Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coney Island Institute

The Brooklyn Eagle can never abandon an opportunity to either mock the Coney Island Institute, or create a slew of horrid puns. I'm not sure which. (Also note the aside about the mail…given there were day trips from the mainland to Coney Island, I'm still not buying the times as "records.")

NOTES OF PREPARATION.--Our advices from the capital of Coney Island were received this morning, as usual, by the regular mail steamship, which sailed from thence at daylight yesterday, having performed the run up in beautiful style, in the very quick time of thirteen hours, fifty-nine minutes, and forty-seven seconds from wharf to wharf. Where's your Cunarders (sp?) now? All Coney Island answers, Nowhar ! But let that pass. We are not in a mood to triumph over a fallen foe. We spare the feelings of the British nation this time. The item of great importance by this arrival is the intelligence, which was forwarded to the steamer by "Express Extraordinary," that the Institute rooms are to be thoroughly refitted preparatory to their occupation for the season. It is understood that the opening address will be delivered by the Hon. Uriah Heep, of Brooklyn, who has chosen for his subject, "THe Buss-ness of Ele-emosynary App-eals." A grand conchert will close the exercises, and everything is expected to go off swimmingly.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thursday, March 27, 1851

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A bit of Coney Island indecency

Yes, Coney Island was recalled for being indecent back in 1851. Though I suspect the part about Brother Jay may be another case of 1850s sarcasm. The later description sounds a bit racy to me though!

A REMEMBRANCE.--An allusion made by us to Coney Island, has awakened the "founts of feeling" in the cavernous recesses of Brother Jay's stomach. We had supposed that the incidents were cast among the "bygones," but it seems that we were mistaken. The following from a recent Trentonian, plainly develops the shocking state of Brother Charles's mind. Instead of doing penance for past shortcomings, he still cherishes a latent hankering after the forbidden "fleshpots." Reform, sir ; reform !

Speaking of Coney Island, do you remember, friend Van, that delicious summer afternoon when you gave us a carriage ride "overland," to the white-sanded beach of that notable Island ? Do you remember, you sad old bachelor you, the side glances you ever and anon cast towards the Long Island lassies, as they sat in the old Dutch porches, or looked from the pleasant cottage windows, with eyes flashing through the foliage of climbing woodbine, and intermingling roses? And then, after we passed all these dangers, seen and unseen, and reached the Island, do you recollect those lady bathers, and how the big white-capped waves played at ten-pins with their fair forms, and knocked them down even at our feet ? Whew ! Our flesh fairly creeps as we remember how one big amorous old fellow, came rolling along from Sandy Hook, and caught up in his foaming arms the black-eyed lassie with the dark ringlets, and carried her away out towards the growling breakers! The ugly chap in spectacles rescued her, however, and how meat-axeish he looked when he detected our eye wandering mechanically, to a slight rent in the bathing dress of the New York beauty!

Ah ! friend Ike, the return by way of Fort Hamilton, and the lady you pointed out to us as the heroine who saved the New York dandy from drowning, and those "smashers" at the Pavillion! Ye gods! ere the summer is over we will visit again

"Old Long Island's sea-girt shore,,'

in despite of short finances and long distance. So hold your "gallant gray" in readiness.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Wednesday, March 26, 1851

Fastest Trip on Record

As much as we like to look at this and think, "Wow, news sure traveled slow 160 years ago)...I do believe this is more of that old-timey sarcasm, since it appears they're referring to a trip from Brooklyn to Trenton, New Jersey.

FASTEST TRIP ON RECORD.--The Brooklyn Eagle of March 5th, reached our office yesterday having made the trip in the unprecedented time of twelve days! The news by this arrival, however, was an anticipated two days by the horse-boat around Cape Horn.--Trentonian, 18th.

We can realize the extent of your sufferings during the elven days' deprivation. That unfortunate number of our sheet must have somehow got on board the new mail steamer, which, on her "trial trip," actually accomplished the extraordinary feat of running from Coney Island to Brooklyn, in the unprecedented time of fourteen hours!

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thursday, March 20, 1851

It appears the Trentonian they spoke of was a New Jersey newspaper that started in 1848:

--History of the City of Trenton, New Jersey by John O. Raum (1871)

And obviously 14 hours to get from Brooklyn to Coney Island was not very good time in the age of steamers.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Untimely Fate of a Coney Island clam?

You know how every so often you see one of those stories that you just don't get? Well, here is one of them, from 1851. There is actually a nice rhyme and meter to it, though, if you can put up with the nonsense.

