The issue of casino gambling first appeared on a ballot for New Jersey voters on November 5, 1974. This initial referendum was defeated in 19 of New Jersey's 21 counties, with about 60% of votes cast against it.

A revised referendum, limiting gambling exclusively to the city limits of Atlantic City, was placed on the ballot November 2, 1976. The second referendum was approved by a slim margin, with approximately 1.5 million voters in favor of it and 1.14 million opposed. Atlantic City's first casino, Resorts International, opened on May 26, 1978.

Casino Employment and Vendor Business

In 2012, the casino industry in New Jersey employed more than 34,145 people, not including those workers who work in leased stores and restaurants within the casinos. Casinos purchased over $1 billion in goods and services from 1,808 New Jersey businesses.

Casino Revenues

Casino finances are usually reported in terms of gross revenue which is the amount casinos win from gamblers after all payouts have been made. Gross revenues were $2.9 billion 2013.

Casino Tax and Reinvestment Obligations

The state's 8 percent tax on casino gross revenues is devoted to the Casino Revenue Fund which funds programs that provide resources and services to disabled and senior citizens. Casinos are also required to invest 1.25 percent of their gaming revenues into projects screened and approved by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA). With a mandate to revitalize urban centers throughout the state, CRDA has funded a wide array of infrastructure, housing, economic, cultural and social development projects. The CRDA has invested more than $1.8 billion in these projects to date.

Casino Regulatory Agencies

The state agencies responsible for regulation and oversight of the casino industry are the Casino Control Commission (CCC) and the Department of Law & Public Safety Division of Gaming Enforcement. Legislation and regulations governing the operation of casinos in New Jersey are regarded as models by other jurisdictions where gambling has been legalized.

Operating Dates for Atlantic City Casinos

Resorts International (later known as: Merv Griffin's Resorts; Resorts Casino Atlantic City)

May 26, 1978
Caesar's Boardwalk Regency (later known as: Caesar's Atlantic City) June 26, 1979
Bally's Park Place (later known as: Bally's Atlantic City) December 29, 1979
The Brighton (later known as: Sands Hotel and Casino)

August 11, 1980
Closed November 11, 2006
Buildings imploded October 18, 2007

Harrah's Casino Hotel November 23, 1980
Golden Nugget at Boston Avenue (later known as: Bally's Grand; The Grand; Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort; ACH; Atlantic Club Casino Hotel)

December 12, 1980
Closed January 2014

Del Webb's Claridge and Hi-Ho Casino (later known as: Bally's Park Place & Claridge Hotel)

July 20, 1981
Merged into Bally's December 30, 2002
Sold February 2014; no longer an operating casino

Playboy Hotel & Casino (later known as: Atlantis; Trump Regency; Trump's World Fair) April 1981
Closed 1999
Building demolished 2001
Tropicana Casino and Resort (later known as: TropWorld, Tropicana) November 26, 1981
Harrah's Boardwalk Hotel Casino at Trump Plaza (later known as: Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.) May 26, 1984
Closed September 16, 2014
(Trump Plaza imploded February 17, 2021)
Trump Castle (later known as: Trump Marina Hotel and Casino; Golden Nugget in the Marina District) June 19, 1985
Showboat Casino Hotel

April 3, 1987
Closed August 31, 2014. Reopened as hotel only July 8, 2016

Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort (later known as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino) April 2, 1990
Closed October 10, 2016. Hard Rock opened June 27, 2018
Borgata Casino & Spa July 2, 2003
Revel Entertainment (later Ocean Casino Resort) May 25, 2012
Closed September 2, 2014. Ocean opened June 27, 2018

In July 2006, the casinos in Atlantic City were forced to cease gambling operations due to a state-wide budget crisis. State regulators, whose presence is required for gaming operations, were prohibited from working. The casino floors were closed for three days. Casinos were also shuttered during Hurricane Gloria in September 1985, Hurricane Irene in August 2011, and Superstorm Sandy in October and November 2012. On March 16, 2020, the casinos were forced to close temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Transcripts of legislative hearings, government reports and studies from the early years of casino development in Atlantic City
  • Periodicals covering the casino industry, such as:
    • Casino Chronicle, a weekly summary of news, financial and other business data from Atlantic City's casinos and the industry in general
    • Michael Pollocks Gaming Industry Observer, a bi-monthly analytical report on casino business
    • Casino Connection, the official publication of the Atlantic City casino industry issued monthly
    • Casino Journal, a monthly publication for casino information from around the world
    • Casino Player, casino information from the gamblers point of view
  • Annual and quarterly reports from the New Jersey Casino Control Commission and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority
  • The National Gambling Impact Study Commissions report issued in 1999

A number of books have been written examining the early and ongoing results of Atlantic City's experiment with gambling. These include:

Cialella, Edward Charles. Casino Gambling in New Jersey: A Case Study of Predictions. Ed.D dissertation, Temple University, 1984.
Examines the early outcome of predictions made by proponents and opponents of gambling legalization.

Demaris, Ovid. The Boardwalk Jungle. New York: Bantam, 1986.
Looks at organized crimes attempts to hijack Atlantic Citys nascent casino industry.

Mahon, Gigi. The Company that Bought the Boardwalk: A Reporters Story of How Resorts International Came to Atlantic City. New York: Random House, 1980.
Story of the first casino to open in Atlantic City, with extensive background on efforts to legalize gambling in New Jersey.

Pollock, Michael. Hostage to Fortune: Atlantic City and Casino Gambling. Princeton, NJ: Center for Analysis of Public Issues, 1987.
Overview of the combined impact of casino gambling and organized crime on Atlantic City. City politics and casino management are also examined.

