Staging Utopia on the Boardwalk

Bryant Simon

in Boardwalk of Dreams

Published in print August 2004 | ISBN: 9780195167535
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199789016 | DOI:
 Staging Utopia on the Boardwalk

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The Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, reigned as a middle-class “American Utopia”, giving middle-class visitors a safe and comfortable place where they could show off by imitating the rich. The showing off didn't end with the visitors. Atlantic City's set designers — architects, interior decorators, store owners, and amusement pier operators — constructed an over-the-top, fantastic backdrop for the Boardwalk. Business and political leaders also made an impact: through gentle urging, legal sanction, and official force, they tried to get everyone in the right place, saying the right things, so that middle-class visitors could pretend to be whom they wanted to be while in town. The ability of Atlantic City's tourist merchants to recreate middle-class dreams of democratic ascent alongside racial and class exclusion caused tens of millions of Americans to flock to the Jersey resort in the middle of the 20th century.

Keywords: Boardwalk; middle class; resort; tourism

Chapter.  11801 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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