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Archive for the ‘history’ Category

LunaTics Ice Cream

Opening Day at LunaTics Ice Cream on Surf Avenue. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Saturday, several new businesses and exhibits opened for the season, with some operators pulling all nighters in the race to be ready for the start of Memorial Day Weekend. Among them was LunaTics Ice Cream, located in the former Island Grocery on the south side of Surf Avenue. Dennis Corines, who operated Denny’s Ice Cream a few doors away on Surf from the 1970’s until he sold his building to Coney Island USA in 2011, is a consultant to store owner Shaukat Mian.

LunaTics Ice Cream Coney Island

Denny’s Banana Pistachio at LunaTics Ice Cream. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Saturday they offered us a banana pistachio which tasted exactly like the last one we had in the summer of 2012, when CIUSA operated Denny’s. That’s not so long ago, but since Denny’s was destroyed by Sandy and the building is now occupied by an antique shooting gallery, we never expected to taste it again. Delicious!

LunaTics Ice Cream

Dennis Corines former owner of Denny’s Ice Cream and Shaukat Mian former operator of Island Grocery. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Shaukat Mian owns the building at 1224 Surf and operated Island Grocery at the location for 13 years. His brand-new business offers a menu similar to Denny’s. There’s soft serve ice cream in vanilla, chocolate, banana and pistachio, as well as hard ice cream, Italian ices, shakes, and cotton candy, popcorn, jelly apples and funnel cake.

The Face of Steeplechase Coney Island History Project

Charles Denson with detail of “The Face of Steeplechase” exhibit at the Coney Island History Project. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

At the non-profit Coney Island History Project on West 12th Street, a new exhibit pays tribute to the ubiquitous symbol of Coney Island, George C. Tilyou’s “Funny Face.” Variations of the Face are used to promote a slew of Coney Island products and businesses today and inspired New Jersey’s “Tillie” but it was original to Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park (1897-1964). Curated by Coney Island historian Charles Denson and featuring rare photos from his archives, the exhibit commemorates the 50th anniversary of the closing of Steeplechase and the 100th anniversary of Tilyou’s death.

The Face of Steeplechase Park: Gams, Garters, and Stockings!

Photo of the Blowhole Theater from “The Face of Steeplechase Park: Gams, Garters, and Stockings!” at the Coney Island History Project

According to the exhibit notes and the photos, the Face was originally believed to be a caricature of Tilyou’s brother Edward and underwent many changes during the park’s lifetime. “Sometimes it was a gleeful, maniacal visage,” writes Denson. “At other times, it appeared as inscrutable as the Mona Lisa.” “The Face of Steeplechase Park: Gams, Garters, and Stockings!” opened on Saturday and is on view weekends and holidays through Labor Day. Admission is free of charge.

Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co.

Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co. In Thor Equities Building on Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co. opened on Saturday after getting their custom-made sign up on the building in the wee hours of the morning. It’s located on the Stillwell Avenue side of Thor Equities building in a space leased by Wampum last summer. Owned by Maya Haddad Miller and her brother Yaniv Haddad, the store will sell private label clothing. The spinoff of Brooklyn Beach Shop will be the fifth store owned by the Haddad family in Coney Island, where they have operated retail shops since 1996.

Surf & Stillwell partners Maya Haddad Miller and her brother Yaniv Haddad

Surf & Stillwell partners Maya Haddad Miller and her brother Yaniv Haddad

The new store is across the avenue from Nathan’s as well as the Coney Island Beach Shop, which Maya and Yaniv’s father Haim Haddad opened in 2002. Brooklyn Beach Shop has locations on the Boardwalk and inside Stillwell Terminal. Nathan’s Gift Shop on the Boardwalk is also operated by the Haddads, who have a licensing agreement with Nathan’s. Surf & Stillwell is the only new store so far this year in Thor’s retail building. Current tenants are It’Sugar, Brooklyn Rock, Rainbow Shops and the Brooklyn Nets.

Fred Kahl Scan-O-Rama

Fred Kahl at his Scan-O-Rama Booth. May 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Last summer, we wrote about Fred Kahl’s futuristic 3-D portrait studio in a former fortuneteller’s booth in Coney Island. After raising more than $16,000 via Kickstarter to fund the project, he kept the studio open year-round and it remains open Saturdays from 12 till 5pm during the spring and summer. Duplicates of the 3-D portraits are featured in a populated scale model of Thompson and Dundy’s Luna Park circa 1914 which debuted on Saturday at the Coney Island Museum.

