Miss Atomic Bomb 1957

Published October 24, 2015
Updated November 7, 2023

The atomic arms race inspired some of the most dangerous weapons in history. It also inspired the crowning of a Miss Atomic Bomb.

Miss Atomic Bomb

Casino showgirl Lee Merlin, Miss Atomic Bomb 1957. Image Source: Las Vegas Sun

Today Las Vegas is known for showgirls and gambling, but during the 1950s, it was also known for atomic bomb explosions.

A 680-square-mile atomic testing ground was established in 1950 by President Harry Truman just 45 miles from the center of Sin City. Las Vegas isn’t known as a city that lets a money-making opportunity pass, and businesses capitalized on the nearby explosions by hosting viewing parties of some of the nuclear test explosions. Before long, atomic fever inspired the outfits and titles of Las Vegas’ other famous bombshells.

There was never an official Miss Atomic Bomb beauty pageant.

There were, however, four popular beauty queens given bomb-themed titles. Miss Atomic Bomb Lee Merlin, a showgirl at the famed Sands casino, has had some of the most sustained fame since a Las Vegas News Bureau photographer snapped this picture during some down time at a photo shoot.

The story goes that the photographer, Don English, attached the explosion-shaped cotton to Merlin’s bathing suit. The photo was published in 1957 and it has since appeared in numerous publications and was even the cover of The Killers’ Miss Atomic Bomb single.

Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines graduated with a Bachelor's in journalism from Auburn University, and his writing has appeared in Men's Journal, Inverse, and VinePair.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.