Saturday, September 23, 2017

Old Coney Island postcards, Part 1

(Note: To truly enjoy these, click on them and view them at a higher magnification.)

Coney Island, in its many iterations over the decades, is probably the second-most famous amusement park site in United States history, if we go ahead and lump together the Magic Kingdom/Disneyland empire — which I think qualifies as its own nation-state — as one combined property.

Countless words and books and photographs and websites have conveyed Coney Island history, memories and nostalgia. The Coney Island History Project is a dandy place to start, if you want to lose your weekend down that rabbit hole.1

As a teeny contribution to all that history and lore, I'm sharing a pair of vintage Coney Island postcard that I came across over the summer. Neither was ever written on or mailed. The stamp box on the back calls for a one-cent stamp, which doesn't help much with dating, because the cost of mailing a U.S. postcard did not permanently rise to two cents until 1952.

What does help, greatly, is the knowledge that these cards were produced by the Illustrated Post Card Company of New York, which was a major publisher but was only in business from 1904 to 1914. So that gives us the era for these images.

The first card, Number 2064, is labeled "Scene in Luna Park, Coney Island, N.Y." The image itself has this credit: "GEO. P. HALL & SON, PHOTOGRAPHERS, 212 BROADWAY, NEW YORK."

Luna Park, the first version of which was in existence from 1903 to 1946, was one of Coney Island's most iconic parks. It is described in one Wikipedia post as " a massive spectacle of rides, ornate towers and cupolas covered in 250,000 electric lights." It had rides and attractions named A Trip to the Moon, Bridge of Laughs, Dragon's Gorge, The War of the Worlds, The Kansas Cyclone, Razzle Dazzle, Helter Skelter, The Tickler and Witching Waves. If you could time travel back to one place, for one day, early Luna Park might be a great candidate.

The second card, Number 2065, is labeled "Entrance to Dreamland, Coney Island, N.Y." Dreamland opened in 1904, one year after Luna Park, and tried to steal all of Luna Park's thunder and visitors. It doubled-down on everything that Luna Park offered. Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:
"Opened on May 15, 1904, Dreamland was a park in which everything was reputed to be bigger and more expansive than in neighboring Luna Park. Dreamland had a larger central 'Tower' and one million electric light bulbs illuminating and outlining its buildings, four times as many lights as Luna Park. Dreamland featured relatively high-class entertainment and dramatic spectacles based on morality themes such as 'The End of the World'2 and the Orient Theater's 'Feast of Beshazzar and the Destruction of Babylon.' It also featured elegant architecture, pristine white towers, and some educational exhibits along with the rides and thrills.

"Among Dreamland's attractions were a railway that ran through a Swiss alpine landscape, imitation Venetian canals with gondolas, a 'Lilliputian Village' with three hundred dwarf inhabitants, and a demonstration of firefighting in which two thousand people pretended to put out a blazing six-story building fire every half-hour."
OK, maybe we need two days for that time-travel trip. Day 1 at Luna Park, Day 2 at Dreamland. Dust off your flux capacitor.

Related posts

COMING UP IN PART 2: The Johnstown Flood Spectacle.

1. Personally, I'd recommend bookmarking the Coney Island History Project it for a stormy or wintry day. Here in Pennsylvania, at least, it's way too beautiful of an autumn day to spend inside.
2. The end of the world is today, don't forget.


  1. Dusted off the Flux Capacitor. DeLorean inspected,oil changed, new spark plugs installed, and a brand new air freshener hanging from the rear-view.

    1. Tangental question: Does the Time-Travel DeLorean need a rear-view mirror, given the machinery that blocks the entirety of the back window? I guess you could use it to spy on the back seat.

  2. On the topic of postcards with photos then and now, check this out:

    -- M.F.