Almanac: Atlantic City's Steel Pier


A 1910 view of the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, N.J.

Library of Congress

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: June 18th, 1898, 119 years ago today -- the day Atlantic City, N.J., opened its famous Steel Pier, with Annie Oakley in person as the headliner.

Loaded with amusements and attractions, the Steel Pier was the centerpiece of the jam-packed beach scene that Thomas Edison captured on film in 1901.

Bathing at Atlantic City by LibraryOfCongress on YouTube

The pier featured diving horses, bears on bicycles, and tiny cars that spun in midair, and acrobats galore. The pier hosted some of the very early Miss America pageants as well.

It also was the stage for some of the biggest entertainers of the day. The Three Stooges ogled a bathing beauty in this 1938 color short of dubious political correctness.

Three Stooges at Steel Pier, Atlantic City -- 1938 by Brad Smith on YouTube

In 1958, Ricky Nelson performed for a Steel Pier record crowd of 44,000-plus.

Eventually, however, changing times and vacation habits caught up with Atlantic City's Steel Pier; it closed in 1978.

And then, in 1982, came WORSE: The main building of the Steel Pier was destroyed in a suspicious fire that raged for more than six hours. 

There were no serious injuries, but a fire official said that the Steel Pier's career was ended.

Not quite, as it turns out.

The Steel Pier has been rebuilt with new rides and amusements -- an echo of the original pier's claim to be "The Showplace of the Nation." 

A seagull sits on a railing at the Atlantic City, N.J. Boardwalk, with the historic Steel Pier in the background, in this July 20, 2013 photo. Wayne Parry/AP

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