Sternlieb, George and Hughes, James W. The Atlantic City Gamble. A Twentieth Century Fund Report. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.
Authors present the case that, in the first five years, the social and economic impact of casino gambling failed to live up to its promise.

Teski, Marea, et al. A City Revitalized. The Elderly Lose at Monopoly. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983.
Study of the "social dislocation and personal hardship connected with the revitalization" of Atlantic City following the legalization of casino gambling. Focus is on the city's senior citizens.

Give me a short history of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

When did casino gambling start in Atlantic City?

casino skyline The issue of casino gambling first appeared on a ballot for New Jersey voters on November 5, 1974. This initial referendum was defeated in 19 of New Jersey's 21 counties, with about 60% of votes cast against it. A revised referendum, limiting gambling exclusively to the city limits of Atlantic City, was placed on the ballot November 2, 1976. The second referendum was approved by a slim margin, with approximately 1.5 million voters in favor of it and 1.14 million opposed. Atlantic City's first casino, Resorts International, opened on May 26, 1978.

Read more about the History of Casino Gambling in Atlantic City

Where and when was the first boardwalk constructed?

boadrwalk1 The first boardwalk built in the United States was in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1870. A petition was presented to City Council on April 25, 1870 for the construction of a footwalk on the beach, and $5,000 in funds was allocated for construction. The footwalk opened to the public on June 26, 1870 and was eight feet wide, one mile long, and stood approximately one foot above the sand. Twenty-five years later Boardwalk was made an official street name in Atlantic City. (As an official street name, Boardwalk is always capitalized when referring to the street in Atlantic City.)

The deck of the Atlantic City Boardwalk is made of specially-treated yellow Southern pine with Douglas fir joists. As of 2001, the City Engineer uses Bethabara, a Brazilian wood, to replace damaged planks in the Boardwalk. The herringbone pattern dates from 1916. The Boardwalk’s supports are concrete-encased steel beams. The railings are galvanized aluminum.

Boardwalk from Steel Pier looking East. (1900, H009.Boardwalk004; ACFPL Heston Collection)
The current length of the Atlantic City Boardwalk is a little more than 4 miles. At the widest point, it is 60 feet wide, and it stands 12 feet above sea level. The combined length of the current Atlantic City and Ventnor Boardwalks is approximately 5.75 miles. The historic length of the Boardwalk, before the 1944 hurricane, was about 7 miles and it extended from Atlantic City, through Ventnor and Margate into Longport.

Over the years, the Boardwalk has been reconstructed to provide better access and stability:

  • The 2nd Boardwalk constructed in Atlantic City was opened about June, 1, 1880.
  • The 3rd Boardwalk opened about June 1, 1884.
  • The 4th Boardwalk was dedicated May 10, 1890.
  • The 5th Boardwalk was dedicated July 8, 1896.
Easter Promenade, Atlantic City. (Bef. 1907, H049.917.4985Boa153; ACFPL Heston Collection)

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

Frank Butler. Book of the Boardwalk. Atlantic City, NJ: Haines and Co., 1952.

W. Earle Hawkins. Atlantic City Boardwalk, Relighted. Cleveland, Ohio: Westinghouse Electric Corporation, 1954.

Vicki Gold Levi. Atlantic City, 125 Years of Ocean Madness. New York: C.N. Potter, distributed by Crown Publishing, 1979.

Jim Lilliefors. America's Boardwalks: from Coney Island to California. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006.

William S. Purdie, P.P. "Design Review: the Atlantic City Boardwalk, a photoessay of the Boardwalk." Atlantic County, NJ: Atlantic County Department of Regional Planning and Development, 1987.

James C. Rogers. A Walk By the Sea: the story of the wonderful Atlantic City Boardwalk. [?]: [?], 1926.

Emil R. Salvini. Boardwalk Memories: tales of the Jersey Shore. Guilford, Conn.: Insider's Guide, 2006.

Subject File:
Boardwalk - Centennial, 1970
Boardwalk - Trams

Archival Collections:
ACFPL Collection of Atlantic City Photographs, Boardwalk 90th Anniversary Photo Collection

ACFPL Film Collection

Please see the Heston Collection Indexes at the Reference Desk to locate other photographs and postcards on this subject.

What is salt water taffy?

taffy A popular, sticky Boardwalk treat, the term "salt water taffy" originated on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in the 1880s.

The first to sell a taffy confection of any sort on the Boardwalk, so far as can be discovered, were Ritchie Brothers and Windle W. Hollis, both of whom sold taffy about 1880. Popular legend says that another candy seller, David Bradley, who operated a candy stand at St. James Place and the Boardwalk, had an accident one night in August 1883. A storm splashed seawater over his candy stock. The story continues that a young lady purchased some taffy the next day, and Bradley remarked that it was "Salt Water Taffy". The name stuck, and because Bradley did not copyright or trademark the product, other candy-makers used it to advertise their own taffy.

The first mention of a Salt Water Taffy business in the Atlantic City City Directory was in 1889 under the name "Hollis, Windle W., Original Salt Water Taffy". Today, there are numerous sellers of the colorful treat on the Boardwalk and beyond.

Would you like to make your own salt water taffy? Try this recipe at Exploratorium.

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

Frank Butler. Book of the Boardwalk. Atlantic City, NJ: Haines and Co., 1952.

Arthur H. Gager III. The History of Salt Water Taffy and the Life of Joseph F. Fralinger. N.p.: 2 ed., 1983.

Bryant Simon. Boardwalk of Dreams. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Subject Files:
Salt Water Taffy

Archival Collections:
Please see the Heston Collection Indexes at the Reference Desk to locate photographs and postcards on this subject.

I'd like a list of the Mayors of Atlantic City.

