I’m a PhD student here at UC San Diego working on a small research project related to indigenous communities in Latin America and have found an interesting connection to Coney Island. A good friend of mine who works with the humanities council in the city recommended that I contact your organization. I’m on the hunt for Â archives from Coney Island and a few other “fairs” in the city from the 1890′s. The exhibit/show I’m looking for was a group of Bolivian and Peruvian men that was based at Coney Island during the summer of 1893. Does the museum keep information/archives of Â shows from the late 19th century? Are the archives open to researchers? — Nancy Egan
The Bolivian Indian Village exhibit was located on Tilyou Walk at the Ocean, at what would now be West 16th Street. Indigenous natives were common attractions at Coney Island at the end of the nineteenth century, and the humane treatment of the odd visitors became a cause for reformers who monitored the shows for abuses. American Indians, Philippine tribesmen, and Eskimos were were among those displayed in re-creations of their native habitats.
The Bolivian exhibit came to a sad end on August 24th, 1893 when a freak wave during a storm wiped out the entire village as the natives slept in their beachfront huts. The extent of injuries to the indians is unknown and the show did not reopen.