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Coney Island and the Mirror Effect

            Prior to the turn of the century, American culture was dominated by a genteel middle class. This dominate social class set the standard for American life, resulting in strict cultural and moral standards. The genteel reformers saw it as their duty to create morals and character in American society. These reformers dominated the 19th century and instilled these ideas of self-control, sobriety, integrity, and honesty through the culture and arts of the time. However as the 19th century came to a close the US was presented with many new opportunities as the landscape shifted to an urban, industrialized society and the culture shifted along with the society as well. This cultural shift from the stringent culture of the 19th century to a more free urban society can be best observed through the rise in amusement parks at the time. As summarized by John F. Kasson in the book Amusing the Million, "Coney thus offers a case study of the growing cultural revolt against genteel standards of taste and conduct." (9) Kasson identifies that the people of the 20th century were using Coney Island as a way to revolt against the prior culture and establish a new modern culture in America. Coney Island undeniably ushered in multiple social changes in the US landscape and in large reflected the emerging modern society that was taking over the genteel culture of old.
             One major change that helped usher in a new culture in America was the rapid change in technology. At the turn of the century factories began to grow larger and more numerous, new forms of transportation arrived, electricity turned night back into day, and skyscrapers were built as a symbol of American business. The advancement in technology in the 20th century was maybe most notable in the amusement parks of Coney Island. Massive towers that reached hundreds of feet were built in Luna park and Dreamland, millions of lights illuminated the parks at night, new thrill rides and rollercoasters defied gravity, and millions were transported to the island via railroad or steamboat - all of these technological advancement made the amusement parks possible and showed the rapid growth in the possibilities of technology.

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