Rare Book & Manuscript Library Acquires Frederick Fried Coney Island Collection

VenusContest2 Participants in the "Venus Contest," Steeplechase Park, Coney Island, 1928

“These photographs and drawings are an invaluable resource for anyone doing research on the built environment of Coney, and of the design and use of its rides and other amusements,” said Casey Blake, Professor of History, and Chair of the Learning Service Committee in American Studies. “The collection is a natural for grad students and scholars working in urban social and cultural history.”

The Coney Island collection—already processed and in use by researchers—consists of material created and collected by Frederick Fried (1908–1994) and William F. Mangels (1867–1958) in the course of documenting and writing about the history of the amusements industry and the public culture of Coney Island, in Brooklyn. It includes 32 feet of photographic materials, drawings, blueprints, newspaper and magazine clippings, research notes, published and unpublished writings, brochures, printed advertisements, correspondence, trade literature, sheet music, and ephemera. The photographic content ranges from “Bathing Beauties” to “Amusements” to “Freakshow” performers. Blueprints and architectural drawings in the collection give detailed designs for rollercoasters, carousels, miniature railroads, and other amusement rides and pleasure pavilions.

“The photographs from the Frederick Fried Coney Island Collection provide rich visual information about mass-amusement in New York City in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century,” said Thai Jones, Herbert H. Lehman Curator for American History at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. “Some of the rollercoaster blueprints are the only remaining traces of amusement rides that were beloved by millions a century ago. These documents and images are not only a valuable resource for researchers, they will allow anyone who missed out on the glory days of Coney Island to imagine what that famous wonderland looked like in its raucous and racy prime.”

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library owns over 500,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and almost 28 million manuscripts in nearly 3,000 separate manuscript collections. It is particularly strong in English and American literature and history, classical authors, children‘s literature, education, mathematics and astronomy, economics and banking, photography, the history of printing, New York City politics, librarianship, and the performing arts. Individual collections are as eclectic as they are extensive. For more information, please see: https://library.columbia.edu/libraries/rbml.html.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 13 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff and hosts over 4.7 million visitors each year.  The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.