A Troubling History Lesson from Mr. Coney Island
The Bolivian Indian Village exhibit was located on Tilyou Walk at the Ocean, at what would now be West 16th Street. Indigenous natives were common attractions at Coney Island at the end of the nineteenth century, and the humane treatment of the odd visitors became a cause for reformers who monitored the shows for abuses. American Indians, Philippine tribesmen, and Eskimos were among those displayed in re-creations of their native habitats.
According to the Coney Island History Site, the mastermind behind both Lilliputia and the importation and display of many non-white/non-American people (from places such as the Philippines, Somalia, Burma, and Borneo) was one Samuel W. Gumpertz. Then there was the famous P.T. Barnum, who simply passed off a local black Brooklynite as the 'Wild Man of Borneo.'
Ask Mr. Coney Island: Indigenous Communities [Coney Island History Project]