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illustration of Coney Island Beach and Bathers
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Coney Island Beach and Bathers

The caption for this drawing says: "Coney Island, from a barren stretch of beach, began to develop into a real pleasure resort after the close of the Civil War. The three-card monte man plied his calling unhampered by watchful police."

At the beginning of the 19th century, there was little access to Coney Island. The only way to reach Coney Island was across a creek at low tide. In 1823 a road was built out of seashells. At the same time, a hotel called the Coney Island House was constructed. With the road came the people. In the 1840s, the toll keeper at Shell Road counted more than three hundred vehicles on their way to the beach. Even during the Civil War, development continued. Hotels and restaurants were built. The first railroad to reach the island was called the Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island Railroad but the locals called it the "Dummy Road" because it was so slow. Instead of taking a full day to reach the island, iron steamboats could bring visitors to the beach in two hours. They could enjoy a full day at the beach and return home in the evening. Early Coney Island had its vices, gambling, drinking and fighting among them. Most of this activity took place at the west end of the island. The three-card monte man was found all along the beach, trying to dupe visitors of their money. Even with its slightly unruly air, Coney Island became a household word and everyone wanted a day at the beach.

Citation - Document 91
Photographs: Coney Island: Renderings
ca. 1869
Brooklyn Public Library – Brooklyn Collection

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