A history of amusement park rides

1500s

The forebear of the modern roller coaster is introduced in Russia. It was a block of ice with wooden slides, said Jim Futrell, a historian with the National Amusement Park Historical Association.”It resembled more tobogganing that the roller coasters we know today,” he said. Revelers sat in an ice cart where “seats” were covered with straw or fur. The carts glided down giant ice slides and stopped when they reached sand at the bottom. Ironically, the roller coaster is called “American slides” in Russian.

1884

LaMarcus Adna Thompson introduces the Switchback Gravity Pleasure Railway at an entertainment park on Coney Island. The machine is widely recognized as the first real roller coaster in America, Futrell said.

1893

The Ferris Wheel, invented by George Ferris, wows the world during its debut at the Chicago World’s Fair. The ride actually came about two centuries after man-powered “pleasure wheels” carried people through the air, Futrell said. “There doesn’t seem to be a true first. It’s always people taking an idea and making it a little bit better,” he said.

1916

A Ferris Wheel, brought by a visiting circus, is spotted in Everett near Hewitt Avenue, where the Snohomish County PUD is now. The library even has film footage of it. Everett and Monroe were prime locations for circuses because they were located on the railroad tracks. That allowed circuses to transport animals and equipment.

For more information, visit the National Amusement Park Historical Association website, www.napha.org.

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