Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Cedar Point Grew Along with the Middle Class in America

After the Civil War in the United States, there was a period of rapidly increasing industrialization. As machines replaced hand labor in industry, production increased and work hours for employees were shortened. Railroads helped boost economic development in the U.S. as they transported both raw materials and finished products throughout the country and abroad. Ohio was blessed with early railways, besides having access to Lake Erie for shipment of goods by water. Industrialization helped lead to the development of a rising middle class in the U.S. Individuals in the middle class were not necessarily wealthy, but they were comfortable. Improvements in labor conditions allowed workers to have more leisure time and more disposable income. While the wealthy may have been able to spend a whole summer at the seashore, middle class residents could take their families to a weekend at the lake, or perhaps even a week's vacation once a year. The warm summertime weather and access to water in the Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie Islands region made the area popular to vacationers. Visitors to the Lake Erie Island area enjoyed cool lake breezes, beaches, fishing, boating and camping. Cedar Point began as a popular site for fishermen in the late nineteenth century. As early as 1870 Louis Zistel ferried Sandusky residents to Cedar Point, where there was a bath house, sand boxes and swings for children, and dancing for adults. The fee for the boat ride was twenty five cents.
Louis Zistel, 1830-1889
Cedar Point's first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, was built in 1892. In the 1890s, more and more people visited Cedar Point. They traveled to the amusement park by steamship, railway and electric railway.

In 1897, The Cedar Point Pleasure Resort Company purchased Cedar Point, with George A. Boeckling serving as General Manager.

George Boeckling, 1862-1931

Under Boeckling's leadership Cedar Point was transformed from a summer picnic and fishing area to a thriving amusement park with wide appeal. Always seeming to anticipate what would appeal to the public, Boeckling offered concerts, movies, and dancing, and encouraged military groups and businessmen to hold their annual conventions at Cedar Point. The Hotel Breakers, which opened to Cedar Point guests in 1905, offered visitors amenities such as brass beds, wicker furniture, and Tiffany stained glass windows in the lobby. Services available included a manicurist, physician, barbers, beautician, stenographer, and tailor.

Throughout the twentieth century more and more rides and attractions were featured at Cedar Point.  You can see the Sea Swing in the background of the picture below taken at the Cedar Point beach about 1930.

Land developers George Roose and Emile Legros purchased Cedar Point in 1956, and aimed to make Cedar Point the "Disneyland of the Midwest." Today, Cedar Point draws millions of visitors each year, and is especially known for its roller coasters. To read a more thorough history of Cedar Point, see the book Cedar Point: The Queen of American Watering Places, by David W. and Francis (Amusement Park Books, 1995), available at the Sandusky Library. An article by Mr. Francis entitled “Cedar Point and the Characteristics of American Summer Resorts During the Gilded Age,” which appeared in the Hayes Historical Journal, is available online.

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