This Month in History

July

  • 1907: With the 1907 season already full of ride-related accidents at Coney Island, the New York Times published a Sunday editorial on July 28 titled Needless Danger. It suggested that the rides and attractions everyone enjoyed were becoming more dangerous. It read: “Until lately the ‘scenic railway’ and its many variants have been regarded as perfectly harmless. Now they are beginning to have serious accidents on the ‘scenic railways’, bringing it into undesirable competition with (public) railways that people must use. There is no sense in risking one’s life to ride a few minutes on a dangerous toy road through aisles of painted canvas. People have been badly hurt on the chutes and toboggan slides. This means bad business for the lessees of such contrivances. There is no excuse for mishaps on these machines, and the only reasonable explanation is that the machinery is getting old and needs repairing. (But it is still no doubt) that summer is to satisfy the most reckless.“
  • 1913: On July 22, proceedings were instituted by local residents and property owners adjacent to Woodside Park, Philadelphia, Pa., to have the park limit operation on two of its popular roller coasters, the Ben Hur Racer and Whirlwind. The issue in the complaint was noise, with the suit stating that “the comfort of their homes was destroyed by the noise from the coasters and the shouting of their patrons in the park”. The local court would grant an extension of time to park management to find a remedy to the objectionable sounds. Both management and the owners of the two concessions subsequently made several changes in the construction of the coasters to reduce the noise to a minimum. Exactly what they did to satisfy the court order was never disclosed.
  • 1937: Twenty-four persons were injured, none seriously, in a collision of two roller coaster trains at Riverview Amusement Park, in Chicago, Ill. The accident occurred on the Pippin Coaster on the evening of July 20. A train stalled between two small hills and would be hit by the following train. Because it was near the end of the ride, the injuries to about mostly 30 teenagers was considered minor. The Associated Press carried the story and it made the front page on over 200 newspapers across the country with the title: “Two Coaster Trains Collide in Chicago.” It may have been the first time a coaster related story hit all markets large and small in every state. Ironically the park was spared further damage as the roller coaster was never identified, other than being listed as one of the "high rides." The cause of the accident would later be identified as a hung-up safety wheel.

—Compiled by Richard Munch/NRCMA Historian