During the early years of New Jersey’s colonial era, the island on which the town of Atlantic City would develop—known by the Lenni Lenape Native Americans as “absegami” or “little water,” and later modified by Europeans to “Absecon”—was viewed as unfit for long-term settlement, largely due to its lack of a natural harbor, marshland teeming with mosquitoes and sandy soil offering little potential for farming.
Even as late as 1850, when Cape May to the south had become one of the nation’s premier summer resorts, Absecon Island still had only seven permanent dwellings— all but one owned by descendants of Jeremiah Leeds, the first white man to build a permanent structure on the island.
Atlantic City’s development was largely due to the vision and persistence of Jonathan Pitney, a young doctor who in 1820 relocated to Absecon Island from his native Morris County. Intrigued by the island’s potential as a health resort, Pitney recognized that access had to be improved and successfully lobbied the state legislature to obtain a railroad charter and solicited investors to finance the line crossing the state to connect with Camden and Philadelphia . On July 5, 1854, the first train arrived from Camden. After the railroad’s launch, the United States Hotel opened with 600 rooms able to house 2,000 guests; it was the largest hotel in the nation and would later host President Ulysses S. Grant during his second term. The City’s permanent population, estimated at 250 in 1855, grew to over 13,000 in the 1890 census.
From its earliest conception by its founders, Atlantic City was a new kind of resort. In contrast to Cape May to the south and Newport to the north which catered to the comfortably rich, the City’s attractions would be of greatest appeal to the new urban middle class created by the industrial revolution. As one of Pitney’s partners put it, the City would provide affordable, usually shorter-term stays, for “workers in the close and debilitating shops of the city, whose limited means prevent a long absence from his calling, will find here the rest and recreation he cannot now obtain.” 
By the end of the nineteenth century, Atlantic City had become one of the nation’s most popular resorts. Its boardwalk, first built in 1870 to keep hotel guests from tracking sand into hotel lobbies and railroad cars, was lined with amusements, shops, food stands and restaurants. While Atlantic City gained a well-deserved reputation for its wholesome family appeal, it also provided opportunities to satisfy seamier interests, with its elected officials openly ignoring calls for enforcement of laws to restrict easy alcohol, gambling and prostitution.
Nucky” Johnson, the Roaring ‘20s and the Depression
After a brief power struggle, Kuehnle was succeeded by Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, who served as the County treasurer and Republican boss for a reign that would span the next thirty years. Johnson’s swashbuckling style—making his rounds in a chauffeur-driven powder blue Rolls Royce, wearing his trademark red carnation on the lapel of over a hundred custom-tailored suits and residing on an entire floor of one of the City’s leading hotels to which he often brought his various lovers—was a comfortable fit with the City’s own boisterous image in the Roaring ‘20s. Johnson openly boasted of the City’s appeals: “We have whisky, wine, women and slot machines,” he conceded. “I won’t deny it and I won’t apologize for it. If the majority of the people didn’t want them they wouldn’t be profitable and they wouldn’t exist. The fact that they do exist proves to me that the people want them.”
Prohibition, which became fully effective in January of 1920 (while Woodrow Wilson was president), not only gave Atlantic City added stature as the place where “anything goes,” but also gave Johnson the vehicle to build a network of relationships with national crime figures. Johnson advanced the interests of bootleggers and mobsters throughout the country by making Absecon Island one of the nation’s leading entries for the illegal import of alcohol; according to some estimates, perhaps 40 percent of all alcohol smuggled into the country between 1926 and 1933 passed through the island. Local prosecutors and police not only failed to enforce federal laws, but on occasion actively interfered with or even arrested federal agents who attempted to arrest bootleggers or others involved in importing and selling alcohol.
By 1925, over 2,500 hotels and boarding houses accommodated 400,000 visitors; during the summer nearly one hundred trains arrived or departed daily; and five ocean piers on its boardwalk featured amusements, food and over twenty theaters, establishing the City as the “Second Broadway,” the favored site for previews of shows prior to their openings in Manhattan.
Johnson reached the peak of his power in 1929, when he hosted the first known national gathering of organized crime leaders—a meeting later known as the ”Atlantic City Conference”—with its participants including Al Capone, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Frank Nitti, Vito Genovese, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky, Albert Anastasia, and Morris “Moe” Dalitz. The three-day meeting began on May 16—just months after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago in which seven members of the Bugs Moran gang were murdered in a hit widely linked to Capone—and the discussions apparently included chastising Capone for the unwelcome publicity, as well as warning others to avoid similar violence bringing increased law enforcement attention.
But another topic of discussion was how the gangsters could maintain their profits after Prohibition was repealed (which would take effect in 1933), such as in increasing their returns from gambling. Those conversations may have sparked the interest years later of some of the attendees, such as Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano and Moe Dalitz, in establishing and financing the first casinos in Las Vegas.