THAT HUNDRED DOLLAR TALE.--As the "extended time" is wearing away, and rapidly approaching "All Fool's day," the penny a liners are brushing, their wits, and striving to give each other "fits," while laboring to increase the size of original tales to win that "prize." 'Tis said--we can't say that it's true--that Puffer Hopkins has written two--either of which he thinks will do; one, after the style of Bungraham, of a "local" interest and weight, recording the untimely fate of an innocent Coney Island Clam; while the other soars in fancy's realms, and transcendentally overwhelms with "thoughts that breathe and words that burn," all those who say a paper can't turn at least six times in two short years, to any clique whose purse appears the readiest to reward long ears…

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Wednesday, March 19, 1851

So April Fool's Day was around in 1851. I guess that's something!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Coney Island Cold - 1851

I think this is a bit of satire, stating the bitter cold is like Coney Island, which even in the 1850s was known for its pleasant weather...

TO-DAY'S temperature is really of the Coney Island pattern, clammy cold, penetrating the cuticle like the surf penetrates the beach sands, and causing the chilled blood to rush back to the heart even as the waves recede to the bosom of the great ocean. Instead of luxuriating in the fragrance of violets, we "scent from afar" the perfumeless snow-drops. But it aint no matter ; "there's a good time coming, boys."

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thursday, March 13, 1851

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Water Rising at Coney

CHEERING FOR TEATOTALLERS.--A telegraphic despatch from Coney Island, received last week, says the " Water is very high, and still rising."--We have no further particulars. The despatch was evidently transmitted " in haste," as it gave nofigures (sic).

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Friday, March 7, 1851

Same column, by the way:

WOMAN.--Why is that it presumptuous man still fancies woman his inferior, and believes that while strolling (?) to the journey's end of life, she is all very well if she find a little shelter under his lordly wing ? What has he ever done that woman cannot do, with the exception of some physical drudgeries, which rather bespeak of his inferiority. To rule a kingdom, or drive four in hand, to write a novel or edit a newspaper,man's no touch to her. And in "readings from Shaspeare," (sic), Mrs. Lesdernier, this evening, at the Female Academy, gives an entertainment which we would advise the gentlemen readers to attend, and see if they can't learn to read their lessons with more effect in future.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Friday, March 7, 1851

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Coney Island Institute and the World's Fair - 1851

It's hard to tell if there's any truth to the below, given the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's continual mockery of the Coney Island Institute. (Though I'm starting to wonder if the Institute itself might be just for fun?)

GOOD.--The "Coney Island Institute," we hear, will re-assemble for the season in the course of a time, if not sooner. During the winter recess, several rare specimens have been dug out, which will doubtless occupy the earliest attention of the Institute. Several new members have been elected, to represent the greatly enlarged population of the Island, which shows magnificent increase, since the census of 1840, of--several individuals, including immigrants, the latter consisting mainly of divers families of dark-faced clam-catchers, speaking the original Long Island Dutch. It is understood that the Institute will send an envoy to the World's Fair, and that one of the Jackson Ferry boats is to be chartered to convey him to London. She will take no other passengers--except a gigantic clam, which will be opened at the close of the great exhibition, and the shells presented to Queen Victoria.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday, March 3, 1851

Expo Museum says the 1851 World's Fair in London is considered the first World's Fair.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Plank Road Success - 1851

Quick note on the aforementioned Plank Road:

We understand that the new Plank Road to Coney Island is a great favorite with the traveling public, and is likely to have a numerous offspring in this vicinity.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Saturday, February 22, 1851

Sounds like the road was built quickly...interesting that people liked it in February?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Merman at Gowanus Bay


RED HOOK POINT.--The Merman who was captured in Gowanus Bay, last summer, and found to be a man who lived on the beach and had become a fish by being continually in and about the water, has now nearly returned to his pristine form. He made an attempt to escape back to his adopted element one day last week, and would have been successful, but, meeting with some isolated floating timber, his avarice got the better of his aquatic propensities, and he returned with it to shore. His head still bears a strong resemblance to that of a cod fish, and when he smokes a segar, (which he was seen to do not long since,) the smoke, instead of issuing from his mouth, oozes out behind his gills. The only "refreshments" that he uses, are "shrimp bait," soft crabs, and Coney Islanders, when he is in a clamorous mood. His drink is iced sea-water. One of our acquaintances, after observing the critter for a month or so, declares that it is difficult to determine whether he is "fish, flesh, fowl, or mackerel. We shall recommend him to the notice of the great Barnum on the conclusion of the Lind tour.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday, January 27, 1851

