Friday, February 5, 2016

Linen postcard: Parachute jump at Steeplechase Park, Coney Island

This colorful old postcard shows the iconic Parachute Jump at Coney Island's Steeplechase Park. Though the ride ceased operations more than a half-century ago, the structure remains in place today, the only remnant of Steeplechase still standing.

Steeplechase, which was in operation from 1897 to 1964, was Coney Island's longest-lasting amusement park. The Parachute Jump made its debut at the 1939 New York World's Fair.1 Afterward, it was purchased by the park owners2 and moved to its current location to become a Steeplechase attraction starting in 1941. It ceased operations in 1964, when the park closed.3

Here is a description of the ride from the World's Fair guidebook:
"Eleven gaily-colored parachutes operated from the top of a 250-foot tower, enable visitors to experience all the thrills of 'bailing out' without the hazard or discomfort. Each parachute has a double seat suspended from it. When two passengers have taken their places beneath the 'chute, a cable pulls it to the summit of the tower. An automatic release starts the drop, and the passengers float gently to the ground. Vertical guide wires prevent swaying, a metal ring keeps the 'chute open at all times, and shock-absorbers eliminate the impact of the landing. One of the most spectacular features of the Amusement Area, this is also a type of parachute jump similar to that which the armies of the world use in early stages of training for actual parachute jumping."
Here are some additional links and memories of the park and Parachute Jump:

And then there's this video, titled "Climbing the Parachute Jump," which is, terrifyingly, precisely what you would think:

But wait, there's more!
Now on to the back of this postcard. It was mailed with a one-cent stamp, postmarked on June 17, 1943, in Brooklyn, New York, and cancelled with a "BUY WAR SAVINGS BONDS and STAMPS" stamp. It was mailed to a Mrs. A.B. Banker in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

The message, written in pencil in what looks like a child's cursive writing, states:
Dear Gram,
I am having a fine time. I am having alot of fun with Judy. She wants to come home with me. Anna said to tell you she will be expecting you for dinner at about 5 o'clock. Come before if you can. Read mothers card and let her read this. I found your gift but I will not open it until June 18th. Love, Terry.

1. Previous Papergreat posts about the 1939 New York World's Fair:
2. It was purchased for a whopping $150,000, the equivalent of about $2.5 million today.
3. The closing date of the Parachute Jump was a point of contention, but Wikipedia seems to have gotten it straightened out.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. My uncle had been a paratrooper in Germany, and this was the closest thing he was going to come to recreating the experience in Brooklyn. He persuaded our mother, his twin sister, to go with him, and take my brother and me. We must have been preschool age, since we're 61 and 62 now. I don't remember being bothered by the ride up, but on the way down, I decided the ride was over before it was over, and attempted to stand up in preparation for disembarking.
    When we did actually come to a landing, it was with a bit of a thump, and I banged some part of me. I wasn't hurt, bit it hurt at that moment, and I connected it with the ride, not my own actions. Although he was willing to take us on again, I refused. Since the parachute jump was still standing, for a long time, I was unaware that it was no longer in operation. When I learned that it was closed, part of me regretted the lost opportunity for a repeat ride, and the other part of me was glad I'd never be asked.