3D Luna Park by Fred Kahl

Fred Kahl’s 3D Luna Park Installation at Coney Island Museum. Photo via TheGreatFredini.com

“Luna Park has a special place in history, a witness to the society being transformed by technology. These are the themes that are relevant to us today as our world undergoes the third industrial revolution,” says Kahl whose impressive installation is the first phase of a work in progress. “Big sigh of relief, now I need to get printing the rest of Luna Park.” The exhibit is on view during museum hours, which are currently Friday through Sunday. Admission is $5.00.

Luna Park's White Castle Trailer

Luna Park’s White Castle Trailer on Wonder Wheel Way at Stillwell Avenue, May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

White Castle Express opened in Luna Park on Saturday at both the Cyclone Cafe and in the former Luna BBQ trailer on Wonder Wheel Way. After breaking the news on Friday (“White Castle Sliders Coming to Coney Island,” ATZ May 23, 2014) we’re still baffled by the divergence of friends’ reactions–from mmmm to ugh. From comments on twitter, it’s clear WC has quite a following, probably because they’ve been in biz since 1921 and in New York since 1930. That puts them in a different category than chains like Johnny Rockets (“The Original Hamburger,” founded in 1986!) and other newbies. We tried some fries and the price was right for a quick snack. Only $2.19 for medium fries including tax.

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April 25, 2014: Under Construction: New Mom & Pops Coming to Coney Island’s Surf Ave

December 31, 2013: Amusing the Zillion’s Coney Island 2013 Year in Review

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

March 14, 2012: Coney Entrepreneurs to Open 1st Ever Nathan’s Gift Shop

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Thunderbolt Roller Coaster

Parachute Jump framed by the Thunderbolt’s Vertical Loop, Luna Park, Coney Island. May 17, 2014. Photo © Jim McDonnell

Weekend visitors to Coney Island were wowed by the sight of Zamperla’s Thunderbolt roller coaster under construction on West 15th Street. Set to open on Memorial Day, which is just one week away, the new $10 million dollar ride’s track rolls, loops, turns and dives from the Boardwalk to Surf Avenue and back again. Photographer Jim McDonnell, who has been documenting the work in progress since Day 1, has captured the sculptural elegance of the coaster. The Thunderbolt has already made its mark on Coney Island’s skyline. Seen from a certain vantage point, the landmark Parachute Jump–Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower– is framed by the Loop in a shot that is destined to become a favorite of People’s Playground photographers and a Coney classic.

Thunderbolt Loop Completed

Loop on Luna Park’s new Thunderbolt Roller Coaster Completed, May 15, 2014. Photo © Jim McDonnell

On Thursday, the Thunderbolt’s 100-foot Loop was completed. It was a stunning moment because it’s the first coaster with a vertical loop in Coney Island since the 1901-1910 Loop the Loop, which stood on the corner of West 10th Street where the Cyclone is today. Edwin Prescott’s ride was one of the first to charge admission just to watch. A sign warned “Beware of Pickpockets!” and another said “STRAP YOURSELVES.” The ride’s motto, printed on its tickets, was “Heels up, Heads down!” But the Loop the Loop’s low capacity of four passengers per 10 cent ride was not enough to turn a profit. The Thunderbolt will cost $10 or 10 Luna Park credits to ride. If you’re not brave enough to give it a go, it will of course be free to watch.

Loop the Loop

Edwin Prescott’s Loop the Loop, Coney Island, 1901-1901. Library of Congress

As previously noted (“High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster,” ATZ, March 10, 2014), Coney Island has been home to dozens of roller coasters since the Switchback Railway debuted in 1884 but it’s been a long 87 years since one was custom built for Coney — the Cyclone in 1927. The new ride is named in honor of the 1925 Thunderbolt, which occupied an adjacent lot on the same block until it was controversially and illegally demolished in 2000 on the orders of Mayor Giuliani.

The Thunderbolt is the third Zamperla coaster in Luna Park to be named after Coney Island attractions of the past. In 2010, their Wild Mouse-style spinning coaster was rechristened “The Tickler” in honor of an innovative 1906 thrill ride in the original Luna Park, after which the park is named. The next year, a Pony Express-themed Motocoaster in Scream Zone was dubbed the Steeplechase Coaster, after Steeplechase Park’s signature horse race ride.

