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Amusing the Million: Mass Culture and Leisure at the Turn of the 20th Century
Primary Sources

Theme: Social Change and Social Reform
Topic: Amusing the Million: Mass Culture and Leisure at the Turn of the 20th Century
Date: 12 July 2006

Primary Sources from Partner Collections
Primary Sources from Local Archives and Collections
Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions

Sources selected and annotated by SALEM in History staff.

Primary Sources from Partner Collections

Images of Salem Willows from the Peabody Essex Museum “Vault” collection of photography.  To view or purchase these photographs on-line, see the PEM website at:

  • Brown’s Flying Horses (exterior and interior), n.d.
  • Morrison Steamboat Co., n.d.
  • Horse Drawn Trolley, n.d.
  • Willows Water Slide, n.d.
  • Chases (Restaurant Row), n.d.
  • Willows Pavilion, n.d.
  • Wharf Salem Willows, n.d.
  • Salem Willows Boat Landing, n.d.
  • Hospital Beach, 1891
  • Promenade Willows, n.d.


Water and Fire Map of Salem, ca. 1895-1900 [detail]
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum (912.7446/S16/T2)


Titanic Disaster Amusement Park Attraction, 1914
Eldredge Print
Colored poster
Bequest of F.B.C. Bradlee
Peabody Essex Museum M11210

Following the Titanic disaster in 1912, the public was both horrified and fascinated by the event and the many literary, musical, and visual tributes inspired by the tragedy.  This poster advertises an attraction that opened at Luna Park (Coney Island, New York).  It featured automated models that replayed key events of the shipwreck.


Recreation Planning Committee. What Next for Public Recreation in Boston? Boston, MA: July 1937. Salem State College Archives. Salem State College.

Although this report was published several years after the period under study, it is interesting to note how the language of "educational" recreation has become imbued in the argument as to why Boston needs to unify the parks, schools and recreation areas under a central municipal board. "They [playground leaders] should be conversant with the causes of juvenile delinquency and the methods of fostering character growth." (p. 3) "Promotion of recreation is a major municipal function, comparable to library service, education and health." (p. 13)

Recreation Planning Committee. A New Plan for Public Recreation in Boston. Boston, MA: July 1937. Salem State College Archives. Salem State College.

Abridged version of the above.


Current Views of Salem Willows, 2006
Anna Kichorowsky (1984- )
Salem, MA
Digital Photos

Photographer Anna Kichorowsky provides views that reflect the current character and use of Salem Willows. Many images capture similar views to the historic images available at the Peabody Essex Museum's "Essex Vault."

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Primary Sources from Other Local Archives and Collections



Essex Institute Committee.  Salem at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.  Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1893.

The Columbian Exposition in Chicago was organized to celebrate the 1892 anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s landing in North America.  Often described as the “White City,” the grounds featured a main area with Beaux Arts buildings with white facades, and a contrasting midway area with entertainments and exotic buildings that suggested other cultures.

Program for Julius Cahn’s New Empire Theatre.  Salem, MA: 29 August, 1907.  (Available in the Salem Room, Salem Public Library.)

Salem and the Willows. imprint missing.  Salem Room, Salem Public Library. (Salem Library Call # 974.459 / S SAL Coll. )

This small publication was probably published locally in the early 20th century.  It describes the many events and entertainments at Salem Willows, and also includes a number of period photographs.



“Flying Horses Vital Part of Willows Park” Salem Evening News 19 September 1941. 

“Salem Willows” An Amusing Change of Pace” Salem Evening News 17 August 1989


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Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions



Coney Island: The American Experience.  Public Broadcasting Service, 2000.

This documentary traces the development and role of Coney Island in the industrialized world of New York at the turn of the century, It is available for purchase on-line at:


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