Mayors of Atlantic City

Name   Year(s) as Mayor
Chalkley S. Leeds  H088.CityofAC Leeds 1854 - May 26, 1856
Richard Hacket   May 26, 1856 - June 23, 1856
John G.W. Avery  H088.CityofAC Avery June 1856 - 1857
Dr. Lewis Reed  H088.CityofAC Reed 1858 - 1861
Chalkley S. Leeds  H088.CityofAC Leeds 1862
Jacob Middleton  H088.CityofAC Middleton 1863 - 1864
Robert T. Evard  H088.CityofAC Evard 1865
David W. Belisle  H088.CityofAC Belisle 1866 - 1867
Lemuel C. Eldridge   1868 (three months)
John J. Gardner gardener 1868 - 1872
Charles Souder  H088.CityofAC Souder 1873
John J. Gardner H088.CityofAC Gardner 1874 - 1875
Willard Wright  H088.CityofAC Wright 1876 - 1877
John L. Bryant  H088.CityofAC Bryant 1878
Willard Wright  H088.CityofAC Wright 1879
Harry L. Slape  H088.CityofAC Slape 1880
Willard Wright  H088.CityofAC Wright 1881
Charles Maxwell  H088.CityofAC Maxwell 1882 - 1885
Thomas C. Garrett  H088.CityofAC Garrett 1886
Samuel D. Hoffman  H088.CityofAC Hoffman 1887 - 1891
Willard Wright  H088.CityofAC Wright 1892 - 1893
Franklin P. Stoy  H088.CityofAC Stoy 1894 - 1897
Joseph Thompson  H088.CityofAC Thompson 1898 - 1899
Franklin P. Stoy  H088.CityofAC Stoy March 20, 1900 - July 22, 1911
George Carmany  H088.CityofAC Carmany 1911 (six months)
Harry Bacharach bacharach mayor  - May 1912
William Riddle  H088.CityofAC Riddle 1912 - 1916
Harry Bacharach H088.CityofAC Bacharach002 1916 - 1920
Edward L. Bader H088.CityofAC Bader 1920 - January 29, 1927
Anthony M. Ruffu, Jr.  H088.CityofAC Ruffu 1927 - June 1930
Joseph Paxson (acting mayor)   1930 (three weeks)
Harry Bacharach H088.CityofAC Bacharach001 July 10, 1930 - July 18, 1935
Charles D. White  H088.CityofAC White July 1935 - 1940
Thomas D. Taggart, Jr.  H088.CityofAC Taggart May 1940 - 1944
Joseph Altman  H088.CityofAC Altman 1944 - January 10, 1967
John A. O'Donnell (acting mayor)   January 10, 1967 - January 17, 1967
Richard S. Jackson  H088.CityofAC Jackson January 17, 1967 - November 10, 1969
William T. Somers  H088.CityofAC Somers November 12, 1969 - May 1972
Joseph Bradway, Jr.  H088.CityofAC Bradway May 16, 1972 - March 1976
Joseph Lazarow lazarow mayor May 1976 - July 1, 1982
Michael J. Matthews  H088.CityofAC Matthews July 1, 1982 - March 14, 1984
James L. Usry  H088.CityofAC Usry March 14, 1984 - July 2, 1990
James Whelan  H088.CityofAC Whelan July 2, 1990 - December 31, 2001
Lorenzo Langford H088.CityofAC Langford001 December 31, 2001 - January 1, 2006
Robert Levy  H088.CityofAC Levy January 1, 2006 - October 10, 2007
William Marsh (acting mayor)  H088.CityofAC Marsh October 10, 2007 - November 21, 2007
Scott K. Evans evans mayor November 21, 2007 - November 13, 2008
Lorenzo Langford H088.CityofAC Langford002 November 13, 2008 - January 1, 2014
Donald A. Guardian  ACMayorDonGuardian2016website January 1, 2014 - December 31, 2017
Frank M. Gilliam Jr.  frankgilliam January 1, 2018 - October 3, 2019
Marty Small Sr.  martysmall October 4, 2019 - present
From 1854 to 1886, the mayor’s term of office was one year. From 1886 to 1912, the mayor’s term of office was two years. In 1912, the term of office became four years.

In November 2000, Atlantic City voters approved a referendum changing the date and form of municipal elections. Previously held in May, the date for elections was moved to November, and political party affiliation was included on the ballot. The first election following the referendum was held in November 2001, and the new mayoral term began on January 1, 2002.

The city’s first African-American mayor was James L. Usry. Atlantic City has never had an elected female mayor.

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

Detroit Bureau of Governmental Research. The Government of the City of Atlantic City, New Jersey: a report prepared for the Atlantic City Survey Commission. Detroit, Mich.: The Bureau, 1930. [photocopy]
Butler, Frank. Book of the Boardwalk. Atlantic City, NJ: Haines and Co., 1952.
English, A.L. History of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Philadelphia, Pa.: Dickson and Gilling: 1884.
Heston, Alfred M. History of Atlantic City Hall and Jail. [Atlantic City, NJ]: Alfred M. Heston, 1901.
Paulsson, Martin W. Politics and Progressivism in Atlantic City: a brief hour of reform. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms, 1992. [photocopy]
University of Pennsylvania, Government Study Group, Department of Political Science. A New Government for Atlantic City: a strong mayor strong council plan. [Philadelphia, Pa.]:University of Pennsylvania, 1979.

Subject File:
Mayors of Atlantic City
Atlantic City - City Hall Officials
Additionally, there are biography files for most of the mayors, by last name.

Archival Collections:
Mayor Thomas Taggart Papers
Please see the Heston Collection Indexes at the Reference Desk to locate photographs and postcards on this subject.

