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[Detail] U.S.S. Alert. Photographer - W H Jackson, 1901 or 1902

6) Amusement Parks

Amusement parks appeared across the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. The parks served the needs of both a growing middle class and a developing transportation industry. Trolley companies were often required to pay a flat fee for electricity, regardless of the fact that they used more units during the work week. To keep up their usage throughout the weekends, trolley companies built amusement parks and other recreation areas at the end of their lines.

These recreation centers provided opportunities to swim, picnic, and see a variety of entertainers. A search on the phrase, amusement park, produces images of parks from Montana to Massachusetts with an emphasis on photographs from one of the nation's most famous parks--New York's Coney Island.

Coney Island established itself as a popular recreation area with horse racing, and, in 1884, the nation's first roller coaster. Numerous amusement parks were added to Coney Island over the years. Paul Boynton introduced his Water Chutes Park to the resort in 1895. This was the first place on Coney Island to charge admission and to attract visitors with rides.

There were over 1,500 amusement parks in the U.S. by 1919, but only 400 of these parks survived the Great Depression less than two decades later.

  • What types of amusements were available at these parks?
  • What types of people do you think attended these recreation centers?
  • Why do you think that people were willing to pay admission to enter an amusement park?
  • Were there any differences in parks across the country?