As you can see, Gowanus Bay is some distance from Coney Island, but perhaps not for a merman…

View Larger Map

The story continues:

THE MERMAN.--This creature, who is one of the greatest natural curiosities of modern times, tells a curious story of the manner in which he first took to the water, like a young duck. As we half suspected, the ladies had a hand in it. We give the story, but we suspect the poetical portion of it to be only plagiarism, as we saw it somewhere before. It was a fine evening in last July, that he was lying in the stern of his boat, which was scudding away beautifully for Coney Island, when an enchanting figure, somewhat resembling the siren of old, appeared, and accosted him in the following vein:

"I'm a lady most fair, man
  Who lives in the sea ;
Come down, Mr. Merman,
  And be married to me.
You'll have, and shall be
  The King of the fishes,
When you're married to me."

The Merman is a very polite personage--at least, while he remained in the flesh he was so--and he answered with more politeness than gallantry :

"I'm obliged to you, Madam--
  Off a gold dish or plate,
If a king, and I had 'em,
  I could dine in great state ;
With your own father's daughter
  I'd be sure to agree,
But to drink the salt water
  Wouldn't do so with me."

But he didn't keep his word, and down he went, like Nicholas the Sicilian diver, and found that the salt water did agree with him perfectly. A panoramic view of him can be obtained daily on the beach at Red Hook.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Wednesday, March 5, 1851

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Coney Island, the Mole - 1851

Poem doesn't do much for me, but OK...

A Babylonish Ditty.
[From the Knickerbocker.]

If any of our readers should fancy that the following "Babylonish Ditty," which we derive from the facile pen of a contributor, belongs to an "easy style of thing to write," let them "do" a similar kind of thing themselves, and let us see how they'll "rhyme it," preserving in the meantime the requisite sense and melody.

More than several years have faded
Since my heart was first invaded
By a brown-skinned, grey eyed siren
On the merry old "South Side;"
Where the mill flume cataracts glisten,
And the agile blue fish listen,
To the fleet of phantom schooners
Floating on the weedy tide…

Oft we saw the dim blue highlands,
Coney, Oak and other Islands
(Moles that dot the dimpled bosom
Of the sunny summer sea) ;
Or mid polished leaves of lotus,
Whereso'er our skiff would float us,
Anywhere, where none could notice,
There we sought alone to be…

So is woman, evanescent ;
Shifting with the shifting present ;
Changing like the changing tide,
And faithless as the fickle sea ;
Lighter than the wind-blown thistle ;
Falser than the fowler's whistle,
Was that coaxing piece of hoaxing--
Amy Milton's love to me!…

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tuesday, January 14, 1851

Sunday, September 11, 2011


More recent history today. This isn't Coney Island...

That's the Healing Field in Tempe, Arizona, set up every 9/11 in remembrance.

Living in the wrong state, I wasn't even aware there was a September 11 memorial on Coney Island.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Growing New-York

Union of Brooklyn and Williamsburgh with New-York.

…Who does not see that the larger New-York becomes and the more it spreads over the surrounding country (though it take the whole western shore of Long Island a mile in width from Flushing Bay to Coney Island, as it probably will before the close of the century,) the higher must and will be the value of lots on this island, particularly the northern outskirts of the well-built portion of this city. Is the inclusion of the Long Island suburbs in the same municipality with the original City of New-York to have the effect of altering the center of metropolitan population or diverting the course of fashion and self-styled aristocracy from its tendency northward on the island…?

--New York Daily Tribune, Wednesday, November 6, 1850

I've been remiss in hyphenating "New-York Daily Tribune," as they spelled it back in the 1850s!

I'm not sure if I posted on Brooklyn becoming a borough of New York City? Didn't happen until 1898 (so this article guessed right about Coney Island becoming part of New York by the end of the century...but only barely).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fire on Coney Island! - 1850

FIRE ON CONEY ISLAND.--Last night about 7 o'clock, a very extensive fire was observed on Coney Island. It was generally believed that the large Tent, owned by Mr. Brooks, or the adjoining wooden buildings, are consumed.

--New York Daily Tribune, Monday, September 2, 1850

I'm not sure what tent they refer to. I believe the first amusement structure on Coney Island was in effect a tent. I don't see any references to any Brooks, though. Also not sure what, if anything, was actually lost. At any rate, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle didn't bother to report on it, so I'm not sure it was anything substantial.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Steamers Passing Coney Island

This feels to me the tiniest bit like going to the airport just to see the planes take off. (Rather harder to do after 9/11, but even if I'm not flying anywhere myself, I do find travel hubs exciting.)

