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For longtime Jersey residents, the phrase "Atlantic City politics" carries a pungent aroma all its own; the strong scent of cigars in backrooms, stale smoke from gambling arenas. New Jersey Superior Court judge Nelson Johnson has been observing the underpinnings of the boardwalk scene for three decades, both as a professional and an amateur history buff. His scintillating For longtime Jersey residents, the phrase "Atlantic City politics" carries a pungent aroma all its own; the strong scent of cigars in backrooms, stale smoke from gambling arenas. New Jersey Superior Court judge Nelson Johnson has been observing the underpinnings of the boardwalk scene for three decades, both as a professional and an amateur history buff. His scintillating new book traces the city's long, eventful path from birth to seaside resort to a scandal-ridden crime center and beyond. The Sopranos with salt-water taffy.


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For longtime Jersey residents, the phrase "Atlantic City politics" carries a pungent aroma all its own; the strong scent of cigars in backrooms, stale smoke from gambling arenas. New Jersey Superior Court judge Nelson Johnson has been observing the underpinnings of the boardwalk scene for three decades, both as a professional and an amateur history buff. His scintillating For longtime Jersey residents, the phrase "Atlantic City politics" carries a pungent aroma all its own; the strong scent of cigars in backrooms, stale smoke from gambling arenas. New Jersey Superior Court judge Nelson Johnson has been observing the underpinnings of the boardwalk scene for three decades, both as a professional and an amateur history buff. His scintillating new book traces the city's long, eventful path from birth to seaside resort to a scandal-ridden crime center and beyond. The Sopranos with salt-water taffy.

30 review for Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    If fans of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire read this hoping just for more stories about corrupt politicians, gangsters, bootlegging, sex, violence, and a disfigured hit man, they’re probably going to be disappointed. However, anyone looking for an interesting history of Atlantic City from its humble beginnings of a second rate resort town through it’s glory days of as a popular destination point during Prohibition because of it’s total unwillingness to enforce anti-booze laws to it’s current sta If fans of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire read this hoping just for more stories about corrupt politicians, gangsters, bootlegging, sex, violence, and a disfigured hit man, they’re probably going to be disappointed. However, anyone looking for an interesting history of Atlantic City from its humble beginnings of a second rate resort town through it’s glory days of as a popular destination point during Prohibition because of it’s total unwillingness to enforce anti-booze laws to it’s current state as a gambling town that is still plagued by urban decay would probably find this book interesting. While the author spends plenty of time on the reign of political boss and part time racketeer Nucky Johnson, the inspiration for the Steve Buscemi’s character Nucky Thompson, and the way that the corrupt Republican machine built and ruled Atlantic City for decades, this is really a history and not a true crime book. While the links between organized crime and the politicians is documented extensively, the book centers on the political corruption instead of gangland shenanigans. So while there’s no Martin Scorsese-style violence, it’s an interesting history of a unique city.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    This is the book the HBO series used for its basis. Contrary to popular myth, Atlantic City was not a summer playground for the rich but rather a working class getaway that catered to every illicit whim. Brothels and gambling flourished, but Prohibition really made Atlantic City famous and rich. Under “Nucky” Johnson, the “Commodore’s successor, anything nominally illegal elsewhere could be had in Atlantic City. “A naughty time at an affordable price.” The short history of Atlantic City presented This is the book the HBO series used for its basis. Contrary to popular myth, Atlantic City was not a summer playground for the rich but rather a working class getaway that catered to every illicit whim. Brothels and gambling flourished, but Prohibition really made Atlantic City famous and rich. Under “Nucky” Johnson, the “Commodore’s successor, anything nominally illegal elsewhere could be had in Atlantic City. “A naughty time at an affordable price.” The short history of Atlantic City presented at the beginning of the book is really quite interesting. The land was bought up originally to develop a health spa, but then, in order to make it accessible a railroad was required to get people from New York and Philadelphia. But in order to compete with Cape May, summer playground of the rich, they tried to appeal to the working man so prices had to remain low. Soon there were four railroads delivering customers (in spite of swarms of green flies and mosquitoes that sometimes drove horses crazy - not to mention people.) To serve customers cheaply, labor costs had to be kept low, and poor southern blacks who had suffered as slaves and were then abused after Reconstruction was destroyed politically, migrated to Atlantic City to fill the jobs. Whites wanted nothing to do with them socially and soon the city was segregated into white and black ghettos. "[The] irony of it all was cruel to Blacks. They earned a respectable wage, could vote, and own property. They performed the most personal of services and were entrusted with important responsibilities, but they were barred from restaurants, amusement piers, and booths; were denied shopping privileges by most stores; were admitted to hotels only as workers; were segregated in clinics and hospitals; and could only bathe in one section of the beach, but even then had to wait until after dark." Louis Kuehnle, otherwise known as the “Commodore,” was soon running the town, but in a wise, if corrupt, manner. He focused on infrastructure, building water and transportation systems that functioned well, and paving the streets. “Commodore understood that Atlantic City’s business owners would gladly sacrifice honest government for a profitable summer and he gave them what they wanted. Kuehnle protected the rackets from prosecution and worked with the tourist industry to ensure its success. In exchange, the community let him call the shots.” Unfortunately, following the election of Woodrow Wilson, the Presbyterian antithesis to anything fun and later president, to the NJ governorship cramped things. “Wilson was a crusader who saw things in black and white. Impersonal in his relations, he attracted supporters in much the same way people latch on to an abstract principle.” His attorney general went after election fraud and that resulted in Kuehnle’s imprisonment, opening the way for “Nucky” Johnson who was far more corrupt and even more controlling. Johnson got himself appointed City Treasurer, a non-elective office, which he held for decades and which held the key to all graft. The 18th amendment played right into the hands of Nucky and all during Prohibition booze flowed freely and openly as Atlantic City became a huge transit port for liquor. Johnson had a gift for understanding people, their desires, and needs. He managed to control the city to such an extent that virtually everyone owed their jobs to him. “Crucial to his power and the control of the Republican organization, he learned how to manipulate Atlantic City’s Black population. He continued the Commodore’s private welfare system, but the assistance he gave Johnson went beyond what Kuehnle had done for blacks; come the winter he was their savior. Long stretches of unemployment in the off-season could be devastating. Johnson saw to it that the Northside had food, clothing, coal, and medical care. “If your kid needed a winter coat, all you had to do was ask—maybe it wouldn’t fit but it was warm. If the grocer cut off your credit, the ward leader told you where to shop on the party’s tab. The same was true if someone needed a doctor or a prescription filled.” Corruption as good government.

  3. 5 out of 5

    The Library Lady

    No, this isn't a pot boiler full of sex, violence and perfect looking people. That's the highly entertaining, fiction based on fact TV series, and this is not the novelization of that show. What this is is the whole history of Atlantic City, from its founding as a health resort, its success mainly as a resort for working class folk from Philadelphia, its golden age under "Nucky" Johnson (NOT "Thompson"), its post-prohibition fall that continued for decades, and its rebirth as a casino resort town No, this isn't a pot boiler full of sex, violence and perfect looking people. That's the highly entertaining, fiction based on fact TV series, and this is not the novelization of that show. What this is is the whole history of Atlantic City, from its founding as a health resort, its success mainly as a resort for working class folk from Philadelphia, its golden age under "Nucky" Johnson (NOT "Thompson"), its post-prohibition fall that continued for decades, and its rebirth as a casino resort town. What is especially interesting is the chapter on Atlantic City's African American community. Nearly the entire work staff of the town was black, and lived under conditions that differed little from the plantations of the the pre-Civil War South. It's a sad and remarkable story. Johnson knows his subject and tells his story with far more skill than most historians do--if you read adult history books you'll know what I mean! And I skimmed a great deal of the latter half of this book (especially everything involving that nasty bastard Donald Trump) where the narrative lags. But if the TV series has piqued your curiosity about Atlantic City, this is worth looking into.

