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Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century (American Century) 0th Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0809001330
ISBN-10: 0809001330
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This is what a history of popular culture should be: a delightful account of a fascinating subject and a serious contribution to our understanding of major transition in American culture.” ―John G. Cawelti, University of Chicago

“Because he treats our frivolities seriously, John Kasson has produced an important book which helps us all understand ourselves. His inquiry into the nature and significance of Coney Island as part of the American experience provides a brilliant device for understanding major transformations in American culture at the turn of the century...A delight to read, look at, and ponder...itself a great amusement for the mind.” ―Warren Susman, Rutgers University

“Not only delightful reading but a perceptive look at a familiar American institution..Social-cultural history ought to be done this way more often.” ―Russel B. Nye, Michigan State University

From the Back Cover

Amusing the Million examines the historical context in which Coney Island made its reputation as an amusement park and shows how America's changing social and economic conditions formed the basis of a new mass culture.
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Product Details

  • Series: American Century
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang (August 1, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809001330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809001330
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Despite all the books about Coney Island, there really aren't that many of substance. John Kasson here gives a serious yet extremely entertaining look at the social forces in play at Coney Island 100 years ago. This is as much about the birth of mass culture as it is about the rides and the personalities who built Coney Island.
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Format: Paperback
An enjoyable reading if you desire a history lesson on the famed amusement park. Through great pictures and words the author suceeds in telling the story of the now ancient parks at Coney Island. We learn the stories of the men behind Dreamland, Luna Park, and Steeplechase. A weel put together story making it a must for anyone interested in Coney Island!
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Format: Paperback
I purchased this book for a college course on American social history. It was nice to open a book with tons of pictures and interesting, but not too intellectually stimulating, text. Kasson's book was a welcomed change from most of the books required in my college classes. The basic theme of the book is that, during the turn of the twentieth century, the American social fabric was changing with industrialization, urbanization, and immigration. These well-known changes seeped down into leisure society as well. The rigid Victorian weekend activities of museum and symphonies was giving way to less "genteel" forms of entertainment such as movies, prize fighting and amusement parks. Coney Island was "a harbinger of modernity." The book covers the history of the park including specific attractions like the Steeplechase and Luna Park as well as its demise, losing "its distinctiveness by the very triumphs of its values." What's even more valuable than the text is the wonderful photographs that really capture the joy visitors experienced. It is only 112 pages and full of these photos, so it definitely makes a light, fun introduction to early 20th century American culture in general or, specifically, to Coney Island history.
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Format: Paperback
I was a little disappointed with this book. NOT that it wasn't well-enough written, but it wasn't what I expected or was hoping for. I was looking for more details of the history and atmosphere of Coney Island at the turn of the century, and while this book DID provide some of that (along with some FABULOUS photography) it spent more time discussing the sociological reasons that people frequented there, than on the Island and its amusements. If that is what you're looking for, then this book will appeal to you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This little book is mostly a collection of vintage photographs of Coney Island. Kasson lightly sketches the origins of the various parks and the boardwalk and lets the photos do the talking. The interesting thing about Coney Island is that it catered to middle- and working classes. The pictures show ordinary people (under represented in historical accounts) enjoying themselves. I bought this to complement "Cheap Amusements" and I'm pleased to have it.
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Format: Paperback
Amusement parks that began to exist during the turn of the century served as venues for fun and excitement as well as helped to release the repressed from the gentility of the Victorian Age of the nineteenth century. John Kasson examines the social and cultural ramifications that occurred in American society in his book, AMUSING THE MILLIONS: CONEY ISLAND AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY. In his study, Kasson shows how the American landscape became playgrounds, especially in New York, which extended the use of recreational space, New York's Central Park, and expositions that commemorated and celebrated the American historical past, Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893. They magnified the cornerstones and building blocks of the city, and the behavior that was exhibited with the rising middle class, which attracted a mass audience. The city became cosmopolitan and modern where many engaged and frolicked, and helped to unlatch social, racial, and economic boundaries that were bestowed upon many individuals; they also helped to rejuvenate cities through urban planning.

Indeed, Kasson explores the world of imagination. The amusements ran the gamut from a Barnum and Bailey atmosphere to reveling along the boardwalk amongst exotic and unusual exhibits that coveted Coney Island's Luna Park and Dreamland Park. And within the text Kasson highlights those who helped architect this unrestrained environment of excess, such as Frederick Law Olmstead, Daniel H. Burnham, George C. Tilyou, Frederic Thompson, James Gibbons Huneker, and Maxim Gorky. Undoubtedly these were elaborate and spacious constructed palatial playgrounds of pleasure full of materialism and consumption where many gathered for pure utopian enjoyment.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was required to read this book for American Studies, but actually ended up enjoying it. It was interesting learning why and how Coney Island was so popular. They give clear reasons with evidence to back it up.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Used for a college course, book came in perfect condition, and was actually quite an interesting read. I had no idea there was so much history behind Coney Island, and how it tied in to American history as a whole
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