Loop the Loop Ticket

Loop the Loop Ticket, Coney Island, early 1900s. Via eBay seller childhoodthings

UPDATE May 20, 2014

UPDATE May 30, 2014

Watch this video from last evening, when the Thunderbolt went for its 1st first test run.

UPDATE June 15, 2014

The Thunderbolt had its grand opening on Saturday! Here’s the official POV video released by Luna Park

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March 10, 2014: High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster

February 23, 2014: Sunday Matinee: Under the Roller Coaster (2005)

September 22, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Coney Island’s Mite Mouse Coaster (1992)

April 21, 2012: Saturday Matinee: A Switchback Railway (1898)

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This week, British Pathé announced the release of more than 85,000 newsreels from its archives to the public via YouTube. Among the films dating from the early 20th century though the 1970s are several documenting Coney Island. “Let’s Go Coney! Island” (1932) was shot inside Steeplechase Park’s Pavilion of Fun and provides a glimpse of patrons riding the Hoopla, Human Pool Table and Panama Slide. At Luna Park, Victor Zacchini, “The Human Cannonball,” is seen being shot from a cannon across the park’s lagoon as part of the season’s outdoor show.

Other newsreels show riders on the Witching Waves (1919) and the residents of New York Aquarium eating a “Whale Of A Lunch” (1964). (Update: We removed one of the films, Dizzy-Dive Land (1932) which is mis-ID’d as a Coney Island coaster but turns out to be Rye Playland’s Aeroplane (1923-1957), according to American Coaster Enthusiasts co-founder and historian Richard Munch.)

While the British Pathé archive is available online via their own website, going public on YouTube allows viewers to comment, share and embed the historic videos.

“The archive contains unique footage from both World Wars, the Titanic, boxing legend Muhammed Ali and more,” said British Pathé and Mediakraft Networks in a press release. “On top of this startling content, the material also paints vivid pictures of almost forgotten lifestyles, peculiar technical inventions and everyday life that British Pathé presented in newsreels, cinemagazines, and documentaries from 1910 until 1976.”

In “Do You Reverse” (1928), couples slide down a water chute together into Steeplechase Pool. Camera trickery is used to show this in reverse. Divers are also seen jumping out of the water and back onto boards.

Dorothy de Mar wins the title of Miss Venus from hundreds of other bathing beauties at Steeplechase Park in “Is She Your Choice?” (1931).

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April 21, 2012: Saturday Matinee: A Switchback Railway (1898)

January 8, 2012: Video of the Day: Coney Island at Night by Edwin S. Porter

August 16, 2011: Video of the Day: “IT Girl” Clara Bow in Coney Island

January 15, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island

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Automatic Pleasures by Nic Costa

Nic Costa’s classic Automatic Pleasures: The History of the Coin Op Machine is once again in print and as relevant as ever, considering the resurgence of pinball in bars and the popularity of a new Cupcake ATM on Lexington Avenue that had a line of people 12 to 15 deep on opening day. There’s also the nearly 10,000 slot machines at New York’s Aqueduct and Yonkers racetracks, a harbinger of many more to come with the legalization of casinos in New York State.

Gambling machines, the one armed bandit, penny arcades, fortunetelling machines, strength testers, shooting games, viewers, and vending and service machines are among the automatic entertainments covered in the book, which is illustrated with both black & white and color photos.

Did you know the first-ever vending machine was a coin-operated holy water dispenser invented by Hero of Alexandria nearly 2000 years ago? Costa writes that it wasn’t until the development of markets and a society based on paid labor that devices saving time were valued and produced in number.

The first coin freed patent was in 1857, for “A Self-Acting Machine for the Delivery of Postage and Receipt Stamps.” A penny inserted would automatically feed out a stamp from a roll. By the mid-1890s more than 1,000 patent applications for coin freed machines had been received by the U.K. Patent Office. Tellingly, many of the early machines could be used either as fortune tellers or games of chance. Games with automatic payouts of a cigar, a card or a token became increasingly popular on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1890s.

Automatic Pleasures by Nic Costa

In the U.K. in the first years of the 20th century, there was a spate of prosecutions against businesses, including saloons and shops, which had the automatic machines. The intent was to suppress “public corruption” and “juvenile depravity.” The enforcement of anti-gambling laws resulted in European manufacturers having to concentrate on games of skill with a low pay-out, which led to the later American domination of the world market.

Automatic Pleasures is enlivened by numerous excerpts from firsthand accounts of the era. Herbert Mills of Chicago’s Mills Novelty Company, once the world’s leading manufacturer of coin operated machines, writes about the Automatic Vaudeville or Penny Arcade business in the early 20th century:

The Penny Arcade has become a permanent institution as much as the theater, the opera, the circus, the concert, the lecture or the gymnasium, for it combines in a modified form of all of these and because it makes such universal appeal, particularly to the poorer classes, it is destined to grow constantly in popularity and size. Only about 10 per cent of the total population have an income of more than $1,200.00 per year, and therefore, the percentage of those who can afford a dollar for a concert ticket or two dollars for a theater ticket is very small. But everyone can patronize the Penny Vaudeville and afford ten cents for half an hours entertainment.

Automatic Pleasures: The History of The Coin Machine by Nic Costa, D’Aleman Publishing, 2013. Paperback, $32.42

Automatic Pleasures by Nic Costa

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Coney Island History Project Collection

On the Beach, 1934. Coney Island History Project Collection

On Presidents Day, the Coney Island History Project and Urban Neighborhood Services are celebrating Black History Month with a slideshow of historic images and a panel discussion in Coney’s West End. Among the photos are this wonderful snapshot of “Tootsie, Blanche and Alma” on Coney Island beach in 1934. “The History of Coney Island’s West End and the Presence and Contributions of African Americans in Coney Island from the 1600s to the Present” will feature never-before-seen images from the archive of History Project director Charles Denson as well as photos that he took in the 1970s. The free event is on February 17 from 4-6pm at PS 329, 2929 West 30th Street in Coney Island.

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December 18, 2013: Photo Album: Christmas Peddlers in Old New York

January 9, 2013: Victrola Vault: In Summertime Down By the Sea (1904)

April 4, 2012: Photo of the Day: Granville T. Woods Memorial Trolley Pole

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On this day in 1903, Thomas Edison’s infamous Electrocuting an Elephant was released, having been filmed on January 4th in Coney Island’s Luna Park. A crowd of 1,500 had gathered to see Topsy, billed as “the man-killing elephant,” executed with 6,000 volts of electricity. The movie is filed in my brain under “Why I Hate Thomas Edison” despite his invention of the electric light bulbs and motion picture technology on view in the wondrous “Coney Island, Luna Park by Night” filmed by Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Manufacturing Co. in 1905.

This week, Edison’s Elephant, a new play by David Koteles and Christopher Van Strander exploring the life and death of the abused and maligned Topsy premieres as part of Metropolitan Playhouse’s Gilded Stage Festival. The inspiration for the play came when Koteles, whose great grandfather worked for Edison during the early days of the Kinetoscope, learned about Topsy while watching a compilation of Edison’s short films. According to an interview with NY Theater Now, he was “horrified, but intrigued” and decided to team up with his friend Chris Van Strander to write the play.

Edison's Elephant

Topsy inspired Rosie the elephant in Sara Gruen’s novel Water for Elephants (2006) and was the subject of journalist Michael Daly’s Topsy: The Startling Story of the Crooked Tailed Elephant (2013). Daly says the electrocution was Edison’s way of venting his fury over having lost the AC vs DC battle with Westinghouse, as well as his opportunity to film the first death of any kind. Although Topsy’s execution has been referenced in many films and literary works, as far as we know this is the first play.

Among the characters in Edison’s Elephant are an Edison employee involved in experiments with electricity that killed other animals prior to Topsy’s execution. His wife, who accompanies him to the execution, is the conscience of the play. “I think we’ve created a very special evening of theater. As well as a lovely tribute to Topsy,” Koteles said. The Metropolitan Playhouse festival, which runs from January 13-26, features nine new plays inspired by the leading writers and creators of the Gilded Age, including PT Barnum, L Frank Baum, Henry James, and Frederick Law Olmsted.

