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Amusing the Million

Coney Island at the Turn of the Century

John F. Kasson

Hill and Wang

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ISBN10: 0809001330
ISBN13: 9780809001330

Trade Paperback

128 Pages



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Coney Island: the name still resonates with a sense of racy Brooklyn excitement, the echo of beach-front popular entertainment before World War I. Amusing the Million examines the historical context in which Coney Island made its reputation as an amusement park and shows how America's changing social and economic conditions formed the basis of a new mass culture. Exploring it afresh in this way, John Kasson shows Coney Island no longer as the object of nostalgia but as a harbinger of modernity—and the many photographs, lithographs, engravings, and other reproductions with which he amplifies his text support this thesis.


Praise for Amusing the Million

"This is what a history of popular culture should be: a delightful account of a fascinating subject and a serious contribution to our understanding of major transition in American culture."—John G. Cawelti, University of Chicago

"Brilliant . . . Through skillfully chosen photographs and highly imaginative careful analysis, Kasson implicitly argues that Coney Island was American appetite, America-as-joke, incarnate . . . Meticulous and exciting, [Amusing the Million is] clearly destined to be a classic in the still inchoate field of popular culture."—Ann Douglas, The New Republic

"Because he treats our frivolities seriously, John Kasson has produced an important book which helps us all understand ourselves. His inquiry into the nature and significance of Coney Island as part of the American experience provides a brilliant device for understanding major transformations in American culture at the turn of the century . . . A delight to read, look at, and ponder...itself a great amusement for the mind."—Warren Susman, Rutgers University

"Not only delightful reading but a perceptive look at a familiar American institution..Social-cultural history ought to be done this way more often."—Russel B. Nye, Michigan State University

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

Amusing the Million

Coney Island: the name still resonates with a sense of excitement, the echo of an earlier age. Once commanding two miles of beach on the southwestern end of Long Island, the amusement center has seen its domain...

About the author

John F. Kasson

John F. Kasson, who teaches history and American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of Houdini, Tarzan and the Perfect Man, Amusing the Million, Rudeness and Civility, and Civilizing the Machine.

John F. Kasson