  4. 5 out of 5

    John Hood

    Bound: City of Swing SunPost Weekly September 16, 2010 | John Hood http://bit.ly/90vmwP Getting with the Book behind Boardwalk Empire The 500 Club, Paradise Café, Club Harlem, Little Belmont, The Bath and Turf Club, the Cliquot Club… just saying names of these fabled swing spots evokes an era of high vice and low blows. These were gambling dens, before the era of casinos, yet run wide open. Why? Because in Prohibition era Atlantic City, what was once vice was now habit and it wouldn’t be broken for Bound: City of Swing SunPost Weekly September 16, 2010 | John Hood http://bit.ly/90vmwP Getting with the Book behind Boardwalk Empire The 500 Club, Paradise Café, Club Harlem, Little Belmont, The Bath and Turf Club, the Cliquot Club… just saying names of these fabled swing spots evokes an era of high vice and low blows. These were gambling dens, before the era of casinos, yet run wide open. Why? Because in Prohibition era Atlantic City, what was once vice was now habit and it wouldn’t be broken for anything, let alone a little inconvenience like law. As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now that wild time in the ol’ beachfront town is about to be brought back to life by HBO in the series Boardwalk Empire. Executive produced by Martin Scorcese (who directed the first episode) and overseen by EmmyAward-winning writer Terence Winter (of The Sopranos), Boardwalk Empire promises to be the It series of the season. And there’s not a TV viewer in all the land who isn’t duly thrilled by the prospect. But like many a cool concept to make its way to screens big and small, Boardwalk Empire springs from somewhere else. In this case it’s Nelson Johnson’s same named book, which rings with the subtitle The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City. Unlike the series, Johnson’s book runs the gamut of Atlantic City’s riveting history, from the time the sandbar was nothing more than a gleam in a man named Jonathan Pitney’s riled eye, to the time when the bottom basically fell outta the sky, and hard times had once again descended upon the descendants of the “Pineys” who first made this inhospitable place home. But the highlight of the book – and the subject of the series – is the stretch that spanned from Prohibition to The Great Depression, when everything went, and it all went under the watchful eye of one Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. Renamed Thompson for the series (and played by great Steve Buscemi), Nucky Johnson was the kinda boss of which legends are made. A pal to both President Harding (he delivered the New Jersey delegation at the Republican Convention) and Al Capone (he arranged a mob conference in May of 1929), Nucky was known as a man who could get things done, and make everyone a lotta loot while doing so. Ever with a dame on his arm and a thug by his side, Nucky ruled with a combination of charm and hubris that over-shown and out-shadowed even The Commodore who’d bequeathed him his spot. No one stood between Nucky and his objectives, because Nucky’s objectives benefitted everyone. And virtually everyone made out like proverbial bandits. Everyone but a certain William Randolph Hearst, that is. The story is that Nucky had hit on a chick at the Silver Slipper Saloon, a chick that just so happened to be a favorite of Hearst’s. When the womanizing newspaper magnate found out about it, he used his broadsheets to run a series of exposes detailing the crime and corruption under Nucky’s reign. Nucky countered by banning all of Hearst’s newspapers. Then Willy Boy really got mad, and he enlisted J. Edgar Hoover and his G men in a quest to get even. It took some time (five years or so), and it took some finagling (like I said, no one wanted to speak out against their benefactor), but the Feds did finally make their case, and Nucky went down for tax evasion. It’s a dynamite tale, about as tall as they get, and one that has no shortage of drama. Why else would Scorcese et al get involved? More though, it’s the kinda story that reveals more about ourselves and our origins than many a mere history ever could, no matter how factually written. Medford Press originally published Boardwalk Empire back in 2002, and parent company Plexus has just dropped a TV tie-in that includes a Terence Winter forward, a new afterword by the author, and a slew of color photos that’ll put you right back into the time. While you’re though you’d be wise to get your mitts on J. Louis Yamplowsky’s A Boardwalk Story, a novel set in the waning days of The Great Depression. Unlike Empire, this Story is centered around “a reclusive mystic, and a charismatic pitchman and mathematical savant,” rather than the gangsters and machine bosses that concern HBO. Taken in tandem however, they represent a once-upon-a-time that was, simply, unlike any other ever. See you on the Boardwalk, baby!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Boardwalk Empire is an interesting, and enjoyable, if rather uneven, read. Victims of this, most recent, recession economy will undoubtedly be interested to know that Atlantic City’s initial development and success was brought on, not by the nation’s wealthiest vacations, but rather, by blue collar workers and wage earners, eager for a weekend getaway they could afford. The resort’s unique and complicated relationship with minority workers during that time, also makes for rather fascinating read Boardwalk Empire is an interesting, and enjoyable, if rather uneven, read. Victims of this, most recent, recession economy will undoubtedly be interested to know that Atlantic City’s initial development and success was brought on, not by the nation’s wealthiest vacations, but rather, by blue collar workers and wage earners, eager for a weekend getaway they could afford. The resort’s unique and complicated relationship with minority workers during that time, also makes for rather fascinating reading. Of course, the book’s heart really lies in its description of Atlantic City’s heyday, during the 1920’s, a.k.a. the “reign of Nucky Johnson.” It is definitely no accident that THIS is the portion of the book Terrence Winter chose to develop into an HBO series. Fans of the series will undoubtedly recognize some of their favorite colorful characters from the show, in their historic doppelgangers. The Nucky chapter of the book is chock full of interesting anecdotes, in-depth character analyses, and shocking connections between organized crime and political and economic success on the Boardwalk. I suspect an entire book could have been written about this portion of Atlantic City’s history alone. For this reader, in fact, a narrative focus limited to the 20’s would have been preferable, to this slightly over ambitious “complete” historical overview. I can’t help but wonder how many more interesting stories were discarded, so that the author could “finish” his historical analysis of the City. Things took a turn for the dull, toward the center of the book, which chronicled Atlantic City’s admittedly mundane history between the 1950’s and the 1970’s. The author’s faithful recapturing of each and every important political figure who “reigned” supreme in Atlantic City during that time, became extremely tedious. Eventually, the various commissioners, gamers, crooks, and politicians identities all seemed to merge, and become indistinguishable from one another. As a result of this reader’s lack of identification with these characters, their individual stories began to seem uninteresting and unremarkable. Toward the middle of the book, the author also seemed to develop this odd narrative technique of introducing a random character into the story, and then never mentioning him or her again. I found that a bit distracting. Fortunately, the book picked up steam in its final sections. The Donald Trump segment of the story, in particular, was fascinating, and extremely well written. This chapter too, I think, could have easily been developed into its own book. In conclusion, I think this was a case of a talented writer, who did a spectacular amount of research, and then, simply bit off more than he could chew in its retelling. I would probably recommend that readers focus on the early portions of the book, and the Trump chapter, and skim the rest.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    If you are planning to read this book for supplemental background for the HBO show, don't bother. This book is more of a concise history of the city than a focus piece on Nucky and the players of that time. Only roughly 3 chapters cover the Nucky era and there's no depth at all. A few quotes here and a 3 sentence Al Capone story there. The only depth is spent on descriptions of attempted indictments and trials. It really doesn't do much to expound on the players of the time or specifics of the c If you are planning to read this book for supplemental background for the HBO show, don't bother. This book is more of a concise history of the city than a focus piece on Nucky and the players of that time. Only roughly 3 chapters cover the Nucky era and there's no depth at all. A few quotes here and a 3 sentence Al Capone story there. The only depth is spent on descriptions of attempted indictments and trials. It really doesn't do much to expound on the players of the time or specifics of the criminal aspects. If you want a broad history of Atlantic City and its politics, then you might like this.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Atlantic City has quite a history, from the rocky beginnings to its colourful characters like Louis “Commodore” Kuehnle and Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson (subtitle: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City) tells the history of this US city. While this book inspired the current HBO series of the same name, this is not a reason to read this. The HBO show tells the story of a fictional character based on Nucky Johnson (called Nucky Thompson in the show). I Atlantic City has quite a history, from the rocky beginnings to its colourful characters like Louis “Commodore” Kuehnle and Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson (subtitle: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City) tells the history of this US city. While this book inspired the current HBO series of the same name, this is not a reason to read this. The HBO show tells the story of a fictional character based on Nucky Johnson (called Nucky Thompson in the show). If you were to base a show on this non-fiction book it would turn out more like House of Cards. There was a big chapter of Boardwalk Empire devoted to Nucky Johnson, who was an interesting guy. If you know the plot of the HBO series you might be aware of the type of character Nucky was, despite being only loosely based on him. His rise to power came thanks to the Volstead Act, but he wasn’t just a mob boss, he was a political powerhouse. Corruption never seemed so complex and scary; using the Republican Party to control the city all the while using extortion to fund the party. This technique helped control Atlantic City, keeping it corrupt well into the modern era. While the history of Atlantic City is fascinating, it is sad to see just how big of an impact organised crime had on a growing city. I have an interest in the Volstead Act and how prohibition helped organised crime get a foothold in America. Boardwalk Empire shed some interesting insights into the cultural impact it had on a large scale. I have started a new phase in my reading life where I’ve become very interested in non-fiction. While Boardwalk Empire wasn’t the greatest book, there was a lot to learn about politics and organised crime. This period of time interests me and I plan to read a whole lot more reading on the Volstead Act and organised crime, so I need recommendations. If you know good non-fiction books on these topics let me know. This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Janell

