The amusement park entered its golden era with the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago. This World’s Fair introduced the Ferris Wheel and the amusement midway to the world. The midway, with its wide array of rides and concessions, was a huge success and dictated amusement park design for the next sixty years. The following year, Capt. Paul Boynton borrowed the midway concept and opened the world’s first modern amusement park – Paul Boyton’s Water Chutes on Chicago’s South side.
Unlike the primitive trolley parks, the Water Chutes was the first amusement park to charge admission and use rides as its main draw rather than picnic facilities or a lake. The success of his Chicago park inspired him to open a similar facility at the fledgling Coney Island resort in New York in 1895.
The amusement park industry grew tremendously over the next three decades. The center of the industry was Coney Island in New York, which at its peak was home to three of America’s most elaborate amusement parks along with dozens of smaller attractions. Around the world, hundreds of new amusement parks opened, while many early trolley parks expanded by adding new rides and attractions. New innovations provided greater and more intense thrills to the growing crowds. By 1919, over 1,500 amusement parks were in operation in the United States alone.
The Depression and World War II
Unfortunately, this development did not last for long . In 1929, America entered the economic depression, and by 1935 only 400 amusement parks remained; many struggling to survive. World War II further hurt the industry, when many parks closed, and others refrained from adding new attractions due to rationing.
With the end of World War II, America and the amusement park industry enjoyed post war prosperity. Attendance and revenues grew to new records as new parks opened across America.
As a result of the post-war baby boom a new concept, the Kiddie land, took advantage of the a new focus on family. The Scaled rides introduced a new generation to the joys of the amusement park in the rapidly growing suburbs. Unfortunately, this resurgence was short lived. As the 1950’s dawned, television, urban decay, segregation, and suburban growth began to take a heavy toll on the aging urban amusement park. The industry was again in distress as the public turned elsewhere for entertainment. What was needed was a new concept and that new concept was Disneyland.