Posts Tagged ‘Coney Island history’

A Coney Island pie maker invents the hot dog

June 2, 2016

Feltmans1890swestland.netLike so many wonderful New York stories, this one comes from Coney Island.

It was after the Civil War, and this spit of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean was fast becoming a summer resort favorite for the city’s middle class.

Enormous hotels opened; a boardwalk was built with bathing pavilions and restaurants to accommodate crowds.

FeltmantheconeyislandblogSupplying pies and other baked goods to those restaurants was a German immigrant named Charles Feltman, who ran a bakery on Coney Island.

Feltman, who is also described as a butcher (like most things in history, the details are a little fuzzy), wasn’t the first person to mix a slender sausage called a frankfurter with bread and sell the concoction from a cart.

“By the 1870s, small [sausage] stands were to be found along the beach, to the dismay of conventional restaurant owners who regarded them as unsanitary, fire hazards, and a competitive threat,” explains Savoring Gotham.

Feltman’s genius, the story goes, is that he pioneered the elongated bun that fit the frankfurter perfectly and made it the top-selling street food for hungry beachgoers.

Feltmansdininggardens

“Feltman and a wheelwright named Donovan conceived the idea of installing an oven in Feltman’s pie wagon, which enabled him to sell boiled sausages wrapped in pastry rolls up and down the beach,” wrote Michael Immerso in Coney Island: The People’s Playground.

Nathans1939andrewhermanmcnyAs Coney boomed, he replaced his cart with Feltman’s, a beer garden–like restaurant on Surf Avenue, selling his hot dogs for a dime a piece.

By the 1920s, Feltman was undercut. A former employee, Nathan Handwerker, opened his own hot dog stand a few blocks away and charged a nickel per dog.

Feltman’s survived until 1954. Nathan’s—like hot dogs all over the city—is still going strong.

[Top postcard: westland.net; second image: the Coney Island blog; third postcard: New York World’s Fair Carousel; fourth photo: Andrew Herman/Federal Art Project/MCNY (1939)]

Vintage matchbook ads for Brooklyn businesses

July 9, 2012

The one downside to the fact that so few people smoke these days? So few businesses hand out free matches as advertising vehicles.

But for most of the 20th century, matchbook ads were a popular way to get a company name and service out there—as these now-defunct Brooklyn businesses did in the 1940s.


Loeser’s was a legendary department store on Fulton Street, Brooklyn’s main shopping strip since the late 19th century. It closed in 1952.

I love this public service ad from Brooklyn Edison—now part of Con Edison, of course—for electric stoves. Cooking “electrically” probably did cut down on kitchen fires.

The Hotel Half Moon was built in 1927 to rival the fancy new hotels going up in Atlantic City. Instead, it hosted conventions, became a maternity hospital in the 1940s, and was torn down in the 1990s to make way for a senior citizen housing.

In 1941, the Half Moon earned a place in mob history: Murder, Inc. turncoat Abe “Kid Twist” Reles plunged to his death from his sixth floor room there under mysterious circumstances.

Mayflower 9-3800! But why was Coney Island’s phone exchange called Mayflower?

Ocean Parkway’s last 19th century mile marker

November 1, 2010

South of Avenue P on Brooklyn’s lovely, leafy Ocean Parkway is a foot-high rectangle of granite sticking out of the ground, with a mysterious “3M” etched into its traffic-facing side.

This curious artifact is Ocean Parkway’s last remaining mile marker.

Before the 20th century, mile markers dotted major roads, letting coachmen and riders know how many miles they had traveled—and how many more they needed to go.

This mile marker was likely one of 11 placed at every half-mile from the Prospect Park Circle to Ocean Parkway’s end at Coney Island.

It probably dates back to the 1870s, when Ocean Parkway, inspired by the great boulevards of Paris and Berlin, was built.

Sheepshead Bites has more on the history of the mile marker—as well as the mysterious disappearance of another back in June.

Color and confetti at the Coney Island Mardi Gras

October 15, 2010

“Coney Island’s week of fun, the Coney Island Mardi Gras, which has become an established custom and brings to an end to each Coney season, began last night in a blaze of color and with much music and confetti,” wrote The New York Times on September 10, 1912.

It must have been crazy fun: thousands of spectators cheering dozens of parade floats along Surf Avenue on a late September night.

Revelers in costume marching along the floats, and a king and a queen were crowned every year.

The Mardi Gras started in 1903 as a fund-raising vehicle for the Coney Island Rescue Mission, which served “wayward” young women, according to John H. Kasson’s Amusing the Million.

[Photos: Bain News Service, 1910 or 1915 (top) and 1908]

It lasted until 1953—just about when Coney Island began losing its appeal as the city’s summer playground.

In its place we have the fabulous Mermaid Parade—itself inspired by the anything-goes craziness of the early 20th century Coney carnival.