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Document Type:Latin Dissertation
Language of Document:English
Record Number:55245
Doc. No:TL25199
Call number:‭3322651‬
Main Entry:Red Vaughan Tremmel
Title & Author:Sin City upon a hill: Play, urban conflict and the rise of commercial liberalityRed Vaughan Tremmel
College:The University of Chicago
Date:2008
Degree:Ph.D.
student score:2008
Page No:212
Abstract:This dissertation examines the rise and allure of Las Vegas, Nevada between 1900 and 1960 in the context of nationwide conflicts in urban areas over working-class leisure cultures. Focusing specifically on the three most commonly praised aspects of Las Vegas—its economic, theatrical, and sexual cultures—I argue that that despite proclamations of exceptionality and the label "Sin City," Las Vegas was not more sinful than other cities. In the early part of the twentieth-century, urban economies throughout the United States were intricately networked with gamblers, numbers runners, bookies, prostitutes, risqué entertainment, and gender variant and queer sexual cultures. Millions visited brothels, gambling dens, black and tans, attended un-chaperoned mixed and same-sex dances, sexual spectacles, and burlesque and vaudeville shows. Into the postwar period, these leisure activities were commonplace. However, Las Vegas was exceptional, I argue, in that unlike anywhere else in America, the economic and civic elite cultivated and celebrated legalized gambling, theatrical, and sexual publics. During the 1920s and 1930s, working-class sociability was increasingly regulated, stigmatized, and criminalized in urban areas throughout the nation, Las Vegas' civic and business leaders built a wide-open town in contradistinction to leisure economies elsewhere. During the 1940s, learning of Las Vegans' plans, urban amusement developers from cities such as New York, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, many of whom were Jewish and Italian second-generation immigrants, began investing in the small dusty town of Las Vegas, Nevada. As a result, during the postwar period the décor, practices, people, and values of Las Vegas were steeped in sensibilities and dreams of both the working-class and the children of immigrants. This dissertation also argues that postwar Las Vegas was enormously popular among millions of Americans, because its casinos, lounges, showrooms, and sexual cultures animated risqué and deviant economic, theatrical, and sexual practices and ideas. While visiting Las Vegas, Americans publicly engaged in economic practices that were at odds with the legal market culture of capitalism; they praised the risqué nature of performances as television programmers censored discourse about sexuality, ethnicity, race, and other rousing topics; and they enthusiastically participated in a public where prostitution, sexual spectacles, nudity, and other liberal sexual practices were respectfully available. Lastly, this dissertation argues that on the heels of thousands of closures and censorship throughout the nation, Las Vegas' amusement developers were highly cautious about maintaining a "classy" reputation to avoid state intervention. As a result, over the course over the course of 1950s, as Las Vegas idealized the "playboy" and "showgirl" over the "man in the grey flannel suit" and "June Cleaver," businessmen relegated the most controversial and risqué aspects of America's sexual, gender, and racial cultures to the literal margins of Las Vegas. By 1960, unlike turn-of-the-century leisure publics and contemporaneous subcultures that teemed with multicultural experimentations and affiliations, the liberal leisure public of America's "wide-open" Mecca was decidedly homogenous and choreographed to appeal to middle-class, heterosexual, white, male consumers.
Subject:Social sciences; Commercial amusements; Gambling; Gambling history; Las Vegas; Las Vegas, Nevada history; Leisure; Nevada; Theater history; U.S. history, 1900-1960; Working class; Working class history; American history; Recreation; 0814:Recreation; 0337:American history
Added Entry:G. Chauncey
Added Entry:The University of Chicago