Flashback Friday: When The Atom Was King

As the world marks the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima (Aug. 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9, 1945), Flashback Friday looks at a period in the 1950s when the world and Las Vegas enjoyed a fascination with all things atomic.

Today’s Flashback Friday photo features Sands Copa Room showgirl Lee Merlin posing as “Miss Atomic Bomb.”

Miss Atom Bomb

Miss Atom Bomb 1957

These staged atomic beauty photos were all part of the casino PR machine that capitalized on America’s obsession with all thing atomic and the nearby nuclear tests being done at the Nevada Test Site. Besides a host of “Miss Atomic Bomb” beauties, the hotels also hosted bomb watch parties.

The Nevada Test Site, located 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was created in 1950. The first nuclear experiment in Nevada was held on Jan. 27, 1951.

While 1950s Las Vegas embraced the nuclear age, the tide of public opinion would change. Protests became a common occurence in the 1980s when more than 3,000 demonstrators would gather at the entrance to the Nevada Test Site. Famous activists included Carl Sagan, Kris Kristofferson and Martin Sheen. In addition to protests, information came to light documenting the health problems of “downwinders,” residents of Nevada, Arizona and Utah who were in the path of the radioactive fallout clouds from the above-ground tests at the Nevada Test Site.

Atomic test in November 1951.

Atomic test in November 1951.

Nuclear testing continued until September 1992 when a moratorium went into effect. Over the course of 41 years, the Nevada Test Site was home to 928 of the 1,054 above- and below-ground nuclear experiments conducted by the U.S. The test site is still used for research.

Visitors to Vegas can learn more about Nevada’s and the United States’ atomic history by visiting the Atomic Testing Museum, just off the Las Vegas Strip at 755 E. Flamingo Rd.


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