Amusing the Millions

Amusing the Millions

when was the era of Coney Island
began in 1895 flourishing right before WWI
what was 19th century culture like
very “Victorian”; genteel elite where everything had a purpose even leisure (work); beginning of communications revolution
subcultures in 19th century
variety; urban working class and new immigrant groups clung to own culture value; nouveaux riches; children came of age who were impatient with intellectual/emotional restraint (wanted issue and experience – muckraking, feminism, etc.)
what was commercial entertainment like before the “amusement” era
stuck with middle-class respectability; P.T. Barnum – moral elevation, scientific instruction, etc
how as commercial entertainment beginning to change right before the amusement era
sensed new audience less stuck to genteel ideals; vigorous, sensual, daring; competitive athletics came about that had been confined before; movies
ragtime and cakwalk
1890s; brought Afro-American music and dance to white audiences
what did amusement parks show about American culture
changing character; struggle for moral, social, and aesthetic authority
how were amusement parks possible?
swelling urban populations and increased leisure time/spending power
what was the purpose of both Central Park and Chicago Columbian Expedition of 1893
provide cultural leadership for urban-industrial society
Frederick Law Olmsted
nature in cities; hated haphazard urban growth; central park
central park
rural retreat in midst of city; refuge from urban pressures and conditions; natural scenery with limited opportunities for recreation
what was the problem with central park
too far away from center of population – only could afford on special occasions; not well administered and maintained
Daniel H. Burnham
World’s Columbian Expedition
World’s Columbian Expedition
1893; 400th anniversary of discovery of America; neoclassicism (White City)
what was the main purpose of the Columbian Expedition
heighten sense of what city could be (genteel culture); consciousness of public responsibilites
problem with Columbian Expedition
people seemed bored; cultural exhibits not as popular as commercial attractions
Ferris Wheel
first implemented at Columbian Expedition by George W. G. Ferris
legacy of midway
new industry of traveling carnival shows and new attractions; brought about “amusement parks”
3 main sections of Coney Island
Manhattan Beach (Austin Corbin) (elegance), Brighton Beach (William A. Engeman) (seclude domesticity), West Brighton at the center
The Elephant
at West Brighton; became essential part of Coney Island itinerary
John Y. McKane
deemed west brighton as “Sodom by the Sea”
new era at Coney Island
multiple parks closed off and competing against one another
who came to the parks?
all classes of people because you didn’t have to spend money
Coney Island and changing ethnic character
immigration was at all time high; means to participate in mainstream culture
analogy of carnival
customary roles reversed, hierarchies overturned, penalties suspended
effects on young men and women interacting
strict rules of courting at the time; could strike up acquaintances for the day or evening; major shift in sexual mores; rides provoked intimacy
George C. Tilyou
Steeplechase Park 1897; took ideas from other parks; “wearied mind’s demand for relief” through childhood happiness
Luna Park
opened as rival to Steeplechase Park; Thompson and Dundy; “Free Renaissance”; architectural “Little Egypt”; complex/dynamic – stimulated and overwhelming
Dreamland Park
William H. Reynolds; biggest competitor to Steeplechase
artists at Coney Island
photographers were abundant; visual reporters; new class of painters looking for another side
Joseph Stella
“Battle of Lights, Mardi Gras, Coney Island”
Reginald Marsh
uncrowned painter laureate
John Sloan
leading realist
James Gibbons Huneker
“disgrace to our civilization”; barbaric new culture
Simon Patten
pain economy to pleasure economy because of surplus; artificial distraction for an artificial life
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