Dreamland: “Coney Island Holocaust” — 1911

by Paula Bosse

How had I never heard of Dreamland, the massive Coney Island amusement park which opened to great fanfare in 1904? It took seeing the random ad below — for rubber fire hoses — to pique my curiosity: what’s with the smoldering roller coaster? Dreamland Park was a hit with the public, but it lasted for only 7 years — in 1911 a fast-moving fire destroyed the whole place (a fire which appears to have started while crews were repairing a ride appropriately called “Hell Gate”). By morning, Dreamland was no more. Its 1,000,000 lights never twinkled again. Dreamland, we hardly knew ye. The Voorhees Rubber Co. was Johnny-on-the-spot in getting this ad out. “Dreamland” is mentioned nowhere in the ad, but everyone in 1911 would have known exactly what the scene showed.

dreamland_firehose-ad_19111911 ad, Voorhees Rubber Mfg. Co.

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There are tons of great articles and photos of Dreamland out there — it’s fun to just wander around the internet, soaking up the atmosphere. Lots of great info and photos can be found here.

And I really enjoyed this informative short video about the history of this extravagant park — it’s filled with lots of wonderful historical photos:

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dreamland_brooklyn-times-union_050704Brooklyn Times, May 7, 1904

dreamland_brooklyn-times-union_051204Brooklyn Times, May 12, 1904

dreamland_brigandi-museumPaul and Nancy Brigandi Museum, via CarouselHistory.com

dreamland_postcard_general-scene

dreamland_LOCvia Library of Congress

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Disaster hit on the night of May 27, 1911. Billboard’s front page read: “CONEY ISLAND HOLOCAUST.” (Read the story in an Internet Archive scan, here.)

dreamland_billboard_060311

And, in no time at all, the Voorhees Rubber Mfg. Co. of Jersey City, New Jersey rushed into print their brilliantly opportunistic ad for fire hoses, using an Antietem-esque photo of the ruined Dreamland.

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Sources & Notes

My introduction to Dreamland came via the 1911 ad for the Voorhees Rubber Mfg. Co. I have no idea where I found it!

dreamland_firehose-ad_1911_det_sm

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Copyright © 2023 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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