The world's first ocean amusement pier was built in Atlantic City in 1882. But it was Captain John L. Young's 1891 Ocean Pier which set the standards for all amusement piers to come. On his Ocean Pier, Captain Young installed the latest rides and midway games, and an electric trolley system. The latter delivered patrons from the Boardwalk, two thousand feet out over the Atlantic, to fishing and pleasure steamers at the pier's end. In addition, Young offered band concerts and vaudeville shows where Dora Johnson introduced an African-American strutting dance called the "Cakewalk."

So successful was Young's Ocean Pier that he built a second in 1906, the Million Dollar Pier. From that pier, Thomas Edison fished, a shackled Harry Houdini dove into the ocean, and Teddy Roosevelt campaigned for his Bull Moose party. On that pier early Miss America's were crowned, and Young built himself a villa complete with marble sculptures, crystal chandeliers, and an official address of ''Number One Atlantic Ocean."

Other piers soon appeared. The Garden Pier provided entertainment to an upscale audience. Steeplechase Pier boasted the world's largest electric sign, 27,000 light bulbs advertising Chesterfield Cigarettes - and rivaled Young's Million Dollar Pier in those early years. George C. Tilyou developed Steeplechase Pier in 1908 modelling it on his amusement park of the same name at Coney Island. The Steeplechase patron entered cautiously through the ominous mouth of a clown into a revolving barrel. An alternate entrance along bridges offered skirt-lifting blasts of air from below. Other Steeplechase "amusements" tested the athletic ability, as well as the fortitude of the customer: the Sugar Bowl Slide, the Mexican Hat Bowl, and the Flying Chairs that swung out over the ocean - Steeplechase, the Funny Place!


Photographs courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs division
Text by Ed Grusheski, courtesy of the Atlantic City Historical Museum