Edison’s Elephant by David Koteles and Chris Van Strander. Performances on January 16, 19, 24 and 25 at Metropolitan Playhouse’s Gilded Stage Festival, 220 East 4th Street, New York City. 212-995-5302

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Christmas Vendor

Christmas Card Vendor, New York City, ca. 1908-1917. Bain News Service, Library of Congress Collection

These century-old photos of peddlers hawking holiday cards–one cent each!– teddy bears and ingenious toys on New York City streets, circa 1908-1917, are a window onto Christmases past for street vending. Exchange the clothing and the goods for the 21st century equivalent and they could be on the street today. Or maybe not…

Vendor of Christmas Toys

Vendor of Christmas Toys, 6th Ave, ca. 1908-1917. Bain News Service, Library of Congress Collection

According to the Street Vendor Project, a membership-based non-profit creating a grassroots movement for vendors, if you want to sell such items, you may be out of luck. In 1979, the New York City Council created a cap of 853 on the number of merchandise licenses. The waiting list is so long that the Department of Consumer Affairs closed it more than 20 years ago.

An exception is made for veterans who were discharged from the service as disabled and for those selling books, magazines, CDs, and art, which are protected by the First Amendment right to free speech. More than 90% of New York City’s street vendors are immigrants and about 10% of vendors are veterans granted a special license under a New York State Law passed in the 1890s.

Selling Xmas Toys on Street

Selling Xmas Toys on Street, ca. 1908-1917. Bain News Service, Library of Congress Collection

City regulation of street vending began in 1906, when a Mayoral Commission inquired into the so-called “Push-Cart Evil.” They concluded that the number of pushcart vendors and sidewalk stands should be regulated.

While adding materially to the picturesqueness of the city’s streets and imparting that air of foreign life which is so interesting to the traveler, lending an element of gaiety and charm to the scene which is otherwise lacking, the practical disadvantages from the undue congestion of peddlers in certain localities are so great as to lead to a demand in many quarters for the entire abolition of this industry, if it may be dignified by that term. It is argued, and with much reason, that when the city was smaller and there was no congestion of street traffic, there was no harm in permitting a few persons to earn their livelihood by peddling their wares along the highways.– Report of the Mayor’s Push-Cart Commission, The City of New York
1906

At the time 97% of the vendors were Jewish, Italian and Greek immigrants who had lived in the U.S. from five to ten years. For many, peddling was not their sole occupation, and was often only a temporary way to make a living, as it was in my grandfather’s day, when he and my father had a wagon selling popcorn and 5- and 10-cent lunch.

Christmas toy seller

Christmas Toy Seller, New York City, ca. 1908-1917. Bain News Service, Library of Congress Collection

Pitching one’s wares was also strictly regulated according to the Annual Report of the Police Department of the City of New York for 1920.

Peddlers, Hawkers, and Vendors Generally

TIME OF CRYING
6. Section 133. No street peddler, or vendor, shall blow upon or use any horn or other instrument, nor make any noise tending to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, for the purpose of directing attention to his wares or trade. No peddler shall cry or sell his or her wares, or merchandise, on Sunday, nor after 9 o’clock P. M., nor cry his or her wares before 8 o’clock in the morning of any day except Saturdays, when they will be allowed to cry or sell their wares or merchandise until 11:30 o’clock P.M.

Xmas Peddler

Xmas Peddler, New York City, ca. 1908-1917. Bain News Service, Library of Congress Collection

PLACE OF CRYING
7. No peddler shall be allowed to cry his or her wares within a distance of 250 feet of any school, court house, church or building in which religious services are held, during hours they may be in session: nor at any time within a like distance of any hospital, asylum or other like institution; nor within a distance of 250 feet of any dwelling house or other building, when directed by an occupant thereof not to do so.

Street Peddlers

Christmas Street Peddlers. Bain News Service, Library of Congress Collection

“Our economy is changing and work is changing,” writes Braeden Lentz, a staffer at the Street Vendor Project. “Yet street vendors have been creating their own economy, one that is not subject to the whims of corporations, for two centuries.” With more than 1,500 active vendor members, SVP offers programs such as The Pushcart Fund’s small business loans, legal and technical assistance, classes for people thinking of becoming food vendors and the Vendy Awards for the best in the business.

Xmas Postcards

Xmas Postcards, New York City, ca. 1908-1917. Bain News Service, Library of Congress Collection

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December 13, 2013: Photo Album: Gingerbread Coney Island in City Harvest Extravaganza

December 9, 2013: Photo Album: First Snow of the Season in Coney Island by Bruce Handy

December 24, 2011: Video of the Day: Winter Wonderland for Christmas Eve

December 18, 2011: Playing Santa at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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