Coney Island: The People's Playground

Front Cover
Rutgers University Press, 2002 - History - 199 pages

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Coney Island was the uncontested epicenter of America's emerging mass culture. It was the quintessential American resort: the birthplace of the amusement park, the hot dog, and the roller coaster. Its history is one of breathtaking transformation and re-invention. Celebrated for its glittering amusement parks and its enormous crowds, it was in times past a mecca of grand hotels, race tracks, beer gardens, gambling dens, concert saloons, and dance halls. A new mass culture began to take shape there. Its harshest critics decried it as Bedlam by the Sea, but others deemed it as a necessary outlet for the masses where the democratic spirit was granted free rein. Despite its precipitous decline, Coney Island remains a metaphor for the American amusement industry and the hundreds of honky-tonk resorts and amusement parks it has spawned.

Coney Island: The People's Playground
is the first new history of Coney Island in almost half a century, tracing its evolution and cultural impact as an amusement center from its earliest development as a seaside resort to the present day Mermaid Parade. Presented in a photo-documentary format featuring more than one hundred vintage photos, archival material, personal accounts, and contemporary sources, the book evokes the atmosphere of the resort as experienced by those who visited it during its heyday. Through the reminiscences of nineteenth and twentieth century writers, literary figures, and amusement historians, Michael Immerso traces Coney Island's remarkable evolution and subsequent decline, while at the same time examining the remarkable individuals and complex social forces that contributed to its rise and fall.

Coney Island
is not merely a documentary of the amusement industry or the story of a fabled amusement park, but rather a narrative of the way Americans, and particularly immigrants and urban Americans, came to regard the pursuit of leisure as part of their national birthright.


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User Review  - VikkiLaw - LibraryThing

I might have liked this book more had it not been the 3rd book in a row that I read about Coney Island (all three of my holds came into the library at the same time). This book concentrates more on ... Read full review

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were ice cream cones invented on Coney Islands

Selected pages


Coney 18241875
The American Brighton 18761883
The Elephant Colossus 18841902
Baghdad by the Sea 19031911
Seaside Baroque Carousels Coasters and Amusements
HonkyTonk Cafes Dance Dives and Concert Halls
The Nickel Empire 19201933
Empire of the Body 19341964
The Mermaid Parade 19652001

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About the author (2002)

Michael Immerso is a writer, cultural historian, publicist, and social activist who has worked in collaboration with many of New Jersey's leading cultural and educational institutions as a curator and designer of cultural programs. He is the author of Newark's Little Italy: The Vanished First Ward (Rutgers University Press) and a co-producer of a documentary film based on the book.

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