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150 Years of Coney Island Thrills in Photos

‘Modern Venus of 1947, Coney Island’. (Photo: Courtesy Brooklyn Museum Collection)

Coney Island has long been an accessible, one-day vacation for New Yorkers wanting to escape the heat. The first amusement ride was built in 1876 and from that time until World War II, Coney Island was the largest amusement area in the United States. It evokes long days at the beach, gaudy fun fairs and nostalgia.

Coney Island has been enshrined in literature, film, television and music. Its strange history is the focus of an upcoming exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, called Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008, which opens on November 20th. Covering a 150-year period, the exhibition includes artwork, objects and photographs of the iconic amusement park.  

On this last Friday in August, reminisce with this selection of summertime images from the exhibition.    

‘Beach Scene’ c. 1879 by Samuel S. Carr. (Photo: Smith College Museum of Art/Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

‘Bathers, Steel Pier, Coney Island’ c.1880 by George Bradford Brainerd. (Photo: Courtesy Brooklyn Museum Collection) 

Steeplechase Funny Face. (Photo: Collection of Ken Harck/Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

Post for the ‘The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth ’ 1898 by Strobridge Lithographing Company. (Photo: Cincinnati Art Museum/Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

Luna Park and Surf Avenue, Coney Island 1912 by Irving Underhill. (Photo: Courtesy Brooklyn Museum Collection)

‘Pip and Flip’, 1932. (Photo: Daniel J. Terra Collection/Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

‘Coney Island Embrace, New York City’ 1938 by Morris Engel. (Photo:© Morris Engel/ Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive/Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

‘Coney Island, July 30, 1949’ by Homer Page. (Photo: © Homer Page/The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art/Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

‘Little Fugitive’ 1953 (Photo: © Morris Engel/Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

‘Untitled (Buried Alive) ’ c.1960s-1970s by Harry Lapow. (Photo: Courtesy Brooklyn Museum Collection)

‘Coney Island’ 1971 by Stephen Salmieri. (Photo: © Stephen Salmieri/Courtesy Brooklyn Museum Collection)

‘The Hug: Closed Eyes and Smile’ 1982 by Harvey Stein. (Photo:  © Harvey Stein/Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

‘Coney Island Pier’ 1995 by Daze. (Photo: Collection of the artist/Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

‘Fortune Teller, Jones Walk, Coney Island’  2008 by Frederick Brosen. (Photo: Courtesy of Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York/© 2013 Frederick Brosen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)