Two or three times a year, staff at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab will get a call from a local citizen who has been beachcombing along the Chesapeake Bay at Brownie’s Beach. While better known as a place for hunting fossils from the Miocene, the calls we get are about the small, colorful glass beads that are also a common find there. Many people think they have discovered Indian trade beads, while in actuality the beads are of a more recent vintage. Two likely explanations for why the beads are present at Brownie Beach have been posited: that they are washing up from a 20th-century ship that wrecked nearby or that they were souvenirs from the now-defunct amusement park once located just to the north, in Chesapeake Beach.
Today’s thrill seekers flock to Six Flags, Disney World or Busch Gardens in search of lightning-fast roller coasters and laser light shows. The precursors of these modern attractions were outdoor amusement parks, often located in waterfront resorts. Here, the double attractions of sea bathing and carnival-type rides and games drew large crowds in the summers. Continue reading