Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 26, 2013
The Cyclone

The Cyclone

June 26, 1927: Coney Island opens a new ride. Coney Island is now a peninsula at the southern tip of Brooklyn, New York. Coney Island Creek separated the small island from the mainland. Plans to dredge the creek and use it for a ship canal were changed to filling in the creek and creating a contiguous landmass. The Lenape tribe called the island Narrioch. The Dutch settlers called it Conyne Eylandt – meaning rabbit island. After the Civil War, excursion railroads and streetcar lines reached the island and it was soon a vacation spot. Resorts and amusement parks sprang up.

The first carousel on Coney Island was built in 1876. Live musicians provided music while happy customers whirled in a circle. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs went on sale there in 1916. Three main amusement parks as well as many smaller ones helped draw several million people to Coney Island each year. In 1920, the Wonder Wheel was opened. The steel frame Ferris wheel had both stationary and rocking cars, held 144 riders, stood 150 feet high and weighed 2,000 tons. It still runs at Deno’s Park. In 1927, the Cyclone opened on this date. It is one of the oldest wooden roller coasters still operating in the US.

Two roller coasters were already operating successfully on Coney Island. Jack and Irving Rosenthal bought a parcel of land with Giant Racer, the first roller coaster built in the US, sitting on it. They tore down the coaster and paid Vernon Keenan $100,000 ($1.2 million today) to design another one. The cost to build the Cyclone has been listed as both $146,000 ($1.7 million today) and $175,000 ($2 million today). The ride cost a quarter to ride when it opened. Adjusting for inflation, that would be $3 today. It cost $8 to ride the coaster in 2008. The ride is 2,640 feet long with a height of 85 feet. Maximum speed reached is 60 mph and the ride lasts 1 minute and 50 seconds.

Roller coasters were based on ice slides constructed in Russia in the 1600s. Who put the wheels on the sleds is lost to history. France led the way with the first ride with cars that were locked to the track. They also created a ride with 2 cars racing each other and one with a complete circuit all in 1817. In 1846, again in France, a looping coaster (but non-circuit) debuted. In 1885, at Coney Island, a powered chain lift coaster opened for business. The coasters continued to get bigger, faster, and higher. They incorporated more inversions, steeper drops, and added extras such as sounds, floorless cars, and propulsions systems.

“Life is a roller coaster, you have your ups and downs unless you fall off.” – unknown

“I went on a children’s roller coaster once when I was maybe 12-or some age when I was considered a little old to be on a kiddy ride. Absolutely terrified. Thought I was going to die.” – Rachael Leigh

“Everybody likes a roller coaster ride.” – Pete Waterman

“Enthusiasm is NOT the same as just being excited. One gets excited about going on a roller coaster. One becomes enthusiastic about creating and building a roller coaster.” – Bo Bennett

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Cyclone remains popular even now. There have been three deaths on the ride. The first in 1985 occurred when a 29-year-old man stood up on the ride and hit his head on a crossbeam. The second took place in 1988 when a 26-year-old maintenance worker took a solo ride during his lunch break and stood up as the car began its descent. He fell from the ride and landed 30 feet below on a crossbeam. He died instantly. The last was in 2005 when a 53-year-old man broke several vertebra while riding. He had surgery and died four days later from complications from that. Not all the stories are sad. In 1948, a coal miner with aphonia, the inability to produce vocal sounds, was riding the roller coaster. He had not spoken in years, however, as the cars dropped over the first fall, he said, “I feel sick” and then when the train returned to the station, he fainted after he realized he had spoken.

Also on this day: Helicopters – In 1934, the FW-61 helicopter is flown for the first time.
Pied Piper – In 1284, a piper led 130 children out of Hamelin.
CN Tower – In 1976, the Ontario tower opened to the public.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: