Beachfront: Seaside and Coastal Destinations
As governments began to recognise the need for leisure time and instituted compulsory holiday periods for working people during the twentieth century, the beach and other seaside destinations became a legitimate excursion for many working class families, particularly within the UK. To reflect this, seaside destinations such as Blackpool in England and Coney Island in New York sprang up and developed to accommodate the hundreds of people who began to flock to the beach on a sunny day.
The expansion of these areas, as well as the development of resorts and other higher class accommodation are a helpful indicator of the development of holidays as both a personal pursuit and business venture. Whilst many beachside activities such as sailing, diving and general entertainment were reserved for the wealthy, to enjoy a day at the beach all a holidaymaker really needed was transport, leisure clothes and a bucket and spade, thus opening it to all classes of people. Entertainment and food adapted to the crowds and coastal towns benefited from the financial boost.
Looking through the documents in Leisure, Travel & Mass Culture: The History of Tourism focusing on seaside and coastal destinations allows researchers to see a developing form of tourism that permitted people from all classes to experience a day off from daily life.
At Blackpool in the UK, a small seaside town quickly developed into one of the most visited coastal resorts in the country. To cope with and entertain the growing crowds, entertainments quickly sprung up in the town, including large concert halls, restaurants and dance halls that aimed to provide a glittering evening’s entertainment to the beachgoers (see Official Guide 1924. Blackpool. The Home of Health Pleasure Fun & Fancy). Accommodation also developed to house the many people who flocked there in season (see the many accommodation registers within the collection such as Blackpool Playground of the World. Official Accommodation Register) and the town instituted the Blackpool Illuminations, which soon became a famous nighttime attraction. In 1924 a committee was sent by Blackpool Council to the Nice Carnival in France to assess whether carnivals could be brought to Blackpool. The delegates spent a long time discussing what could be achieved, providing a great insight into the development of the English coast, as the committees worked to create an exotic atmosphere only a few hours travel from the tourist’s daily life.
The development of Coney Island in New York also took advantage of the beachgoer and the increasing use of leisure time by ordinary people. Developed from a few hotels and shops, Coney Island quickly became a successful beachside amusement park and a much anticipated family friendly trip for many in the surrounding area. Boasting rides, entertainments, food and golden sands, it enjoyed its popularity whilst it lasted, before various fires and economic downturns meant a slight fall in grace. The Coney Island slides from Otto Dreschmeyer in the 1960s from Brooklyn Historical Society show the loud and bright colours of this classic seaside destination.
Beachfront and coastal destinations are therefore an integral feature of the spread of tourism to the masses. Whilst a working class family could not afford a tour of Europe with an upmarket travel company, they could afford a day trip, or week-long trip, to the seaside, and coastal destinations catered to all classes of people. The beach was not exclusive to the less wealthy, as evidenced in the collections from the University of Florida. Rich travellers could enjoy a luxury beach trip on the coast of Florida and all the entertainment that offered, but it was also, most importantly, not restricted just to the well-off. For the price of a train ticket, a sunhat and an ice cream, the working class family could also enjoy a day out from daily stresses and strife.
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