Vintage Allies

Monday
Mar 02nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home The Decades 1920s Coney Island - Where Merriment Is King

Coney Island - Where Merriment Is King

Coney-Island-10

Pictured above: Coney Island, 1910/Geo. P. Hall & Son , copyright claimant/LOC

Coney Island - an intoxicating lark and the apotheosis of the ridiculous!

VAV!/June 13, 2014

During the turn of the century near Brooklyn, NY, by the edge of the sea and some nine miles from Manhattan, there existed a one of a kind wonderland where anyone could catch a ring on the merry go round, indulge themselves in amusing devices, and eat all the hot dogs they wanted!  The wonderland? Coney Island, the iconic and extraordinary amusement park, of course!  

Between about 1880 and World War II, Coney Island boasted a conglomeration of the largest amusement parks in America, attracting several million visitors per year. At the turn of the century, Coney Island was at its hey day —Sea Lion Park, Steeplechase Park, Luna Park, Dreamland and other smaller parks—offered rides, concessions and entertainment on an intoxicating scale of pleasure that took America from the Victorian Age into the modern world.

Coney-Island-1

Pictured above:Coney Island/Bain News Service/1900/LOC

Amidst brilliant lights that lit the night skies, gay music, whirling dancing, incredible foods, crazy (and we mean crazy) rides including elephant rides, a carousel built for two, roller coasters, loop de loops, freak shows from the four corners of the world, girlie shows, ladies without heads, horrific premature babies on display alongside historical displays, recreations of disasters, moving panorams featuring the end of the world, and Lilliputia, a miniature town truly inhabited by little persons...the money always flowed on Coney Island and the fun never ended !

Coney-Island-Elephant-Rides

Pictured above: Coney Island, Riding Elephant/Bain News Service, publisher/1911 June 18/LOC.

Coney Island sounded grand enough to make anyone pinch themselves in a disbelief intermingled with fascination and yet, the concept was a little frightening too.

 

A closer look at the evolution of Coney Island...

Before its discovery in 1609 by Dutch explorer, Henry Hudson, Coney Island was a mere 5 mile parcel of wasteland and consisted soley of dunes, scrub grass and wild rabbits known as coneys, thus, the name... Coney Island... or so its said.  

In 1829, the first Hotel, Coney Island Hotel, was built on the Island and the Shell Road linked Coney Island with Brooklyn.  By 1847, nefarious forces  ran rampant and Coney Island had gained a reputation as home to disreputable pickpockets, swindlers, prostitutes and ne'er do wells...but not for long.  

Coney Island became an accessible destination once excursion railroads, along with the advent of the Coney Island & Brooklyn Railroad streetcar came into being in the 1860s.

When the 1870s rolled around, Coney Island had come under the vigilant scrutiny and ultimate greed of John Y. McKane, newly elected commissioner.  Through McKanes ideals and efforts, the Island was transformed into a respectable summertime vacation hot spot for families. Hotels began cropping up on the eastern vista of Coney Island with The Brighton Hotel, the luxurious Manhattan Beach Hotel, and Oriental Hotel being built. Fresh water was provided for picnicing visitors and band concerts were held nightly.

Coney-Island-3

Pictured above: Coney Island/Bain News Service, publisher/LOC

Light hearted people from every walk of life began flocking into the Island by droves!  More Island growth came in 1875, when Andrew Culver built the Prospect Park and Coney Island Railroad to the resort and in 1876, a Danish woodcarver, Charles I. D. Loof built the first carousel at Coney Island. The Carousel was erected at Vandeveer's bath-house complex in the area later known as Balmer's Pavilion.  

Right there, available to guests on the island, was  "electric bathing," beneath arc lamps and well, heck, the hot dog (formerly known by its inventor, Charles Feltman, as Coney Island Red Hots) was invented on Coney Island in 1876.  

Coney-Island-Observation-Tower 

Pictured above: Coney Island, N.Y.: Observation Tower/Published: c1900/LOC.

Also in 1876, the observation tower, once featured the Philadelphia Exposition was moved to Coney Island.  The tower, the tallest structure in the United States at the time, featured steam-powered elevators that lifted observers to the top for gazing out upon the vast sea!  What a thrill! But the arrival of the observation tower was just the beginning for Coney Island. 

In 1879, the first horse racing track opened on the Island. 

Once the Iron steamboat company set down on the Island in 1881, two Iron Piers stood stalwart and reassuring while awaiting arriving steamshps bringing people from Manhattan to the Island (the piers were destroyed in a subsequent 1911 Dreamland fire).

In 1884, the gravity fed Switchback Railway was invented by LaMarcus Thompson...the roller coaster was born!  Holy Hannah what else could be coming up aces at Coney Island?!  The Loop de Loop (Loop the Loop) and the awesome, if only short lived, Flip-Flap railway, that's what. 

Between the years of 1885 to 1896, a hotel designed in the form of an elephant became a landmark on Coney Island.  

