The Playful Crowd: Pleasure Places in the Twentieth Century

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Overview

During the first part of the twentieth century thousands of working-class New Yorkers flocked to Coney Island in search of a release from their workaday lives and the values of bourgeois society. On the other side of the Atlantic, British workers headed off to the beach resort of Blackpool for entertainment and relaxation. However, by the middle of the century, a new type of park began to emerge, providing well-ordered, squeaky-clean, and carefully orchestrated corporate entertainment. Contrasting the experiences of Coney Island and Blackpool with those of Disneyland and Beamish, Gary S. Cross and John K. Walton explore playful crowds and the pursuit of pleasure in the twentieth century to offer a transatlantic perspective on changing ideas about leisure, class, and mass culture.

Blackpool and Coney Island were the definitive playgrounds of the industrial working class. Teeming crowds partook of a gritty vulgarity that offered a variety of pleasures and thrills from roller coaster rides and freak shows to dance halls and dioramas of exotic locales. Responding to the new money and mobility of the working class, the purveyors of Coney Island and Blackpool offered the playful crowd an "industrial saturnalia."Cross and Walton capture the sights and sounds of Blackpool and Coney Island and consider how these "Sodoms by the sea" flouted the social and cultural status quo. The authors also examine the resorts' very different fates as Coney Island has now become a mere shadow of its former self while Blackpool continues to lure visitors and offer new attractions.

The authors also explore the experiences offered at Disneyland and Beamish, a heritage park that celebrates Britain's industrial and social history. While both parks borrowed elements from their predecessors, they also adapted to the longings and concerns of postwar consumer culture. Appealing to middle-class families, Disney provided crowds a chance to indulge in child-like innocence and a nostalgia for a simpler time. At Beamish, crowds gathered to find an escape from the fragmented and hedonistic life of modern society in a reconstructed realm of the past where local traditions and nature prevail.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

Social history at its best... Essential.

Institute of Historical Research (UK) - Brad Beaven

...A fascinating account of the changing nature of the pleasure-seeking crowd in the US and Britain during the twentieth century.

The American Historical Review - Susan Currell

Engaging... fascinating... excellent... a model of collaborative scholarship, this book contributes much to the history of twentieth-century amusements.

Journal of Social History - Scott C. Martin

The Playful Crowd succeeds admirably, both as comparative history and as a study of popular leisure.

Annals of Tourism Research - Auvo Kostiainen

A valuable book for students studying pleasure, leisure, and tourism.

Winterthur Portfolio - Thomas A. Chambers

The Playful Crowd does what few studies of leisure have attempted--compare tourism across time and space.

Choice

Social history at its best... Essential.

The Times Higher Education Supplement

This book, which is vividly and engagingly written, makes a major contribution to our knowledge and understanding of a cultural phenomenon.

Institute of Historical Research (UK)
...A fascinating account of the changing nature of the pleasure-seeking crowd in the US and Britain during the twentieth century.

— Brad Beaven, University of Portsmouth

The American Historical Review
Engaging... fascinating... excellent... a model of collaborative scholarship, this book contributes much to the history of twentieth-century amusements.

— Susan Currell

Journal of Social History
The Playful Crowd succeeds admirably, both as comparative history and as a study of popular leisure.

— Scott C. Martin

Winterthur Portfolio
The Playful Crowd does what few studies of leisure have attempted—compare tourism across time and space.

— Thomas A. Chambers, Niagara University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231127240
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 10/5/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Cross is professor of history at Penn State and the author of An All-Consuming Century (CUP, 2000); Time and Money: The Making of Consumerist Modernity (Routledge, 1993; A Quest for Time: The Reduction of Work in Britain and France, 1840-1940 (University of California Press, 1989) and A Social History of Leisure since 1600 (Venture, 1990)

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

1 Making the popular resort : Coney Island and Blackpool about 1900 11
2 Industrial saturnalia and the playful crowd 59
3 The crowd and its critics 97
4 Decline and reinvention : Coney Island and Blackpool 131
5 The Disney challenge 167
6 "Enrichment through enjoyment" : the Beamish museum in a theme park age 205
7 The crowd transformed? 239
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