Thursday, June 9, 2011

Coney Island Clambake - 1847

Great description of a pleasant day at Coney Island before the amusement era really took hold.

RIDE TO CONEY ISLAND, AND CLAM-BAKE THERE. Never was there a time better fitted than yesterday, for an excursion from city to country, or from pavement to the sea-shore ! The rain of the previous evening had cooled the air, and moistened the earth ; there was no dust, and no unpleasant heat. It may well be imagined, then, that a jolly party of about sixty people, who, at 1 o'clock, p.m., met at the house of Mr. King, on the corner of Fulton and Orange streets, (where they laid a good foundation for after pleasures,) had every reason to bless their stars at the treat surely before them. Yes: there was to be a clam-bake--and, of all places in the world, a clam-bake at Coney Island ! Could mortal ambition go higher, or mortal wishes delve deeper?........At a little before 2, the most superb stages, four of them, from Husted & Kendall's establishment, were just nicely filled, (no crowding, and no vacant places either,) and the teams of four and six horses dashed off with us all at a merry rate.--The ride was a most inspiring one. After crossing the railroad track, the signs of country life, the green fields, the thrifty corn, the orchards, the wheat lying in swathes, and the hay-cocks here and there, with the farming-men at work all along, made such a spectacle as we dearly like to look upon. And then the clatter of human tongues, inside the carriages--the peals upon peals of laughter ! the jovial witticisms, the anecdotes, stories, and so forth!--Why there were enough to fill ten octave volumes ! The members of the party were numerous and various--embracing all the professions, and nearly all the trades, besides sundry aldermen, and other officials.

Arrived at Coney Island, the first thing was to "take a dance," at which sundry distinguished personages shook care out of their heads and dust from their heels, at a great rate. Then a bathe in the salt water ; ah, that was good indeed! Divers marvellous (sic) feats were performed in the water, in the way of splashing, ducking and sousing, and one gentleman had serious thoughts of a sortie out upon some porpoises who were lazily rolling a short distance off. The beautiful, pure, sparkling, sea-water! one yearns to you (at least we do,) with an affection as grasping at your own waves !

Half-past five o'clock had now arrived, and the booming of the dinner bell produced a sensible effect upon 'the party,' who ranged themselves at table without the necessity of a second invitation. As the expectation had been only for a 'clam-bake' there was some surprise evinced at seeing a regularly laid dinner, in handsome style, too, with all the et-ceteras. But as an adjunct--by some, made the principal thing--in due time, on came the roasted clams, well-roasted indeed ! in the old Indian style, in beds, covered with brush and chips, and thus cooked in their own broth. When hunger was appeased with these savory and wholesome viands, the champagne, (good stuff it was!) began to circulate--and divers gentlemen made speeches, introductory to, and responsive at, toasts. A great many happy hits were made, and, in especial, one of the aldermen, at the head of one of the tables, conceived a remarkable toast, at which the people seemed tickled hugely. The healths of Messrs. Masterton, Smith, and King, of Mr. Murphy, and of the corporation of Brooklyn, etc. were drank. Nor were the artisans and workingmen forgotten ; nor were the ladies, nor the Brooklyn press, which the member of congress from this district spoke in the most handsome manner of, and turned off a very neat toast upon.

The return to Brooklyn, in the evening, was a fit conclusion to a day of enjoyment. The cool air, the smell of the new mown hay, the general quiet around (there was any thing but quiet, however, inside our vehicles,) made it pleasant indeed. We ascended to the tower-like seat, by Mr. Carnfield, the driver of the six-horse stage, and had one of the pleasentest sort of eight-mile rides back to Brooklyn, at which place our party arrived a little after 9 o'clock. All thanks, and long and happy lives, to the contractors on the new city hall ! to whose generous spirit we were indebted for yesterday's pleasure.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thursday, July 15, 1847

Wait--these big shots got a wonderful day at Coney Island from the contractors for Brooklyn's (?) city hall? Is this some sort of bribe?

Note they brag about how comfortable it was for the party of about 60 to ride in 4 stagecoaches? That's 15 passengers each, on average. Everything I've read about stagecoaches says they normally ran with 9 passengers inside. So that was probably 6 more atop each roof.

Of course, it might be kind of fun to ride in a stage for a couple hours in nice weather. (And probably even more fun if you were inebriated.)

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