    I'm sure that readers of in-depth, detailed political history will find this book fascinating from cover to cover. Because I am not quite the "in-depth political history scholar", I didn't find the entire book so much fascinating as I found it to be long-winded. That said, there were in-depth parts of the book I did like. These were the parts that focused more on the characters I was familiar with as a fan of the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire". It was interesting to find out how Atlantic City star I'm sure that readers of in-depth, detailed political history will find this book fascinating from cover to cover. Because I am not quite the "in-depth political history scholar", I didn't find the entire book so much fascinating as I found it to be long-winded. That said, there were in-depth parts of the book I did like. These were the parts that focused more on the characters I was familiar with as a fan of the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire". It was interesting to find out how Atlantic City started as an empty stretch of fly-ridden sand and became the backdrop for an empire. I enjoyed reading about Louis "The Commodore" Kuehnle and how he set the stage for inspiring future politicians and power brokers. I enjoyed reading about "Nucky" Johnson, the basis for the Boardwalk Empire character of Nucky Thompson. The author does a great job detailing how Johnson came to power and how he simultaneously exploited and helped fellow politicians, gangsters, shop owners, the poor, and pretty much anyone else in his path. The fact that Johnson held power so completely and in a steel grip did not diminish the respect, admiration, and loyalty that throngs of people had for him - no small feat. I also enjoyed reading about Johnson's successor, "Hap" Farley and how Farley came to power. I suppose I started to feel bogged down sometime after that and found myself first skimming text, then skipping ahead several chapters altogether. I would encourage fans of Boardwalk Empire to give this book a try, as it does have a lot to offer. Just be warned that you may find your eyes glazing over after a while.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    The first half of this book is great. The history of Atlantic city from its start through prohibition is fascinating and well told. After that the book gets bogged down in repetitive statements and reads more like a timeline of bullet points. Even in this section there are still some things worth reading. The authors analysis of the reasons for Atlantic City's decline and prospects for the future seem to be well researched and on point. Over all, it is worth reading. The first half of this book is great. The history of Atlantic city from its start through prohibition is fascinating and well told. After that the book gets bogged down in repetitive statements and reads more like a timeline of bullet points. Even in this section there are still some things worth reading. The authors analysis of the reasons for Atlantic City's decline and prospects for the future seem to be well researched and on point. Over all, it is worth reading.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tina Rae

    So. Let's talk about this book. Because my book club picked this book because the show is based on it and, well, let's just say there are only about two chapters of this book that the show is based on. So if you're going into this because you want to learn more about the background of the show, uh, you're not really going to find it. Yes, you will get some good information. But the show fills in a lot of blanks since this is basically just a basic overview of the history of Atlantic City. You wil So. Let's talk about this book. Because my book club picked this book because the show is based on it and, well, let's just say there are only about two chapters of this book that the show is based on. So if you're going into this because you want to learn more about the background of the show, uh, you're not really going to find it. Yes, you will get some good information. But the show fills in a lot of blanks since this is basically just a basic overview of the history of Atlantic City. You will, however, learn a lot about the history of Atlantic City in this book and that is super interesting. I live nowhere near Atlantic City and have never been there (even though I do want to go, someday) so my knowledge of it comes entirely from television. So this book is definitely helpful for people like me who either think of it as the roaring 20's city, as displayed in Boardwalk Empire, or the Vegas of the East, as it is now commonly known or as can be seen in episodes of shows like How I Met Your Mother. Bridging the gap between those two, as this book does, was honestly fascinating. Unfortunately, though, my entire problem with this book is that that history is written in basically the driest manner possible. I fell asleep several times while reading this book, even though I was fascinated by the information it was presenting. And I originally read 30 pages of this book back in June of 2016 and didn't actually have the inspiration to get back to finishing it until now. (And even then it's only because I'm trying to catch up with my book club/clean off my currently reading shelf.) So. It's not actually a book that inspires you to finish it unless you Really, Really Have a Hankering to Learn a Lot About Atlantic City! But for people like me who were just interested in the show it, uh, wasn't exactly what I was looking for. So none of this is to say it's a really bad book. It's just I wish the information had been presented a little bit differently. For people like me. Who apparently get bored very easily. But, anyway, I'm so glad to finally be done with this book and I am glad I know more about Atlantic City. I do hope to visit it someday and this book will definitely help with seeing how its changed. Atlantic City really does have a fascinating history and from someone who grew up in a town centered around tourism, it's always fascinating to see how others have fared. So. If you are curious about the history of Atlantic City, I do recommend this one. But if you're just interested in learning more about the background of the show, um, this isn't it and I would probably look elsewhere.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Well Read Southerner Blog

