“Branding Las Vegas”: Artifacts from Las Vegas’ First Strip Hotels

“Richard [and Nancy] Greeno’s collection of fun, fame and misfortune is a little bit of Las Vegas lifestyle in a box – a really big box,” explains Dennis McBride, director at the Nevada State Museum. With more than 8,000 items, the collection of Las Vegas memorabilia is one of the largest such collections in the United States. The collection represents several decades of Las Vegas history, including gaming related artifacts, entertainment memorabilia and items associated with organized crime. Beginning Friday, July 8th the Nevada State Museum will have on display a portion of Greeno’s collection, specifically memorabilia and ephemera from the original 13 Strip hotel-casino properties between 1941 – 1958.

Richard and Nancy Greeno

 Photo Courtesy of Nevada State MuseumWorking as an Indiana furniture man, Richard Greeno began his Vegas connection with once-a-year trips at the downtown Fremont. Greeno immediately took a liking to Las Vegas and the fast-paced lifestyle of the casino and entertainment industries. He even worked a few gigs as a magician. Both work and pleasure continued to bring Greeno, and sometimes his wife Nancy, back to Vegas and over the course of several decades the Greenos amassed a lifetime of materials from the first 13 Strip properties.

In the summer of 2014, the Greenos returned to Las Vegas, specifically seeking a permanent home for their massive collection. After visiting the Nevada State Museum, Richard and Nancy Greeno agreed to donate their collection to the Museum. Preservation advocate,  and NPF and museum donor Robert Stodal offered to cover transportation expenses for moving the collection from Frankfort, Indiana, to Las Vegas. The Greenos’ collection arrived in Las Vegas in June of 2015 and the Nevada State Museum has spent the last year curating and preparing its debut this summer. Both Richard and Nancy Greeno will be attending the opening reception, which happens Friday July 8th at 6:00pm.

“Branding Las Vegas, 1941 – 1958”

 Photo Courtesy of Nevada State MuseumIn “Branding Las Vegas”, the Nevada State Museum features portions of the collection that showcase the trademark styles of the original 13 Strip casinos, from the Hotel El Rancho Vegas (1941) through the Stardust (1958). During this time period, Las Vegas hotel-casinos branded themselves through distinctive themes that was seen in their expressive logo designs, hotel collateral and tourists souvenirs and mementos. Napkins, ashtrays, matchbooks, glassware, almost anything that could be carried out were branded with the hotel-casino’s logos in order to spread their brand far and wide. The “Branding Las Vegas” exhibit highlights some of these items and reminds us of a time that really built Las Vegas into the Entertainment Capitol of the World it is today.

In addition to tourist souvenirs and hotel memorabilia, the exhibit also features a rare look into what tourist life looked like in the era between 1941 – 1958, showcasing select photos of fashionable people out on the town, the food and frenzy of the resort corridor and gaming memorabilia of the past.

“If you can only imagine what thousands of artifacts dating from 1941 to 1958 look like, what they mean to all of us who study Vegas, you get the idea that this is really something to see. We have selected a small portion to show. People will recognize these items, the brands and images in living color, and they will surely have a memory to go along with them,” said Dennis McBride, museum director. “Photographs taken inside the casinos were rare in their day, and they say so much.”

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