Editor's Note

    Coney Island at the turn of the century is fascinating because it was a place where people were consciously having more fun than ever before. Situated within an easy train ride of New York City, Coney Island proved to be a godsend of release and recreation for the packed urban center. Many high quality websites exist that detail the history and development of the park from it’s glory days in the early years at the turn of the century, through devastating fires, two World Wars and a long slow decline, to its final collapse in the 1960s into housing projects and a deserted wasteland. I have chosen to focus not on the technical history, but on the cultural effects of Coney Island as a phenomenon of fun and consumption.

  Why was Coney such an attractive destination? Why was Coney a different world and what were the new rules for that world? What did Coney reveal about the nature of cities at the time? Coney was a place where the more staid 18th century met the vibrant consumer-oriented 19th century. I have looked at PBS documentaries, texts about the development of amusement parks, works on the history of Brooklyn, and books about Coney Island itself. First hand accounts and interviews with people who visited Coney in their youth have been helpful in getting a sense of the excitement and newness of the experience of going to a park designed exclusively for amusement of all types. I have tried to develop a way to display the cultural effects of the park and to take a look at what was going on more fundamentally beneath all of the rides, the hotdogs, the arcades, and the excitement.