    I don't gamble. I've never been to Atlantic City. I hated Vegas the one time I went. Why did I read this book then? Because I loved the HBO series of the same name. I'm a sucker for stories set during the 20s-30s, gangsters, flappers, and jazz. As a history buff it is one of my favorite times in history. HBO did a marvelous job of the series. You should watch it. Fine fine acting, costumes, and set design. The book was not about the history of the TV series but the TV series was based on this boo I don't gamble. I've never been to Atlantic City. I hated Vegas the one time I went. Why did I read this book then? Because I loved the HBO series of the same name. I'm a sucker for stories set during the 20s-30s, gangsters, flappers, and jazz. As a history buff it is one of my favorite times in history. HBO did a marvelous job of the series. You should watch it. Fine fine acting, costumes, and set design. The book was not about the history of the TV series but the TV series was based on this book. I really felt like it went very in-depth into the history of Atlantic City from beginning to current time. What fascinated me most about the book was not how interested I was in Atlantic City itself but the more social and anthropological history of how it came to be and what made it successful and what made it fail. Yes, there is a lot of political and gangster history that I kind of skimmed over but he really covered everything into what made this city tick. Architecture. Streets/planning design. The African-American culture. Women's history. Prohibition. Voting rights. How the weather shaped the city. There was just so much packed into this book. I thought it was going to be just about gangsters but it was so much more. There is even an interesting chapter about how our current President shaped the city with his outrageous choices and business decisions. Here are some of the passages I highlighted that I found interesting: History rarely marches in a straight line. Succeeding generations have a way of retrenching as they reject portions of social changes made earlier. Time and again, positive social advancements are made only to be followed by negative reactions. That so many people in power could take leave of their senses by supporting a law so utterly unenforceable stands as a monument to the ignorance of single-issue politics. It’s the classic example of the “law of unintended consequences.” While Prohibition reduced the general availability of alcohol, it greatly increased the money available for political corruption and organized crime. Otherwise law-abiding citizens refused to give up the pleasure of an occasional drink and got their booze from illegal suppliers. An authority on Prohibition, Al Capone once said: I make my money by supplying a public demand. If I break the law, my customers, who number hundreds of the best people in Chicago, are as guilty as I am. The only difference between us is that I sell and they buy. Everybody calls me a racketeer. I call myself a businessman. When I sell liquor, it’s bootlegging. When my patrons serve it on a silver tray on Lake Shore Drive, it’s hospitality. Selling liquor unlawfully was nothing new in Atlantic City. Resort tavern owners had violated the state’s Bishops’ Law for years by serving drinks on Sunday. If they could get away with it one day a week, why not seven? “Prohibition didn’t happen in Atlantic City.” As far as Atlantic City was concerned, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution never existed. While other cities had speakeasies and private clubs, the sale of alcohol in the resort continued as usual in taverns, restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs. You could buy liquor in drugstores, the corner grocery, and the local farmer’s market. The resort was more than an outlet for illegal booze, it was a major port of entry for foreign-produced liquor. Large “mother ships,” bearing thousands of cases of whiskey and rum, anchored off the coast where they were greeted by speedboats, which were little more than empty hulls with twin motors. Cases of liquor were unloaded all along the island, with speedboats pulling into the bay near a city firehouse where they were greeted by the local firemen who helped unload the booze. “Everybody helped out. If you worked for the city you could count on one time or another working a night shift and being told to go to such and such place and help unload a boat. You weren’t supposed to know what it was but everybody did.” The “Roaring ’20s” were golden years for both Nucky and his town. It was a gay place that reveled in its ability to show its visitors a good time. The liquor flowed and the party seemed as though it would go on forever. In the days before television and widespread home radio, the Boardwalk rivaled New York City’s Great White Way as a national showcase for promoting consumer products and introducing new entertainment figures and productions. During the decade between 1920 and 1930, the Boardwalk became known as the “Second Broadway” of the nation. A production didn’t go to New York until it first showed in Atlantic City. There were hundreds of Boardwalk theatrical tryouts with famous stage names that drew wealthy playgoers from throughout the entire northeast, many of them arriving in their own private railroad cars. Without Black workers, Atlantic City would have been a very different place. Absent the cheap labor provided by Blacks, a tourist economy could never have developed and Jonathan Pitney’s beach village would have remained just that. Between the Civil War and World War I, America’s economy was exploding with job opportunities for Whites, both skilled and unskilled. Atlantic City couldn’t compete for White workers in the economy of the late 19th century. The nearest population center large enough to generate the required numbers of unskilled workers was Philadelphia. The expansion of that city’s industrial economy sucked up every able-bodied person and at wages greater than hotels could afford. There was no chance for Atlantic City’s hotels to attract the numbers of White workers needed for such menial work. The resort had no choice but to pursue Black workers. What none of the White hoteliers could foresee as they began recruiting Blacks was the extent to which their operations would come to rely upon them. Nor could the operators envision what a large presence they would have in the city. And, finally, the last thing business owners gave any thought to was how it would all play out in terms of social integration. The migration of Southern Blacks to the urban North was traumatic for many of them. Stripped of the practices and social structures they had created in order to cope with their lowly status in Southern society, many felt lost in a strange land. Without the customs of the invisible church, these new migrants found it difficult to adjust to the tumult of urban life. The loss of the customary religious practices, which had been their only refuge during slavery, produced an ever-present crisis in the life of the average Black migrant. In order for the visible Black church to play the role needed by its followers, it had to be transformed. The transformation of the African-American church began with secularization. Black churches began to lose their other-worldliness and focused their energy on the conditions of their congregants in this world. Churches became increasingly interested in the affairs of the community as they impacted upon their members. Another transformation that occurred in Black religious behavior was the emergence of Holiness and Spiritualist churches. Originally formed as personality cults, their leaders had a message directed to the post-slavery experience. In Atlantic City, most such churches had their inception in storefronts, side-by-side with row houses and businesses. These storefront churches were usually located in the poorer neighborhoods and served the lower class, especially the newly arrived migrants from the South. As was the case in other Northern cities, storefront churches flourished because they adopted the rural church experience to city life by providing the face-to-face association of a small church. Their existence was due partly to the poverty of their members and the fact that congregants could participate more freely in services during prayers by “shouting.” The inability of the more traditional denominations to serve the needs of Black migrants stimulated the growth of storefront churches. These churches made it possible for Blacks to worship in a manner in which many had practiced in the South. Their religious rites were highly emotional, creating a personal form of worship in which all the members of the congregation became involved. Their pastors preached about a very real heaven and hell. Their church services appealed to those Blacks searching for relief from the insecurities of this world through salvation in the next. From the time of the Civil War until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, the overwhelming majority of Blacks who voted in this country voted Republican, the party of Abraham Lincoln. The presence of such a substantial minority, with a predictable voting pattern, made Atlantic City’s African-American population a pawn in Kuehnle’s rise to power. He exploited them for every vote he could.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    If you are looking for a book to mirror the HBO series, continue to look. I must admit, it was what I was looking for. I wanted more insight on Enoch "Nucky" Johnson AKA Nucky Thompson. Although it was not that, I was pleasantly surprised. Very interesting book about the rise, fall and rise again of Atlantic City, New Jersey or formally known as the Island of Absegami. Although it does spend a considerable time on Enoch "Nucky" Johnson and his predecessor, Louis “Commodore” Kuehnle, it delved int If you are looking for a book to mirror the HBO series, continue to look. I must admit, it was what I was looking for. I wanted more insight on Enoch "Nucky" Johnson AKA Nucky Thompson. Although it was not that, I was pleasantly surprised. Very interesting book about the rise, fall and rise again of Atlantic City, New Jersey or formally known as the Island of Absegami. Although it does spend a considerable time on Enoch "Nucky" Johnson and his predecessor, Louis “Commodore” Kuehnle, it delved into the lives of their lieutenants and their henchmen who subsequently rose to and fell from power. It sheds light on the cronyism and corruption of the olden days. Not surprisingly, the book makes the Republican Party out to be the racists by using statement like this "The switch in loyalties came in part as Blacks recognized the racist tactics of the Republican machine." - Chapter 8. The previous quote being in the 60's. So what the author is saying is that the racial tension, lynching, Jim Crowe, Black codes etc created and perpetrated by the Democratic Party theretofore were benign; yet the Republicans caused the black loyalty to falter because they marked ballot cards? Ironically, Nucky earned the black vote in his tenure because of the pre-new deal help he gave black families. The book is more about the political cronyism than that of the traditional "mob" stories. It does move back and forth in time although it is understandable due to the nature of the book. Some of the "no-names" during Nucky's rein, went on to be a force to be reckoned with and the author needed to re-trace their steps. All-in-all the book is good. If you can put aside the partisan bashing you should be OK. To the author's defence, AC was definitely run by Republicans. The book's author is Nelson Johnson (No relation to Enoch Johnson), a former New Jersey Judge.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    Admittedly, I picked this book up because of the tv show, since I was curious to find out just how much of it was based on actual fact. After reading it, I can say that the producers have generally stuck to the spirit, if not the letter, of the historical record, and although they've taken a fair bit of dramatic license with the material, it's not because Atlantic City's history lacks drama. From its early days, when it was planned as an upper-crust health resort (something that went by the boar Admittedly, I picked this book up because of the tv show, since I was curious to find out just how much of it was based on actual fact. After reading it, I can say that the producers have generally stuck to the spirit, if not the letter, of the historical record, and although they've taken a fair bit of dramatic license with the material, it's not because Atlantic City's history lacks drama. From its early days, when it was planned as an upper-crust health resort (something that went by the boards pretty quickly after speculators realized they could make more money catering to the desires -- legal and otherwise -- of day-tripping blue-collar workers from Philadelphia and New York) to its boom years (roughly from the Gilded Age until the Second World War) as America's Vice Capital to its near death during the 60s to its recent resurgence since the legalization of gambling there in the late 70s, it's not a place that has ever lacked for colorful characters, certainly not as Nelson Johnson, who, as a New Jersey superior court judge, is well acquainted with the town's seamier side, tells it (special bonus: Johnson really, really, REALLY doesn't think much of Donald Trump), and while the show's decision to concentrate on the years of Nucky Johnson's (fictionalized as Nucky Thompson in the series) reign as Atlantic City's political and criminal boss in the Roaring 20s makes for some great drama, this book proves that there are plenty more stories here to tell.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    I enjoyed the first 3/4 of this book quite a bit. As an island and a city dedicated to "sin" and vice, it's one of the most interesting places to study how the political boss system worked. Obviously, every city had political bosses in that era, but other cities managed to have other industries and usually two political bosses, but not AC, so it was really fascinating to see how deep and widespread the corruption could really get. The last quarter of the book really lost my interest. Since Trump I enjoyed the first 3/4 of this book quite a bit. As an island and a city dedicated to "sin" and vice, it's one of the most interesting places to study how the political boss system worked. Obviously, every city had political bosses in that era, but other cities managed to have other industries and usually two political bosses, but not AC, so it was really fascinating to see how deep and widespread the corruption could really get. The last quarter of the book really lost my interest. Since Trump's self-aggrandizing in the 90s about what a successful business man he was followed almost immediately by his bankruptcy (which is covered in the book) which left him pretty unscathed but wreaked havoc on the contractors who got screwed in the process, I've had little to no interest in him, and his idiotic birther stance this year that even Republicans have told him to knock off has made him even more noxious. So reading an entire chapter about "The Donald" was more than I could stomach. Then the last chapter details the author's recommendations for Atlantic City, which was a truly poor way to conclude the book. But, all in all, 3/4 of a pretty interesting book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    If you're a fan of the HBO series based on this book, as I am, you may or may not be surprised to find that this is a serious history, and a good one. The book covers the entire history of the city. Early chapters run from its founding (when horses were bitten to death by stinging flies that bred in the undrained tide pools), through the establishment of the railroads, the early tourist industry, and the predominantly Black working class that made it run, and the rise of the Republican/mafia mac If you're a fan of the HBO series based on this book, as I am, you may or may not be surprised to find that this is a serious history, and a good one. The book covers the entire history of the city. Early chapters run from its founding (when horses were bitten to death by stinging flies that bred in the undrained tide pools), through the establishment of the railroads, the early tourist industry, and the predominantly Black working class that made it run, and the rise of the Republican/mafia machine of which Nucky and the Commodore were a part. I expected the later chapters to be less interesting, but in fact the chapters covering events from the 70s on were the most vivid, maybe because the author and his sources were there to see them. Those chapters cover dissolution of the political machine machine and the city's slide into squalor, the 70s fight to save what was left of the city's economy by legalizing gambling, the surprising lengths that New Jersey went to to keep the Mob from returning, and the rise of the casinos and their owners (Trump in particular) with their subsequent struggles in the credit crunch.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barbara VA

