The American Path: From the Pleasure Garden to the Amusement Park

Naomi J. Stubbs


Pleasure gardens were ubiquitous in nineteenth century America with most cities hosting multiple venues. Beyond amusing the masses, American pleasure gardens served several important roles in defining national identities, including navigating the transition from agrarian to industrial nation. Yet despite their importance and popularity, they all but vanished from the American landscape by the mid-nineteenth century.

In this article, I examine what happened to the gardens in both physical terms, and, more importantly, in terms of what happened to the social space they created. I demonstrate that the amusement park is the chief successor to pleasure gardens, and that (unlike their British counterparts), this transition took place via public parks and world's fairs. The legacy of pleasure gardens is argued to continue through many forms, including the theme parks, shopping centers, and museums of today.


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