Coney Island Amusement Park and Its Significance for American Society

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Coney Island is no ordinary amusement park, but a place to experience all that society has to offer in one location. As John F. Kasson, author of ‘Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century (American Century)’, wrote, “the popular resort quickly became a symbol not only of fun and frolic but also of major changes in American manners and morals” (p.6). Coney Island was “designed not simply to amuse but to instruct their users in lessons of aesthetic taste and social responsibility, and to inspire them with a respect for cultural standards” (p.10). Coney Island became a place for anyone to learn about other cultures while also enjoying leisure time. The study and analysis of Coney Island Amusement Park is important to today’s world because it created a new mass culture by bringing all types of people together, allowed the people to be free from regulations, and provided a new kind of activity during leisure time.

‘Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century (American Century)’ has taught me that even something as simple as an amusement park can bring people and cultures together. People from in state, out of state, and all over travelled to Coney Island to experience its incorporated new technological inventions, such as the roller coaster and electric lights. If Coney Island was simply a normal amusement park, why were the park’s visitors from all over the nation? Kasson stated that “some who could not afford no more than carfare still came to Coney” (p.39). All social classes were brought together in a way they had never seen before. This park combined roller coasters, movies, circus events, variety shows, libraries, art galleries, and museums all into one. Due to social statuses, many people could not afford to visit the park often, therefore, they would save their money to go on special occasions, which made Coney Island one of the biggest attractions in the nation. People went “merely for the joy of mixing with the crowd on the public street, and catching the live sense of humanity and of good humor that is everywhere”, as Kasson wrote (p.38). During the book’s period, many people did not have the time to experience other religions, customs, or lifestyles because they were forced to work extreme hours to survive. Coney brought the people a place to relax while embracing each other’s values. Due to the fact that everyone, despite their wealth or status, went to Coney, culture had the ability to mix and spread. Coney also focused on integrating immigrants and working-class groups into the mix to create one mass culture. This was attributed to the fact that the United States was getting closer to becoming one nation and one people. Kasson claimed that “it’s purest expression at this time lay in the realm of commercial amusements, which were creating symbols of the new cultural order, helping to knit a heterogeneous audience into a cohesive whole” (p.3). He was explaining that amusement parks at that time were the reason for this idea of a new mass culture. It is your personal responsibility to learn about other cultures. You cannot expect to grow or know if your decision is ethical without learning about other cultures first. Making an ethical decision is easier after knowing how your decision will affect the rest of your community or nation. This was one of the first times in history that all aspects of life were shown to society in one single location.

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Coney Island was a place to get away from the daily hardships of life. People worked extreme hours hoping to make enough money just to survive. Kasson stated that unlike other parks and expositions, Coney “provided an area in which visitors were temporarily freed from normative demands” (p.41) and “it encouraged visitors to shed momentarily their accustomed roles and status” (p.41). Once entering the gates of Coney Island, there was a sense of holiday and relaxation. For just a few hours or a day, there was no need to worry about the realities of work, life, home, money or status. By letting go of these responsibilities, people were able to learn about others. It was one of the first places in history that worried more about breaking down personal restraints rather than reinforcing regular daily life into their experience. This brought about the idea of leisure time.

Leisure is free time that is mainly used for enjoyment purposes. At the time of Coney Island, many people barely had any time to get away from daily duties and work, but people would still find a way to go to Coney Island. Kasson ruled that “it represented a cultural accommodation to the developing urban-industrial society in a tighter integration of work and leisure than ever before” (p.106). Leisure is a vital aspect of one’s personal responsibility. It may seem absurd that leisure has anything to do with personal responsibility, but without the time to relax how can you expect someone to fully give their attention to their responsibilities? People used to be drained of having to work 6 days a week, 10 hours a day, with almost no time away from work just to be making bare minimum. Personally, I need my time to relax and take my mind off of school so that I can come back mentally prepared to work my best throughout the week. Coney Island gave people this time to mentally check out so that they can mentally check back into work the next week. It is your personal responsibility to be prepared and focused throughout the workweek, but without a leisure time you would eventually give out. Finally, Kasson expressed that the American people “sensed the emergence of a large new heterogeneous audience who simultaneously desired the assurance of ‘wholesome’ entertainment and hungered for forms and themes that satisfied their task for sensory and emotional release” (p.35). Coney Island was a great place to get relief from life.

Not only was Coney Island an amusement park with roller coasters, electric lights, and fun activities, it was a place where a new mass culture was created, a place to be free from the emotional hardships of life, and a place to participate in fun activities during your leisure time. One’s ability to learn about other cultures, engage in their community, and make ethical decisions can all be cultivated at Coney Island. Learning about cultures will help you become an active participant in your community and teach you how to make the best decision not only for yourself but for everyone around you.

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Coney Island Amusement Park and Its Significance for American Society. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from
“Coney Island Amusement Park and Its Significance for American Society.” Edubirdie, 08 Sept. 2023,
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