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Vintage Photos of Coney Island

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(Original Caption) 1928- Brooklyn, NY: Beach scene at Coney Island. SEE NOTE
Beach scene at Coney Island in 1928. (Getty Images)

Many people think of Coney Island as just a rundown amusement area in Brooklyn’s Lower Bay, but it has a rich and complex history. Indeed, it is one of the most iconic beachfronts in the United States and is also, in many ways, a template for the modern theme park.

Trapeze performers, Dreamland, Coney Island Created / Published c1904.
Trapeze performers, Dreamland, Coney Island circa 1904. (Library of Congress)

Coney Island’s reputation as a resort began in 1829 with the construction of the Coney Island Hotel. It kicked into high gear after the Civil War, when railroad lines brought thousands of tourists to the area. To entertain the crowds, a wide variety of rides, parks, and attractions were built, including the Seaside Aquarium, the Iron Tower, and America’s first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway.

(Original Caption) New York, NY: The Roosevelt bears at Coney Island. Undated photograph. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Roosevelt bears at Coney Island. (George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

From 1880 until World War II, Coney Island was the largest amusement area in the United States. A lot has happened to it since then—fire, demolition, zoning changes, Donald’s dad Fred Trump—but its glorious past is still worth revisiting and shouldn’t be forgotten. Scroll down for a selection of photos from Coney Island’s heyday.

(Original Caption) Bathing beauties in coy pose, at Coney Island, 1897. Stereoscopic view by Stroyhmeyer and Wynn.
Bathing beauties pose, at Coney Island, 1897. (Stroyhmeyer and Wynn/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) New York, NY: Children and clown in Coney Island Tunnel of Fun. Photograph 1930's.
Children and clown in Coney Island Tunnel of Fun circa 1930’s. (Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Coney Island, People Standing In Line To See A Freak Show At New York In Usa (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
People Standing In Line To See A Freak Show in Coney Island (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
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Visitors riding down a water slide in Coney Island. (Getty Images)
circa 1955: Customers crowding to get served at Nathan's famous hotdog stand in Coney Island, New York. (Photo by George Heyer/Three Lions/Getty Images)
Customers crowding to get served at Nathan’s famous hotdog stand in Coney Island, circa 1955. (George Heyer/Three Lions/Getty Images)
Des New-Yorkais s'amusent dans une attraction foraine du Luna Park de Coney Island, le 22 juin 1931 ? New York, NY. (Photo by Keystone-FranceGamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Luna park 1931 (Keystone-FranceGamma-Rapho via Getty Images)