Dime Museums, Disaster Spectacles, and Old Coney Island
June 26, 2010 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Hi All. I am doing research on old Coney Island, Dime Museums, and the history of disaster spectacles. Do any of you know of any books or sources where I could find out more information or, better yet, images relating to these topics? Thank you!
posted by astropop to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's an incredibly well put together show at the Centre Pompidou called Dreamlands and the first images are from Coney Island. I know the catalogue is in French and English, so maybe you can find it, or find a bibliography from it online.
posted by bwonder2 at 3:03 PM on June 26, 2010

Maybe get in touch with this professor. I faintly recall that disaster was an area of interest in her own research...looking at her recent scholarship leads me to believe that she may be able to help you.
posted by One Thousand and One at 3:04 PM on June 26, 2010

Not academic but some of the best footage I've seen of old Coney Island is in the Harold Lloyd film Speedy.
posted by cazoo at 5:10 PM on June 26, 2010

I recommend American Experience - Coney Island, a documentary by Ric Burns. I saw part of it on public television and had no idea I would be interested in the topic, but the film was fascinating enough for me to search it out in 1993 and buy it.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:17 PM on June 26, 2010

NY1 recently did a special report on Coney Island, including an interview with Aaron Beebe, curator of the Coney Island Museum. The history part of the report begins around the 3:45 mark. (If that link doesn't work, just go to NY1.com and search archives for Coney Island.)
posted by Majorita at 6:50 PM on June 26, 2010

Coney Island: Lost and Found by Charles Denson is a good book filled with old pictures and a fairly detailed history of the place from its initial settlement to the present day.

Also, I've never been there myself but the Coney Island Museum probably has some good info if you ever get a chance to go down there.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 8:27 PM on June 26, 2010

John Kasson's Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century is well-respected and informative. I can't put my hands on my copy at the moment, so I'm not sure how many images it provides.

Bruce McConachie's Melodramatic Formations focuses on theatrical performances at dime museums, but has some interesting material on their development, the intended audiences of these performances, etc. I'm not sure if this was what you had in mind when you mention "disaster spectacles," but McConachie spends quite a bit of time considering the apocalyptic components of 19th century melodramas, too.

If you're looking for theoretical underpinnings, Tony Bennett's Birth of the Museum is excellent.
posted by laris at 8:52 PM on June 26, 2010

Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum has hundreds of vintage dime museum gadgets, peep shows and games.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:05 AM on June 27, 2010

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