How did the Miss America Pageant start?

As early as 1902, Atlantic City merchants promoted a Floral Parade of bathing beauties. In the early parade, the decorated rolling chairs were judged, rather than the ladies riding in them.

In 1921, as a device for extending the summer season beyond Labor Day, some Atlantic City businessmen organized a small-scale beauty contest. Seven cities in the Northeast each sent a "beauty maid" to represent them in the contest during the first week of September. The first winner was sixteen year-old Margaret Gorman, representing Washington, D.C., who was awarded a Golden Mermaid statue and the title "Miss America". The first contestants, clad in bathing suits, were judged solely on their appearance. From this two-day event evolved the Miss America Pageant.

Research the Miss America Pageant and its history in Atlantic City

How did Chicken Bone Beach get its name?

chickenboneThe sandy stretch from Missouri Avenue to Ohio Avenue was a dedicated area where African Americans could enjoy the Atlantic City Beach from 1900 until the early 1950s. This segregated beach came to be known as Chicken Bone Beach, as families and visitors arrived for a day at the beach with chicken dinners packed in picnic baskets.

African American visitors to Chicken Bone Beach included Sammy Davis, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, the Club Harlem showgirls, Jackie Robinson, Lena Horne, and Sugar Ray Robinson. Musicians would hold impromptu concerts on the stretch, while children and adults splashed in the ocean and played on the sand. The Atlantic City Beach Patrol employed an all-black patrol that guarded Chicken Bone Beach at Missouri. The first black beach patrol captain was William Rube Albouy.

The City of Atlantic City designated Chicken Bone Beach as a local historic site on August 6, 1997. Currently, a historical foundation exists to promote family programs and activities at Missouri Avenue, including a summer jazz concert series.

Chicken Bone Beach Historical Foundation

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

Charles E. Funnell By the Beautiful Sea: the rise and high times of that great resort Atlantic City. New York: Knopf, 1975.

Levi, Vicki Gold. Atlantic City, 125 Years of Ocean Madness. New York: C.N. Potter, 1979.

Subject Files:

Chicken Bone Beach
Black History in Atlantic City

Archival Collections:

"30 Years, 30 Voices" Oral History Project, 2008: Interview with Henrietta Shelton
Chicken Bone Beach Collection
Audrey Hart Photograph Collection
Please see the Heston Collection Indexes at the Reference Desk to locate some of the photographs and postcards on this subject.

What is a jitney?

jitney1997 The word "jitney" is a slang word for nickel, which is what it cost in 1915 for a ride in one of Atlantic City's earliest buses.  Even though the price has increased over the years, the name stuck and today you can still hop on a jitney to travel around Atlantic City.

The first jitneys in Atlantic City date to March 1915 and looked very similar to regular cars. They were large, black Ford model-T touring cars which used a rope-and-pulley system to open the back doors. Over the years, there have been more than eight different designs and at least four different colors for the Atlantic City jitneys. The current version, introduced in 1997, is a thirteen-passenger light-blue mini-bus by Champion Motor Coach. In 1982, a retired 1963 jitney was donated to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History.

An Atlantic City jitney, ca. 1997. (Photograph
courtesy of the Atlantic City Jitney Association website.

The Atlantic City Jitney Association, established in 1915, claims to be the longest-running unsubsidized transit company in the United States. Each jitney is individually owned and operated, and drivers keep the fares. The Association awards the franchises and regulates the appearance of the buses and drivers; the Association also issues fines for violations and holds its own traffic court.By Atlantic City ordinance, the number of jitney franchises is limited to 190. City ordinance also regulates the price per trip and controls the jitney routes. Most of the jitneys routes run along Pacific Avenue. A jitney shuttle also runs from the Atlantic City Train Station to the various Casinos. For jitney routes and prices, please visit the Atlantic City Jitney Association website.

Jitney with driver posing. (1950, H009.388.4Jit1011; ACFPL Heston Collection)


City of Atlantic City. City Ordinances, 1915-1917, 1920, 2008, and other years.

A.M. Heston, compiler. Clippings: trolley and jitney wars of Atlantic City 1888-1889, 1915-1916.

"Jitneys of Atlantic City." Motor Coach Today, vol. 4, no. 2 (April –June 1997).

"The Vogue of the Jitney." The Detective, vol. XXI, part 11 (June 1915).

Subject Files:

Archival Collections:
Please see the Heston Collection Indexes at the Reference Desk to locate photographs and postcards on this subject.

What is the connection between the game Monopoly and Atlantic City?

oldmonopoloy Charles B. Darrow, an unemployed salesman and inventor living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania struggling to support his family in the years following the great stock market crash of 1929, is credited with inventing Monopoly as we know it. Darrow remembered his summers spent in Atlantic City, New Jersey and spent his spare time drawing the streets of Atlantic City on his kitchen tablecloth, with found pieces of material, paints, and wood contributed by local merchants. A game was already forming in his mind as he built little hotels, houses and other tokens to go along with his painted streets.

Soon friends and family gathered nightly to sit round the kitchen table to buy, rent and sell real estate, all part of a game involving spending vast sums of play money. It quickly became a favorite activity among those with little real cash of their own. The friends soon wanted copies of the game to play at home (especially the winners.) The accommodating inventor began selling copies of his board game for four dollars each. He then made up a few sets and offered them to department stores in Philadelphia.

Photograph of Monopoly Board ca. 1935. (H009.Monopoly002; ACFPL Heston Collection)
Orders for the game increased to the point where Darrow decided to try to sell the game to a game manufacturer rather than going into full-scale manufacturing. He wrote to Parker Brothers to see if the company would be interested in producing and marketing the game on a national basis. The company turned down Darrow’s offer, explaining that his game contained "fifty-two fundamental errors", including that the game took too long to play, the rules were too complicated and there was no clear goal for the winner.