Coney-Island-2

Pictured above: Coney Island/Bain News Service, publisher/LOC

In 1893, Coney Island was branded by The New York Times as "Sodom-by-the-Sea"  and by then McKane had also become a detriment to Coney Island. Amidst political scandal, the keepers of the island (including Mckane) were ousted and replaced by a more reputable crew of caretakers, most notably George C. Tilyou, a native of Coney Island and a consummate showman.  

Tilyou was ever vigilant in scavenging incredible finds for his Coney Island.  He visited the Chicago World's Fair where he made great efforts to buy George Ferris's 250-foot-tall wheel for the Island, but alas, his efforts were thwarted and he returned home empty handed. Not to be outsmarted or put off his course, after Tilyou arrived back home to Coney he ordered a wheel half the size of the one at Chicago.  In the place where the Ferris Wheel was to be erected, he placed a sign that read "On this site will be erected the world's largest Ferris Wheel."  By the time the wheel contraption had arrived in Coney Island, clever Tilyou had rented out enough concession space to pay for it.

Coney-Island-Luna-Chutes

Pictured above: Chutes - Luna Park, Coney Island/Bain News Service/Published: between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915/LOC

Captain Paul Boyton, (who invented the inflatable rubber suit) opened Sea Lion Park in 1895 and came up with a refreshing little boat ride known as  'shoot-the-chutes.' Cool right?  During the rest of the decade of the 1890s, Coney Island was abloom with wonder,  amazed guests and even proudly proclaimed the title as home to the world's first roller coaster!

Not to be outdone by Sea Lion Park's presence, the irrepressible Tilyou wanted a park of his own.  The answer came to him in the form of  a mechanical horse race in England -  just the perfect fit for Coney Island.  The ride could take thrill seekers on 'Half a mile for half a minute!' The basis for the ride and all that followed became known as the ultra successful Steeplechase Ride Park. Hot Dog!

In 1896, the Edison Company motion picture's new fangled camera was perfected and featured flicks on the Island such as 'Sea Waves and Coney Island' and 'Cake Walk on the Beach.' 

With Steeplechase Park completed in 1897, folks could take a visit on over to the Blowhole Theater, too!  The who?  The Theatre was  New York's longest running show (of almost 70 years) and audiences could gaze on stage upon a couple selected from the audience while a jet of air blew beneath the woman's skirts (right up to her waist) while a dwarf shocked her date with an electric cattle prod. Sounds grand and shocking, but, there was more by way of the Earthquake Float, the Skating Floor, the Falling Statue, the Cave of the Winds, the Human Cage, the Revolving Seat, the Funny Stairway, the Eccentric Fountain, the Dancing Floor, the Electric Seat, the Human Roulette Wheel and dare we say more to make you quivver and tickle your funky bone?

Coney-Island-Bathers-4

Pictured above: Coney Island/Bain News Service, publisher/LOC

Don't forget the bathing on Coney Island was a real attraction, too.  Swimmers could show their off their rocking hard bodies tucked chastely beneath woolen swimsuits and exert their prowess at the same time.  What a way to cool off! Hubba, Hubba!

In the 1900's Coney Island crowds REALLY cut loose!  Some quarter of a million people headed there every Sunday in the summer.  When the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company electrified the steam railroads and connected Coney Island to Brooklyn and Manhattan at the beginning of the 20th century, Coney Island was transformed from a resort to a location accessible daily from New York City, especially to those seeking a refuge from the summer heat.

Coney-Island-Crowds-6

Pictured above: Coney Island/Bain News Service, publisher/LOC

On May 16, 1903, Frederic Thompson, architect and  Elmer "Skip" Dundy, former court clerk from Omaha, built an amusement park on Coney Island complete with towers and turrets and out-of-this-world venues. On the heels of the Park's success, in 1904, Dreamland amusement park, also erected by Thompson and Dundy, opened.  The exhibit featured the Infant Incubator holding and housing premature babies. The babies were under the care of a Doctor Martin Couney.  Questionably, Dreamland was heralded as one of the most popular Parks. 

Elsewhere trouble was brewing on Coney Island's horizon when in 1907, fire broke out at Steeplechase in the Cave of the Winds and the wooden park burned for some 18 hours.  Within nine months the park was rebuilt by Tilyou and re- opened.  This time around,Tilyou ensured the entire park was covered with a modernized glass-and-steel shed and he named the conglomeration the Pavilion of Fun. 

The Sea Beach Line was transformed to a subway line around 1915. In 1916, Nathan's Famous original hot dog stand opened on Coney Island.  Since then, as was possible, on every July 4 thereafter, an annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest was held.

It's said that he launching of the New West End Terminal during 1919, heralded one of Coney Island's most prolific ages. could there be any more fun?

In 1923 the Boardwalk opened and the Islands streets were widened.  Let the good times roll as the world's most famous roller coaster,The Cyclone, opened!

In 1944, Luna Park suffered a series of fires and closed in 1946. Following World War II, Coney Island began to slowly but surely lose it's decadent appeal to the ever growing savvy American public. Adding to the attrition of park goers, the 1950s street gangs were moving in and impacting business in a very negative way. The September 20, 1964 closing of the last major amusement park, Steeplechase Park, dealt a devastating death blow to Coney Island. Auld Lang Syne soulfully sounded over the intercom system that closing night and a bell tolled once for each of the 67 years Steeplechase had been open.

