Vintage Las Vegas: From Humble City To Desert Metropolis

Published January 4, 2015
Updated October 28, 2019

Before towering hotels and brightly lit casinos covered the strip, vintage Las Vegas was a humble gambling town in the middle of the desert.

In 1900, only 22 people lived in Las Vegas. In fact, it wasn’t until 1930 when President Herbert Hoover–in the midst of the Great Depression–commissioned the Boulder Dam (renamed the Hoover Dam), that people began flooding to the city. Though a small but dedicated gambling community had existed for years, the Nevada state legislature only legalized local gambling in 1931.

After the law was passed, casinos and hotels began popping up along Fremont Street, marking the birth of today’s beloved Strip.

These days more than 39 million people visit Las Vegas each year. Check out these vintage Las Vegas pictures to see the modest gambling city take shape over the past 80 years, eventually forming the desert metropolis it is today.

First Las Vegas Gaming License
Las Vegas In The 1930s
Vintage Las Vegas 1930s
Vintage Las Vegas Female Gamblers
Vintage Las Vegas: From Humble City To Desert Metropolis
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In 1950, most hotels and casinos were located on Fremont Street. See the street in action in A Last Frontier: Las Vegas, 1950:

Growth in Las Vegas in the 1960s was unmatched. Check out this brief history of the decade:

Kiri Picone
Bay Area transplant Kiri Picone is a writer and marketer who loves bizarre news and the color purple.