Darrow continued to manufacture the game; he hired a friend in the printing business to produce five thousand copies. He filled orders from department stores including F. A. O. Schwarz. One of his customers was a friend of Sally Barton, the wife of Parker Brothers' president, George Parker. The friend told Mrs. Barton about how much fun Monopoly was, and the friend also suggested that Mrs. Barton tell her husband. Mr. Barton listened to his wife and bought a copy of the game. He arranged to discuss business with Darrow in Parker Brothers' New York office and offered to buy the game and give Charles Darrow royalties on all sets sold. Darrow accepted in 1935 and permitted Parker Brothers to develop a shorter variation on the game, included as an option to the rules.

The royalties from Monopoly made Charles Darrow a millionaire, the first game inventor to make that much money. In 1970, a few years after Darrow's death, Atlantic City erected a commemorative plaque in his honor. It stands on the Boardwalk, near the corner of Park Place.

monopoly tribute
Charles B. Darrow Boardwalk plaque at Boardwalk and Park Place. (Undated, H009.Monopoly001; ACFPL Heston Collection)

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

Maxine Brady. The Monopoly Book: strategy and tactics of the world’s most popular game. New York: D. McKay Co., 1974.

Rod Kennedy, Jr. and Jim Waltzer. Monopoly, the story behind the world’s best-selling game. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 2004.

Philip Orbanes. The Monopoly Companion. Boston, Mass.: Bob Adams, Inc., 1988.

Noel Gunther and Richard Hutton. Beyond Boardwalk and Park Place: the unauthorized guide to making Monopoly fun again. New York: Bantam Books, 1986.

Subject Files:

Archival Collections:
ACFPL Game Collection

ACFPL Collection of Atlantic City Photographs – Uncataloged Photographs by subject

What is the origin of the rolling chairs on the Boardwalk?

rollingchair At the Philadelphia Convention in 1876 rolling chairs were first introduced for recreational use. These early chairs, which accommodated only one person, closely resembled wheelchairs (or invalid chairs) of that time. The chairs arrived in Atlantic City by 1884, when Philadelphia merchant Harry D. Shill started offering them for rent. In 1887, William Hayday, who owned a hardware store near the Boardwalk, started renting similar wheelchairs to vacationers in Atlantic City and provided attendants to push the chairs.

When the first Boardwalk was laid out in 1870, vehicles of any kind were prohibited. The construction of the third Boardwalk in 1884 was more accessible to vehicles, and wheelchairs were allowed for the use of handicapped persons. Some individuals pretended to need the chairs. City authorities made no objection to this, and the practice grew. The City began licensing rolling chairs in 1891, charging a $10 fee for each chair.
Early Rolling Chair. (H009.388.341Rol; ACFPL Heston Collection)


Frank Butler. Book of the Boardwalk. Haines and Co.: Atlantic City, NJ, 1952.
A.E. Seidel.  100 Years of Boardwalk Rolling Chairs.  N.p.: Atlantic City, NJ, 1984.
Bryant Simon. Boardwalk of Dreams. Oxford University Press: New York, 2004.

Subject Files:
Rolling Chairs
Rolling Chairs News Excerpts (388.341 Rol)

Archival Collections:
Please see the Heston Collection indexes at the Reference Desk to locate postcards and photographs on this subject.

When did Steel Pier open?

old steelpier Steel Pier originally opened in 1898 and takes its name from the iron pilings driven into the ocean ground, which are topped by steel girders. The original pier jutted out 1,621 feet from the Boardwalk and cost $350.000 to build.

Billed as "the Showplace of the Nation", it quickly became known for showcasing the world's top entertainers. From the 1920s through the 1950s, everyone who was anyone played Steel Pier. Annie Oakley headlined the opening festivities on June 18, 1898. W.C. Fields was a member of the minstrel group that appeared during the Pier's inaugural season, but headline appearances quickly followed for him and many others. Guy Lombardo, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Bob Hope, Amos 'n Andy, Frank Sinatra - all entertained on Steel Pier. Many Big Bands launched their careers with a stint on Steel Pier. The Diving Horse was also a mainstay on Steel Pier for many years.

Steel Pier with airplane flying over. (1930, H009.624.158Ste061; ACFPL Heston Collection)
After a 1982 fire, the Steel Pier was revived as an amusements-only attraction in 1993. For many years, it was one of the few family friendly spots in town. The Pier itself is currently owned by Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc. and includes amusements and attractions for all ages. For hours, ticket information, and information on rides and attractions, see the Steel Pier website.

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

Jim Futrell. Amusement Parks of New Jersey. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2004.

Steve Leibowitz. Steel Pier, Atlantic City: Showplace of the Nation. West Creek, NJ: Down the Shore Pub., 2009.

Vicki Gold Levi. Atlantic City, 125 Years of Ocean Madness. New York: C.N. Potter, distributed by Crown Publishers, 1979.

Jim Waltzer and Tom Wilk. Tales of South Jersey: Profiles and Personalities. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001.

Subject Files:
Diving Horse
Piers – Steel Pier
Piers – Steel Pier Programs

Archival Collections:
ACFPL Collection of Atlantic City Photographs, Steel Pier Ford Motor Co. Exhibit Photographs, 1940

ACFPL Film Collection

Please see the Heston Collection Indexes at the Reference Desk to locate photographs and postcards on this subject.

What is the history of the diving horse?

diving horse 2 One of the most famous acts on the Boardwalk - and one of the iconic symbols of old Atlantic City - was the Diving Horse act that was introduced to Steel Pier in the late 1920s and continued until 1978. A revised version of the act was briefly resurrected for a few months in 1993.