Growth of the Machine: Louis “the Commodore” Kuehnle
Starting in the 1880s, Atlantic County and Atlantic City entered a remarkable era in which three successive Republican bosses—Louis “the Commodore” Kuehnle, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson and Frank “Hap” Farley—ruled for a period lasting some ninety years. To be sure, from time to time they would be forced to beat back challenges from political rivals or reformers, but for the most part the political machine they built would be among the most powerful—and the most corrupt—of any in the nation.
Kuehnle, known as “the Commodore” for his prominent role in the Atlantic City Yacht Club, was the son of the owner of a hotel that became the favored meeting place for South Jersey Republicans. He used his social, business and political connections to become a bank president and obtain both open and hidden interests in other businesses, with his income reportedly exceeding a million dollars a year. The scope of Kuehnle’s power gained begrudging respect outside New Jersey; as an editorial in The New York Sun commented: “If you were to take all the power exercised by Boss Tweed, the Philadelphia gang, the Pittsburgh ring, Abe Ruef in San Francisco, and Tammany Hall, and concentrate it in one man, you still would fall a little short of Kuehnle’s clutch on Atlantic City.”
In the 1910 gubernatorial election, Kuehnle orchestrated massive vote frauds in an unsuccessful effort to defeat Democrat Woodrow Wilson (the City’s vote for Wilson’s Republican opponent exceeded the total number of registered voters). After Wilson was inaugurated in March 1911, the new governor, along with state Attorney General Edmund Wilson, aggressively targeted the Kuehnle organization, framing their attacks not as political payback, but as combating corruption in the county. A county grand jury selected by the sheriff from the Republican machine’s supporters refused to indict Kuehnle, but the Wilson administration empaneled a special state grand jury that charged Kuehnle, along with some two hundred others, on a variety of counts. At a trial personally prosecuted by the state attorney general before a state supreme court judge sent from Newark to preside, Kuehnle was convicted of fraud in the award of a contract to build a water main and sentenced to one year in prison at hard labor and fined $1,000.
. See generally for the history of Atlantic City, Nelson Johnson, Boardwalk Empire, Plexus Publishing: Medford, NJ 2002; Barbara Kozek, “History of Atlantic City,” City of Atlantic City. Accessed August 3, 2012 at http://www.cityofatlanticcity.org/about.aspx#history
 As early as 1801, Cape May hotels began advertising for summer visitors from Philadelphia and soon began running their own daily stage coaches to bring their guests back and forth. With the introduction of commercial steam boats in the 1820s, travelers from Philadelphia could take regularly-scheduled boats on the Delaware River without dependence on the tide, making the planning of trips more practical and convenient. From the south, ships from Baltimore and other ports brought many others, including Washington officials and politicians along with wealthy southern plantation owners, seeking relief from the summer heat. hotels began advertising for summer visitors from Philadelphia and soon began running their own daily stage coaches to bring their guests back and forth. With the introduction of commercial steam boats in the 1820s, travelers from Philadelphia could take regularly-scheduled boats on the Delaware River without dependence on the tide, making the planning of trips more practical and convenient.
 Subsequent boasts, with little evidence, were that the ocean air was rich in ozone, which could “…cure consumption, rheumatism, laryngitis, digestive disorders and insanity.” Liz Eisenberg and Vicki Gold Levy, “Atlantic City,” in Maxine N. Lurie ans Marc Mappen, eds., Encyclopedia of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press 2004, 43.
 Charles E. Funnell, By the Beautiful Sea: The Rise and High Times of that Great American Resort: Atlantic City, New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1975.
 The boardwalk was named after Alexander Boardman, a conductor on the Camden and Amboy Railroad, who with Jacob Keim, a hotel owner, conceived the idea of constructing a boardwalk as a means of keeping beach visitors from tracking sand into railroad cars and hotels. The City used its tax revenues to build an eight-foot-wide temporary wooden walkway from the beach into town that could be dismantled during the winter, which was later replaced by a more permanent walkway. See “Today in History: June 26, American Memory,” Library of Congress. Accessed July 19, 2010 at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/jun26.html
 Victorian-era religious leaders often decried the moral laxity of Atlantic City and other resorts. “To many Protestant clerics,” as one scholar points out: “commercial resorts, even in their most innocent aspects, presented a continual public spectacle of sin and social disorder. This could be true of any day in Atlantic City where such things as mixed bathing and drinking and dancing to the strains of popular music excited the worst fears of evangelicals. But it was especially true of resort Sundays, when the crowds were largest, and the seeming indifference of the people to the sanctity of the Sabbath and the laws of the state confirmed the evangelical view that commercial recreation had legitimized the worst manifestations of industrial society.” See Martin Paulsson, The Social Anxieties of Progressive Reform: Atlantic City, 1854-1920, New York: New York University Press 1996, 5-6.
 Quoted in Paulsson, Social Anxieties, 2.
 In assessing whether Governor Wilson’s motives in targeting Atlantic City were political or puritanical, the New York Times reported: “When inquiring into political conditions, Mr. Wilson found that for its population of 45,000 its vote was grossly disproportionate. There were more Lewis votes than there should have been voters.” The article went on to point out that nearly 50 percent of the City’s registered voters were African-Americans, most of whom worked in the hotels during the summer months, with many leaving the City at the end of the season, but that they were recorded as voting in the November election. See “More Arrests Stir Atlantic City Talk,” New York Times, July 29, 1911, 4.