    I've started going to Atlantic City when I was about 5 from New York with my parents, so I saw the city thru the early 60's and into the late. We would pass hotels and clubs and they would tell me who they saw perform, enjoyed the diving horse on the Steel Pier and swam in the ocean. By the time I was a teen they felt it was not a safe place to go anymore, so I messed the building of the casinos but do remember reading all about it. I am still an east Coaster and I finally had a chance to visit I've started going to Atlantic City when I was about 5 from New York with my parents, so I saw the city thru the early 60's and into the late. We would pass hotels and clubs and they would tell me who they saw perform, enjoyed the diving horse on the Steel Pier and swam in the ocean. By the time I was a teen they felt it was not a safe place to go anymore, so I messed the building of the casinos but do remember reading all about it. I am still an east Coaster and I finally had a chance to visit the Borgata with friends (they do Vegas 2 or 3 times a year) a year or so ago and while we had a great time, there was a sad lack in AC. So much potential just wasted! Boardwalk Empire tells me why this happened. I love the HBO series and while they have the same name and some of the same characters the book is so much more!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    The cheesy cover on my edition does a disservice to this interesting history of Atlantic City from its beginnings as an idea in the mind of an overworked and underpaid doctor in 19th century New Jersey. It is about more than corruption and organized crime--Johnson shows us how the City got its start from the building of rail tracks and its sordid fall from the boom in car ownership and the ending of prohibition. Along the way he relates the changing race relations in the city and the early segre The cheesy cover on my edition does a disservice to this interesting history of Atlantic City from its beginnings as an idea in the mind of an overworked and underpaid doctor in 19th century New Jersey. It is about more than corruption and organized crime--Johnson shows us how the City got its start from the building of rail tracks and its sordid fall from the boom in car ownership and the ending of prohibition. Along the way he relates the changing race relations in the city and the early segregation of the essential African American workers into a area "on the other side of the track." Finally, he shows how a group of determined citizens were able to get legalized gambling into the city while keeping organized crime out.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I really wanted to like this book, but I eventually had to abandon it. I knew going in that it wasn't a novelization of the hit HBO show. I didn't mind; in fact, I welcomed it as I like non-fiction and wanted to learn more about the history of Atlantic City. But the book is so dry... I had a really hard time getting interested in it. (view spoiler)[Maybe if it described more of the life and times of the people and the era... how they lived, etc., maybe some more personal stories and accounts, it I really wanted to like this book, but I eventually had to abandon it. I knew going in that it wasn't a novelization of the hit HBO show. I didn't mind; in fact, I welcomed it as I like non-fiction and wanted to learn more about the history of Atlantic City. But the book is so dry... I had a really hard time getting interested in it. (view spoiler)[Maybe if it described more of the life and times of the people and the era... how they lived, etc., maybe some more personal stories and accounts, it may have captured my interest more. However, there was A LOT about the politics of the city. Which yes, I understand is important to the history... but it was too much for me. (hide spoiler)]

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rishard

    After seeing the trailers for the upcoming HBO show I had to read the book, and I’m glad I did. Its a really good look at the history of Atlantic City for over 150 years. The TV series I think is just going to cover a small sliver in time while the book covers everything from construction to around where we are now. Its told in a documentary/history style, and not so much as a novel. There was a TON of things that I didn’t know, and I’m glad I now do. I highly recommend checking it out and I ca After seeing the trailers for the upcoming HBO show I had to read the book, and I’m glad I did. Its a really good look at the history of Atlantic City for over 150 years. The TV series I think is just going to cover a small sliver in time while the book covers everything from construction to around where we are now. Its told in a documentary/history style, and not so much as a novel. There was a TON of things that I didn’t know, and I’m glad I now do. I highly recommend checking it out and I can’t wait to see the series.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    What a great history of the glitzy, trashy and corrupt city by the sea. The author traces the rise, fall, and rise again of Atlantic City, concentrating on three of the city "bosses" and how they shaped the success and failures that plagued and continue to plague the town. His style is entertaining and his research is very complete. I was fascinated by the machinations of the men who ruled Atlantic City with an iron hand and how it finally came back to haunt them. Highly recommended. What a great history of the glitzy, trashy and corrupt city by the sea. The author traces the rise, fall, and rise again of Atlantic City, concentrating on three of the city "bosses" and how they shaped the success and failures that plagued and continue to plague the town. His style is entertaining and his research is very complete. I was fascinated by the machinations of the men who ruled Atlantic City with an iron hand and how it finally came back to haunt them. Highly recommended.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ken Lawrence

    Boardwalk Empire is a fascinating true history of Atlantic City's birth and development through the 20th Century. It's the basis for the HBO series but it's more entertaining because it's all true. The intersection of politics and racketeering in running the city is unbelievable. Fans of the series might be disappointed that it's not all about Nucky but it's a good read for any fan of politics, gangsters, cities and the Shore. Boardwalk Empire is a fascinating true history of Atlantic City's birth and development through the 20th Century. It's the basis for the HBO series but it's more entertaining because it's all true. The intersection of politics and racketeering in running the city is unbelievable. Fans of the series might be disappointed that it's not all about Nucky but it's a good read for any fan of politics, gangsters, cities and the Shore.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Beth Levitt

    An enjoyable read about the history of Atlantic City. As others mentioned I enjoyed the first half to two thirds the latter was a bit less intriguing and more a listing of corrupt politicians who controlled the city. It did make me think as it sure seemed AC faired much better under corrupt regimes than honest ones.

  23. 5 out of 5

    April

    Essentially Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson takes you through the inception of Atlantic City - when it's founded all the way through modern day. Read my review here Essentially Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson takes you through the inception of Atlantic City - when it's founded all the way through modern day. Read my review here

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I've never watched the television series, so I can't compare the two. I found this a bit dull. It contained a lot of information, but it just wasn't presented in a way that brought it to life. I'm disappointed. I've never watched the television series, so I can't compare the two. I found this a bit dull. It contained a lot of information, but it just wasn't presented in a way that brought it to life. I'm disappointed.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed it. Especially loved the history of Atlantic City and how it started.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Interesting read, covers the lifetime of Atlantic City, from its inception through Trump and the modern day, not just the Nucky Johnson (still looks weird even after finishing the book) era.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joel Arnold