According to Atlantic City historian Allen "Boo" Pergament, William F. "Doc" Carver, a former show partner of "Buffalo Bill" Cody invented the diving horse act in 1881 after a wooden bridge gave way under him, and he and his horse fell into the Platte River in Nebraska. He turned this episode into an act and performed it at county fairs. Frank P. Gravatt, an Atlantic City hotel builder, brought the act to Steel Pier in 1928.

Sisters Sonora Webster Carver and Arnette Webster French were among the first diving horse riders. In August 1931, Sonora Webster Carver was blinded in a diving accident when the horse landed badly. She continued to dive, though. Her story was depicted in the 1991 Walt Disney movie, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken.

Diving Horse in Mid-Flight. (1930, H009.624.158Div582; ACFPL Heston Collection)
Below is an incomplete list of the Atlantic City diving horse riders and the years they dove:

Lorena (or Leonora) Carver, 1913-1938
Sonora Webster Carver, 1923-1942
Shae Chandler
Josephine Knox DeAngelis, 1935-1942 
Patty Dolan
Margaret (or Marjorie) Downs, 1933-1934 
Arnette Webster French, 1928, 1931-1935
Olive Gelnaw
Barbara E. Gose, 1967
Grace, 1936
Florence Virginia Thompson Griffith
Marion S. Hackney
Lynne Jordan, 1960s
Marie, 1929, 1931
Terrie McDevitt, 1976-1978
Ann Miles, 1960s
Elsa Rahr

Some of the diving horses were:

Duchess of Lightning (or Lightning)
John the Baptist
Lorga (or Lorgah)
Powderface (or Powder Face)
Pure as Snow (or Snow)
Red Lips
Silver King

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

Sonora Carver. A Girl and Five Brave Horses. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1961.

Linda Oatman High. The Girl on the High-diving Horse. New York: Philomel Books, 2003.

Vicki Gold Levi. Atlantic City, 125 Years of Ocean Madness. New York: C.N. Potter, distributed by Crown Publishers, 1979.

Jim Waltzer and Tom Wilk. Tales of South Jersey: Profiles and Personalities. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001.

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. Walt Disney, 1991. (video and DVD)

Subject Files:
Carver, Lorena
Diving Horse
Downs, Margaret H.
Piers – Steel Pier Programs

Archival Collections:
Please see the Heston Collection Indexes at the Reference Desk to locate photographs and postcards on this subject.

When did the first picture postcards appear in the United States?

old postcard Some older sources incorrectly report that picture postcards first appeared in Atlantic City. The first picture postcards in the United States appeared at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition. These were sold in a vending machine in sets of 10.

Carl Voelker, Sr., publisher of a local newspaper, introduced the first Atlantic City picture postcards in 1893 or 1896. His wife brought the idea home to Atlantic City after a visit to Germany. The Voelkers printed cards with scenes of Atlantic City in color. Many early Atlantic City postcards were printed in Germany.
Young's Hotel and Pier. (1911, H049.647.94You570; ACFPL Heston Collection)

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

Lida Hall. Atlantic City Remembered: thirty-two postcards made from antique postcards. Atlantic City, NJ: Chelsea Press, 1979.

James D. Ristine. Atlantic City. Arcadia Publishing, 2008.

Archival Collections:

ACFPL Collection of Atlantic City Postcards

Anthony J. Kutschera Postcard Collection

Where is the All Wars Memorial Building?

In the 1920s, Atlantic City erected two buildings in memory of the area’s war veterans.

allwars1 The All Wars Memorial Building at 814 Pacific Avenue opened on April 24, 1924. It was used as headquarters for the City’s white veterans’ groups. The building boasted a 600-seat auditorium and a dining room that seated 280. This building was purchased and demolished by the Trump organization in the 1990s.
All Wars Memorial Building at Night
(Pacific Ave.)
. (1935, H009.725.94All309; ACFPL Heston Collection)
The other building, known variously as the Westside or Northside All Wars Memorial Building or the Old Soldiers’ Home, is located at 1510 Adriatic Avenue. It was dedicated on August 15, 1925 and served as a center for the resort’s black veterans. The building originally included dormitories, which were later converted in two 1,500-seat auditoriums and meeting rooms.

Rheims Post 564 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars began campaigning in 1920 for a building for veterans. Wounded veterans were often sent to the seashore to recover, but there was not a home for black veterans. In February 1921, the City commissioners authorized the construction of “a building to be dedicated to public use as a permanent memorial commemorative of the services of the soldiers and sailors of the colored race of the City of Atlantic City, who have served in any war in which the United States has participated” (City of Atlantic City Public Ordinance No. 6, 1921). Various individuals and corporations donated more than $45,500 for the construction of the Old Soldiers’ Home.

The Old Soldier’s Home served as the center for the City’s Northside residents and members of that area’s Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the United Spanish War Veterans for many years.

As of 1998, the building was not listed on the National Historic Register. In 2005, the City of Atlantic City decided to renovate the Old Soldiers’ Home, expending $11.2 million for the project. The renovation includes two additions, making the structure 29,100 square feet. The renovated building includes three ballrooms, improved kitchens, tennis courts, and a memorial to the resort’s soldiers. The project was completed in 2008 and the building was reopened for public use. allwars2
All Wars Memorial Building Renovations, from the corner of  New York and Drexel Avenues.
(2008, H009.AllWars2008.corner of NY and Drexel)
[Gary Baker, for the City of Atlantic City]

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

City of Atlantic City, Public Ordinances, 1919-1924.

