July 2016 Newsletter
BY THE SEA, BY THE SEA, BY THE BEAUTIFUL SEA….
Whoopee! School is out; it’s July – Let’s all go to the beach! (*Except for San Franciscans). We can collect sea shells, which brings me to our Featured Item: The Sea Shell Fan Lamp. It is a charming, small accent lamp that does a big job. Check it out on our website.
Inspired by this month’s featured Sea Shell Fan Lamp, did you know that going to the sea shore - from visiting to beachwear - has a fascinating history? In fact, Louis Comfort Tiffany loved the beach, and within his lifetime (1848-1933), major changes occurred regarding beach going attitudes and fashions; from modest Victorians to fun loving 1920s bathing beauties. This month’s newsletter presents the first of two parts: visiting the beach and in September’s newsletter, chronicling beachwear fashion trends during Tiffany’s time. So let’s pretend and hop on the Way-Back-Machine for Fun at the Sea Shore with Louis Comfort Tiffany. Read the Article section.
“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. De Mille” smiles Mexican Silent Screen Star and Max Sennett Bathing Beauty, Georgette. (Actually, my sister’s spoiled Chihuahua.)
Sea Shell Fan Accent Lamp
Need to light up a space that doesn’t fit a standard lamp? [read more]
Sea Shell Fan lamp by Shades of Tiffany
ARTICLE : FUN AT THE SEA SHORE WITH LOUIS COMFORT TIFFANY FROM 1848 TO 1933
A nostalgic look at beach going during his time.
GOING TO THE BEACH
A Brief History
Blame it on the English
We take for granted that we always went down to the seashore on summer holidays. But did you know that spending a fun day at the beach is fairly new in our history in the last 150 years? Unless you grew up in some tropical paradise or by the Mediterranean Sea, our European ancestors did not “go to the beach”.
Visiting the sea shore dates back to the 17th century English who discovered a dip in the cold waters of the North Sea had certain therapeutic qualities. Doctors in Great Britain began to prescribe bathing in seawater as being good for one’s health. Beach-going soon became the rage for affluent Europeans. But the upper class didn’t swim, they took a quick plunge – naked. So how did we get from there to here – vacationing and water sporting at the beach?
Retired, Dapper Tiffany, age 82
relaxes at the Beach, 1930
Girl with Umbrella, a 1920s Bathing Beauty
Before public transportation, a day at the beach was an outing for the wealthy as commoners couldn’t reach the beach and were petrified of the water anyway. But by the 1800s with the introduction of railroads and underground subways, beaches became accessible and the working class flocked to the beaches during hot summer months, seeking a retreat from their frazzled city lives with some fresh ocean air.
Going to Coney Island on the Brooklyn Trolley c. 1900
Midland Beach Boardwalk, Staten Island, NYC, c.1899
While at the beach people only took time for a short dip or stroll, but they wanted to find other things to do. This presented a great commercial opportunity.
Heart-throb Lifeguard and Beach Strollers c. 1895
By 1900 Tiffany was 57 and running a world famous glass studio. That year his iconic dragonfly lamp was an award winning sensation; designed and executed by his talented team of craftswomen known as the “Tiffany Girls”. In summertime the Girls would hop a short ride on the Staten Island Ferry to Midland Beach for some fun and picture taking.
Tiffany Girls having fun on Midland Beach, Staten Island, NYC, 1905
Tiffany Girls posing for pictures at Midland Beach, Staten Island, NYC, 1905
Soon Victorian beach hotels were built, attracting wealthy vacationers in the 1830s and 40s. By the 1850s the middle class started going and by the 1900s city’s tenements were flocking to Oceanside resorts built mostly in the North East. (Coney Island, New York; Atlantic City, New Jersey).
Summer at Staten Island Beach, NYC c. 1910. 25¢ admission.
Beach at Atlantic City, New Jersey c. 1900
Common offerings at these resorts were boardwalks for promenading, private bathhouses, vaudeville theaters and game arcades. There were classy restaurants for dining or for 5 cents one could purchase a delicious hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard or a potato knish.
There were fun houses, thrilling rides like the roller coaster, the Loop-the-Loop, the 8-lane Steeplechase racing horses, a gigantic 5 lane slide and a Ferris Wheel that lit up at night with electric lights, all providing fun for families and children.
Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand at Coney Island c. 1915
Luna Park, Coney Island lit up at night 1890
Luna Park, Coney Island, 1908
The Steeplechase Ride c. 1900
The Parachute Jump c. 1955
The Human Roulette Wheel c. 1900
End of an Era
Amusement parks reached a peak in popularity during the first half of the 20th century, declining in popularity after World War II. Their demise started with a long heat wave during the Great Depression of the 1930s. People stayed in the water and did not go to the amusement parks.
In 1876 the first Looff Carousel entertained families at an amusement park with its brightly painted animals and oompa-pa music. In this year Tiffany would have been age 28 and already with two, (eventually eight) small children to take to the beach for a ride on the merry-go-round.
Tiffany and his young family, c.1878
Historic carousel, c. 1906
Smooching at the Beach
Going to seaside amusement parks was an important part of the culture of dating. It was a great way for single men and women to meet up and flirt on the boardwalk and beach, breaking free from rigid Victorian-era dating codes. The rides afforded a couple privacy and intimacy. The Tunnel of Love was a popular water ride that glided couples through a dark tunnel in a gondola.
Flirting on the Beach. c. 1895
Great Depression Heat Wave, Coney Island, 1932
The Great Depression itself furthered the decline of amusement parks. Most of them became bankrupt and shut down. it was also tough times for Tiffany Studios. In 1932 his once fabulously successful business went bankrupt and in 1933 Tiffany died at age 85 practically penniless.
Once booming seaside resorts suffered years of neglect and were eventually demolished. Neighborhoods became rundown. Fires burned famous attractions, creating empty lots. In the 1950s gangs roamed the streets. The areas became very dangerous. In recent times major hurricanes swept away some of what was left.
Child’s Restaurant Landmarked for Preservation.
Today with large amounts of money being invested by city leaders and business people, efforts are being made with success to bring the amusement parks back to popularity. Coney Island is a prime example. Hundreds of thousands of people visited its boardwalks and beaches in recent years. But with luxury condos and apartment housing going up where once stood exciting amusement parks, ocean side resorts will never again be like they were in olden days. Times have changed; success will have a different face.
Coney Island’s baddest ride, The Cyclone
Between 1880 and World War II, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York, was the largest amusement park in the United States, attracting several million visitors per year. Its famous roller coaster, The Cyclone, still in operation today, opened in 1927 and in 1991 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I remember as a kid in the early 1950s visiting Coney Island with my family and hearing the roar of the Cyclone approaching overhead on its rickety wooden tracks and the people on it screaming as they flew by. My cousins rode it, but not me!
September’s newsletter will continue on with the history of swim wear. What a hoot - don’t miss it!
Screaming on Coney Island's
July 4th, 3:30 PM View from my Russian Hill apartment looking north with Sausalito on the horizon
*Yep, we froze again – the usual 4th of July in San Francisco; 52 degrees, icy wind and gloomy grey skies all day long.
At night we lay low at Aquatic Park, wrapped in blankets and sheets of plastic, wiping away cold tears from our eyes, watching the fog light up from the July 4th fireworks.
For us San Franciscans, in summertime instead of putting on our swimsuits we put on our snowsuits.
July 4th 7PM On the Crookedest Street (Lombard), bundled-up tourists snap photos of distant Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill. The usual East Bay / Berkeley views are wiped out.