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The Funny Place: 1911

Atlantic City circa 1911. "Bathing at the Steeplechase." George C. Tilyou's Steeplechase Pier and some interesting signage, including a bear-filled Steiff Toys billboard. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Atlantic City circa 1911. "Bathing at the Steeplechase." George C. Tilyou's Steeplechase Pier and some interesting signage, including a bear-filled Steiff Toys billboard. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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The Strand

I see a building with signage calling it the Strand. I am familiar with one in Galveston, TX which has historical significance back to prior the famous 1900 hurricane. Are these related? Was there a chain of Hotels under this name?

["Strand" means beach. - Dave]

Re: a bit sad

The comment regarding people living in these times and having all these new inventions reminds me of my grandmother, who was born in 1903 and lived on a farm for her first 20 years. She died at age 105 in 2008. About five years ago I asked her what she thought was the most important improvement had happened in her lifetime. To my surprise she said the invention of the tractor was the happiest for her. It unburdened the hard life the draft horses on the farm had. They still used them to pull the wagon to take them to town, but they didn't have to work in the fields anymore. Grandma was sharp as a tack til the day she died, so it wasn't dementia talking.


Who is the slut showing her knees just above the SHORPY watermark?!

Those Swimmies

Those "large swimmies" are probably Ayvad's Water-Wings, made in Hoboken. Meant for either adults or children as an aid to swimming or learning to swim, they were canvas, coated on the inside with some sort of water-repellent substance, and had a stopper made out of wood and metal. I have an old pair in pristine condition. You can still find them quite frequently on eBay. I think they were marketed from about 1900 to 1930, so there are lots of pairs still out there. You can also spot them in old mail order catalogues.

Marking time with Halley's Comet

I think it was fascinating that Mark Twain was born in a year when Halley's Comet was visible on earth and he died at 74 while it was once again visible on earth. Astronomers estimate it passes approx. every 74 to 75 yrs. apart and I got to thinking that my mother saw it twice since she was born in 1910 (the year Samuel Clemons died) and lived until 1995, ten years after its 1985 return. Though we tend to get nostalgic for our loved ones and wish they were here to see what is happening now, we don't realize all the experiences and adventures they had which we will never know and will never come again. Every era has its redeeming events and we have no choice but to live in the world in which we find ourselves. My mom fondly remembered the depression years as being her favorite for special memories even though they were living an austere life. She was in the bloom of youth, beautifully good-looking, madly in love with her husband, had her children then and enjoyed endless good friends and made life-long relationships. She lived close to the 1939 World's Fair in NYC for that year. The lack of money was part of her joy-filled memories of "making-do", simple amusements like the beach above (they had buses), common every-day activities were relished, no car, no vacations, thrifty creative cooking, just totally embracing the intangible happiness of loving and living life. She never seemed envious or resentful of the affluent, but thrived in living her life with enthusiasm and survived well into the age of computers, space stations and skype, surely a life well-lived. Yes, time machines would be great, but will never happen, so we might as well live while we can. Unlike Halley's comet, we only go around once.

Re: ... a bit sad

My grandmother was one of those people Dave refers to in his comment response below. She was born 19 years before the Wright Brothers' first flight, and died five years after we'd landed on the moon.

Lucky Nucky

Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (re: Boardwalk Empire) is probably sitting over there, cigarette in hand, glass of bourbon (neat) on the table, counting his money!


Yesterday I watched the 1952 movie, Million Dollar Mermaid, on TCM about the Australian swimming champ Annette Kellerman (played by Esther Williams). It had a beach scene that took place in 1907 and the bathing suits looked just like this. Kellerman was one of the first to popularize tight fitting one piece bathing suits for women and was even arrested for indecency for wearing one in Massachusetts!

These make me a bit sad

Every time I see people of this era enjoying what was to be the very last years of stability I get a little morose thinking what was to come for them. They are all gone now and with them stories of a much simpler time.

[This was an era of mind-boggling change. There were people alive in 1911 who were born in a world without trains, planes, automobiles, electricity, telegraphs, radio, phonographs, motion pictures or telephones, and then came to see all of these things during their lives. Hardly "simple times." - Dave]

No Way to Explain

New York Magazine, Jun 28, 1993

Summer Places

By Pete Hammill

There is no way to explain to today's young about the vanished past. But it retains a fierce power. On a recent visit, I walked west on the boardwalk and saw the Parachute Jump rising 260 feet above the summer sky. The old ride had been repainted, landmarked, fenced off, existing now only as a piece of municipal structure, a monument to what we lost. Worse, it is all that remains of Steeplechase - The Funny Place, the fifteen-acre amusement park that George C. Tilyou founded in 1897 and that was vividly alive when I was in my teens. The symbol of the park was a huge grinning face, a slightly menacing mixture of Alfred E. Neuman and the Joker. A mechanical racehorse round around the edges of the park, the carved wooden horses and their live human riders moving into the dells and over water and above hedges, while music played on a blurred sound system.

Steeplechase charged a general-admission price that kept out the winos and the riffraff (bragged those who paid), but that didn't free it of Coney Island's tawdry charms. The rides and runways were packed with thousands of people, eating corn, cotton candy, ice-cream cones. During World War II, you saw sailors in the park, laughing wildly in bumper cars, moving kids aside to try games of chance and sometimes winning plaster Kewpie dolls and stuffed animals.

Oops, after posting this I learned that the above extract of a Pete Hammill column is probably referring to the Steeplechase Pier at Coney Island, not the one in Atlantic City. Apparently the Alfred E. Neuman/Joker face was a signature logo of the franchise.

It's Tillie!

Anyone who went to Asbury Park, NJ before 2004 will remember Tillie, the famous mascot on the side of the Palace Casino. I realize now that he is named after George Tilyou. Tilyou must have built both amusement park piers.

Thank you for teaching me something new about my beloved home state and one of its beloved icons.

[update: "Tillie" was indeed Tilyou's mascot. appearing on the Steeplechase Piers at both Coney Island and Atlantic City, and the Palace Casino in Asbury Park. Tilyou deserves his own day of recognition for bringing so much pleasure to decades of visitors to the NY/NJ shore resorts.]

Master of his domain

Why, yes, here I am.

Mystery Solved

So Atlantic City is where Hannibal Lecter grew up.

Large Swimmies?

Or has this bather got air pockets in their swimwear? I think that is a hat this person is wearing.


And we have one guy staring back at the camera with a big "hiya!" for the future.

Backward sign

"Lipschitz Cigars"? That's true, especially if you don't light 'em.

Inspiration for the Coppertone kid

in the straw hat.

Only one reason for such a turnout

As hundreds of young ladies make ready in the warm Atlantic surf, the big crowd up on the boardwalk is waiting for that annual favorite, the ever-so-sexy Wet Swimming Gown Contest.

Nucky's World

Thanks for all the recent AC shots. They're particularly evocative, as I've been watching the wonderful Boardwalk Empire. And that Steeplechase face is so iconically creepy, I love whenever it pops up.

Pre-Alfred E.

I believe we have the inspiration for the first "What, me worry?" kid.

Full Moon Out

Looks like a little wardrobe problem.

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