Skip to main content

A Timeline of Atlantic City History

  • Pre-1783 - 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.

  • 1783 - 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 - Railroad

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

  • March 1854 - Incorporation

    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 - Boardwalk

    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.

  • 1876 - Easter Parade

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

  • About 1883

    Salt water taffy is first sold.

  • 1887

    Rolling chairs debuted on the Boardwalk.

  • June 12, 1892

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

  • June 18, 1898

    Steel Pier opened as an amusement pier.

  • 1902 - 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 7, 1921 - First Miss America crowned

    The first winner was 16-year-old Margaret Gorman, representing Washington, D.C.. She was awarded a Golden Mermaid statue.

  • May 31, 1929 - Convention Hall dedicated

    Now known as Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City Convention Hall was the largest auditorium in the world without columns or supports. U.S. Vice President Charles H. Curtis attended the dedication.

  • September 14, 1944 - Great Atlantic Hurricane

    The hurricane destroyed more than half of the Boardwalk. Whole sections of the Boardwalk, with rails and benches still intact, were blown blocks inland.

  • May 26, 1978 - First Atlantic City casino

    Resorts International opens.

  • March 13, 1984 - Usry elected

    The City's first African American mayor, James L. Usry, is elected. He remained Mayor until July 2, 1990.

  • May 1, 1997 - Convention Center

    The new Atlantic City Convention Center opens near the end of the Atlantic City Expressway. It is one of the East Coast's largest convention centers.

  • 2003 - The Walk

    The first shops at The Walk, a shopping and entertainment complex, open.

  • 2004

    Atlantic City celebrates its 150th birthday.

  • September 30, 2006 - Bader Field closes

    The name "airport" was coined to designate Edward L. Bader Field, which opened in 1919. It was the oldest operational municipal airport in the country when it closed.

  • October 2012

    Superstorm Sandy comes ashore.

  • 2014

    Four casinos close due to the economic downturn.

  • May 27, 2016

    Municipal Stabalization and Recovery Act signed into law.

  • 2018

    Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall renamed to James Whelan Boardwalk Hall

  • September 2018

    Stockton University returns to Atlantic City and opens a new campus.

  • March 2020

    COVID-19 Pandemic. State of New Jersey issues health directives.