and 1956. They carried out four nuclear tests over at the Nevada Test Site after Operation Wigwam and just before Operation Redwing.
Pictured here is a group checking out the very first nuclear test of ’55, happening right there in Las Vegas, Nevada. They watched as the initial atomic bomb was set off from a high-flying plane. After a slight delay, this particular blast finally kicked off the 1955 nuclear tests. They dropped the bomb at noon, despite facing strong winds and snow at 3 p.m.
Weddings in Las Vegas
Las Vegas became one of the country's most popular venues for "goin' to the chapel." Back then, it was considered very elegant to get married in Vegas, how times have changed! Getting married in Vegas wasn’t just exciting, it was aspirational of sorts.
Several celebrities chose Sin City as a marriage destination during the 1950s - from silent film stars to iconic Hollywood actors. But the most high-profile Vegas marriage of the time was that of Elvis and Priscilla. Celebrity weddings of the 1950s soon became an unspoken trend that included singer Dick Haymes and Rita Hayworth, and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
Show Girl Culture
During the 1950s many female performers were expected to hang out with the high rollers after their performances. With showgirls, it was the opposite; they were placed on a pedestal, and it was decidedly difficult to play arm candy from a pedestal. Showgirls initially took the stage before and after the main acts, often dancing around the featured performer.
As time went on, they shifted from being supporting acts to rightfully becoming the main stars of the show. Extravagant showgirl performances were synonymous with Vegas in the 1950s. Times and tastes have now changed, and many former showgirls struggle to find work.
Model and actor Kitty Dolan epitomized the glitz and glam of the 1950s in Las Vegas. She wasn't just another face in the crowd, as evident from this photograph. The camera captures Dolan in the doorway sharing an intimate moment with a friend.
Dolan was at the heart of entertainment in Vegas although cinephiles remember her best for “The Tonight Show” (1953) and “How to Marry a Millionaire" (1957). She also appeared alongside "The King" Elvis Presley in the Paramount film “King Creole.” Some of the most unforgettable pictures from the era feature Dolan and Presley together, working and hanging out in the bright lights of Las Vegas.
More Hotels on the Strip
Vegas witnessed an explosion in nightlife during the 1950s. The Strip saw new additions, like the iconic Thunderbird Hotel, the Desert Inn, and the Silver Slipper. A wave of new establishments emerged in rapid succession: the Sahara (1952), Sands (1952), Royal Nevada (1955), Riviera (1955), Dunes (1955), Hacienda (1956), Tropicana (1957), and Stardust (1958).
This growth extended beyond the Strip, giving rise to properties like the Showboat (1954), Fremont (1956), and the revolutionary Moulin Rouge (1955). Additionally, commercial and residential developments developed north and east of Charleston. Boulevard.