Gone, but not forever, were the acrobats and other artists, the spotted horses trotted off and the circus ringmaster had laid down his snapping whip...

In recent years, the historic landmark area has seen a revitalization to its former glory along with the opening of MCU Park, home to the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team.

 

 

 


blog comments powered by Disqus
Last Updated ( Monday, 16 June 2014 05:08 )  

 

 

Like us on Facebook!

Stock Trader Scroller

Powered by Stock Market News and Money Transfer

 

Lesley Gore - It's My Party

Pictured above: Lesley Gore/Contributed by Screen Grab© VAV!/February 16, 2015 Singer-songwriter Lesley Sue Gore (née Goldstein), who is remembered for her chart topping 1963 song "It's My Party," followed by "Judy's Turn to Cry," and "You Don't Own Me," died from cancer on Monday, February 16, 2015  at New York University Langone Medical Center in Manhattan. She was 68. Gore  was discovered at age 16 by record producer Quincy Jones and soon other hit songs followed.  Among them were "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows," "That's the Way Boys Are," "She's A Fool," "Maybe I Know," "Look of Love," and she co-wrote "Out Here On My Own" from the acclaimed film "Fame (1980)" with her brother Michael Gore.

 

The Boy Next Door

Pictured above:  Scene from "The Boy Next Door" VAV!/February 17, 2015/Contributed by Stars in her eye "The Boy Next Door" is the kind of movie that a girl should enjoy with their friends and some wine. It's not the kind of film you get all dressed up for and then have a night on the town. You need some of your best friends to make fun of the movie within the privacy of your own home (a place where no one can get irate with you for heckling).

 

St. Valentines Day Massacre

Pictured above: Two guns used in the 1929 Massacre/Courtesy The Mob Museum VAV!/February 14, 2015 On February 14, 1929, a day that was anything but sweet hearts amidst a bed of roses, the St. Valentines Day Massacre unfolded as five rivals of gangster Al Capone and two wannabes were gunned down in a garage on the North Side of Chicago, IL. The day's events are, arguably, the most publicized and talked about mob event in history.  The sole purpose of the killings was the elimination of George "Bugs" Moran, the last rival to Al Capone's title of crime boss in Chicago. Witness statements are varied, but this is generally how the slaying was believed to have 'gone down'... 

 

Ma Bell Calling - Alexander Graham Bell

  On March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received a United States patent for the invention of the telephone. By 1877, he formed the American Bell Telephone Company and the first exchange opened in New Haven, Connecticut. In a few fleeting years, local exchange companies were launched in every major city throughout America. There were four major divisions of the American Bell Telephone Company; The American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) that had been created by American Bell Telephone Company to provide long distance calls and to interconnect between New York and Chicago and beyond; Western Electric Company, Bell's equipment manufacturing arm; Bell Labs, that conducted research and development for AT&T and finally, Bell operating companies, providing local exchange telephone services. By 1899, AT&T would acquire the assets of its parent American Bell Telephone Company. AT&T then became the parent of American Bell, and thus the head of the Bell System. This acquisition was put into place, it's reported, to take advantage of the leaner regulatory and tax rules in NYC which were leaner in New York than in Boston, where American Bell was headquartered. Following a government anti-trust suit and the Kingsbury Commitment, by 1913.  AT&T agreed to the Kingsbury Commitment in which they would sell their reported $30 million in Western Union stock, allow competitors to interconnect with their system, and not acquire other independent companies without permission from the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) At the end of 1934, AT&T was regulated by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The company was to become the largest corporation in the world until its divestment by the United States Department of Justice in 1984, at which time the Bell System ceased to exist. The Bell trademark pictured above was used from 1921 through 1939.

 

Hood Ornaments - An Art Form All Their Own

Pictured above: The Spirit of Ecstasy/Rolls Royce Ornament VAV!/February 8, 2015 The hood ornament or "mascot,"' remains a striking vestige of the past and a distinctive styling ornament that helped define the hallmark of fine automobiles as well as a drivers' style. While primarily ornamental since the 1930s,  the hood ornament originally evolved from a  need to provide a cooling system monitor for automobiles produced during the teens and the 1920s. Consequently, investing in an engine temperature gauge for the radiator, located externally at the front of the automobile and equipped with a filter cap on its top in direct sight of the driver, was a pretty good idea. The gauge monitored the radiators' temperature for proper functioning, as well as providing for its', longevity and efficiency, too.  Enter Moto Meter, a company from Long Island, NY,  who promised a product to fulfill  just that need.  (Moto Meter was founded in 1912 by George H. Townsend, president of the Moto Meter Co. Inc. Townsend obtained the exclusive rights under Boyce patents to manufacture radiator and dashboard motor temperature indicators.  Soon, the Boyce Moto Meter dominated the motor vehicle industry with their product.  Their motto was "Boyce Moto Meter, Your Car Deserves One.")

Follow Us On

Vintage Allies on Facebook.com Vintage Allies on Twitter.com