75 years ago today Weegee made these images of a sea of people standing on the sand at Coney Island on Saturday, July 4th, 1942. “Looking northwest, from Bushman Baths (on the far right) to the Ferris wheel at Steeplechase Park [the Funny Place] and the Parachute Jump [262-foot-high, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980], which was moved from the 1939 World’s Fair [at Flushing Meadows in Queens, NY] to Coney Island in 1940.” (Weegee Guide to New York, pp. 400-401.) The three subtly different versions are from three different sources: an original gelatin silver print printed by Weegee, a copy negative, and the first usage of the photo in print – a full page in PM. (The existence of different versions of a well-known photo is not uncommon.) Weegee made photos of the summer-hot-weather multitudes at Coney Island since at least 1939 (see: Extra! Weegee, p. 51). This image is a little more mysterious and ominous, the people more pensive, (perhaps reflecting the influence of World War Two) than his famous photo (perhaps made under the influence of a few frankfurters, beer, root beer, malted milk, buttermilk, and cigars) of an exuberant Coney throng waving during a heat wave, published in PM on July 22, 1940: “Yesterday at Coney Island… Temperature 89… They Came Early, Stayed Late.”
Weegee, [Crowd at Coney Island beach, Brooklyn], July 4, 1942
PM, July 5, 1942, p. 7
Coney Island At Noon Saturday:
The crowd came later, according to Weegee, who wanted a photo that showed some beach and not too many people. The masked man said he was a laundry man, but would only be photographed incognito. The mask is a gag of his; he calls himself the Spider, and likes to frighten people. Weegee didn’t get the names and addresses of the others in the photo, either. PM Photo by Weegee. PM, July 5, 1942.
Weegee's New York, (The Travelogue with a Heart), photographed by Weegee, 1948.
Happy Independence Day.