A Timeline of Atlantic City History


Lenni Lenape tribe

Long before Atlantic City was founded, the island where it would be developed, thick with woods and lined with dunes, was the summer home of the Lenni Lenape Indians, an Algonquian-speaking people. These original summer residents named the island Absegami, meaning "little water", a term for the bay denoting that the opposite shore was in sight. Over time the name was transformed into the present-day Absecon Island. Early colonial settlers in South Jersey largely ignored the island because it could only be reached by boat.

First permanent settlement

While the exact date of the first permanent settlement has never been determined, it is generally agreed that Jeremiah Leeds was the first to build and occupy a year-round residence on the island, building his home in 1783.
May 1820

Dr. Jonathan Pitney

Dr. Jonathan Pitney moved to Absecon village to practice medicine and begins to promote the healing powers of the salt air and sea. He advocated for a health resort on the nearby Absecon Island.
March 19, 1852


Camden & Atlantic Company received a railroad charter. The first train to Atlantic City from Camden arrived on July 1, 1854.
March 1854


The city was incorporated. "Atlantic City" name is selected by a civil engineer from Philadelphia, Richard Osborne, who prints it on a map of the city.
January 15, 1857

Absecon Lighthouse

Absecon Lighthouse was first lit.
June 26, 1870


The first boardwalk was 1 mile long, 8 feet wide, and stood 1 foot above the sand. Designed to prevent sand from being carried into the hotel lobbies by the strollers’ long dresses and shoes, later boardwalks were more permanent. It later became an official Atlantic City street, Boardwalk.

Easter Parade

The Easter Parade is held on the Boardwalk for the first time.
About 1883

Salt Water Taffy

Salt water taffy is first sold.

Rolling Chairs

Rolling chairs debuted on the Boardwalk.
June 12, 1892

Atlantic City Beach Patrol

The Atlantic City Beach Patrol began. Atlantic City had the first paid, professional lifeguards in the country.
June 18, 1898

Steel Pier

Steel Pier opened as an amusement pier.

Incubator Babies

Martin Couney, an early advocate of neonatal care, starts an infant incubator exhibit on the Boardwalk, saving hundreds of tiny babies before it closed in 1943.
January 1904

Atlantic City Free Public Library

Atlantic City Free Public Library opened its doors and moves into a building funded by Andrew Carnegie.
July 1910

The Atlantic City Aero Show

The Atlantic City Aero Show lifted off for the first time, with the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss flying high.
September 19 - 24, 1910


The Grand Army of the Republic, Union veterans of Civil War, held its annual encampment in Atlantic City.
March 15, 1915


Jitneys begin as a car service in Atlantic City.
May 10, 1919


Edward L. Bader Field opens. It is the first flying field to be called an “airport.”
January 16, 1920


Prohibition begins in the United States. While many of Atlantic City's establishments ignored the law and continued to serve alcohol to the city's visitors, apothecaries provided alcohol for medicinal purposes.
September 7, 1921

Miss America

Margaret Gorman, Miss Washington, DC, wins the Inner-City Beauty Contest. The following year, she is introduced as Miss America.

World War I Memorial

World War I Memorial is dedicated.

Atlantic City High School

Atlantic City High School opened on Albany Avenue, welcomed tens of thousands of students.
August 15, 1925

All-Wars Memorial Building

All-Wars Memorial Building (also known as the Colored Old Soldiers’ Home) opens in Atlantic City’s Northside neighborhood.
May 31, 1929

Atlantic City Convention Hall

Atlantic City Convention Hall is dedicated. It is renamed Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in 2018 for a former Atlantic City mayor and New Jersey State Senator.

Claridge Hotel

Construction of the Claridge Hotel is complete, the "Skyscraper by the Sea."
October 25, 1930

Indoor College Football Game

First indoor college football game held at Convention Hall.

Club Harlem

Leroy "Pop" Williams and Clifford Williams open Club Harlem on Kentucky Avenue, later joined by Ben Alten. The Paradise Club, an earlier nightclub, merged with Club Harlem in the 1950s.
April 16, 1937

Stanley S. Holmes Village

Residents move into Stanley S. Holmes Village, New Jersey's first public housing project.
November 1940

CIO Labor Union

John L. Sullivan addresses the CIO labor union in Atlantic City, and Phillip Murray does the same in 1947.

World War II

Troops train and recuperate in Atlantic City, which is known as "Camp Boardwalk" during World War II.
September 14, 1944

1944 Hurricane

A powerful hurricane destroyed more than half of the Boardwalk and Heinz Pier.
April 1, 1945

Arctic Avenue Easter Parade

Arctic Avenue Easter Parade starts on the Northside, sponsored by Madame Sara Spencer Washington.
July 25, 1946

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis team up at the 500 Club for the first time.
October 1949

John Henry

John Henry "Pop" Lloyd stadium opens, named for the Negro League baseball player who played on and coached for several teams in Atlantic City.


Atlantic City celebrates its centennial.
August 1964

Democratic National Convention

Democratic National Convention is held in Convention Hall. The Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party and Fannie Lou Hamer petition for equal access for all races to participate as delegates at the convention.
August 30, 1964

The Beatles

The Beatles perform at Convention Hall before a packed house.

Atlantic City Expressway

Atlantic City Expressway completed.
September 7, 1968

Miss Black America Pageant

First Miss Black America Pageant is held in Atlantic City at the Ritz-Carlton. J. Morris Anderson was the creator and producer.
September 7, 1968

Freedom Trashcan

Women’s rights advocates demonstrate on the Boardwalk by disposing of women’s items in a “Freedom Trashcan."
November 2, 1976

Gambling Referendum

New Jersey voters approve a referendum allowing casino gambling in Atlantic City.
May 26, 1978

First Casino Opens

The first casino opens, Resorts International, and other casinos soon follow.
December 10, 1982

Steel Pier Burns

A fire that started in the early morning hours of December 10 destroyed a section of Steel Pier. The pier, closed for several years, was used as storage space by Resorts International.

Miss America - Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams selected as the first black Miss America in 1984. Suzette Charles also serves as Miss America 1984 after Williams resigned from that position.

Atlantic Community College

Atlantic Community College opens a new building, now the Atlantic Cape Charles D. Worthington Atlantic City Campus.
December 19, 1984


New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is created to manage projects funded by the casino tax revenue.

Steel Pier

Steel Pier reopens.
May 1, 1997

The New Atlantic City Covention Center

Atlantic City Convention Center is dedicated.

The Walk

New retail stores and restaurants open, known as The Walk.
October 29, 2012

Superstorm Sandy

Superstorm Sandy comes ashore just north of Atlantic City, flooding streets, closing casinos, and wreaking havoc.

Observation Wheel

Steel Pier Observation Wheel welcomes riders.

Stockton University

Stockton University opens a new campus in Atlantic City.

Atlantic City Blackjacks

Atlantic City Blackjacks, an Arena Football League team, begins to play in Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.
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