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First Resorts

Pursuing Pleasure at Saratoga Springs, Newport, and Coney Island

Jon Sterngass

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This history of Saratoga Springs, Newport, and Coney Island explores the cultural and social forces that shaped tourism, defined leisure, and developed these places into the diverse vacation spots we know today.

"At the dawn of the nineteenth century, Saratoga Springs hosted no more than a thousand hardy travelers yearly, Newport floundered in the midst of a fifty-year commercial decline, and Coney Island's beach resembled a wind-swept wilderness. A hundred years later, the number of summer visitors to Saratoga had increased a hundredfold, the antics of high society at Newport transfixed...

This history of Saratoga Springs, Newport, and Coney Island explores the cultural and social forces that shaped tourism, defined leisure, and developed these places into the diverse vacation spots we know today.

"At the dawn of the nineteenth century, Saratoga Springs hosted no more than a thousand hardy travelers yearly, Newport floundered in the midst of a fifty-year commercial decline, and Coney Island's beach resembled a wind-swept wilderness. A hundred years later, the number of summer visitors to Saratoga had increased a hundredfold, the antics of high society at Newport transfixed America, and at least five million pleasure seekers visited Coney annually. 'Those who talk of the mushroom growth of our Western cities,' declared an astounded writer for Harper's Weekly in 1878, 'might better spend their wonder and enthusiasm upon our Eastern watering-place.'"—From the Introduction

In First Resorts: Pursuing Pleasure at Saratoga Springs, Newport, and Coney Island, Jon Sterngass follows three of the best-known northeastern American resorts across a century of change. Saratoga Springs, Newport, and Coney Island began, he finds, as similar pleasure destinations, each of them featuring "grand" hotels where visitors swarmed public spaces such as verandas, dining rooms, and parlors. As the century progressed, however, Saratoga remained much the same, while Newport turned to private (and lavish) "cottages" and Coney Island shifted its focus to amusements for the masses.

Fifty-nine illustrations enliven Sterngass's unique study of the commodification of pleasure that occurred as capitalist values flourished, travel grew more accessible, and leisure time became democratized. These three resorts, he argues, served as forerunners of twentieth-century pleasure cities such as Aspen, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Reviews

Reviews

Jon Sterngass has written an engaging, creative book replete with evocative illustrations and witty quotes... a pleasant read.

Having mined every conceivable source about his three sites, Sterngass has presented a wealth of interesting material not only about the resort experience but also about the residents, politicians, and entrepreneurs who built them. The book is handsomely illustrated with a large number of marvelous pictures and photographs.

Sterngass writes about these resorts with the grace of a journalist, and he has clearly surveyed the popular published material of numerous observers.

The book's in-depth look at three significant features of the nineteenth-century American leisure landscape provides concrete examples of otherwise elusive cultural trends and developments. It will be required reading for historians of American leisure, and of great interest to social and cultural historians more generally.

Sterngass's impeccably researched, elegantly written, and handsomely illustrated volume 'examines three quintessential American resorts across the sweep of an entire century'... Thought-provoking and reassuringly well-documented.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
7
x
10
Pages
384
ISBN
9780801876967
Illustration Description
50 halftones, 9 line drawings
Table of Contents

Contents:

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Transforming Resorts
Chapter One: The Creation of Saratoga Springs: Taking the City with Us
Chapter Two: The Revival of Newport: The Pilgrimage of Fashion
Chapter

Contents:

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Transforming Resorts
Chapter One: The Creation of Saratoga Springs: Taking the City with Us
Chapter Two: The Revival of Newport: The Pilgrimage of Fashion
Chapter Three: The Rise of Coney Island: Strangers in the Land of the Perpetual Fete
Chapter Four: The Public Resort: To See and Be Seen
Chapter Five: The Commercialization of Saratoga Springs: Racetracks, Casinos, and Souvenirs
Chapter Six: The Privatization of Newport: "Coarseness and Vulgarity Are Never Seen Here"
Chapter Seven: "That was Coney As We Loved It, and As the Hand of Satan Was upon It"
Conclusion: The Pursuit of Privacy, Profit, and Pleasure
Notes
Bibliographical Essay
Index

Author Bio