Atlantic City is one of the leading gambling destinations in the world. However, it hasn’t always been that way. Over the last 50 years, the city landscape has changed beyond recognition.
Here’s a look at video archive footage showing the evolution of Atlantic City, from its birth right up to the neon patterned 1990s.
The turn of the 19th and 20th century was a vibrant time for Atlantic City. That’s because the city was still relatively young, having only been established on May 1st, 1854.
This video shows how even in the 1900s, Atlantic City had already become a popular beach destination. Tourists flocked to the golden sands to catch some summer sun and nibble on ice creams.
The iconic boardwalk had been constructed in 1870 and was now a thriving district of shops and restaurants.
This Ford Educational Weekly video is called “By The Sea” and was produced by the Ford Motor Company in 1919.
It shows how Atlantic City has grown since the start of the century. Views of the beach and the busy hotels are shown and here is even footage of three-wheeled rickshaw push vehicles transporting people from one place to the next.
The Elephant Hotel is a particularly rare and unsual sight in archive footage of this era too.
The 1920s were a very positive decade for Atlantic City. It was also the period when the city became the host for the Miss America pageant in 1921.
Fans of the smash hit TV show Boardwalk Empire will also be aware that it was a time of Prohibition when gangsters such as Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson held all the power.
This video shows the wholesome side of the city in full swing – swimmers on inflatables in the sea, women playing music in their bathers, and a procession entertaining the crowds.
By the 1930s the wild nightclub era was here to stay in Atlantic City. Venues like the 500 Club, the Clicquot Club, and the Club Harlem were the most popular places with tourists and locals alike.
There was also wholesome fun to be had as tourists joined special parades down the famous boardwalk.
In a decade that was dominated by war, Atlantic City stood out as a centre for the entertainment industry. This Huntley Film Archives video states that the city is the ‘Vacation Capital of the Nation’.
There is an emphasis on the fast-growing seafront sky-line that now stands over the boardwalk and sand.
Interestingly, this footage also shows life in Atlantic City for the full-time residents as opposed to the tourists.
Legendary crooner Al Martino recorded footage of his time in the city during the post-war period. His footage shows how entertainment is becoming a bigger influence within the city.
As budget holidays to rival destinations such as Miami and the Caribbean became more popular, the city needed to adapt. Attracting the hottest singers and entertainers meant that tourism was less family-friendly and now catered more for the ‘adult market’.
A prolonged period of economic decline for Atlantic City hit rock bottom in the 1960s.
The city hosted the 1964 Democratic National Convention where future President Lyndon B. Johnson was nominated as lead candidate. The press coverage the city received during this time gave it a very poor reputation.
A number of large hotels that had once thrived through tourism were shut down due to low turnover. It felt like the end of an era for the city.
This footage from 1961 shows just how deserted the streets and boardwalk had become.
It was the 1970s that was the dawn of a new age for Atlantic City. In 1976, a referendum saw the public vote ‘Yes’ to legalizing gambling within the city.
The owners of the Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel took immediate action to renovate their venue into a gambling hotspot called Resorts. It officially became the first legal casino located on the eastern seaboard when it opened on 26th May, 1978.
Caesars and Bally’s soon followed by opening their own casinos too. Things would never be the same again in Atlantic City.
The high-tempo movement of the casino industry continued into the 1980s. A number of high-profile resorts opened during this decade including Sands, Playboy, Harrah’s, Tropicana, and Golden Nugget.
It was a period that also saw the arrival of current US President Donald Trump. The multi-millionaire businessman opened the Trump Plaza and Trump Marina to give the Atlantic City economy a huge shot in the arm.
This advert shows Golden Nugget owner Steve Wynn having a laugh with the famous Frank Sinatra. It sums up the revival in fortunes that Atlantic City was experiencing in 80s.
Atlantic City saw its progressive evolution into an enjoyable gambling destination take another step in the right direction during the 1990s.
Trump Taj Mahal and Trump World’s Fair were opened to increase Trump’s financial investment in the city. The city was booming with tourists flooding from all over the world to visit the world-renowned casinos located on the boardwalk seafront.
For this entire decade, Atlantic City revelled in its own financial strength. It was the completion of a journey from the highs of the early 20th century through the economic decline of the 1950s and 1960s, to the rejuvenation in the latter years of the century.