Atlantic City Entertainment

Atlantic City has never been a conventional city and the history of the local entertainment industry is a fascinating one. It all started in the late 1800’s when Atlantic City was at its most famous as a beach playground of the wealthy and eminently connected.

The Steel Pier

The famous Boardwalk was constructed to keep the encroaching sands from literally burying the city, but it had a more important role to play in the growth of the infant resort.

Very soon a number of piers were constructed off the boardwalk into the ocean, and one of these piers, Steel Pier, became the venue of some really remarkable shows. In an effort to attract patronage, the shows became more and more outlandish and they offered entertainment of a markedly unique character – some would even say bizarre!

The Diving Horses

Possibly the most famous of these ‘acts’ was that of the Diving Horses. A horse and rider would plunge 60 feet into 10 foot of water below, all in the name of entertainment! Remarkably, this rather merciless exploit continued for over 76 years and only ceased when Resorts International bought Steel Pier in 1978.

What is worth mentioning is that they horses were adequately trained for the event and many witnesses recall that the horses seemed to enjoy crashing into the ocean with an enormous splash!

Dr Couney’s Premature Baby Exhibit

Another odd bit of memorabilia describes a Dr Martin Couney exhibiting premature babies in incubators on the Boardwalk. A German by birth, the doctor called his first exhibition in Berlin the ‘Kinderbrutanstalt’, which literally translated means the ‘child hatchery’.

He travelled the world with his exhibit and attracted huge crowds in Earl’s Court in London, Coney Island and Atlantic City in the States and his home town of Berlin.

The intrepid doctor would only take in premature infants weighing less than three pounds, and together with his trusty nursing aides, took care of the infants until they were big enough to be returned to their mothers. Over the years the good doctor handled over 8000 premature infants and he allegedly saved the lives of more than 6500 of them.

Miss America Pageant

In an effort to draw more visitors to the city of fun in the off season, a bathing beauty contest was mooted by the city fathers. The local newspaper moguls, who thought the idea was simply smashing, suggested that they increase their dwindling circulation by asking readers to send in photographs of beautiful girls in bathing suits.

The winners of the competition would compete against each other ‘live’ in Atlantic City and the overall winner would be crowned ‘Miss America’.

In 1921 the very first beauty pageant was held in Atlantic City with the contestants attired in rough woollen bathing suits and bloomers or leggings. The first Miss America was only 16 years old and was chosen for her athletic good looks and her obvious potential of “homemaking and motherhood”!

Atlantic city continued as the primary venue of the Miss America Pageant until 2006 when the show moved to the famed Las Vegas Strip.

These days the hotel-casinos offer far more conventional types of entertainment – top comedians and internationally acclaimed bands and musicians!