Thursday, May 1, 2014

10 postcards showing Atlantic City as you've probably never seen it

For the Ottos, Atlantic City means walking the boardwalk, Super Jackpot Block Party, the Boardwalk Cats Project, yummy food and seagulls (who often try to steal the yummy food), among other things. But that's just us. "America's Favorite Playground" means many different things to people. And it's meant different things over the decades, dating back to the 1850s.

So here, for your enjoyment, are 10 postcards showing Atlantic City as many of you have probably never seen it. (Nope. CGI re-creations of Atlantic City on Boardwalk Empire don't count.)

1. Steel Pier, circa 1910
The Steel Pier still exists of course, but it has seen many overhauls and iterations over the years. It dates to 1898 and has been a theater, the site of the Miss America pagaent, a concert venue, the home of an inhumane diving-horse attraction, and, since 1993, an amusement park. In 1910, as seen here, it was just a few years removed from its first major restoration effort.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to Paterson, New Jersey, in September 1910 with the following note: "Atlantic City. Dear Howard we are haveing [sic] a fine time you could take lots of picture if you was with us. Grandpa has not taken any yet think he will. love Grandma." [Union News Co. postcard, published by L. Beard, Atlantic City]

2. Hotel Traymore at night, circa 1920s
The Traymore is arguably the most famous hotel in Atlantic City history. It began as a boarding house in the 1870s and grew to the Art Deco architectural behemoth seen in this postcard. My favorite fact: It had four faucets in every bathtub — hot and cold city water and hot and cold ocean water. The story of its rise and decline mirrors the overall rise and decline of pre-casino Atlantic City. You can watch the 1972 demolition of the Traymore in a 66-second Youtube video that's worth your time.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to Bomoseen, Vermont, in April 1925 with the following note: "Friday morning. This is the most wonderful sight of all. We have all enjoyed this place and the ocean. New York today. Love Cassie." [Published by P. Sander, Philadelphia and Atlantic City]

3. Auditorium and convention hall, circa 1950
Of course, the historic Atlantic City Convention Hall, now known as Boardwalk Hall, is still around. But have you ever seen it with beams of colored light projecting from the roof?? (Never mind that those beams were added to the postcard after the fact.) The building dates to 1929 and is well known for its pipe organ and historic concerts.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to South Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in July 1950 with the following note: "Hi Ereal [?]. Having a wonderful time. It sure is neat to have a vacation like this. Aggie." [Linen postcard. Made by E.C. Kropp Co., Milwaukee, Wisonsin]

4. "Atlantic City — A Net Haul," circa 1906
I think it's safe to say that the fishing business in Atlantic City doesn't look like this any more. This is one that's fun to magnify (just click on it) and check out all the people.
POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to New Kent County, Virginia, in August 1906 with the following note on the front: "I am having a fine time, hope you are enjoying yourself. Tommie." [No publisher listed]

5. Sky Tower
OK, perhaps some of you do remember Sky Tower. It was part of the fad of gyro towers in the United States and it stood on the boardwalk from 1967 until 1989, when it was demolished. The text of the back of this postcard states: "A new Boardwalk landmark rising more than 300 feet above sea level is equipped with a two-tiered, rotating elevator car to give observers a panoramic sweep of the Atlantic Ocean and the sights of the world famous vacation shoreline." To read more about its history and demolition, see this 1989 Philadelphia Inquirer article.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to Millersville, Pennsylvania, in August 1976 with the following note: "Am down here for a few days taking a good rest. Shuppie." [Curteichcolor postcard with "3-D natural color reproduction"]

6. Heinz Pier, sometime before September 1944
This old postcard states: "The famous Heinz Pier in Atlantic City, which extends 600 feet into the ocean, has been operated by H.J. Heinz Company for over forty years. It offers unusual exhibits, talking motion pictures, cooking schools, 'community sings' and other feature attractions." In an article posted on NorthJersey.com, Ed Flynn recalls that the pier's "entrance was framed by two large metal pickles, sort of like crossed swords." That was a long time ago, though. The pier was obliterated by the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane and never rebuilt.

POSTCARD DETAILS: Although a one-cent stamp was affixed to this postcard, it was never written on or mailed. No publisher is listed.

7. Music Hall Theatre inside Steel Pier, circa 1930
Turning back to the Steel Pier, the text on the front of this postcard states: "Music Hall Theatre, Steel Pier, Atlantic City, N.J. Featuring George Jessel and Baby Rose Marie." That's quite a crowd that is assembled inside, and this is another neat postcard to magnify and check out all the faces. Vaudeville singer Rose Marie Mazetta, by the way, is still alive at age 90. You might remember her as Sally on The Dick Van Dyke Show.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in August 1932 with the following note: "Hello Ruth, Julia and I had dates and went to dance last night we also have some for to-night. Say hello to mother and I guess you received the candy O.K. Helen" [According to the front, the photo is by "Fred. Hess & Son." The postcard was published by Saltzburg's Merchandise Co. of Atlantic City.]

8. The "Ambassador" at night, circa 1923
The Ambassador Hotel had a storied history on the boardwalk. The 400-room palace was built in 1919 and expanded with another 400 rooms in 1921. Per Wikipedia: "On June 18, 1922, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his friend Harry Houdini met at the hotel, for Doyle's spiritualist wife Anna to contact Houdini's late mother in a seance. Although Anna transcribed pages of notes allegedly from her, Houdini later revealed that his mother did not speak English, claimed Doyle's wife was a fraud, and ended his friendship with Conan Doyle." In 1929, the hotel was the "host" of a four-day conference of organized crime leaders, including Al Capone. The Ambassador closed in the 1970s, was mostly demolished in 1979 and is now the site of the Tropicana casino.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to Waterbury, Connecticut, in July 1923 with the following note: "I had a very good trip an [sic] I am enjoing [sic] the town very well I wish you were with me I send you my best reguards [sic]. Domenico Cianciolo." [Pub. by P. Sander, Philadelphia & Atlantic City]

9. View from the Steel Pier, circa 1905
Here's a shot from the Steel Pier, looking inward to the boardwalk and the skyline. Does anything from this view remain today? And look at all those people just standing around on the beach.

POSTCARD DETAILS: This postcard was never written on or mailed. [Front: "Copyright 1905 by Osborne Ltd., 22 E. 21st St., New York." Back: A "Made in America" trademark featuring an illustration of a Native American.]

10. The ocean and the skyline, circa 1934
Finally, this Curteich linen postcard shows off three historic hotels — the Traymore, Chalfonte and Haddon Hall. This view gives you a great sense of how the Traymore dominated the skyline and dwarfed many of the other properties. The Chalfonte and Haddon Hall buildings are now the site of the Resorts casino, though parts of the older buildings were, I believe, incorporated into the new complex. Read more of that history here.

POSTCARD DETAILS: This postcard was never written on or used. [Genuine Curteich-Chicago "C.T. Art-Colortone" Post Card]

The advertising text on the back of this postcard, which I think is a nice way to sum up this post, states:
"Happy Days in Atlantic City. No other resort compares with the Playground of the World, because nowhere else can you find the varied entertainment program, the array of fine restaurants and hotels, theatres and piers, and the world's finest beach and Boardwalk."
Also, seagulls.

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