Monday, September 13, 2010

Beach at Coney Island

Today's picture is a photochrom print made in 1902. It shows bathers at the beach on Coney Island. I like to study the details of the clothing.


  1. Rats! After yesterday's photo I was hoping we were going to have Pony Week! LOL - although Coney Island will do. Interesting old colored photo.

  2. I am surprised at the amount of trash laying around. I don't know, but that sand likes like it is dirty
    I get a kick out of the beach wear also. Like the guy on the left who is wearing a black suit with his derby hat.

  3. Seems everyone's in long sleeves. If it's cool out, there sure are a lot of people on the beach. And, the little girls are wearing what we would consider "Sunday best" to play in the sand.

  4. Do you suppose the man in the apron carrying a wooden pail is a vendor of some sort?

  5. The shortages of two World Wars and the Great Depression, plus a move toward more 'daring' styles sure did simplify everyone's wardrobe, especially women's clothing!

  6. PJM - I love your old pictures of the day. This is the most interesting site! And I really enjoy your personal updates too. I get a kick out reading about the tractor, the peacocks, Mrs. PJM, failed home repairs, ALl of it. Thank you for brightening our days.

  7. The only people sitting down seem to be women. Could it be that a man did not sit on the beach in those times?

  8. Look at the boy sitting right of center foreground with the white shirt and black bow tie. He looks like someone photoshopped in a picture of Mel Brooks making a face.

  9. If this picture were taken today we would have no choice but to study bodies instead of clothing.

  10. People didn't go to the beach to 'sun' in those days. A suntan was considered to be a sign of lower class status, i.e., someone who had a suntan was thought of as a laborer.
    It wasn't until the 40's that sunbathing became fashionable.

  11. It is my understanding that a photochrom is a lithographic printing process that produces a color image produced from a black and white negative using stones.

    This color photo reproduction process was developed in Switzerland in the 1870s or so and was first licensed in the United States to the Detroit Photographic Company in 1897.

    An executive of the company, William Livingstone, saw the potential for being able to produce color prints, as the United States had just issued the penny postcard.

    He partnered with William Henry Jackson, a famous landscape photographer, and they created the idea of the color souvenir postcard as illustrated in today’s picture.

    Jackson had been a photographer for the US Geographical Survey and was known for his breathtaking landscapes and photos of historical landmarks. He brought his entire archive of negatives with him to Detroit Photographic company and spent the rest of his career working on the photochrom process and developing the souvenir postcard into an art form.

    Today’s photo of Coney Island was taken by Jackson.


    On another note, I must say that when you enlarge the picture, the face of the boy sitting in the front (on the right with the white shirt, black tie, and cap) appears quite frightening. A previous poster wrote that it looks like “Mel Brooks making a face.” To me, it looks like the face of an old man that is stuck on the body of a child - almost like a kid with progeria. In any event, it’s scary.

    And if you look at the face of the girl standing up in the middle in the yellow dress, it looks rather artificial as well - sort of like a badly molded doll. I’m going to assume that the color lithographic process has made the features a little distorted.

    And . . .”Anonymous” is correct re the impression given by a suntan. Prior to the industrial revolution, people who were “tan” were laborers who worked in the fields and it was considered a sign of the lower class. The upper class was always pale and fair-skinned - just think of D.H. Lawrence novels and Daisy in “The Great Gatsby.”

    But during and after the Industrial Revolution it was reversed. Being pale and pasty became associated with the poor, uneducated, lower-class immigrants who slaved in the mills and who couldn’t afford leisure pursuits.

    And being tan was indicative of an expensive and glamorous “upper-class” lifestyle - it implied that one was either playing tennis, polo, sailing on one’s yacht, or lounging on the Riveria, etc. And we still think like that today - we see people with gorgeous tans and it implies all kinds of fancy leisure activities and health, while the pale people look like they’ve been stuck inside all day.

    Just toss that classic Ralph Lauren tennis sweater over your shoulders, and you’re all ready to go to Newport and hang around at the White Horse Tavern or the Black Pearl!! Maybe you’ll run into a Vanderbilt while you’re there!!

  12. Stumbled upon the movie, Little Fugitive. It is about a kid spending the day at Coney Island. It was quite fun to watch, you feel like you are there with him.

  13. wooh ! what a beautiful photograph !

  14. It's strange but nobody looks happy in the Coney Island Pictures!

  15. The association of high status with leisure and lower status with labor persists today, even in the fashion of tanning. When I was growing up in Oregon, anyone who got a tan from working outside in ordinary clothes (rather than from laying out in a bathing suit) was teased with the epithet 'farmer arms.' (As if we don't all owe our lives to the people who produce our food!)

    Conversely, over here in India, pale is still high status, and about every other TV commercial is selling either sunscreen or cream to lighten the skin.

    People sure are funny, aren't they?