Fairs Exhibitions and Amusement Parks of the Gilded Age

Apr 11, 2001
After watching Meet Me in St. Louis yet again tonight- it seemed a good thread to start. The St. Louis World Fair still holds the record as the biggest. The famous Chicago Ferris Wheel was packed up and sent South for the opening. Being an avid Coney Island collector for about 10 years, some of the postcards from the turn of the century are a scream. Coney also put on a Sinking of the Titanic re-enactment in 1913 which enjoyed enormous success- imagine that! Here is an excellent link for the St. Louis Fair.
Apr 11, 2001
Coney Island's disaster on May 26th 1911 at Dreamland by fire gave New Yorkers a real-life amusement attraction to gasp at in the night.
Preparing the Hellgate ride for opening day- the next day being Memorial Day holiday, the workmen patched a leak on the moving Lover's Lane -type ride through dark caverns with tar. The heat from the tar burst lightbulbs around 1 a.m. and soon the complex was ablaze. All of Brooklyn responded but firemen were dismayed to find the water pressure from their hoses at rock bottom- so many were wetting down the facades of neighboring buildings that there was no pressure to fight the fire. Even the Midget Fire Dept. -a performing act from Dreamland, raced to fight the blazes. The 6 preemie babies were rescued from the fanous "Incubator" building- this being an exciting attraction recently invented. The tall tower could be seen ablaze for blocks- the fireboats went in to help douse flames from offshore. By 4 a.m. Dreamland was burned to the ground- along with many animals, some having to be destroyed, included Little Hip the baby elephant who would not budge without her trainer, and Black Prince, the large lion who raced from building to building with mane afire. It took 24 bullets and an axe to put him out of his misery. The 1909 song Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland recalls happier days.
Apr 11, 2001
Steeplechase and Luna Park were Coney's other attractions. The former went on until after WWII. These are postcards from 1906- the street attire is particularly amusing - boater hats abound.
May 12, 2005
When you mentioned Luna Park the other day, Shell, I thought you meant the open-air dancing spot in Paris! It was at its peak of popularity during the pre-WWI dance craze and is where Isadora Duncan once performed a burlesque of the Tango.

Jim Kalafus

Dec 3, 2000
There is one "Gilded Age" amusement park left in the NYC area, which is Playland in Rye. Certain parts of it have a certain turn-of-the-last-century- charm, particularly along the central mall and along Long Island Sound, but every year brings a spate of "will it reopen?" publicity.
Apr 11, 2001
Please bring this to Newport- have waited 10 years to see this! Jack Eaton wrote an article on this bizarre exhibit for VOYAGE and I know he will want to see it too. Great stuff.

Tracy Smith

Apr 20, 2012
South Carolina USA
Shelley, do you remember the Alhambra Ballroom at Crescent Park in Riverside, RI, and also the Looff carousel there?

BTW, my aunt was part of the committee that saved the Looff carousel from destruction.
Jan 22, 2001
Gilded Age Fans -

Have any of you read the new book "The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America"?

It features a Titanic connection (on the first page!), the history of the Chicago World's Fair and the story of a worse serial killer than Jack the Ripper. I've been told that Tom Cruise and Leo DiCaprio both want to play this villain in the movie that's sure to be made.

Don't miss this one.

There were huge international exhibitions held in Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow in 1888, 1901 and 1911. An interesting point of trivia about the 1911 exhibition is that they had a floatilla of model Clyde-Built ships on the River Kelvin at one point and no.13 in the procession was none other than the Lusitania!

Here's an illustration of the 1901 Exhibition. The red sand stone building with the twin towers on the right is the Kelvingrove Art Galeries which are still here! The Exhibition was timed to co-incide with their opening. Today, they are the most popular art galleries in Britain outside London: attracting over a million visitors each year. The Italian Rennaisance style building on the left was the main Exhibition Hall. It was a temporary structure that was dismantled after the Exhibition closed in November 1901 and was the work of architect James Miller, who went on to design the interiors for the Lusitania and the Aquitania. Miller had beaten off competition from Charles Rennie MacKintosh to design all the temporary buildings.

A Lady's dress that was worn at the Exhibition that is now on display inside the galleries.