component parts of Coney Island were sand, bath-houses,
brass bands, dime museums, hotels, and promiscuous
New York, one of
the largest cities in the world, also had the
largest suburb in the world— Long Island. During
the early 1900s there was hardly a town or
village on Long Island, from Brooklyn to
Babylon, from Patchogue to Montauk Point, which
was not in some way or another conducive to the
comfort and pleasures of dwellers in New York
City. Long Island had its lavish estates, game
preserves and sporting clubs with their many
brooks and ponds that were kept stocked with
speckled trout—an ideal holiday retreat for the
upper class businessman from the work and
turmoil of the city. But all entertainment
was not aristocratic in this vast suburb.
An late 1800s map showing
Crowd on the Boardwalk.
[Image: Library of Congress LC-USZ62-107839]
Among the least aristocratic
features of the great suburb, none, perhaps, was more
focused towards the masses than Coney Island. Coney Island
was chiefly a refreshing breathing place for New York’s
teeming thousands. The mere fact
that it was within one hour's journey from New York by
steamboat or by the horse-cars from Brooklyn, rendered Coney
Island unfashionable for the well-to-do, since its
advantages were attainable by all.
on the boardwalk.
[Image: Library of Congress LC-USZ62-115624]
It was the summer resort of the
people— the American people —who reached the Island by
steamboat, tugboat, sailboat, railroad, trolley road, wagon
road, boat rowed, and also by bike; the main point being
that the ordinary people got there. Coney Island was the
playground, bath house, and paradise of the American
metropolis; and it guaranteed to give as much salt water for
2 dollars as Newport and Narragansett offered for two
[Image: Library of Congress LC-DIG-ggbain-09487]
An 1880 magazine dubbed the
area, “a perennial Centennial;” another said, “It is the
most bewilderingly up-to-date place of amusement in the
world." The component parts of Coney Island were sand,
bath-houses, brass bands, dime museums, hotels, and
mammoth hotels stretched for several miles along the sandy
shore. It had groups of shows, shops and sights both
under tents and in the open air.
[Image: Library of Congress
"Razzle Dazzle" ride.
[Image: Library of Congress LC-DIG-ggbain-03960]
The boardwalk was flanked by
lines of pop-corn, hot waffle, and tintype men along with
gypsies willing to read a visitor’s palm for what seemed a
ridiculously small sum. Included was a mighty succession of
merry-go-rounds, shooting galleries, candy booths,
restaurants, scenic railways, and special attractions of
every known variety. There were towers to go up in, mines to
go down in, and amazing spectacles to be witnessed for a
Sliding down a
water toboggan in the surf.
[Image: Library of Congress LC-USZ62-102882]
Hundreds of thousands of
visitors came to Coney Island not only to be cooled, bathed,
and fed, but also to be amused, and the demand for
entertainment resulted in one of the most colossal
collections of rides, slides, drives, whirls, and thrillers
that the early 20th century world had seen.
A hot dog
stand opposite Luna Park Entrance.
[Image: Library of Congress LC-USZ62-55753]