    I grabbed this book because it was on sale for the Kindle. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Quite entertaining, it gets you to the inside of what built the city, how it ran during its most corrupt period, how it almost died, and how it came back into prominence. In the process, it gave me a real sense of how corruption and graft has worked within our own culture in the past. A few excerpts: When it came to illegal booze, there was probably no place in the country as wide open as Nucky’s town. It was almos I grabbed this book because it was on sale for the Kindle. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Quite entertaining, it gets you to the inside of what built the city, how it ran during its most corrupt period, how it almost died, and how it came back into prominence. In the process, it gave me a real sense of how corruption and graft has worked within our own culture in the past. A few excerpts: When it came to illegal booze, there was probably no place in the country as wide open as Nucky’s town. It was almost as if word of the Volstead Act never reached Atlantic City. During Prohibition, Nucky was both a power broker in the Republican Party and a force in organized crime.location 95 During Prohibition, Nucky was both a power broker in the Republican Party and a force in organized crime.location 97 Atlantic City quickly became a glitzy, raucous vacation spot for the working class. It was a place where visitors came knowing the rules at home didn’t apply.location 100 Popular recollections of the old Atlantic City, believed by many, is that it was an elegant seaside resort of the wealthy, comparable to Newport. Such a notion is fantasy. In its prime, Atlantic City was a resort for the blue-collar workers of Philadelphia’s industrial economy. The resort was popular with people who could afford no more than a day or two stay. These working poor came to town each summer to escape the heat of the city and the boredom of their jobs. Atlantic City gave them a place to let loose.location 102 the potential of the local vice industry as a reliable source of income for his political organization. It was Kuehnle who established the procedure for assessing and collecting extortion payments from the racketeers who provided unlawful entertainment. Under the Commodore, gambling parlors, speak-easies, and brothels operated as if they were legal. The only time the local police clamped down on anyone was if they were late with their payment.location 130 Nucky Johnson established himself as a force in two different worlds. He was both the most powerful Republican in New Jersey, who could influence the destinies of governors and senators, and a racketeer, respected and trusted by organized crime.location 142 In his letters, from “Doctor Pitney,” he expounded upon the health benefits of Absecon Island. In all his letters he stressed that the only thing necessary to make this health-giving island available to everyone was a railroad from Philadelphia to the seashore.location 236 Between the months of June and September, the mosquitoes and greenhead flies ruled the island. During the summer, whenever the ocean breeze subsided, the greenhead flies were everywhere. They were so large they cast a shadow as they swarmed about their victims. These flies were nasty creatures and the pain of their bites lingered for days. Cider vinegar was the only lotion that helped ease the sting. Absecon Island may have been a pristine wilderness, but it wasn’t a vacationer’s paradise or a place one would think of as a health resort.location 244 The legislators labeled his idea “Pitney’s folly.” They rejected it with almost no debate and ridiculed it as the “Railroad to Nowhere.” The consensus of the legislature was that it wasn’t possible for a new seacoast resort to compete with Cape May, which was America’s first seashore resort.location 252 Richards made a sales pitch that his Republican friends in Trenton understood well. He convinced them that the railroad was necessary for the local glass and iron industries to remain competitive.location 307 For most of the investors, the success of Pitney’s beach village was irrelevant. Their factories and landholdings were in Camden and western Atlantic Counties, 30 to 50 miles from the seashore. As long as the railroad reached their properties, they cared little whether the train made it to the seacoast and even less what became of Absecon Island.location 317 Samuel Richards later admitted that he first saw Absecon Island in June 1852, only a week before the organization of the railroad, and three full months after the legislature had granted the charter.location 319 Hoping to appeal to visitors beyond Philadelphia, the street map assigned each state in the nation its own avenue.location 364 by year’s end, when it was fully constructed, the United States Hotel was not only the first hotel in Atlantic City but also the largest in the nation. Its rooms totaled more than 600, and its grounds covered some 14 acres.location 380 the Camden-Atlantic Railroad was opened to the public on July 4, 1854. For the remainder of the summer, nearly every train that left Camden was sold out.location 384 The railroad made it possible for the populations of Philadelphia and Camden to visit the seashore in a single day without the need or expense of a long vacation.location 386 Land values on Absecon Island skyrocketed. Sand dunes and meadowlands purchased for as little as $5 per acre were resold several years later at prices of up to $300 per acre.location 389 Summer 1858 saw a plague of insects that nearly closed the resort down.location 403 According to reports from the time, horses covered with blood laid down in the streets, and cattle waded out into the ocean to escape the torture of the insects.location 409 For the next 10 to 15 years, the problem with the mosquitoes and greenhead flies was dealt with by pouring coal oil on the water of the ponds and wet spots that dotted the islands. The pests were eventually eliminated when the dunes were graded and the ponds filled with sand.location 411 it was common for the streets to flood at high tide.location 416 Atlantic City’s main thoroughfare, Atlantic Avenue, was originally a cow path for cattle driven by farmers in the inlet area to the lower end of the island. As late as the 1880s one could see herds of cows being taken from one end of the town to the other and returned at night through the center of the village on Atlantic Avenue.location 420 for the first 20 years of its existence, Pitney’s beach village limped along, remaining a wilderness island.location 427 Anyone with enough money for an overnight stay generally preferred to visit Cape May. As for the working class, whose numbers in Philadelphia and Camden were growing steadily, the cost of vacationing remained beyond their reach.location 430 At first, the Camden-Atlantic Railroad was barely able to break even financially.location 433 Prior to Richards’ railroad, round-trip tickets on the Camden-Atlantic were $3, and one-way fares were $2. The train fares for the narrow gauge railroad were $1.50 and $1.location 464 twice-daily, deep-sea net hauls were famous, attracting thousands of wide-eyed tourists.location 485 He was able to name as many as 48 species and bluffed on the ones he couldn’t.location 488 Thousands of building tradesmen and laborers came to Atlantic City looking for worklocation 525 Nationally, tourism and the hotel and recreation industry were in their infancy. There were only a handful of vacation spots and they were reserved for the wealthy.location 536 It was the lower-middle and lower classes that were the lifeblood of Atlantic City.location 555 A favorite subject of the railroads’ doctors was ozone, “the stimulating, vitalizing principal of the atmosphere,” which was in large supply only at the seashore, especially Atlantic City. According to the railroads’ pamphlets, “Ozone has a tonic, healing, purifying power, that increases as the air is taken into the lungs. It strengthens the respiratory organs, and in stimulating them, helps the whole system.” But that wasn’t all. By breathing Atlantic City’s air, “It follows naturally that the blood is cleansed and revived, tone is given to the stomach, the liver is excited to healthful action and the whole body feels the benefit. Perfect health is the inevitable result.”location 576 convince vacationers that Atlantic City had mild winters. Promotional literature claimed that the warm Gulf Stream, coursing its way northward, made a westerly turn just beyond Cape May and swept within a few miles of the stretch of the Jersey coast where Absecon Island was located. The Gulf Stream then, as if guided by an unseen hand, turned out to the sea on its way to the frozen North, thus preventing any other northeastern seacoast town from receiving its warmth. As one early publicist later admitted, “During blizzards or just plain snowstorms, we plastered the metropolitan dailies with No snow on the Boardwalk even though sometimes we had to sweep it off before placing the copy.”location 598 The Boardwalk, which began as a way to keep the tourists from tracking beach sand all over town,location 603 The industrialization and urbanization of America were, for the first time, creating expendable income for the masses. Atlantic City played a significant role in fostering the illusion that the route to happiness was by way of materialism.location 629 Elias Howe’s invention of the sewing machine in 1846 laid the foundation for the ready-to-wear clothing industry. Its widespread use in the last half of the 19th century produced a fashion revolution in America. The working class could now afford stylish garments. Ready-made clothing blurred class lineslocation 648 The home included furnishings from around the world and was recognized by the U.S. Post Office as “No. 1, Atlantic Ocean, U.S.A.”location 683 Young and other Boardwalk merchants who modeled themselves after him were, in large part, responsible for institutionalizing the concept of the spending spree in American culture.location 690 Regardless of their financial means, upon arrival in Atlantic City, guests knew they would be fussed over. But the pampering of hotel guests—especially before modern conveniences—was labor intensive.location 744 These jobs were filled almost entirely by freed slaves and their descendants who had migrated north following thelocation 747 Civil War.location 747 By 1915, African-Americans accounted for more than 27 percent of the resort’s population, a percentage more than five times that of any other northern city. At the same time, they comprised 95 percent of the hotel workforce.location 770 In the population counts, for 1890 and 1900 upward of 87 percent of all Black workers were employed in either agricultural pursuits or domestic and personal service. The remaining 13 percent breaks down as follows: 6 percent in manufacturing and mechanical pursuits, 6 percent in commerce and transportation, and 1 percent in the professions.location 798 Those Blacks who came to Atlantic City in search of work found they could make four to five times the wages available in the South.location 812 at the turn of that century the weekly wages of hotel workers in Atlantic City compared favorably with other cities and may have been the highest paid at the time.location 825 Atlantic City became the most “Black” city in the North.location 832 a substantial portion of Atlantic City’s Black residents were, by comparison to other Blacks nationally, part of the middle and upper classes.location 856 History rarely marches in a straight line. Succeeding generations have a way of retrenching as they reject portions of social changes made earlier. Time and again, positive social advancements are made only to be followed by negative reactions.location 866 Upon the federal government’s withdrawal from the South, the forces of White Supremacy were unleashed. Following the fall of Reconstruction governments in the South, “Jim Crow” laws became popular throughout the Old Confederacy. The 1890s saw a wave of segregation laws adopted by southern state legislatures.location 876 The Black infant mortality rate was double that of White children, and the death rate among Blacks from tuberculosis was more than four times that of Whites.location 890 could only bathe in one section of the beach, but even then had to wait until after dark.location 902 and hack drivers and other colored gentry in every walk of life, it will be easily realized what an evil it is that hangs over Atlantic City.location 908 From the beginning of the importation of slaves, Blacks received Christian Baptism. Initially, there was strong resistance to baptizing slaves. The opposition subsided when laws made it clear that slaves did not become free through the acceptance of the Christian faith.location 936 the church became the glue of Black society. The church was the only effective agency for helping Blacks to cope with racial prejudice.location 944 there was a relationship between Black social classes and church affiliation. The upper class usually formed the majority of the relatively small Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Congregational churches; the middle class primarily comprised the more numerous Baptist and Methodist churches; and the lower class gravitated toward the small and numerous Holiness and Spiritualist churches.location 954 The transformation of the African-American church began with secularization. Black churches began to lose their other-worldliness and focused their energy on the conditions of their congregants in this world. Churches became increasingly interested in the affairs of the community as they impacted upon their members. Another transformation that occurred in Black religious behavior was the emergence of Holiness and Spiritualist churches. Originally formed as personality cults, their leaders had a message directed to the post-slavery experience.location 970 A cornerstone of their church doctrine was never to permit a member to be without the bare necessities of food, shelter, and clothing. Over time, Atlantic City’s Black churches became a social safety net for their members in need.location 988 Over time, Atlantic City’s Black churches became a social safety net for their members in need.location 989 The next move was to divide the New Jersey Avenue School; half for Whites and half for Blacks. There was a door for “White” and a door for “Colored,” and separate play yards to keep the children from mingling.location 1065 large percentage of their parents contracted tuberculosis at a rate more than four times that of Whites.location 1082 why the exposés on the local prostitution trade published in the Philadelphia Bulletin in early August 1890 caused such a stir.location 1089 “There are more than 100 of these dens of infamy in Atlantic City. Just think of it—100 such places in a city of this size!”location 1097 Despite the uproar, level heads prevailed and business continued as usual amid reports that local police officers were confiscating the Bulletin from Boardwalk newsstands as quickly as the papers arrived.location 1101 Philadelphia, which did not exist until a half-century after the founding of Boston, had become the leading city of the colonies by the time of the Revolutionary War. It was also the most successful seaport in the New World.location 1123 Following the Revolutionary War, Quaker money transformed Philadelphia into America’s first industrial city.location 1127 During the American Civil War, it was Philadelphia’s textile factories that clothed the Union Army.location 1133 New York was the melting pot and Chicago the city of broad shoulders, but Philadelphia is where the Industrial Revolution was won in the United States.location 1136 After the Civil War, the factory system came to full bloom in Philadelphia. For nearly threelocation 1138 generations, Philadelphia had the most diversified and extensive economy of any American city.location 1139 In 1887 the Pennsylvania Legislature was pressured into adopting the Brooks Law, which severely restricted who could hold a liquor license. In a single year, the number of liquor licenses in Philadelphia was reduced from 5,773 to 1,343. Statutes regulating hours and Sunday Blue Laws further limited the flow of booze to the working class. The patricians who ran Philadelphia were determined to keep their town God-fearing and sober. Philadelphia’s blue-collar workers soon found out there was a place they could go for a hell-raising good time. Quaker morality hadlocation 1162 no place in Atlantic City.location 1166 As one long-time resident who understood what Atlantic City was all about has said, “If the people who came to town had wanted Bible readings, we’d have given ’em that. But nobody ever asked for Bible readings. They wanted booze, broads, and gambling, so that’s what we gave ’em.”location 1170 Pennsylvania, New Jersey’s laws prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages on the Sabbath. In Atlantic City, Sunday wasn’t a day of worship but rather the biggest day of the week, and when it came to making a buck, state law was irrelevant. Thelocation 1176 brazen violation of the law created a furor in the Philadelphia newspapers nearly every summer. Inlocation 1187 on each occasion after a “courteous hearing,” the grand jury refused to return an indictment. “It has been impossible to get indictments … the grand juries are representative of the business interests of the city and the county. The people of the city are getting the government they want.” The grand juries were handpicked by the county sheriff, Smith Johnson. Sheriff Johnson understood the legal system and knew how to protect Atlantic City’s businessmen. He controlled the selection of the grand jury and saw to it that everyone chosen to serve was “safe.”location 1202 One popular story has it that the Commodore assured his lieutenants and the local merchants that if the governor ever did send down the militia, then Kuehnle would have the local whores greet them at the train station.location 1264 There were charges for such things as serving summonses, conducting real estate foreclosure sales, executing on civil judgments, and housing inmates in the county jail. These fees totaled $50,000 annually at a time when a round-trip excursion ticket from Philadelphia cost $1. The fees were the personal income of the sheriff and he answered to no one except his political allies.location 1270 The Commodore understood that Atlantic City’s business owners would gladly sacrifice honest government for a profitable summer and he gave them what they wanted. Kuehnle protected the rackets from prosecution and worked with the tourist industry to ensure its success. In exchange, the community let him call the shots.location 1281 Under Kuehnle’s reign, all the elements for the infrastructure of a modern city were put into place.location 1298 Kuehnle was one of the owners of the Atlantic City Brewery, and its beer was the most popular in the resort. If a saloonkeeper wanted his liquor licenselocation 1301 renewed and not be cited for selling brew on Sunday, he bought the right beer. Kuehnle amassed a fortune.location 1302 The Commodore became enormously popular in the Northside by providing for needy Blacks out of work during the winter months. The off-season could be a harsh struggle for many year-round residents of the Northside, and Kuehnle helped them make it through the winter. Under the Commodore, the Republican Party established its own private welfare system, dispensing free food, clothing, and coal and paying doctor bills. At Kuehnle’s prompting, the hotel and boardinghouse owners required all of their employees to register to vote. Any African-American worker who failed to register was harassed until he did. On Election Day, Kuehnle’s lieutenants went into the Northside and rousted Black voters out of their homes. Groups of about 20 Blacks at a time were taken in wagons from ward to ward voting repeatedly, for which they were paid $2 a ballot. The scheme of election fraud was denounced by a national magazine of the day as “the rawest ever known in the country.” Republican election-day workers stood outside the polls with their pockets crammed with $2 bills. They each had a list oflocation 1321 deceased and fictitious voters whose names appeared on the voter registr

