scorecard
  1. Home
  2. life
  3. news
  4. Photos show what Coney Island looked like 100 years ago

Photos show what Coney Island looked like 100 years ago

Photos show what Coney Island looked like 100 years ago
LifeThelife1 min read
The beach at Coney Island with the amusement park in the background, 1928.ullstein bild Dtl./Getty Images
  • New York City's Coney Island became hugely popular at the turn of the 20th century.
  • Its beach, amusement parks, and annual events all contribute to its longstanding popularity.

In the late 19th century, Coney Island began its rapid development into what is now an iconic tourist destination in New York City. By 1868 — just a few years after the end of the Civil War — a guidebook listed Coney Island as the "best beach on the Atlantic coast," and the popular waterfront brought in up to 30,000 visitors every weekend.

By the turn of the 20th century, Coney Island reached its peak in popularity. Visitors flocked to both Coney Island's beaches and newly built amusement parks, which "offered magical wonders for people of every socio-economic class to enjoy," according to Seton Hall University's History of New York.

Today, the destination attracts 5 million visitors annually, and it is popular among New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike. Annual events like Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest and the Mermaid Parade keep people coming back for more.

Here's what Coney Island looked like 100 years ago, in the early 1900s.

A photo from Coney Island's heyday in 1900 shows a group of modestly dressed young women sharing a meal on the sand.

A photo from Coney Island
Women eating lunch at Coney Island in 1900.      Universal History Archive/Getty Images

The same year, these women stopped for some frozen custard while strolling along the boardwalk.

The same year, these women stopped for some frozen custard while strolling along the boardwalk.
Women enjoying frozen custard on the Coney Island boardwalk in 1900.      George Rinhart/Getty Images

In 1920, these happy beachgoers went for a swim to beat the summer heat.

In 1920, these happy beachgoers went for a swim to beat the summer heat.
People in the ocean at Coney Island in 1920.      Bettmann/Getty Images

Some visitors chose to spend their time at Coney Island dancing on the beach.

Some visitors chose to spend their time at Coney Island dancing on the beach.
Dancers on the beach at Coney Island in 1925.      FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Others enjoyed playing ball games on the sand, like this group of friends in 1923.

Others enjoyed playing ball games on the sand, like this group of friends in 1923.
Beachgoers playing ball games at Coney Island in 1923.      Bettmann/Getty Images

These visitors relaxed and socialized by the ocean in the summer of 1925.

These visitors relaxed and socialized by the ocean in the summer of 1925.
Beachgoers at Coney Island in 1925.      The New York Historical Society/Getty Images

Crowds swarmed the waterfront on hot summer days, while other visitors enjoyed the rides at the amusement park behind them.

Crowds swarmed the waterfront on hot summer days, while other visitors enjoyed the rides at the amusement park behind them.
The beach at Coney Island with the amusement park in the background in 1928.      ullstein bild Dtl./Getty Images

Coney Island was filled with rides and attractions by the early 20th century.

Coney Island was filled with rides and attractions by the early 20th century.
Amusement rides at Coney Island in 1900.      Buyenlarge/Getty Images

This image from 1905 captures the magic of Luna Park, one of Coney Island's amusement parks.

This image from 1905 captures the magic of Luna Park, one of Coney Island
Luna Park at Coney Island in 1905.      Universal History Archive/Getty Images

In 1903, four onlookers watched riders on the Shoot the Chutes water ride.

In 1903, four onlookers watched riders on the Shoot the Chutes water ride.
Four people watching the 'Shoot the Chutes' amusement ride at Luna Park, Coney Island, US, circa 1903.      Bettmann/Getty Images

From the top of the Ferris wheel, these women caught a scenic view of a packed Coney Island on a summer day.

From the top of the Ferris wheel, these women caught a scenic view of a packed Coney Island on a summer day.
Two women ride the Ferris wheel at Coney Island in the year 1900.      Keystone-France/Getty Images

A man greases the chain on the Cyclone, the amusement park's best-known roller coaster, which opened in 1927.

A man greases the chain on the Cyclone, the amusement park
Man greasing chain of the Cyclone, a wooden roller coaster in Coney Island.      Bettmann/Getty Images

Source: NYC Parks

A century ago, Coney Island was home to an annual "Bathing Beauty" contest. In 1923, these contestants posed for a photo at Steeplechase Park.

A century ago, Coney Island was home to an annual "Bathing Beauty" contest. In 1923, these contestants posed for a photo at Steeplechase Park.
Bathing beauty contest for prizes at Coney Island, 1923.      Bettmann/Contributor

These competitors lined up while participating in 1928's beauty contest.

These competitors lined up while participating in 1928
Beauty contestants at Coney Island in 1928.      Bettmann/Getty Images

Coney Island was home to a variety of performers, like the one pictured below. Today, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow still exists, and features acts such as sword swallowers and fire eaters.

Coney Island was home to a variety of performers, like the one pictured below. Today, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow still exists, and features acts such as sword swallowers and fire eaters.
Visitors attending a show at Coney Island in the early 1900s.      Keystone-France/Getty Images

Advertisements for cold beverages like Sunkist and Tally-Ho Beer lined the boardwalk.

Advertisements for cold beverages like Sunkist and Tally-Ho Beer lined the boardwalk.
Sunkist Lemonade and Tally-Ho Beer billboards at the Coney Island boardwalk in 1929.      The New York Historical Society/Getty Images

In 1922, the boardwalk was packed with people in their bathing suits.

In 1922, the boardwalk was packed with people in their bathing suits.
Bathing suit beauty contestants on the boardwalk at Coney Island in 1922.      Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Having been one of the city's most popular tourist attractions, it wasn't uncommon for the boardwalk to be tightly packed.

Having been one of the city
Crowded boardwalk at Coney Island in 1927.      Bettmann/Getty Images
Newsletter BI Logo
BI NEWSLETTER

Get your weekly dose of essential news delivered right to you, plus explore a world of insights with our diverse newsletter subscription options.

  • Weekly newsletter
  • Uncover the latest in Tech, Finance, Business, and more
  • Handpicked web stories, in-depth articles, and expert analyses
Copylink BI



Advertisement