FOR CALIFORNIA.--Yesterday afternoon at 3 o'clock three splendid steamships, the Cherokee, the Georgia, and the Empire City, left this port for Havana and Chagres. Somewhere over 300 passengers (whose names will be found in this morning's Tribune were on board, and what with the good-byes, the cheers and farewells of shore-friends, the bustle of express agents and belated voyagers, and the novelty of three great steamships starting at the same time, the hour was one of extraordinary excitement.

The Empire City was the first one to start ; in about 10 minutes the Georgia pushed out, and as soon as she got abreast of the Cherokee that steamer unmoored and took to her wings.

We were among a party of four or five hundred who went down the bay on the Niagara to see the steamers and some friends off. The Niagara followed the Empire City, and when abreast of Coney Island passed and circumnavigated her, and ran back astern of the others (Georgia and Cherokee)…

As the Niagara passed Coney Island the receding steamers were lost sight of, though the long dark trails of smoke from each were still visible and served to mark their location. But these were soon washed down by the rain, and the gazers burned their eyes Cityward, well pleased with their trip to sea.

--New York Daily Tribune, Wednesday, August 14, 1850/

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Grand Evening Excursion to Coney Island - 1850

OK, another excursion, but this one's a bit different, so skip ahead to the second paragraph.

GRAND EXCURSION TO CONEY ISLAND, Landing at Fort Hamilton each way.--On and after Monday, July 29th, 1850, for the season, with the steamer OTHELLO, Capt. Rodman, will leave for Coney Island from the pier foot of Watts st. near Canal, at 2 1/2 o'clock P.M. and pier No. 3 North River, at 3 o'clock P.M.

GRAND EVENING EXCURSION TO CONEY ISLAND leaving pier No. 3, N.R., at 6 o'clock; leaving the Island at 8 1/2 o'clock.--For the accommodation of those whose business confines them to the city during the day, the Othello will make an excursion to Coney Island, touching at Fort Hamilton each way, every evening until further notice, thus enabling those of this pent-up metropolis, who cannot avail themselves of the excursion during the day, to enjoy the cool and refreshing breeze from the Ocean, and a bath on the beach of this far famed bathing resort au3 1m*

--New York Daily Tribune, Saturday, August 10, 1850

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Storm Misses Coney Island - 1850

The big storm and tornado (!) on June 20, 1850 (apparently) resulted in at least a few drownings, but didn't seem to affect Coney.

MORE OF THE STORM--LOSS OF LIFE--STEAMBOAT DISASTER--For a few minutes during the tornado Thursday afternoon, hail of a large size came down plentifully. Some of the stones were of the size of large peas...

A number of boats were upset…

A gentleman who was at Coney Island at the time of the storm, informs us that there was no rain there. The wind blew with great violence. On his return to the City he had passed over five miles of the road before he met with any signs of rain having fallen in any considerable quality…

--New York Daily Tribune, Saturday, June 22, 1850/

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Coney Island for Quiet People - 1850

Coney Island a "lesser resort" for "quiet people"? Well, I'll be.

Summer Rambles.

There was an unusual earth of Summer Travel last season, caused by the prevalence of the dreadful epidemic in nearly all our cities and many villages, which kept thousands at home who would otherwise have been roaming. There will doubtless be some revisitings of that scourge the present season--indeed, we hear of them already in a few localities, mostly Southern ; but the summer is now so far advanced, that we think all apprehension of a general and deselating (?) return of the Cholera in 1850 may be dismissed. We may reasonably anticipate, therefore, that the pleasure travel of the season will exceed the usual average by so much, at least, as that of 1849 fell short of it.

But what channels will it follow ? and in what eddies shall the travelers unbend and disport themselves ? …The minor watering-places--SHARON SPRINGS, NEW-LEBANON, BEDFORD, Pa., the WHITE SULPHUR, &c. &c. will each have its circle of visitors, with the lesser resorts for sea-air and bathing,--LONG BRANCH, CONEY ISLAND, ROCKAWAY, STONINGTON, NAHANT, (???). For quiet people, who loathe display and crowds, and whom a moderate share of social relaxation satisfies, we deem some of this class superior to the more popular and pretending. We never yet found sea-bathing superior to Rockaway, though the place is difficult of access (some like it the better for that) and its circle of entertainments is limited. And where can finer sea-air be inhaled than that which sweeps over the civilized end of Coney Island?...

--New York Daily Tribune, Thursday, June 20, 1850/