America's First Boardwalk Opened Today in 1870; Celebrate With Taffy

In Depth

Today’s the anniversary of a lovely summertime landmark: The 1870 opening of the initial stretch of Atlantic City boardwalk—America’s first. God, a gritty hotdog, a game of skeeball and a mild sunburn sound so appealing right now.

That’s via the blog for the National Archives. They provide a little background on how the iconic boardwalk came to be:

Dr. Jonathan Pitney, who thought the island would be a good spot for a health resort, first developed the area in the 1850s. With the help of civil engineer Richard Osborne, the construction of the Camden-Atlantic City Railroad began, and on July 5, 1854, the first tourism train arrived from New Jersey.
Because encroaching sand was a problem, a local railroad conductor and hotel owner petitioned the city council asking that a mile-long footwalk be established. The city used its tax revenues to build an eight-foot-wide temporary wooden walkway from the beach into town that could be dismantled during the winter. In 1880, the boardwalk was replaced by a larger version. More than a decade later, Steel Pier was added, which included a large amusement park.

Here’s what the scene looked like at the turn-of-the-century, with footage shot by Thomas Edison.

Here’s a peek at the early 30s. As you can see, people visited in the cold, too:

In 1921 they added the Miss America pageant.

And it pretty much became the ultimate postwar warm-weather hotspot:

Complete with newsreel treatment:

And then of course there’s the Drifters classic. Take it away, gentlemen; I’ve gotta go find a beach somewhere.

Contact the author at [email protected].

Images via AP, Getty.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin