Coney Island - Web Site
Request for Help with Research
Revised June 2, 2004
My historic research for this Web-Site was rather sparse and
nothing up to my usual standards. Readers may find it hard to believe
since my articles contain more information about Coney Island than has
ever been published before. But my sources were mainly previously
written books from the 1940's and 1950's, several magazine articles, scattered New York Times news items,
and the issues of Billboard magazine that I read on microfilm. The
later was quite helpful in expanding the material, but its coverage was
spotty and left me with more questions than it answered.
Obviously my research problems stem from my home in far away Venice, California,
nearly 2700 miles from Coney Island. I obviously don't have access to the
issues of the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper (except those before 1902 that are
on-line at the Brooklyn Library), library historic collections, nor that
of the thousands of oral histories that old time Coney Island residents
and ride operators could enlighten me with.
While my location is my handicap, my strength lies in my passion
for amusement park history and my throughness. Those who are familiar
with my previous self published coffee table books "Venice California -
Coney Island of the Pacific" and "Santa Monica Pier - A history from
1875 to 1990" assumed that I grew up in Southern California and experienced the
amusement piers first hand. On the contrary, I grew up in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania and moved to California several years after the last pier
closed. As to Coney Island, I have only visited it once for 90 minutes in 1987 when I
rode the Cyclone and ate hot dogs at Nathans.
This Web-Site was set up as a research site to help produce a
great history book about Coney Island with hundreds of photographs. The book
might not necessarily be mine, although it is possible that another
researcher might want to collaborate with me and share my research. My
basic problem in producing this book is finding a major publisher or if
I self published, obtaining distribution to get the book sold in
stores. It is a problem that I have never adequately solved with my
previous books. Consequently, despite fans claiming that I created some
of the best amusement park books ever published, they are extremely hard
to find. Many people have only discovered them when they stopped at my
photo display as they strolled Venice's boardwalk. A book about Coney
Island's history deserves a wide audience and thus needs a major
Several years ago I pitched the book to nearly every publisher in
the United States at the American Bookseller's Convention and I have
been turned down because they claim that my name will not sell the
book and the place is a has-been resort that has gained a bad reputation. I believe that it is the subject matter that sells books.
Millions of people have fond memories of the Coney Island of the past
and it doesn't matter how run down Coney Island is in the present. But
publishing houses are often run by younger people who don't care about
the past because they didn't experience it. One would need to be at
their mid 40's to remember Steeplechase well.
The second reason that I need to collaborate with another
researcher is that I do not own a historic photo collection of Coney
Island. While I could buy photographs from the Brooklyn Library and the
Museum of the City of New York, and even the Bettmann Archive, they
would be the same photographs that have been published numerous times.
A book needs to have great photos, ones that are fresh and haven't been
seen before. I do own a small Coney Island antique postcard collection
of 150 cards that I started just 18 months ago. It isn't that easy to
find Coney postcards in California, but then there isn't much
competition for the few that are for sale.
It was different when I first did my Venice book in 1987. I owned 600 quality
photos and 300 antique color postcards. By the time I revised and expanded
it in 1993, I owned 1100 photographs and 800 antique color postcards.
The photos and antique postcards that were used in this Web-Site
were scanned from books and magazine articles; even some from my own
postcard collection. Unfortunately as you will see, especially when you
look at my click-on image maps, I don't have photos of many of the attractions
nor know what they look like.
OMMISIONS & MISTAKES
The first thing to consider is that I held back nothing. The articles are
as complete as the extent of my knowledge. If I omitted anything or made
a factual error, the reason is that I relied on mis-information or lack
of. Please feel free to correct me or add to my articles for that is
the reason that this Web Site exists. Send E-Mail using the address
on the Home Page or by Mail: Jeffrey Stanton 12525 Allin St. Los Angeles,
I find the use of historic maps very important. They show where attractions
were located and if they are Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, the actual dimensions
of various structures. While I have a good set of sections of the 1906 maps,
I can't find any maps in the teens and 1920's. I also need maps during the
1880's and 1890's. While there are few rides, they will show the locations
of hotels, restaurants and bathhouses. I recently I obtained just the Luna
Park Sanborn map for 1930, but I'm missing the others along the Surf Avenue,
the Bowery area and Steeplechase. I have a full set of 1950's maps. Missing
Sanborn maps are on microfilm, probably at the New York City Library or
the Brooklyn Library. They are also at the Library of Congress (Map Room)
in Washington D.C. They can be printed out on the reader. Would someone
please make me copies of the Sanborn Fire Maps for Coney Island.