Subject Files:
Parks/Memorials/Monuments – War Memorials – All Wars Memorial Building

Archival Collection:
All Wars Memorial Buliding [Pacific Avenue building] Guest Book, 1924-1933. [Part of H041, Col. John Jacob Astor Camp #28 Records.]

Please see the Heston Collection Indexes at the Reference Desk to locate photographs and postcards on this subject.

Why does Atlantic City claim to have the first “airport”?

airport Bader Field and Planes. (1969, H009.387.7Bad410; ACFPL Heston Collection)

The name "airport" was coined in Atlantic City to designate its airfield, Edward L. Bader Field, which was accessible from both air and water. No actual record exists for who is responsible for the name, but two stories exist. Henry Woodhouse, one of the owners of the field is said to have come up with the name when it opened on May 10, 1919. A second story tells of a newspaperman, William B. Dill, editor of The Press of Atlantic City, first using the term. What is known is that immediately following the 1910 Atlantic City Aero Show, in which the airplanes took off from the beach, famous air-traveler Augustus Post wrote an article entitled "Atlantic City, the New Air Port".

On September 30, 2006, Bader Field closed. At that time, it was the oldest operational municipal airport in the country. There are no definite plans for the property at this time.

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

Frank Butler. Book of the Boardwalk. Atlantic City, NJ: Haines and Co., 1952.

Col. Lester E. Hopper. Civil Air Patrol Oral History Program: Interview of Ms. Mairlou Crescenzo Eggenweiler. El Paso, Texas, 1984.

Atlantic City Airports: clippings, 1941-1970. Atlantic City, NJ: Atlantic City Free Public Library, 1994.

Subject Files:

Aviation - Airports and Airlines – Bader Field
Aviation History
Aviation History - Aero Show Meet 1910
History of Atlantic City – Firsts

Archival Collections:
ACFPL Collection of Atlantic City Photographs, Aero Show Meet, 1910

ACFPL Collection of Atlantic City Photographs, Civil Air Patrol

Please see the Heston Collection Indexes at the Reference Desk to locate other photographs and postcards on this subject.

Who was Sarah Spencer Washington?

sarah spencer "Madame Washington" as she was widely known, was a millionaire black businesswoman and founded the Apex News & Hair Company. She was born June 6, 1889 in Beckley, Virginia and died March 23, 1953 in Atlantic City. In 1913 she started a hairdressing business in Atlantic City, and later expanded the business, teaching students and developing beauty products. In 1920, noting the lack of beauty products for African Americans, she founded the Apex News & Hair Company. Apex maintained a lab and school in Atlantic City, as well as an office in New York City. Eventually her beauty colleges were located in twelve states and there were 35,000 agents all over the world. After Washington’s death, her daughter, Joan Cross Washington, led the company until it was sold.

Madame Washington has been called one of the most important business executives in the black community. She was honored at the 1939 New York World's Fair as one of the "Most Distinguished Businesswomen". She founded a nursing home - Apex Rest - for the elderly in Atlantic City, and after encountering discrimination at the local golf course, she established her own for people of all races to enjoy a round of golf. She initiated an Easter Parade for African Americans in Atlantic City when they were denied entry to the annual event on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. She was also an active member of the Atlantic City Board of Trade.

Sarah Spencer Washington, proprietor of Apex News & Hair Co. (1940s, H038.Apex001; ACFPL Heston Collection)

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

Atlantic City Board of Trade. Board of Trade: Annual Directory. Atlantic City, NJ: The Board, various years.

Richlyn F. Goddard. Three Months to Hurry and Nine Months to Worry: resort life for African Americans in Atlantic City, NJ 1850-1940.Ph.D. dissertation. Washington, DC: Howard University, 2001.

Subject Files:
Black Businesses
Sara Spencer Washington

Archival Collections:
Apex Country Club Photograph Collection

Sarah Spencer Washington Exhibit Materials

Who was Nucky Johnson?

nucky Enoch L. "Nucky" Johnson was an Atlantic City political boss and racketeer who unofficially ran the Republican political machine that controlled Atlantic City and Atlantic County from the 1910s - 1930s. Born in 1883 in Smithville, New Jersey, "Nucky" (a nickname derived from his first name) was allegedly involved in promoting bootlegging during Prohibition, illegal gambling activities and prostitution. Johnson's trademark was a fresh red carnation in his lapel, and he frequently wore a full-length raccoon coat in the winter.

Johnson graduated from Atlantic City High School in 1900. In 1905, he was appointed undersheriff (his father was sheriff), and in 1908, he was elected sheriff when his father's term expired. He became secretary of the powerful Atlantic County Republican Executive Committee in 1909. In 1911, local political boss Louis Kuehnle was convicted on corruption charges and imprisoned; Johnson allegedly succeeded him as boss. Officially, Johnson held various jobs, including Atlantic County Treasurer (1914), County Tax Collector, publisher of a weekly newspaper, bank director, president of a building and loan company, director of a Philadelphia brewery, and salesman for an oil company (after 1945).

In May 1939, after an extensive federal investigation, Nucky Johnson was indicted for income tax evasion in the sum of $125,000. He was convicted in July 1941 and sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. He entered Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary on August 11, 1941, was paroled on August 15, 1945, and took a pauper's oath to avoid paying the fine. Johnson died on December 9, 1968 at the Atlantic County Convalescent Home in Northfield, New Jersey.

Related Resources in the Heston Collection

Grace Anselmo D'Amato. Chance of a Lifetime: Nucky Johnson, Skinny D'Amato and How Atlantic City Became the Naughty Queen of Resorts. Harvey Cedars, NJ: Down the Shore Publishing, 2001.

