The 1890 Travel Blogger: Atlantic City

(There were no travel bloggers in 1890. There were no blogs. No Web. But there were more and more people in America ready to do some traveling and looking for places to go. So if there was such a thing as a travel blog in the last decade of the 19th century, this is what I think it might have looked like.)

The Atlantic Ocean at Atlantic City beach


1. Atlantic City

A temperate summer climate, easy transportation access, one of a kind attractions and lodging for all classes of Americans is what gave Atlantic City the name “Queen of Resorts.” This seaside town is located on Absecon Island off the coast of southern New Jersey within easy reach of both Philadelphia and New York.

One of the reasons for Atlantic City’s popularity is the cool ocean breezes that moderate hot summer temperatures. The air temperature is usually a full 10 degrees cooler than the thermometer readings inland.

And you can enjoy those ocean breezes along Atlantic City’s famous boardwalk. Atlantic City had the first boardwalk in the United States having opened in in 1870. The current version was built last year after the previous one had been damaged by a hurricane. The new boardwalk sports rails of both sides thus reducing the risk of falling off which had proven to be a problem with visitors gazing at the beautiful ocean views and plunging off the edge. The new boardwalk is bigger (24 feet wide) and now stretches for four miles.

If the length of that walk tires you out, you can engage one of the rolling chairs and be pushed along the boards by attendants. These are the same rolling chairs that were introduced at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876. At Tennessee Avenue and the boardwalk you’ll find Applegate’s Pier with its famous ice water fountain. And across the street Messrs. Young and McShea have opened a carousel that was created by renowned merry-go-round designer Gustav Dingel. The carousel is open every day but is particularly popular on Sunday when its organ plays hymns and riders are provided with hymnals to sing along.

Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City

(Bobby Mikul)

For the more adventurous there is the Epicycloidal Diversion on Mississippi Avenue. This contraption features four wheels that are mounted on a revolving platform. Each of the wheels has eight 2-passenger cars. And while on the boardwalk you can enjoy a unique Atlantic City treat, salt water taffy. Legend has it that salt water taffy was accidentally invented in Atlantic City by David Bradley after his shop was flooded with ocean water.

At the north end of the city is the Absecon Lighthouse which is open for visitors from 9 a.m. to noon. The 167 foot tall lighthouse, which was first lit in 1857, is the tallest in New Jersey and its light can be seen from up to 20 miles out to sea.

The Queen of Resorts is known for its Grand Hotels and among those is the United States Hotel. The hotel is a full block in size, bordered by Pacific, Atlantic, Maryland and Delaware avenues.  These luxurious lodgings were visited by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1874. New Yorkers interested in visiting can get a special package from the Pennsylvania Railroad which, for $12.75, includes the train ride from New York with lunch en route and three nights lodging at the U.S. Hotel.

United States Hotel in Atlantic City

(Cartography Associates)

Another of former president Grant’s favorites is the Brighton Hotel on Indiana Avenue. This 17-year-old lodging house is as famous for its punch as it is for its charming accommodations. While many come to Atlantic City to enjoy its grand hotels, the city offers accommodations at all levels including much more modest boarding houses.

Atlantic City can be reached by sea, rail or coach. Both the Camden and Atlantic Railroad and the Philadelphia and Atlantic City Railway offer direct service from Philadelphia.
And there is now a road connecting Absecon Island from the mainland at Pleasantville, although it will require you to pay a 30 cent toll.

While Atlantic City is fast developing a reputation as a playground for the rich and famous it is a resort that all can enjoy. Workers, racial and religious minorities and immigrants will find welcoming accommodations here and can share the same ocean, beach and boardwalk as other guests. For all classes of Americans it is an attractive destination whether for a one-day excursion or for a summer by the sea.

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31 Responses to The 1890 Travel Blogger: Atlantic City

  1. Alice says:

    No travel blogs back then so here is what this post made me think about: do you know when the first vacation brochures came out?