Another source of maps is obviously city maps that are on
microfilm in possibly the Department of Building and Safety. The
Chamber of Commerce produced maps, too. The 1949 map here was from a
Chamber guide book mailed to me from a man in Florida. Also various
companies published guide books. They are often in private collections,
libraries or even in historic society collections. Sometimes old guide books are helpful both with descriptions and maps. However, I have never seen one.
I Need Xeroxes of Maps to accurately finish my maps for Luna Park, Steeplechase, the Bowery and Surf Avenue areas where various attractions were located.
I need them for various different years since attractions changed or moved on a regular basis.
One interesting map that I would like to include, will obviously require the memory and help of a Steeplechase fan, preferably an artist. I need a map of the placement of the attractions in Steeplechase's Pavilion of Fun. At first a ground floor map showing locations would help, but it would be fabulous if an artist drew a perspective cut-away 3D view of the building with the attractions in detail. Of course the artist would be credited.
All maps will be eventually converted to 3/4 aerial perspective
views when I also obtain enough photographs to draw the individual
buildings and rides. Aerial photographs would be helpful. If you want
an example of what they might look like, look at the pier maps on my
Venice Web-Site. There is a link to it from this site.
I don't expect people to donate photographs, but they would be welcome, especially
for a forthcoming book. Hopefully they are good copies of your originals.
But I would like to see Xeroxes of rides and other attractions. Xeroxes
of large postcard collections would be helpful, too.
People with computers and color scanners might wish to contribute to
the site by digitizing their material. The images should be scanned
in with a width (longer dimension of photo for horizontal image) of about
530 pixels (about 7.1 inches). Color correct and contrast adjust the photos
on Adobe Photoshop until they look like the originals. Then save them in
JPEG format at low resolution (75 pixels / inch). Files are generally 35-45K.
If you do this, put them on a disk, include captions on separate paper or
text file as I might not recognize the images, and mail them to Jeffrey
Stanton 12525 Allin St. Los Angeles, Califonia 90066. Telephone is (310)
821-2425 (There is no answering machine) Try mornings and evenings and
remember that New York is three hours ahead of California time so don't
wake me up at 5 A.M. I'm usually up at 7 A.M. California time.
There are numerous year gaps in events that happened in Coney
Island's yearly history. The problem is that I haven't had access to
Brooklyn newspapers to do my research. Please help fill in the blanks,
especially in the years after World War II ended in 1945.
LISTS OF RIDES, ROLLER COASTERS & CAROUSELS
I spent considerable amounts of time preparing these lists.
However, they are somewhat inaccurate because they are incomplete and
if a ride has changed names, I just assumed it is a new attraction.
While Billboard was quite good at covering news at Luna Park and
Dreamland, both Steeplechase and Independent Ride coverage was quite sparse.
In the case of Steeplechase, after George Tilyou died in 1914, little
is mentioned until 1920. They mention many new rides in the 1920's but
stop at the end of the decade. Luckily the publishing of the Onarato diaries
in October 1997 has provided me with a complete record of the park from 1928 - 1964.
Any problems occurs during the park's early years.
The roller coaster list has little information about ride heights
and lengths. Sometimes the years of operation are incomplete. Also I'm
confused about many of the Thompson Scenic Railways on Surf Avenue.
Was the Oriental Scenic Railroad the same coaster as the one across
from the Cyclone or was it the one near the Luna Park entrance? The
Steeplechase roller coasters have me confused. too. An Ocean Coaster
(possibly a figure 8) is mentioned along the beach in 1913. Then in
1925 a coaster called "The Limit" is built there.
Many of Coney's roller coasters were dismantled in the winter of
1923-1924 to make room for the widening of the Surf Avenue and the
Bowery. Two coasters I believe survived. Drop the Dips was moved in
January 1924 to Luna Park. Also the Red Devil Rider is mentioned several
times as surviving, possibly as long as 1925, but was removed to build
Carousels are a problem. A 1938 magazine article in Fortune
Magazine mentions that there were 13 carousels at Coney Island. If you
look at my list it means that I'm missing at least half a dozen. Where
were they? Steeplechase's Boardwalk Carousel that burned in a 1953 fire is an unknown as to manufacturer.
My ride list has little listed after 1954 because Billboard quits covering
Coney parks. I'm not sure when Astroland was created on the Feltman property
or even what attractions have been there over the years and which rides
are located there at present. The list from 1955 onward needs extensive
work. Regrettably, it is in sad shape.
If you know of independent rides that are missing on my list or have
photographs, please contact me either my E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail.
Jeffrey Stanton 12525 Allin St. Los Angeles, CA 90066
Telephone is (310) 821-2425 (no answering machine - were on Pacific Time, 3 hours early)