By The Boardwalk


June 26, 1870
The Atlantic City Boardwalk

Pull on a wool flannel bathing suit or hop on a rolling chair, it’s time to go to Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1800s.

Atlantic City grew from Dr. Jonathan Pitney’s idea to make the New Jersey shore into a health resort. Development began in 1850. Atlantic City, with its beautiful beaches and luxurious hotels, soon became a popular summer resort and winter health spa.

What kind of suit would you wear to the beach in the late 1800s? Women beach goers at that time wore bathing dresses of wool flannel with stockings, canvas shoes, and large straw hats. Censors roamed the beach looking for bathers who showed too much flesh.

What could you do in Atlantic City after your day at the beach?

You could stroll down the famous boardwalk and shop, eat saltwater taffy, or sit in an elegant restaurant. Alexander Boardman, a railroad conductor, thought up the idea of constructing a wooden walkway from the beach into town as a means of keeping sand out of the hotels. On June 26, 1870, the first section of the Atlantic City boardwalk opened along the New Jersey beach. It was eight feet wide and one mile long. Soon the walkway was extended and stretched to five miles long. By 1884, if you didn’t want to walk, you could travel along the boardwalk in a rolling chair. The rolling chair was the only vehicle allowed on the boardwalk.

Can you think of an event that happens each year in Atlantic City today?

The Miss America pageant has been held in Atlantic City since 1940. Have you ever watched it? Atlantic City hosted beauty contests for years before the Miss America pageant, like the contest for the 1926 Golden Mermaid trophy. Which of these bathing beauties do you think could win a contest today?