In honor of the congressinal racketeering hearings of the 1950s, the Mob… (Mob Museum )
In 1950, Californians and gamblers knew of Las Vegas. But it wasn’t until Nov. 15 of that year that Sin City was thrust into the national limelight.
On that day, Estes Kefauver, a U.S. senator from Tennessee, brought his anti-racketeering road show to Las Vegas’ federal courthouse, turning the national spotlight on the organized crime tentacles that reached deep into the city’s casinos.
That infamous era is remembered at the Mob Museum, now inside the downtown Las Vegas building that once housed the court and the city’s post office.
To mark the anniversary of the event, Nevada residents will get free admission to the museum on Nov. 15, and two out-of-state visitors will get in for the price of one ($19.95).
Throughout the day, a new documentary by filmmaker Jon Rubin will be screened. “Crimebuster: Sen. Estes Kefauver, Politics, Television and Organized Crime” sums up an important element of the film: that television, which was then in its infancy, helped members of the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce shape public opinion.
Las Vegas’ remote location made a live broadcast impossible then, but committee hearings in Eastern cities drew TV audiences of as much as 30 million viewers as people flocked to restaurants, bars, and homes that had TV sets. Historians say viewership far outnumbered that of the 1950 World Series.
Visitors to the Mob Museum tour the actual courtroom in which the hearing took place. Using old photographs as a guide, architects and builders carefully restored the cavernous room to its appearance 62 years ago.
Kefauver’s daughter, Diane, will be at the museum on November 15 to receive a proclamation from the mayor. Although only three years old in 1950, Diane Kefauver says she was profoundly influenced by her father’s public service. For nearly 30 years, she has worked in the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“My family watched the hearings. I remember touching my father’s face on the TV screen because we weren’t seeing him much at home during this time,” she recalled in a news release.
The Mob Museum ( 229-2734) is at 300 Stewart Ave. in Las Vegas.
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