June 27 – What a ride!

Today’s Factismal: The escalator was invented  in 1892 as an amusement park ride for Coney Island.

It isn’t just girls; all people just want to have fun. We like to go exotic places, and we like to eat strange foods, and, most of all, we like to ride thrilling rides. And in the late 1800s, Coney Island was the perfect place to do all three.

Coney Island had started as a typical seaside town, with fishing and shipping and not much else. But the hot New York summers meant that people in New York City wanted to go someplace cool to escape the dust and dirt of the city. So it flourished as a resort in the early part of the 1800s. Once a newfangled railroad was laid to the town, it became even more popular as people could ride an early train to the resort, lounge by the sea for a few hours and then go home to sleep in their own beds.

A relative of the great elephant built at Coney Island; this one is Lucy in Atlantic City (My camera)

A relative of the great elephant built at Coney Island; this one is Lucy in Atlantic City (My camera)

The influx of people hungry for adventure and flush with cash meant that there were plenty of locals looking for ways to provide the adventure in return for a little of the cash. In 1876, a carousel opened, delighting and dizzying passengers. In 1885, a lighthouse shaped like an elephant was built to give the day trippers a sense of whimsy in exchange for a nickle. And, in 1895, perhaps the most daring joyride of all opened: an inclined moving stairway (called an “inclined elevator”) that would take passengers up a 25 degree slope. This ride was immensely popular and soon led to the establishment of Steeplechase Park, the first of three Coney Island amusement parks.

A view of the original "inclined elevator" (Image courtesy IdeaFinder)

A view of the original “inclined elevator” (Image courtesy IdeaFinder)

The inclined elevator was the brainchild of Jesse W. Reno. A native of New York city, Reno had worked as a mining engineer before becoming an inventor. Perhaps the view he had of ores being moved up to silos by endless belts inspired his creation, or perhaps it was just a bolt from the blue. What is certain is that he was awarded patent # 25,076 on March 15, 1892 and built his first working model at the Old Iron Pier in 1895. The ride was a resounding success and soon attracted the attention of the Otis elevator company. They bought his invention, renamed it an escalator, and soon sold them to department stores across the country. Today, the descendents of Reno’s ever-ascending invention can be found in malls, stores, and airports across the globe.

But Reno isn’t the only inventor, and the search for a better ride continues today. If you’d like to help improve the modern thrill ride known as the car, then head on over to ChargeCar; they need information about your daily ride to help build a better electric car.

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