Amusing the Million
When you hear the name Coney Island you instantly think of excitement, entertainment, and a city where you can escape all responsibilities. This reputation began in the late 19th/early 20th century during a time when the people of America were adjusting to new lifestyles and a new country. The United States was going through an intense urbanization, with new developments in transportation, communication, and other inventions; citizens were living in an America they had never seen before. For a country that revolved around success and the working industry for more than a hundred years, the idea of Coney Island and other types of amusement was both new and exciting for citizens. This excitement led to the success and positive reputation of Coney Island that would continue on for many years to come.
The idea of amusement parks and Coney Island came about by bringing together two concepts that were already present in the new America. The idea of parks and a place of relaxation could be found in places like Central Park in New York City and the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. Frederick Olmsted brought about the idea of Central Park as a concept of democratic recreation. “Olmsted intended the park to serve, above all, as a rural retreat in the midst of a city, an easily accessible refuge from urban pressures and conditions” (12). The idea of the World’s Columbian Exposition came about with the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America. “The Columbian Exposition offered architects, artists, and patrons an opportunity to construct an ideal that would purify the gross materialism of American culture, order its chaotic energies, and uplift its taste and character” (18). The second idea brought forth to create Coney Island was the idea of amusement and entertainment. Traveling carnival shows and attractions were very popular during this time and people saw them as a huge source of entertainment. Coney Island was a new concept that included bringing the idea of urban recreation to another level. This type of park would appeal to the commercial values of citizens and attract a mass audience. “The new ‘amusement parks’, which emerged at the turn of the century, would be the result – parks which, as their name suggests, sought frankly to entertain rather than to uplift” (26-27). This new concept exploded almost immediately. People started coming in the masses in any way possible to visit the iconic Coney Island. They knew a trip would lead to fun, adventure, and an atmosphere that could not be duplicated.
Coney Island has many things to credit its success; you could say it took a little bit of everything to create such an appealing environment. The entrepreneurs of Coney Island successfully embraced the new urban industry; the new technology brought forth in the country, and overall created the perfect atmosphere. This perfect combination brought forth massive crowds. “Hordes of pleasure seekers flocked to the resort whenever they had leisure, often in hours snatched after work during the week and especially on Sundays and holidays” (37-38). With all of these key ingredients, Coney Island was able to become the place to be in the early 20th century, and ultimately started a major culture change.
First, Coney Island embraced the new urban industry by making a more modern getaway. Coney Island was created to be an escape for the masses; the goal was to bring in loads of people to give them the perfect vacation or even a weekend getaway. This idea followed along with the new urban industrial society because the society was driven by mass production. With the increase in production, citizens were willing to consume more whether on goods and services or for entertainment purposes. “… Coney Island was in the business of ‘amusing the million.’ The resort offered amusement on a scale unprecedented in American history” (38). With Coney Island embracing the new industry and culture, it...
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