One hundred years ago there was the municipal park. Today we entertain the masses on a commercial basis at the theme park. We enter a fantasy world. Buy a ticket and enjoy the ride.
The specialist theme park stems from a long history of public amusement.
Our story starts in the medieval fairs of Europe. The Bartholomew Fair which started in London in 1133 was particularly popular. These seaonal events combined entertainment, food, games and freak show voyeurism with trade. Their vestiges, such as traveling funfairs and carnivals still exist.
At the dawn of the industrial age life in a major town was fettid, crowded and dirty. Amusement parks sprang up on the edge of town as an escape from this conditions.
The first amusement park literally sprang out of the ground at Bakken in Klampenborg, eight miles to the north of Copenhagen. In 1583 Kirsteen Piil discovered a sweet water spring within the royal forest. Citizens of Copenhagen flocked to the forest to sample the clean water. The popularity of Bakken soon attracted entertainers and hawkers. Since 1756 the place has become a dedicated amusement park with an international reputation.
As the industrial revolution progress ed city populations swelled and there was a greater need for escape to the pleasure gardens. The Vauxhall Gardens opened in London in 1661. The Wurstelprater opened in Vienna in 1766. In Copenhagen the Tivoli Gardens opened in 1843. By 1896 there were 65 pleasure parks in London. By 1919 there were nearly 2000 amusement parks in the United States by 1919.
An intreasingly industrial world also offered more sophisticated entertainment. Vistors wanted "rides" that emulated the railways and the wonders of the modern engineering age.
In 1851 Britain hosted the first world trade fair to show off the wonders of the industrial age. The Great Exhibition showed just how successful a great trade show extravaganza could be. The New World took notice. In 1893 the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago surpased all previous trade shows. The date was special. It commemorated the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in North America.Chicago fought off competition from NewYork and St Louis to host the fair and would not be outdone. The city wanted to restore its reputation following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The exhibition brought entertainment, engineering and education to the populace. The festival Over 400 buildings were built for the exhibition inculding an Egyptian street. A special area called the Midway Plaisance was developed to dedicated amusement concessions.
The Chicago Exposition was a runaway successess. Over 700,000 people attended on the first day. Chicago demonstrated to the entire world that an amusement park could be a great commercial success provided that it had a profitable mix of rides, shooting galleries, slot machines and entertainment. And Chicago introduced the superlative ride of all. The Ferris Wheel made its first appearance in Chicago in 1893.
The development of amusement parks is closely connected to the development of the railways and electric trolley lines aroud the American cities. Some lines were developed to take visitors to attractive rural beaty spots. Enterprising railway operators developed the beauty spots to increase traffic on their lines. Amusement parts that developed in this way became known as trolley parks. Famous examples are the Ponce de Leon Park in Atlanta, the Carsinia Park in Reading and Idora Park in Youngstown.. By the 1890s the amusement parks offered rides such as the Giant Swing, Carousel and Shoot the Chutes.
The amusement parks on Coney Island in Brooklyn started life as trolley parks.. The first carousel was installed in the 1870s, the first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway in 1884. In 1875, a million passengers rode the Coney Island Railroad. In 1895 the Sea Lion Park opened. It was the first amusement park in the world to charge a general admission as well as to charge for the rises. In 1897 Steeplechase Park opened, followed by Luna Park in 1903 and Dreamland in 1904. Fire was a constant worry. Dreamland burnt down in 1911. Luna Park was burnt in 1944.
The 1920s is sometimes called the golden age of amusement parks. The American people had more leisure time and more disposable income than ever before. The amusement arcades offered an easy escape from day to day life. In 1925 the Kiddie Park chain was established in San Antonio, Texas. The first roller coasters were developed during this era.
The Great Depression introduced a long spiral of decline among the amusement parks. During and after World War II the structure of the industry began to change. Access to motor cars and a flight to the suburbs meant that out of town amusement parks became popular to the detriment of the traditional trolley parks. Mnay of the traditional amusement parks were closed, or burned to the ground. In 1964 Steeplechase Park closed.
Theme parks helped to save the industry. Surprisingly, the first theme park was build at Bkackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight in England in 1843. Sea Lion Park might also be considered a theme park because it was build around a nautical theme.
Santa Claus Town opened in Satan Claus, Indiana in 1935In 1940 Walter Knott built a Ghost Town in 1940, using buildings relocated from real old west towns such as the Calico, Califpornia ghost town and Prescott. The Walter Knott Ghost Town is often considered to be the first theme park in America. It is now owned by the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. . In 1950 the Children's Fairland opened in Oakland, California.
The first Disneyland opened at Anaheim in California in 1955s. Although it is correctly regarded as the first modern theme park Walt Disney may have been influenced by De Efteling which opened in the Netherlands in 1952. He regularly visited regularly de Efleing. Unlike the family run amusement parks, Disney had access to capital and advertising. Disney offered a complete package using movies, TV shows, action figures, rides and costumed characters to make up the "theme". The visitor is presented with an idyllic fairy tale world. Walt Disney World in Florida is so big that it is able to offer several themes within its confines. The Orlando area now offers more theme parks than anywhere else in the world.
Although corporate based theme parks have considerable advantages in terms of marketing might and access to capital, there are many examples of successful family owned theme parks across the United States.
In some instances the fmaily owned amusement parks have