Friday, September 24, 2010

Atlantic City Becomes a Haven For Vices

Though Atlantic City was founded with the idea of being a "health resort," its landowners were capitalists. They laid railroad from Camden (connected by ferry to Philadelphia) and the people of Philadelphia would dictate what they wanted from Atlantic City.

The wealthy, aristocratic Philadelphians were generally Quakers and espoused the moral philosophy. Maybe they went to Cape May, but the railroad was not built for them. Philadelphia had become a powerful industrial society by mid-1800s and spawned a large working class.

This working class were the cogs of the Industrial Revolution as Philadelphia became the nation's primary textile manufacturer, its factories powered by the abundant coal in Northeast Pennsylvania.

The tedium of the labor made workers hungry to blow off steam. Corner bars that served drinks for a penny apice sufficiently quenched the workers' thirst until politicians cracked down on liquor licenses, forcing many to close.

With fewer working class drinking establishments and none open on Sundays (often the only day off), there was a large market need for entertainment. In stepped the capitalist Atlantic City. Though New Jersey had blue laws as well, Atlantic City business owners did not benefit by abiding by them. Neither did its residents who were employed at these tourist-oriented businesses. After all, Atlantic City had no organic industry when it was founded and fishing was the only industry that developed separately from tourism.

Atlantic City opened it's arms to the whorehouses spurned by Philadelphia. Liquor was sold anytime and anywhere. Gamblers who'd been tossed out of Philly set up gambling parlors and casinos. Atlantic City became a place for "booze, broads and gambling," a perfect combination for a factory worker who had just done 6 straight days of the same monotonous task. The political mechanisms that allowed this to happen will be explored in a subsequent post.

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