The Bobs coaster, the Parachute Jump and Silver Streak: Fascinating colour pictures taken in 1948 show day trippers on Coney Island enjoying thrill rides and heatwave sunshine
- Coney Island was discovered by European explorers in the 1600s but remained undeveloped until the 1860s
- By the 1920s, with its Cyclone roller coaster, it had the reputation of being the ‘people’s playground’
- It experienced a dip in fortunes in the 1940s, but these incredible pictures caught it at a high point
Coney Island has experienced a roller coaster of fortunes over the years – but these incredible vintage pictures taken in 1948 clearly caught it at a high point.
They show sunbathers topping up their tans on packed beaches, people frolicking in the ocean and strolling along the boardwalk and enjoying thrill rides including The Bobs coaster and the famous Parachute Jump.
Coney Island was discovered by European explorers in the 16th century but it remained undeveloped until the 1860s when small hotels sprung up that provided country environments enjoyed by high-profile writers and politicians. But between 1880 and 1910, racetracks in Coney Island attracted con men, roughnecks and prostitutes and fires destroyed many of the hotels.
However, just after the turn of the 20th century, more and more family friendly amusements sprung up within the much-loved Steeplechase Park and eye-catching Luna Park. By the 1920s it had the reputation of being the ‘people’s playground’ with rides such as The Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone roller coaster proving particularly popular.
By the 1940s Coney Island was beginning to see a dip in fortunes as a boom in car ownership meant people could travel further afield to less crowded beaches. Planning wrangles over housing plagued the area in the 1960s and by the 1980s, it was a virtual ghost town. But in recent years, the location has seen a resurgence in popularity – it’s now considered one of the top places to visit in New York City.
Scroll down to be transported back in time…
Beach-goers soak up the sun and swim in the ocean on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, in the summer heatwave of 1948
These incredible vintage pictures clearly caught Coney Island at a high point. The island was discovered by European explorers in the 16th century
The island remained undeveloped until the 1860s, when small hotels sprung up
Sunbathers and swimmers frolic on Coney Island beach while a blimp with the word Flamingo on the side glides above
Day trippers park their buckets and spades and gather round and eat corn on the cob on the sand
Beach scene: Screw up your eyes and this could be a picture taken in the present day
It’s believed that the name Coney Island is an English translation of the Dutch for ‘Rabbit Island’, the Dutch having noticed that the island had a big rabbit population when they settled there in the 17th century. The theory goes that it became Coney Island when the English arrived in 1664
A young couple canoodle. The area has nearly three miles of sandy beaches
Swimmers take to the ocean to cool off from the sweltering heat. Most of Brooklyn’s waterfront was privately owned before the 20th century
An aerial view of the Virginia Reel roller coaster, the Looper and the Whirlaway rides located at Luna Park in 1948, left. The park, which opened in 1903, had been ravaged by fire in 1944. The picture on the right shows a bit of 1948-style razzmatazz
Children wait in line to ride the Silver Streak train in the Steeplechase Park area of Coney Island
Golden oldies: A view of the Silver Streak ride and The Funny Place in Steeplechase Park, which operated from 1897 to 1964
People stroll along the Coney Island boardwalk, left. It was named after former Brooklyn Borough President Edward J. Riegelmann. Pictured right is the famous 250ft-tall Parachute Jump in Steeplechase Park, which was built for the 1939 New York World’s Fair and moved to the island in 1941. Some people call it the Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn
One of the main thrill rides at Coney Island in 1948 was The Bobs coaster, which was also known as the Tornado. The coaster, which had a wooden track and steel structure, opened in 1926, but much of it was destroyed by arson in 1977. It was demolished the following year. The first roller coaster at Coney Island debuted in 1884 – the Gravity Switchback Railway
The Parachute Jump, left, was inspired by a training device for paratroopers. Pictured right is a Bobs coaster train hurtling down a drop
The Parachute Jump has been defunct as a ride since 1964 but now provides visual entertainment thanks to 8,000 LED lights installed on its frame
Identical twins dressed alike look, left, out over the Coney Island boardwalk and sunbathers on the beach. Pictured right are a couple relaxing on the boardwalk, which has now been designated a scenic landmark
Swimmers relax in the ocean, unaware that they’ve been recorded for posterity
An aerial drone photograph of present-day Coney Island. Today it features an amusement area that features over 50 rides and attractions