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Decembers to Remember in Special Collections

By Su Kim Chung on December 3, 2016 12:23 PM | Permalink



Above: This photograph of a snow-laden tree in Las Vegas in 1930 is part of our Doris Hancock Collection. Mrs. Hancock was a teacher at the John S. Park School for 39 years, retiring in 1963.

December is a month of holidays and celebrations. For some of us, that traditionally means it's time to deck the halls! We thought we'd add to the festivities by sharing a few images from the archives. These wintry scenes (and other ephemera) help document the spirit of the season in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada over the past hundred years.

A photo essay by Nancy Hardy, Special Collections Outreach and Reference Assistant



Here's a look at a Christmas tree on Fremont Street, circa 1920s Las Vegas.  (Elbert Edwards Photo Collection, PH: 0214-0752)

Behind this lonely looking tree at the far end of Fremont Street is the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake railway station. It was replaced in 1940 by the more modern, mission-style Union Pacific Station, later the site of the Union Plaza Hotel.


Playing cards from the collection of hotel and casino magnate, William Harrah (MS-00460)

These holiday edition playing cards likely were intended as a gift in 1914. They are part of our Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. Corporate Archives. Besides overseeing his hotel and casino properties, William Harrah was an avid collector of vintage automobiles, games and playing cards, including this charming set. The Harrah’s Collection also includes promotional, entertainment and financial publications and files documenting the history of the hotel and gaming company. Harrah began his career with a single bingo parlor in California in 1932. By 1971, his gaming empire was the first publicly traded gaming company in history.


Fremont Street in snow, 1921 (Lake-Eglington Collection, PH: 0100-0099)

In this unusual photograph of a snowy Fremont Street, the El Portal Theatre is seen on the right.The El Portal Theater was the first air-conditioned building in Las Vegas and was once the venue for the world premiere of the classic film, From Here to Eternity. It still stands on Fremont Street as an Arts and Crafts trading post.


As 1938 made way for 1939, Arizona Street in Boulder City, Nevada was blanketed in snow. The Boulder Dam--the name was later changed to Hoover Dam--was still brand new when this photo was taken. In the foreground are the Boulder Dam Service Bureau and the Boulder City Theatre. The Boulder Dam Hotel and Union Bus Terminal can be seen in the distance. (Manis Collection, PH: 0100-0288)


Bluebell Girls from the Stardust Hotel's new Lido de Paris production hang ornaments in Red Rock Canyon in 1958. (PH: 0348-0002)

When the Stardust Hotel and Casino opened in 1958, a version of the Parisian production Lido de Paris debuted in its Café Continental showroom. Cast members imported from Paris included a troupe of "Bluebell Girls," named after Margaret Kelly, aka "Miss Bluebell," who was the creator and manager of the performers. Kelly had a career-long collaboration with American choreographer and producer, Donn Arden, who directed the Lido and, later, Hallelujah Hollywood and Jubilee! in Las Vegas. Miss Bluebell kept Arden supplied with an international line of trained dancers, and only girls who met her high standards for talent and beauty passed the rigorous audition process. Margaret Kelly's personal scrapbooks are a part of the Margaret Kelly Collection on the Bluebell Girls archived here. Seen at the far left in this photo is Australian Bluebell Girl, Valda Esau. The Esau Collection, also a part of our archives, documents a fascinating part of the early history of the Lido in Las Vegas. Although the long-running show closed at the Stardust in 1991 after more than 30 years, Bluebell Girls are still dancing today at the Lido in Paris. Margaret Kelly passed away in 2004. 


Our Menus: The Art of Dining digital collection features holiday menus from Las Vegas Strip hotel restaurants as well as others across the country and around the world. Featured here is the menu cover from the Sands Hotel's Garden Room from 1957. Below, a look at the holiday offerings, and 1957 prices!       



The slopes of Mt. Charleston have been filled with skiers during the holidays for more than 50 years, as evidenced by this winter-themed postcard from our Fred and Maurine Wilson Photo Collection. (PH: 0014-0178)     


The Sands Hotel's Copa Girls posed by pool in the formation of a very glamorous Christmas tree in the early 1950s. (Sands Hotel Collection, MS-2000-12)

The Copa Girls photo, above, is a publicity shot and just one example of the creative genius of Sands Hotel Publicity Director, Al Freeman. Freeman notably promoted the Sands in numerous movies and on television, even arranging for several Post cereal commercials to be filmed at the hotel featuring the TV family of Danny Thomas from "Make Room for Daddy."


Long-time residents may remember seeing the North Las Vegas City Hall, decorated for the holidays by the North Las Vegas Fire Department in 1961. It reminds us of the line from the classic poem, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" (North Las Vegas Library Collection, PH: 0277-0102)

Wishing you and yours a warm and joyous holiday season filled with December memories!