  28. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Maina

    Honestly, I feel like I know the whole history of Atlantic City. Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese did a fantastic job of converting this book to a HBO series. It is a long history and I particularly noted the rail development period was by-passed….it is very rich history and you can easily tell that Nelson Johnson is at home when narrating this. You cannot believe that the Atlantic city…..in the Summer 1858 saw a plague of insects that nearly closed the resort down. For the next 10 to 15 years, Honestly, I feel like I know the whole history of Atlantic City. Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese did a fantastic job of converting this book to a HBO series. It is a long history and I particularly noted the rail development period was by-passed….it is very rich history and you can easily tell that Nelson Johnson is at home when narrating this. You cannot believe that the Atlantic city…..in the Summer 1858 saw a plague of insects that nearly closed the resort down. For the next 10 to 15 years, the problem with the mosquitoes and greenhead flies was dealt with by pouring coal oil on the water of the ponds and wet spots that dotted the islands. The pests were eventually eliminated when the dunes were graded and the ponds filled with sand. This is development. Hat tip to Michael Pitt as Jimmy Darmody…..how he pulled that lazy leg stunt was classic! The lines by Stephen Graham as the young Al Capone….unforgetable! one that comes to mind…”may I say it’s both an honour and a privilege to make your acquaintance” “I got a proposition” Mr Rosseti from Newyork also got in clever lines…… ”we all have guns” One thing though that I seem to notice with HBO is the lewdness….. does not seem to be there in the book…I do not understand. So much is said on this HBO series about flowers……one of the script writters must love flowers. Heck…..let me just quote lines that stood out… “As late as the 1880s one could see herds of cows being taken from one end of the town to the other and returned at night through the center of the village on Atlantic Avenue.” Enterpreneurship spirit- “Richards’ railroad was to be an efficient and cheaper narrow gauge line. The roadbed for the narrow gauge was easier to build than that of the first railroad. It had a 3½-foot gauge instead of the standard 4 feet 8½ inches, so labor and material would cost less.” “The huge net hit the floor of the pier and the crowd squealed with joy. “… Reminds me of a scene where fish thuds with the body of a guy who is apparently dead.... The irony…. “Next to being an inhabitant of Atlantic City, it must be one’s highest privilege to find rest, health and pleasure at the City by the Sea.” A favorite subject of the railroads’ doctors was ozone, “the stimulating, vitalizing principal of the atmosphere,” which was in large supply only at the seashore, especially Atlantic City. “ – All the smoke that accompanied the running of the trains.....the soot and what not.... “Elegant was a word often used to describe the Windsor Hotel. In the late 1800s, it was one of Atlantic City’s most talked about places. “ Racism – “Domestic work was thought to be peculiarly “Negro work,” with the attitude of most Whites being, “Negroes are servants; servants are Negroes.”” “The message was clear: African-Americans were servants and that was all they could ever hope to be in Atlantic City.” History rarely marches in a straight line. And it is true that the Negro Church is the only social institution of the Negroes which started in the African forest and survived slavery. Underground rebellion? “the permanent Black population increased, numerous social societies were established. These groups were often “secret societies,” akin to the Masonic Order. These secret societies were one of the vehicles used by Blacks to cope with their minority status. “ Neglect- “A city that could host millions of tourists refused to provide facilities for combating tuberculosis among its Black population. “ Who benefits during a war? “During the American Civil War, it was Philadelphia’s textile factories that clothed the Union Army.” Any facts to support this? “The factory mode of production was first introduced to America before 1840 in the cotton mills of New England.” Exercising power- “The domination of politics by corporation-machine alliances had reached its full flower.” “Kuehnle had the undying affection of the public, but Nucky Johnson had the power, and he used it in a way that made the Commodore look like a choirboy.” This comes out evidently..... absolute power corrupts. “Nucky also learned that in Atlantic City, a politician would only have power so long as he was prepared to bend the law when needed to help the resort’s economy. “ “Crucial to his power and the control of the Republican organization, he learned how to manipulate Atlantic City’s Black population.“ Justifying wrongs “When I sell liquor, it’s bootlegging. When my patrons serve it on a silver tray on Lake Shore Drive, it’s hospitality.” “Everybody helped out. If you worked for the city you could count on one time or another working a night shift and being told to go to such and such place and help unload a boat. You weren’t supposed to know what it was but everybody did.” “Federal men are as guilty as is the individual who uses a pistol without provocation. An officer may fire only in pursuit of persons guilty of felony. Rum smuggling comes under the designation of a misdemeanor.” Flamboyant life “Nucky’s audacious generosity had no limits. “ “Vacations were one of the first things to go when the American economy collapsed.” Tax evasion- “They computed the amount needed to cover their verifiable expenditures and savings and used that amount as their gross income in their tax returns. “ “They say he died smiling. His career personifies the greed, corruption, and high times that were Atlantic City in its days of glory.” Why do I think Nucky as written in the book died too early? He the main man……huh! “The power structure Nucky Johnson left behind was more complex than the one he inherited from Louis Kuehnle. “ Everyone had his cut….. Including the sheriff “Farley could never cultivate the Blacks the way Johnson had.” Smart man. “Between 1920 and 1960, with the exception of World War II, the annual production of new cars exceeded the national birth rate. “ This is a fact I did not know “Corruption had been the norm in Atlantic City’s government for so long that bribery, graft, and payroll padding were standard practices of doing municipal business.“ “Of the three bosses who reigned over the corruption of Atlantic City, it was Francis Sherman Farley who ruled with the most knowledge of government and restraint on unlawful excesses.” I find this very interesting…..education perhaps? “Hap Farley was a giant. In the history of New Jersey politics, he is in a league of his own.” “Her new jeans were so tight they looked as if she had been poured into them. “ When describing Rita who was a blonde she is further described… “The years hadn’t been kind and no amount of Maybelline helped.” All this summed up to- “a hollow reputation.” “When Fidel Castro deposed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, he put an end to capitalism in every form.” “It reeked of wretched excess.” When describing Trumps private yatch. Ego- “Trump was contacted by Khashoggi, who had been a guest at a number of Atlantic City casinos. The arms dealer wanted Trump to remove his daughter’s name from the yacht. Khashoggi didn’t understand the Donald’s ego, which may be the biggest since the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. For a man who put his name on nearly everything he owned, there was never a doubt he would rename his new toy.“ Trumps father…. “I learned how to frame walls more efficiently than other people, how to read a blueprint more accurately and faster. They weren’t huge skills, but they gave me an edge.” “Construction of the Taj consumed enough steel girders to make nearly five full-scale replicas of the Eiffel Tower. “ when described……. “It is overwhelming in its crudeness—barbaric, hideous, and magnificent. There is something colossal about its vulgarity.” “Atlantic City remains a town with a singular purpose for its existence—to provide leisure time activities for tourists. “ – A total of 12 casinos….what! Finally there you have it…. ”There’s no reason Atlantic City can’t flourish as a community as well as a tourist destination. The two aren’t incompatible. “ I have learnt so much on this book, I would not mind digging more titles from this man. Salute!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Morrissey

    For anyone who has ever strolled the Boardwalk, spent a day relaxing by the Atlantic, and, yes, throwing in a few bucks in the hopes of winning immediate retirement and wondered how this playground of vice and fortunes came to be, Nelson Johnson provides a tour de force history of the city. From its establishment by Jonathan Pitney, who turned a fly-infested muck of swamp and sand into a seaside resort, to its ensnarement in the vice-grip of "Commodore" Kuehnle and "Nucky" Johnson and on to the For anyone who has ever strolled the Boardwalk, spent a day relaxing by the Atlantic, and, yes, throwing in a few bucks in the hopes of winning immediate retirement and wondered how this playground of vice and fortunes came to be, Nelson Johnson provides a tour de force history of the city. From its establishment by Jonathan Pitney, who turned a fly-infested muck of swamp and sand into a seaside resort, to its ensnarement in the vice-grip of "Commodore" Kuehnle and "Nucky" Johnson and on to the legalization of gambling casinos in the last quarter of the 20th Century, Atlantic City has appeared as something seemingly so perfectly American: big hopes, followed by hard reality; success, followed by decline, with renewal always just around the corner. Johnson's narrative is spellbinding, and the introductory scenes of the chapters are often plucked from interviews with those who experienced the warm embrace and chilling rebuke of Atlantic City's leaders. Kuehnle and Johnson, in particular, emerge from the history as larger-than-life figures, remarkable political operators, and keen to cement their legacy on more than just profits. Johnson and Hap Farley, Johnson's successor and New Jersey power broker, seem to be figures plucked from the same branch as Robert Caro's anti-heroes or the early 20th Century bosses of big cities like New York, Boston and Chicago. The rhythms of Atlantic City's history echo the oscillation of hope and despair felt by any gambler: the high felt when the wins pile up, and the utter low when the wins fade away and the inevitable losing streak begins. First imagined as a high-end spa resort town, Atlantic City instead became a blue-collar getaway for Philadelphians; a gleaming Prohibition-era haunt for vices, it became a downtrodden fly-by as Americans chose Florida and the Caribbean over "ordinary" New Jersey; and a gambling mecca that has never matched Las Vegas, and seemingly fallen short of its promise to fundamentally lift the entire city. The author certainly poured his heart and soul into this book. The prose is quite workmanlike, but the story is enormously compelling. Johnson's ability to weave into urban planning, politics, gangster history, legal fights and pop culture into one glittering story is an extraordinary achievement. Anyone who has gone down the Shore from Philadelphia would benefit from understanding the place that has drawn so many people, for so many reasons, for so long.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ted Hunt

    I must admit that I got snookered by the marketing for this updated (2010) edition of a book originally published in 2002. I am a big fan of the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire", and this new edition had a photo from the tv show as its cover. It was also in the used book section of Barnes and Noble, so I figured, why not? Parts of the book are interesting, most notably the origins of Atlantic City and the section that covered the era (the 1920's) that is the focus of the tv show. But I should have I must admit that I got snookered by the marketing for this updated (2010) edition of a book originally published in 2002. I am a big fan of the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire", and this new edition had a photo from the tv show as its cover. It was also in the used book section of Barnes and Noble, so I figured, why not? Parts of the book are interesting, most notably the origins of Atlantic City and the section that covered the era (the 1920's) that is the focus of the tv show. But I should have noticed that this part of the book, which addresses the reign of Nucky Johnson ( Nucky Thompson in the tv show), is just one chapter. The second half of the book is mainly a parade of one corrupt politician after another, which got pretty tedious. It also bothered me that the author's attitude about the corruption was "well sure they were corrupt, but stuff got done." Sorry, that's a level of morality that is reflected all too often in contemporary American politics. The story got a little more interesting when it addressed Atlantic City's efforts to become the Las Vegas of the east. And, as I should have anticipated, this is where Donald Trump enters the story. Not surprisingly, in a book written in the early 21st century, he is presented as a narcissistic, impulsive, child-like figure, dependent on his father's hard work and money, and more than willing to avoid paying the businesses who do work for him. The final chapter of the book reads like a blurb written by the Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, as it celebrates the decision to allow gambling and presents a picture of a city on the rise. To the author's credit, the updated edition points out that the rosy scenarios did not really pan out. And he wrote this new Afterword before The Donald sold his Taj Mahal obscenity for 4% of what he paid to build it. In short, for those who are fans of the tv show, read the book until Nucky exits, then throw it in the recycling bin.

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