Coney Island In Its Heyday: Fascinating Images Show The New York Seaside

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coney islandWhen the grime of city life proved too stifling for New York residents in the late 19th century, they would arrive in droves at the popular amusement area of Coney Island – just a short distance from Manhattan.

Nicknamed America’s Playground, the entertainment destination offered a plethora of rides, theatre performances and was even said to have sideshows involving sword swallowers and snake charmers.

Beaches were packed in high summer with swarms of city dwellers, including female bathers wading into the sea in long dresses to escape the heat.

Hotels began to appear in the area and with regular rail and ferry services, the island became a popular destination for middle-class tourists as well as the wealthy.

In the later years of the 19th century, the rough and tumble party spot was even dubbed ‘Sodom by the Sea’, although more family-friendly amusements began to pop up in the 1900s.

One of the most famous features was Luna Park that opened in 1903 and was a fantasy world with live camels and elephants. 

These incredible black and white retrospective photographs show Coney Island in its heyday from 1896 to 1905.

Forget tiny bikinis and swimming costumes, women would wade out into the sea wearing full length dresses in 1904

The area even offered elephant rides, with four tourists perched either side of the large animal, led by a trainer (photo taken in 1905)

Taking the plunge: Spectators watch a car plunge down the track on the 'Shooting the Chutes' ride at Luna Park in 1903

Visitors riding the Loop the Loop ride in 1903 while onlookers observe. A sign warning of pickpockets can be see by the barrier

Cramped: The beaches were packed with swarms of tourists, who could even sterilise their bathing suits  (circa 1900)

Take to the skies: An elevated spinning ride at Luna Park, Coney Island in 1904 allowed guests to look out over the park 

An amusement park ride attendant uses a pole to drag a barge full of passengers from a chute ride (picture taken in 1896)

An amusement park ride attendant uses a pole to drag a barge full of passengers from a chute ride (picture taken in 1896)

Horsing around: Riders compete in a game of Wild West Polo at the Coney Island fairgrounds while crowds observe (circa 1900)

One of the most famous features was Luna Park that opened in 1903 and was a fantasy world with live camels and elephants 

Cooling off: Women and children head into the sea to escape the stifling heat in the summer of 1903

Cooling off: Tourists gathered in front of concession stands along the shoreline of Coney Island in 1896

In the later years of the 19th century, the rough and tumble party spot was even dubbed ‘Sodom by the Sea'

Despite being known as a fun area for adults, more family-friendly amusements began to later pop up in the 1900s

Children collect water while building a sandcastle

In the midst of revelling, a preacher from the Brookyln City Mission speaks to crowds who have gathered on the beaches (circa 1900)

Showtime: A boy and adult approaching a ticket seller's booth for the ornate Algerian Theatre in 1896

Beaches were packed in high summer in 1900 with swarms of lounging city dwellers heading into the water to cool off 

Visit were spoilt for choice when it came to bar and restaurant choices to entertain themselves with after a swim (photo taken in 1900)

A large group of people, some with sun parasols, walking around on the boardwalk along Surf Boulevard in 1896

Endless entertainment: A young boy and girl stand with a man looking in the direction  camel rider and the large Ferris wheel in 1896

Acrobatics: New York young men play on the beach in 1904 while there is space on the sand before the crowds descend 

Cling on tight: Ropes helped bathers from drifting far into the sea and helped guide them back to the steps (circa 1900)

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