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HISTORY OF
AMUSEMENT PARKS


Many coin machine collectors are also amusement park enthusiasts. Maybe it's because you could always find a penny arcade in an amusement park.

The first amusement park, called Pleasure Gardens, appeared in Europe in the 16th century. The Bakken in Denmark, opened in 1583 and is still in operation today.

The first amusement park in America, Jones Woods, appeared in the early 1800's, in New York City. In 1846 and 1847, the Lake Compounce amusement park opened in Bristol; CT and the Rocky Point amusement park opened in Warwick, RI. Both are still open today. Coney Island opened in the early 1850's.

The first roller coaster, called the Switchback Gravity Pleasure Railway, opened in Coney Island in 1884. The roller coaster was an outgrowth of the large ice slides that were popular in Russia in the 1600's.

In 1893, the Columbian Exposition introduced the George Ferris Giant Wheel and the White City Midway (multi-lighted building facades), both of which became standard amusement park features ever since.

The early 1900's was the peak period for amusement parks. Over 2000 existed in America alone. The 1920's was the era of the wooden structure roller coasters, each trying to top the other as the best. The depression, while great for the penny arcade business, was bad for the amusement park business. In 1933, only 500 amusement parks remained. The 1930's, however, introduced the first cable sky ride and the first parachute jumping tower.

Disneyland, the nation's first theme park, opened in 1955.

Amusement park enthusiasts may want to join the National Amusement Park Historical Association (NAPHA), which was established to promote through preservation, awareness, and documentation, the history of amusement parks, past and present. NAPHA publishes a newsletter that comes out every other month.

To join the Association write: NAPHA P.O. Box 83, Mt. Prospect, Ill 60056. According to a recent NAPHA newsletter, some of the best traditional amusement parks still operating include the following: