“Where were you when the lights went on?”
On May 16, 1903, over 250,000 electric lights illuminated the Brooklyn sky when Skip Dundy and Fred Thompson, the true fathers of the modern themed amusement park, opened Luna Park at Coney Island. A full generation before Walt Disney, they created a fantastical place where New Yorkers could forget the pressures of modern industrial society and remember how to play. Not everyone was enchanted by the eye-popping spectacle of Luna Park, however, including Russian writer and political activist Maxim Gorky, who was appalled by the superficial extravagance of this emerging American pastime. Set against the theatrical backdrop of Coney Island at the turn of the century, Luna Park chronicles the turbulent partnership of Dundy and Thompson and the birth of the most iconic—and controversial—amusement park in the world.