Study Guide

Boardwalk Empire John Young's Million Dollar Pier

By Nelson Johnson

John Young's Million Dollar Pier

At the time, John Young's Million Dollar Pier must have been as mind-blowing as Disney World. This was a spectacle no one had ever seen before, one so awe-inspiring that it changed the fabric of American society. Or that's how John Young would tell it, at least.

John Young is the first of his kind. He instinctively realizes that his customers have "simple tastes" and "wanted a high time at a bargain price" (2.3), using this knowledge to make boatloads of cash. Part circus ringmaster, part savvy businessman, and part snake oil salesman, Young is the first to deliver an experience to tourists that they simply can't get anywhere else.

In a way, this represents the birth of modern consumerism. As Young and his competitors grow their businesses, they realize that they need to work hard to make customers drop serious dough. And they do. In time, these ambitious fellows "were, in large part, responsible for institutionalizing the concept of the spending spree in American culture" (2.38). So the next time you shop 'til you drop, just think—you might not be doing so without John Young and his Million Dollar Pier.