At the turn of the twentieth century, many radical social and industrial movements began to change the American culture. At this time, an industrial revolution was sweeping the nation ushering in a complete change of the American dream, America was becoming global power and empire, women were relentlessly fighting for social equalities, and cities grew even larger with large amounts of immigrants pouring into the nation’s coasts. Some people looking for something that resembles all that happened in this era may be looking for a specific person or group, but their search ends at a small island in New York, Coney Island. This small, quaint, wasteland in Brooklyn would spring up to be one of the greatest amusement parks of all time. Having roller coasters, beaches, and games, Coney Island seemed like that’s all it was, an amusement park, but it meant more than that.
It all began in 1847 when a sidewheeler began tieing up on the west end of the island. At that time there were just a few people with small food stands and men playing games along with the prostitution and stealing happening there. Soon on the west end of the island, three large hotels went up that drew in more respectable families. The people who couldn’t afford the fancy west end, and wanted to avoid the vices of the east, crowded the beach in between called West Brighton. These people here were from all different backgrounds and classes; they were rich, poor, farmers, townspeople, and people of all different descents all having fun together in the same water. However, the real excitement didn’t start until John McKane corruptly gained almost complete political control over the island.
McKane ushered in a whole new era for Coney Island, developing West Brighton and bringing in other attractions like the 300 ft observation tower which was the tallest structure in the U.S. at the time. Under McKane's control, Coney became a place of new inventions and machinery. It also seemed that New York was ready for this sort of catalogue of technology. As described in the document
New York in the Golden Nineties
, people were clamoring to the new
electric street lights and trolleys and just wanted more to feed their desires. There were things like a milkable cow and even a hotel in the shape of an elephant to do just that.
An invention that had one of the most greatest impacts on Coney’s development was electricity and Edison’s lightbulb. At it’s prime, hundreds of thousands of light bulbs illuminated the park and people even enjoyed night swimming with tall lamps in the water called “electric bathing.” Edison’s way of working is described in the document Thomas Edison
It is made up of accounts from Edison’s secretary and explains how much he relied on mathematics in his research. After enjoying the beach, people could enjoy a classic “Coney RedHot”, also known as a hot dog, created by Charles Feltman. LaMarcus Thompson’s early form of the roller coaster called the Switchback Railway became very popular and there were soon many revisions of it.
Coney Island wasn’t just a showing place for modern technology, it also represents the politics of the turning century. Not only did McKane bring in new development to the island, but also vices that were frowned upon by many. Carrie Nation was one of these people of fought against such vices in the U.S. as described in the document Carrie Nation Attacks “Dens of
This document and the situation at Coney perfectly resembled how the American mentality on morals was changing. Reverend A.C. Dixon had this to say in The New York Times:
“Coney Island, our popular summer resort, has been a suburb of Sodom. Indeed, Sodom bore no comparison to this place for vileness. One cannot speak in public of the scenes which are ...
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