Joe Downtown: Historical society crowdsourcing for not-so-famous Las Vegas photos

Courtesy of Judge Lloyd George

Long before they were lawyers and judges, Carl J. Christensen and Lloyd George let their fists make the ruling (1947).

Historical Las Vegas Photos

Stan Irwin was not only a producer and actor, but he helped bring The Beatles and, shown here, Judy Garland to Las Vegas.  She played at the Sahara, drawing capacity crowds. The two are shown in front of a portrait of Garland at the Thunderbird Hotel on June 27, 1965.  Launch slideshow »

Organizers of the newly formed Las Vegas Historical Society are using a thoroughly modern practice to solicit photos that illustrate slices of the city’s historic past.

David VanZanten, president of the newly founded Las Vegas Historical Society, and financial consultant Mike Ballard are crowdsourcing for photos of historic significance to display at the society’s office, 1114 S. Main St. The concept ultimately could manifest itself into a photographic museum.

But they want to stay away from those iconic, professional pictures of Las Vegas of yesteryear.

“We want them to have historical significance, but they’d be the kind of pictures you might find in a family album,” says VanZanten.

Up to 50 of the best submitted photos they receive will be exhibited in the society’s office on March 7, the date of the First Friday art walk/street fest. At the office that night, three women tied to Las Vegas’ history – Helen Mortenson, Thalia Dondero and Lois Tarkanian – will share stories of the city’s early days.

Mortenson, president of the Las Vegas Ice Age Park Foundation, has lived in the area since 1962. Dondero moved to Las Vegas in 1942; she became the first woman elected to the Clark County Commission, where she made news by, among other things, refusing to serve as secretary to the male members. Tarkanian, a Las Vegas City Council member since 2005, is married to legendary college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and has a long background in public service to the community.

VanZanten and Ballard are asking people with shots taken before 2010 – again, with some historical significance; maybe Elvis shaking hands with grandma – to submit them via the society’s website.

Some of the pictures the society already has are ones you may not have seen before: Elvis checking into the Sahara a day before “Viva Las Vegas” shooting began; Liberace standing by his car talking to a priest; and Lloyd George as a young man in 1947, faux fist-fighting with a young Carl J. Christensen decades before George became a federal judge and the namesake for Las Vegas’ federal courthouse and Christensen became a district judge.

Pictures will be entered to win a gift certificate from Artistic Iron Works.

VanZanten said collecting photos for next week’s show “is just a start.”

“I’d love to see 50,000 photos and a budget to really see this take off,” he said.