  2. jacquiegum says:

    Wow! I was in Atlantic City as a kid. My aunt and her family from Baltimore had a home “on the shore.” Looked different!


  3. Andy says:

    Tennessee Avenue, Indiana Avenue, Marvin Gardens, Park Place…
    Uh-oh, my Chance card says, “Go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting and unusual way of looking at blogging. Have never been to Atlantic City and have to admit I have no desire to do so, even after reading your post.


  5. The mini-series Boardwalk Empire depicts Atlantic City in its hay day. Corrupt politicians who had ties to the mafia took control of the city’s development, and I don’t think much has changed. Atlantic City has no middle-class, it’s an impoverished town filled with an indigent population surrounded by big casinos. I’ve been to Atlantic City one time, and it was not the best experience. The game Monopoly is the perfect example of what Atlantic City is all about.


  6. I appreciate learning about the history of the places we go which allows me to be grateful of the time I spend there. Thank you for the reminder.


  7. Have never been to Atlantic City, but this is a creative approach to writing about it 🙂


  8. Husnaa says:

    Very informative post, special to read about the history, thank you Ken!

    Love, Husnaa xx


  9. Meredith says:

    I love this: “Atlantic City can be reached by sea, rail or coach.” What a fun look at the history of this place!


  10. Erica says:

    When I was a kid growing up outside Philadelphia, everybody went to “the shore” on the weekend in summer. And I still remember that salt water taffy. I just wish we could still enjoy a nice vacation for $12.75!


  11. Ken Dowell says:

    It’s still the same ocean, the boardwalk is still there and they still sell salt water taffy. That’s about it.


  12. patweber says:

    I learned so much more about the NJ boardwalk from that HBO series about it. While whenever a violent scene was on I had to close my eyes and ears, believe it or not in case you never watched it, there was some accurate history of Atlantic City.


  13. lenie5860 says:

    Interesting post about Atlantic City. When you read historical novels, you always come across people moving to the shore for the summer – always thought that was a great idea if you could afford it, but of course, thousands who really could have used a break from the heat and toil never could.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I appreciate learning about the history of places all thanks to your blog! Thanks once more.


  15. What a wonderful description of Atlantic City. Having been in the Coast Guard and stationed for a while in New Jersey, you gave the city a good description.
    Speaking of old brochures, some are used as a reference for historians. An example is what you describe above, of how the city was changed after a hurricane. Some places are totaly different than they were even 100 years ago, and some brochures written before the change help historians understand what it looked it at that time.


  16. Tim says:

    Absolutely love reading historic accounts of pretty much any destination but especially ones I have spent time in 120 years later. The city really has hit the skids nowadays but it is fun to remember when…


  17. andleeb says:

    As there were no blogs back then, but after development of technology and web, I am wondering, which one was the first blog and it was about what and when the categories were introduced in blogging….
    These are few questions that came in mind after reading this post. Atlantic City seems amazing and it is great to have so many visitors. It is nice to visit such cities.
    Thank you for a great post.


    • Ken Dowell says:

      I asked Google that question. A Swathmore College student named Justin Hall is generally considered to have started the first blog in 1994, “Justin’s Links to the Underground.”


  18. Interesting how our methods of recording thoughts and happenings is always changing and evolving. You’ve shown how it’s changed so dramatically compared to the 1870’s. But when I think back to when I started travelling in the 1970’s, my little travel journals combined with photos made from film or slides was the method I used. Now … it’s almost all done on my iPad, along with a few written notes to augment the memories. Thx for showing us just how much times have changed!


  19. Jason @ says:

    Reading this has me feeling like I’m in the 1890’s. Very creative post. I’ve never been to AC, but I wouldn’t mind going. I love casinos.


  20. This post really takes me back in time to an Atlantic City that’s nothing like the one I’ve heard of for so many years. I like the unusual viewpoint you took. It shows how much things have changed, slowly but surely.


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  23. Pingback: Atlantic City. Story in pictures. | OM TRIPS

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