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The Steel Pier: 1904

The Steel Pier: 1904

The Jersey shore circa 1904. "Steel Pier, Atlantic City." Can anything compare to Atlantic City in the summer, and the feel of sand in your bathing-socks? 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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The Diving Horse

I was a young lad of about 6 when my parents took my younger brother and I to the Steel Pier in AC to see the famous Diving Horse. This was about 55 years ago.

The horse didn't actually dive into the water; the front half of the platform the horse was standing on collapsed and forced the horse and rider to slide into the water from about five stories high. I felt sorry for the horse and worse later in life when I read that a few of the horses they used died of heart attacks from the experience. I also had to sit through a Vaughn Monroe performance and I'm not sure which was worse for a 6 year old.

Chicken Bone Beach

This is another in a series of images from Atlantic City. Last year Shorpy published a view that included a well dressed black family in the foreground. Now we find, in the photographic evidence, black families on the beach again. However, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the beaches were restricted in most Jersey coastal towns, including Atlantic City. The story says that these beaches, presumably including "Chicken Bone Beach" in Atlantic City, were staffed with black lifeguards.

A person quoted in the article says that "there were no signs saying colored-only beach ... you just knew your place."

I think that the photographic evidence to the contrary is an inconvenient problem for some histories.

Bathing suits

My mother was telling me today my grandmother was scandalized by the appearance of men's bathing shorts. She felt that my grandfather's bathing suit, which in the 1920s consisted of a one-piece outfit with t-shirt length sleeves and cut mid-thigh, bordered on impropriety. My grandfather, a Presbyterian minister, wasn't the least concerned.

Steel Appear

I watched Al Hirt's Steel Pier dance show on our black-and-white TV in the early '60s. It was like American Bandstand next to the ocean. I had no idea what a pier was, so I thought the show was called Steel Appear because it "appeared" on TV. (And I had no idea why the word "steel" was in the name, either.)

Oh Look! A ShorpyShooter!

At least there's a camera on a tripod toward the front left, and who knows how much insight the cameraman has about future venues for his pictures!


All those fully clothed bodies lying about on the beach remind me of corpses. Perhaps I have been watching too many cop shows.

Why go to the beach? Fresh air is the reason.

We forget that most people lived in apartment buildings or rooming houses with few fans and obviously no A/C. It was common for people to leave their rooms for the day just to get out to where the air was fresh and a breeze might blow. In the summer months (at this time) in Chicago, people (whole families) slept in the parks at night if it was hot. In a time when illness was spread from living in close quarters people were encouraged to take the air to stay healthy. Given there was no TV or radio and few recordings in peoples homes - why not head out rather than sit in your stuffy rooms?

I'm afraid I'll be underdressed

Honey, where's my tie, vest, socks and garters and celluloid collar and second best coat? I'm going to the beach!

Peppermint Twist

Joey Dee and the Starlighters did this song, not Chubby Checker. In the age of wiki and google, I kind of feel foolish pointing this out, but then I am also in an age where most people aren't old enough to remember this.

Seven inches

Of exposed skin in the whole field of view.

What a coincidence

Just earlier today I was reading an older book entitled "Discovering America's Past," and looking at the section on Atlantic City's Boardwalk. The book also mentioned the Steel Pier, which is the first time I had heard of it. They didn't have a photo so I was glad to see one today.

Intergrated Too

Couple hundred miles south and there would be a Blacks Only and a Whites Only beach sections. Good to see this intergration.

[Yers. - Dave]

Summer of '62

Forty eight years ago, I watched Chubby Checker perform on the Steel Pier as he unveiled his second "twist" record, "The Peppermint Twist".. The "Pier" has an interesting history of storm damage, rebuilding, fires, rebuilding, diminishment, rebuilding, Miss America contest runways, cut-offs and add-ons. Seems like right now Donald Trump has made it an entertainment center once again. In 1904 when this photo was taken, my grandfather had just arrived at Ellis Island from Poland and in WW2, my uncle was stationed there, as Atlantic City was an Army training camp. A fascinating location, thanks Shorpy for the long trip down Memory Lane.

No action?

"How strange the Victorian era must of been."

Well, Edwardian, to be precise. And all folks are doing is sitting, standing, or lying around. No activities of any kind. Isn't watching waves come in kind of like watching grass grow?

Why go to the beach...

...if you aren't going in the water??

The people up on the pier must be enjoying the cool breezes without the hot sun shining on them!

The view is just as nice above as below - so what is the attraction for the hot sand?

More space maybe??

AND does anybody know what those big elaborate buildings house?

Great pic - thanks again!!!

Back to School

The Steel Pier. Atlantic City. This is where Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) developed and practiced his now famous "Triple Lindy" dive.

Got a laundress?

The privileged classes employed a washerwoman to launder all of these clothes. Otherwise, you stoked up the fire on Monday morning and boiled and stirred all day long. Good old bluing kept the whites white. I, too, am always astounded at how heavily dressed our ancestors were in the heat of the East Coast summers. Prior to this time period, in the latter half of the 19th century, bathing machines were on the beaches in the UK. They looked like little sheds, and you went into them, disrobed, put on your heavy-duty bathing costume, and ejected yourself into the waves. No witnesses. So this photo represents a gradual pull away from that Victorian commodity.

True Grit

It always strikes me how REALLY well-dressed beach-goers could be in the early 1900s. They aren't just fully-dressed -- they're wearing suits and hats and white dresses for a day in the hot sun and gritty sand!

What never ceases to amaze me is that few (if any) people bring a blanket or towel to lie on. There they are, in their nice clothes just sitting and lying directly on the sand. Many of the men (and some of the women) are sitting on suit jackets, getting them all mashed up and sandy. Way more surprising than that, though, is the number of women in white dresses and/or white blouses lying partially on newspapers (possibly because the sand is so hot). All I can think when I see THAT is that they must have newsprint ink smeared all over their nice white clothes!

Body Language

For the young couple by the black umbrella, there is nobody else on the beach.

Hot? Cold?

I'd like to know what time of year this was taken. No shadows.

Bathing Socks?

I see exactly one pair of unsocked feet. Virtually everyone has enough clothes on to weather a Noreaster in November. Why go to the beach at all?

An odd photo

I'll give an internets for every smiling face you can find.

Misery Loves Company

Another miserable day at the beach according to these poor vacationers. Not a smile to be seen!

What would they think?

Suppose these folks woke up on a beach in Brazil and saw how the sunbathers looked nowadays.

Sand Mosaic

Wow. At least three black families here.

Great picture!

There is a guy lying on the other guy's hip as a pillow -- now that's not something you would see today! Everyone is very appropriately dressed, not a inch of elbow or knee showing. How strange the Victorian era must of been. I suspect there is enough cloth in this one picture to dress the entire East Coast of beach-going folks today.

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