HOWTO get rich from carny rides, 1945

In this 1945 Mechanix Illustrated article, Harold S. Kahm sets out the facts for any would-be ride-designers looking to hit the jackpot with a new high-speed thrill. Starting with the origin story of the bumper car (a WWI munitions plant worker built a miniature truck for hauling parts, the plant workers went crazy riding it, so he covered it with bumpers and turned it into a carny ride), he moves onto the holy grail of 1945 amusement parks: a portable ride. The best thing about this article are the diagrams on the second and third pages. Woah. Charlie at the Modern Mechanix blog has them up at a generous 1800px wide, perfect for clip-art harvesting.

As a matter of fact, hundreds of new ideas for rides flow into the offices of ride manufacturers in a steady stream, but not one in a hundred is even worth consideration, simply because the average inventor has no understanding of the technical requirements of the industry; he doesn’t, in fact, seem to know anything about anything—if you can believe the expert ride men. So if you think you’d like to try your luck in this fabulously successful field, which is certainly one of the best in the world for the amateur inventor, here are the facts you should know: The average successful ride is easily portable; it can be set up or dismantled in a few hours, and conveniently loaded into one or two trucks. If it is not portable, in this manner, it will be of no use to the richest and biggest ride market—the travelling carnival. A portable ride, on the other hand, is just as saleable to permanent amusement parks. In other words, you can sell a portable ride to any ride operator, but if it isn’t portable your market is limited to parks alone.

If you can figure out a way to make permanent park rides portable—such as the roller coaster—you’ve got yourself a million dollars; every big carnival company in existence would buy one, and wouldn’t hesitate to pay $50,000.00 for it. A coaster in a good location can make that much in a season. But on the other hand, just design a new and better type of coaster for parks and you’ll do all right, too; $5,000.00 royalty per coaster is considered a reasonable payment, and there might be 200 park owners scrambling for the new design.



10 Responses to “HOWTO get rich from carny rides, 1945”

  1. L_Mariachi says:

    Factory workers ramming small trucks of munitions parts into each other. What could possibly go wrong?

  2. grandmapucker says:

    I would advise staying away from any carnies doing “rocket to the moon.”

  3. jwkrk says:

    As a kid, I always wanted the Amusement Park Erector set so I could build the parachute ride.
    I still have pieces (including the A49 motor) from my Rocket Launcher set.  
    Fun, dangerous toys.  The gearbox on the motor could really mangle a finger if you weren’t careful.

    This is a cool site…more history of the parachute jump here:

  4. nixiebunny says:

    All of the cars look just like big antibiotic capsules!

  5. EH says:

    Where can I get myself one of these “rocket trains?”

  6. voiceinthedistance says:

    I’m rather curious about the Sub-Dodgem, and how an “electric eye gun stops other cars if sighted (by periscope) on target area”.  That sounds exciting.

  7. MooseDesign says:

    Beautiful illustrations! I could care less if they are practical or not, the style and renderings are phenomenal!

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