Coney Island, 1905


Welcome to Flashback Friday, where we take a look at an interesting bit of history.

Thompson’s switchback railway, Coney Island, 1884 (via

A writer friend of mine, Anne Paris, sent me a rare, silent film clip of a school outing to Coney Island.  It is a group of girls from Miss Knapp’s Select School (a boarding school).  The super-cool thing, for me, is that this was filmed in 1905 – only 9 years after the setting of my historical mystery, Dangerous and Unseemly.  How wonderful to be able to see their outfits, how they moved in them, what mannerisms were in place, and the coexistence of the horseless carriage and the horse-drawn vehicles on the street.  Thanks, Anne!

One of the things that cracked me up was when the girls all opened their parasols in the open-top car; looks like an enormous bouquet, driving down the street, LOL.

You can tell they were having a marvelous time, and vamped a bit for the camera!



For those who are interested in the history of Coney Island, click here.

Have you been to Coney Island?  Do you wish your school had taken you to the beach/amusement park for a field trip when you were a kid?  I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,


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20 thoughts on “Coney Island, 1905”

  1. Marcy KennedyMarcy Kennedy

    That was so cool to be able to see! I’m fascinated by that era of history. What struck me was the fact that they could put up their parasols. That speaks to the speed that the vehicles back then traveled. Can you imagine trying to open one of those beautiful, delicate parasols in a covertible driving down the road today?

  2. Coleen PatrickColeen Patrick

    Love the open parasols in the car too! It definitely looks like they had fun, but can’t even imagine going to an amusement park in a full dress like that! 🙂

  3. Julie GloverJulie Glover

    I loved that! How fascinating. I was intrigued by their dress and manner, the rides they had at Coney Island then, and transportation. Plus, that clip with them walking in and the huge female statue behind them made me think how little they were showing vs. how much the statue showed. So, so interesting. Thanks!

  4. Debra KristiDebra Kristi

    I loved watching the one lady who was constantly rushing back and forth with her umbrella. It was like she couldn’t relax and was in a constant state of stress over everything they did. Their chaperone? Yes, and Marcy is correct, that vehicle had to be moving slow. Although I suspect it was capable of moving rather fast. Their was a guy in my car club that had a turn of the century motor car. He made that puppy fly down the freeway. It was crazy. Watching the video I just kept thinking about all those parasols hitting each other and how crowded that would be. What a neat find. Thanks for sharing!

  5. BillBill

    Great bit of history.
    Interesting van they were in — the hood/grill made it look like some kind urban assault vehicle (a parassault vehicle?)
    They looked like they were having the time of their lives. Imagine being captured on film!
    Note the jittery title shots — an effect which is now simulated by software (mostly in commercials to draw attention — cheap, easy, overdone and throwaway)
    Teddy was in the White House and the San Francisco Earthquake was in the future. Very cool.
    Thanks for the post.

  6. Renee Schuls-JacobsonRenee Schuls-Jacobson

    I have photos of my grandparents at Coney Island dated 1933. It looks so similar! Minus the big hats! Wartime didn’t allow for those excesses, I suppose. And the Depression obviously changed clothing a lot! I wonder how the teacher who got to sit where. 😉

    I loved this. And I kind of needed it. It was a terrible day. Still no computer after NINE hours of trying. *headdesk* This clip made me wish for simpler times.

  7. Perry Block (@PerryBlock)Perry Block (@PerryBlock)

    Very interesting film from way back in the day before you expect to see film. “Birth of a Nation” was still ten years away and “The Jazz Singer” was over 22.

    NO, I didn’t date any of those girls!!!

    Even college professors are comedians these days ….

  8. Karen McFarlandKaren McFarland

    Loved that precious film Kathy. The thought that something like this has survived throughout the years is amazing. Can’t imagine wearing all that clothing while going on a ride at an amusement park. And don’t ya just love the swimsuits? My parents lived in the area during their youth and often spoke about Coney Island. Thanks you for sharing a interesting part of history. Those were such innocent days, weren’t they? 🙂

  9. August McLaughlinAugust McLaughlin

    I’ve never been to Coney Island, regretfully. When I lived in NYC, I kept figuring “I’ll go there someday.” Sheesh. It’s a magical place in my mind, probably due to movies and books. I’ll have to put it on my list for my next trip. S’gotta happen!

    That ‘bouquet’ is crazy!!! Tell Jenny we need those for the WANA Panty parade. 😉 Great post, lady!

  10. Natalie HartfordNatalie Hartford

    Absolutely amazing Kathy. I love it. Seeing the way they dressed and interacted was incredible. Love it when they set off in the buggy with all the parasols. HOOT!!! And now I know where roller coasters first got their name…
    Love it. Such history…
    Thanks for sharing…

  11. Coney Island History ProjectConey Island History Project

    The Coney Island History Project hosts visiting school groups year round! We’re a non-profit whose mission is to record oral histories of people who lived, worked or played in Coney Island. You can listen to the interviews on our website. Our exhibit center is open free of charge on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Stop by on Oct 13, 14 or 21 (1-5pm) for free special events and view historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island’s colorful past.

  12. florence foisflorence fois

    Hi … Laura Drake sent me the link to this post because she knows I’m a Brooklyn gal … born and raised. My current WIP takes place on the border of Bath Beach and Coney Island in the present. Me? I would reverse the last two digits … we were kids of the ’50’s and Coney Island had already gone through two major changes. It changes every so many decades, but it will always be exciting to most of us. Thanks so much for this and the history link 🙂

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