Friday, October 8, 2010

Brandywine Springs Park Advertisement

I recently had the opportunity to see something that I thought was not only very interesting, but that also does a great job of illustrating a larger point. In the course of rummaging through the impressive collection of park-related items that the Friends of Brandywine Springs (FOBS) has gathered over the years, the group's president, Mike Ciosek, came across the newspaper advertisement that you see here (you can click on the picture for a larger view). The full-page ad originally appeared in the "Resort Section" of the Philadelphia Inquirer (although at the top, it actually says "Inqurier". Nice.), on June 25, 1911. This was a time when Brandywine Springs Amusement Park was at its height, and four years before it was sold by its founder -- a sale that would begin the downward spiral that would eventually lead to its closing after the 1923 season.

But in 1911, the park was operating at the peak of its popularity. According to this ad, over one million guests visited the park during the 1910 season, and fifty thousand on one day alone! (Probably July 4 -- the park was usually very busy then.) These figures, assuming they're anywhere close to accurate (and remember -- this is an advertisement, not a news article), give a clear indication of the scope and appeal of the park. This was not some little, local park tucked away in a quiet corner of Mill Creek Hundred. This was a big, regional park tucked away in a quiet corner of Mill Creek Hundred. It drew thousands upon thousands of visitors to our area. And the "drawing to our area" part is the second point that this ad drives home.

Remember, this ad wasn't in a local Wilmington paper. This was in a Philadelphia paper, and was aimed at drawing visitors from the Philadelphia area. Down at the bottom of the page, readers are given two different ways to get to the park: via the Wilson Steamboat Line or the B&O Railroad. In the middle is the People's Railway Company, which was the trolley line owned by the same people who owned the park. The trolley lines connected directly to both the B&O stations in Wilmington and the steamboat dock, which was located at the foot of Fourth Street. Bearing in mind that this was still a time when very few people had cars, it was important to have a means of getting visitors efficiently to the park.

As far as the bulk of the ad, it does a fine job of promoting the main attractions of the park. There is a section showing the Hungarian Village, which was new for that year and sat on islands in the lake; a picture of the Toboggan Slide, which was an early type of roller coaster; and a shot of the canopy roof that covered the carousel, with the carousel almost visible underneath. The middle center of the page tells that the Manhattan Opera Company will be performing the "Best Opera Ever Offered In A Park", and is accompanied by a picture of the open-air theater, which was located along the boardwalk. In the upper right, there is a small picture which happens to be the reason this ad was pulled out and examined now. The "Pretty Railroad Station" depicted is the waiting platform constructed by the B&O, and is the current location of the FOBS archaeological dig. This is only the second picture known to exist of the station.

All in all, I think this ad is a wonderful snapshot of what the park was like at the height of its popularity, and it really drives home the fact that this truly was a big and well-known destination. It might be hard to imagine it today as you're walking along the quiet trails of the park, but 100 years ago people did come from as far away as Philadelphia to spend the day in beautiful Brandywine Springs Park.

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