Nelson Johnson. Boardwalk Empire: the birth, high times, and corruption of Atlantic City. Medford, NJ: Plexus, 2002.

William McMahon. So Young, So Gay! Atlantic City, NJ: Press Publishing, 1970.

John Stoneburg. The Boardwalk Empire: the Nucky Johnson story. [S.l.: n.p.], [1968].

US Department of Justice and US Department of Treasury. The Case of Enoch L. Johnson: a complete report of the Atlantic City investigation conducted jointly by the Treasury Department and the Department of Justice. [United States: n.p.], [1942].

Chick Yeager. The Republican Boss Era of Atlantic City, 1900-1971. [S.l.: n.p.], 1981.

Subject Files:
Enoch "Nucky" Johnson
Nelson Johnson
Organized Crime

Archival Collections:
ACFPL Collection of Atlantic City Photographs

ACFPL Living History Project (interviews that mention Nucky Johnson include #2 Leon Binder, #23 Frank Hires, # 27 Leslie Kammerman, #33 James Latz, #52 Eddie Solitaire, and Anonymous Interview #5 "Chester").

Atlantic City Board of Trade advertising pamphlets

Who was Alfred Heston?

When Alfred Heston died in 1937 at the age of 83, he left behind a rich legacy of enduring achievements and service to Atlantic City. His commitment to civic service was evident in his roles as cityalfred heston official, newspaper editor and publisher, historian and author, founder of the Atlantic City Hospital and trustee of the Atlantic City Free Public Library. His innovative approaches to promoting the city contributed to the continuing development of Atlantic City as a resort.

As a public official he was well known for his independence and opposition to unethical practices in city government. First elected in 1895 as City Comptroller, he served in this position for many years. In 1912, City Council ousted him from the Comptroller's office after he refused to buy stock in a city contractor's street paving company and then rejected what he believed to be a spurious payment claim from the same company. In a statement to supporters he said:

Defeated? By no means. On the contrary, I have won a great victory. Plato says that conquest of self is the greatest of all victories. By subjecting my own interests to those of the public, I have won a greater victory than that of the man who has thrust me out of office. I have refused to do the bidding of those who seemed to care little for the public but who have had an eye on the main chance.
In his subsequent run for the post of City Commissioner in 1912, he was defeated, probably because he refused to align himself with any political factions. During the election he made it clear he "had no connection with any political machine and recognized no boss other than the general public." He was elected City Treasurer in 1914 with a vote that was, at the time, the largest ever cast for a candidate for any public office in the history of Atlantic City. A legal ambiguity concerning the direct election of a city treasurer led to the Board of Commissioners rejecting the vote but then appointing Heston to the position themselves. This in turn paved the way for his ouster from office a year later after he once again found himself at odds with corrupt political interests.

Heston had a notable newspaper career in the region, beginning with The West Jersey Press in Camden where he learned the printing trade right after completing high school in Philadelphia. Within a few years he became editor of the newspaper and subsequently went on to The Salem Standard and The Bridgeton Chronicle. In 1884 he purchased The Atlantic City Review; after relinquishing his interests in that paper, he later purchased The Atlantic Journal.

In the late 1880s, Heston began writing and publishing a long-running series promoting Atlantic City. Heston's Handbook: Atlantic City Illustrated was an annual publication devoted to publicizing the City's many attractions. Heston is also credited with devising the strategy for what was ultimately a highly successful public relations gambit: the city-run Press Bureau. Through promotional events, coverage of visiting celebrities and relationships with reporters throughout the country, the Press Bureau shaped the image of the city during its heyday as a resort destination.

The history of southern New Jersey was another area in which Heston made a significant contribution. He was the editor of South Jersey, A History, 1664-1924, a five-volume work covering historical events leading to the development of each county in the region as well as biographies of prominent residents. As an author, he wrote about the history of Atlantic City and the Egg Harbor region in Absegami: Annals of Eyren Haven and Atlantic City, 1609-1904. In Jersey Waggon Jaunts he turned historical fact into an eclectic set of anecdotal tales about New Jersey history, including many on Atlantic City.

Heston considered his founding of the Atlantic City Hospital his greatest achievement. The hospital opened in 1898, and Heston served as secretary of its board of governors for the next 25 years. As one of the founders and trustees of the Atlantic City Free Public Library, Heston was responsible for establishing the collection on local history. In the Library's earliest days, he made a significant number of contributions to the collection. Later, his personal library of books and manuscripts was acquired and formed the basis for expanded development of the Atlantic City history collection. Through both his publications and collection of historical materials, he continues to this day to support the work of researchers who, in varying ways, carry on his legacy.

Key Dates in Alfred Heston's Life:

  • April 30, 1854: Born at Hestonville, Pennsylvania, to descendants of a Quaker family who were among the original settlers of Bucks County.
  • 1875: Married Abbie Mitchell, in Camden, New Jersey, with whom he had three daughters.
  • 1884: Took up residence in Atlantic City.
  • November 10, 1937: Died at Atlantic City Hospital after a brief illness; buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Pleasantville, New Jersey.

Atlantic City and County, New Jersey: the city by the sea and her people. Philadelphia: A.M. Slocum, 1899, p. xxvi.
John F. Hall. The Daily Union History of Atlantic City and County, New Jersey . Atlantic City, N.J.: The DailyUnion, 1900, p. 477.
Alfred M. Heston, ed. South Jersey, A History, 1664-1924. New York, Chicago: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1924, Vol. III, p. 20-23.
"Heston Funeral Plans Will Be Made Today". In The Atlantic City Press, November 11, 1937, p. A1, 4.
"Heston Rites Come Today; Honors Paid". In The Atlantic City Press, November 13, 1937, p. A1.