This recent addition to the Inside the Apple archives is a wonderful look at Coney Island during its heyday. This postcard dates to 1906, the peak of the amusement park era. Just a decade earlier, most of the area was given over to restaurants, bath houses on the beach, and a few dance halls. There were a few rides--and the famous elephant, which burned down in 1896--but entertainment would not take over as Coney Island's main draw until the turn of the century.
By the time this postcard was issued, most of Coney Island was given over to amusement parks, including the famous Steeplechase Park, Dreamland, and Luna Park (which is pictured inside the "N" of "Island" in the image above).
More intriguing are the women who grace the letters of "Greetings." Who are they? Bathing beauties? Actually, they look more like chorus girls or Gibson Girls, the most famous of whom, Evelyn Nesbit, was in the headlines at the time because her husband, Harry Thaw, murdered Stanford White on June 25, 1906. We have a tendency to think of amusement parks today as being the domain of families and children, but in 1906, Coney Island was definitely an adult's paradise, as this postcard attests. (Even carousels, like the one today in Central Park, were geared to adult riders.)
What's most fascinating to us, however, are the three figures inside the "G" of "Greetings": Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. Was this to show that a trip to Coney Island--with its daring rides and scantily clad women--was still a morally upstanding place? Remember, T.R. was the sitting president at the time. It would be like going to Vegas today and having Barack Obama's face in the corner of your postcard of the Strip.
You can see a great map of Coney Island in 1906 at http://www.westland.net/coneyisland/mapsdocs/coneymap06.htm. Click on any red dot on the map and it will bring up a vintage postcard or other image from the era.
You can also read our earlier history of the postcard, and see a guidebook to saving money at Coney Island from the Brooklyn Historical Society here.