Just off the mainland of southeastern New Jersey lies Absecon Island, whose marshes and sandy beaches lay undisturbed until 1854. Then the Camden and Atlantic Railroad Line was built there, and Atlantic City was born. Unfortunately, the hordes of vacationers from New York and Philadelphia dragged volumes of sand through too many marbled lobbies. In 1870, Alexander Boardman, a railroad conductor, proposed constructing a wooden walkway to sift out the sand, and the Atlantic City Boardwalk was born.
That first boardwalk measured one mile long. By 1883, almost 100 enterprises had sprung up beside it. Atlantic City built and rebuilt the Boardwalk until the fifth and final version in 1896. It was more than 4 miles long and 60 feet wide and featured steel pilings and 40-foot steel beams. The Boardwalk helped make Atlantic City an attractive host for innovative events such as the 1921 Miss America Pageant.
Later came the legalization of casino gambling in the late 1970s. Today, like Las Vegas, the Boardwalk is open 24 hours a day. Has the Boardwalk changed all that much from, say, 1885, when the gasoline engine was invented? It is more modern, but visitors still enjoy a range of distractions from saltwater taffy and chocolate fudge stands to the Steel Pier's rides and games.