 Edmund Wilson, Sr., who was not related to Woodrow Wilson, was a Republican appointed in 1908 by Wilson’s Republican predecessor, John F. Fort, and continued to serve as Attorney General though Wilson’s administration. Speaking at Atlantic City’s Traymore Hotel in November 1911, Governor Wilson described the County’s Republican machine as overseeing a “reign of terror” that intimidated critics and potential opponents. “There are policemen at the door who would lay hands on me if they dared,” he continued. “It is a question of emancipation from everything that is disgraceful and rotten.” Paulsson, Social Anxieties, 2.
a resort that developed in the late 1800s as an alternative to its then vice-ridden neighbor, Long Branch, the town where President James Garfield died from gunshot wounds and thus became the first, but by no means only, local habitue to be dispatched at the hand of a disappointed office seeker."Founded in 1871 by New York City broom manufacturer James A. Bradley, Asbury Park has always been a very progressive city, which was one of the visions of its founder.
Bradley, who had recently converted to Methodism, visited a summer camp meeting in Ocean Grove to the south and set his sights immediately to the north by purchasing about 500 acres of oceanfront land, which would eventually become Asbury Park.
Bradley paid $90,000 for the property in 1871 and named it after Francis Asbury, the first bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America.
From the very beginning Bradley instituted very progressive and innovative designs into Asbury Park, including a boardwalk with pavilions; electrical and trolley systems; an artesian well; wide, tree-lined streets; parks and churches, and a thriving oceanfront and business district.
More than 600,000 people vacationed in Asbury Park annually in the city's early years and the city flourished from later part of the Victorian era to the 1960s.
In 1880 Coney Island impresario George C. Tilyou opened up his Steeplechase amusements on Ocean Avenue and brought his iconic and smiling Tillie face to Asbury Park. In 1888, the Palace Merry-Go-Round was installed at the corner of Lake Avenue and Kingsley Street and many other amusements and attractions soon followed.
In 1929 the current Convention Hall and Casino building were begun and the city became a cultural and shopping destination, not only for fine stores but for movies, theater, and concerts.
From the early days of John Philip Sousa and Arthur Pryor, through the big band and jazz and blues era, to contemporary musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Southside Johnny, the city has more than its fair share of musical history.
Clubs along Springwood Avenue on the city's Westside were frequented by the likes of Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and many other jazz and blues greats.
But, like many urban areas, the advent of the Garden State Parkway, Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, and major shopping malls took tourists, businesses and shoppers away from Asbury Park and the city saw hard times from around 1970 to the turn of the century.
was a beach resort town in the late 18th century, named for its location along a branch of the South Shrewsbury River., Long Branch emerged as a popular beach resort town in the late 18th century, with its summer residents or visitors including Presidents Chester A. Arthur, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley and Woodrow Wilson. After he was shot in Washington on July 2, 1881, President James A. Garfield was brought by train to a beachfront home--with special track hurriedly laid from the station to the home to ease the last stage of his journey--in hopes that the cool ocean breezes might aid his recovery, but he died there on September 19, 1881. In commemoration of the presidents who spent time in the town, Seven Presidents Park along the beachfront (which also was the site of te winter camp of Buffalo Bob's Wild West Show) and The Church of the Presidents, where seven presidents attended services, remain today, along with The Garfield Tea House,
constructed from railroad ties which ad been laid to carry Garfield's train to the home in which he died.
In 1875, ninety-nine years after the American Revolution, present-day Spring Lake consisted of a clear blue lake called "Fresh Creek Pond", three farms, the isolated homes of rugged fishermen, and an embryo summer town called "Brighton". 28 years later Spring Lake was a fashionable resort of elegance. The transformation from farmland to a famous seaside resort was accompolished through the efforts of 4 seperate groups.
In 1903, the 4 areas were united into current Spring Lake. The town boasted the finest hotels, pretentious private cottages and lavish estates - a center of social gaiety famous throughout America. The pond, now named "Spring Lake", remained a beautiful body of crystal clear water surrounded by a lovely park in the center.
* Financial and Statistical Information, Division of Gaming Enforcement, New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety
* Atlantic City Casinos, American Casino Guide
* Slot Machine Payback Statistics, American Casino Guide
* Internet Gaming Sites, Division of Gaming Enforcement, New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety
* The Water Club by Borgata (#3 of 56)
* Wyndham Skyline Tower (#4 of 56)
* The Claridge Hotel (#6 of 56)
* Courtyard by Marriott Atlantic City (#7 of 56)
* Best Western Envoy Inn (#10 of 56)
* Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center (#12 of 56)
* Best Hotels in New Jersey, US News & World Report
* Best Boutique Hotels in New Jersey, TripAdvisor
* 30 Best New Jersey Bed & Breakfasts, BedandBreakfast.com