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14 Fun Vintage Carnival Pictures

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Did you know that February 26 is Carnival Day or that the 14th was not only Valentine’s Day, but also Ferris Wheel Day? Because February seems to be brimming with festive fair-time fun, let’s all celebrate with a look at vintage carnival pictures, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Overall Views of the Grounds

While sideshows have largely been pushed out of the mainstream carnival business in modern times, in 1941, they were still quite popular as you can see in this great image of the Vermont State Fair taken by Jack Delano.

Some things do stay the same though, for example the beautiful lights that give fairgrounds that magical glow throughout the night. In 1939, Arthur Rothstein captured this lovely shot of the Octopus and Ferris Wheel lighting up the sky at a fair in Bozeman, Montana.

Similarly, here’s the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Ferris Wheel at night by Russell Lee from a carnival in Klamath Falls, Oregon, 1942.

The Rides Themselves

While carnivals are always adding new rides to their line up, it’s the classics that still draw the most attention. In fact, you might be surprised just how old some of your favorite rides actually are. The Ferris Wheel dates all the way back to 1893 and was created for the Chicago World’s Fair. Here it is being demonstrated at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. After this display, the wheel was intentionally demolished with dynamite in 1906, which seems kind if silly to do to the first creation of its kind.

Within forty years, most of the classic rides we know and love were already standard at carnivals across the country. Here’s a Tilt-A-Whirl in use at the Imperial County Fair in California as photographed by Russell Lee in 1942.

Similarly, this swing ride, shot at the Vermont State Fair by Jack Delano in 1941, may not be as tall as some of the modern versions, but it’s the same basic concept.

Delano even captured this ride at the same fair, which is impressive because these bigger, more adventurous pendulum rides somehow still manage to seem so modern.

Even massive free fall rides are nothing new –although they certainly go a lot faster than this Life Savers Parachute Tower that was first displayed at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Interestingly, while it was decommissioned for use in 1968, the ride was moved to Coney Island after the fair and remains an icon there even today.

It might not technically be a ride, and you might not see lines this long outside of a fair photo booth these days, but they’re still present at most local carnivals and still fairly popular with both families and couples just as they were when Russell Lee took this image in 1941.

People Enjoying a Day at the Fair

Ultimately though, the true measure of a good carnival really comes down to the happiness of the patrons visiting. In this way, you’ll often notice that aside from their hair styles and clothing, many of the happy faces in these vintage photos look like they could just as easily be taken at your local state fair last summer. Seventy years may have passed since Marion Wolcott photographed this young girl munching on a giant pile of cotton candy in Memphis, but the fluffy treat remains a staple of carnivals everywhere and a favorite of children of all ages.

Similarly, seeing a little girl help out her younger sibling on a carousel is just as sweet of an image as it was when Russell Lee took this image at the Imperial County Fair in California back in 1942.

Children are just as quick to lure their parents into buying them tickets for the fair rides as they were back in 1941, only getting a ride on the Merry-Go-Round for only 10 cents seems downright crazy these days. I wonder what photographer Russell Lee would think if he saw parents forking out $4 per ride on the carousel like they do nowadays.

While the landing platforms for Ferris Wheels are a little bigger these days, seeing two smiling girls debark from the ride just like these two, photographed by Arthur Rothstein in1942, is something that won’t take you long to spot at a modern county fair.

Of course, there are some things you won’t see at modern carnivals that used to be commonplace. Thanks to the lack of freak shows at most contemporary fairs, the number of barkers have dropped dramatically. They certainly did seem to add a bit of flavor to the fairgrounds, as you can see in this 1941 image by Jack Delano taken at the Vermont State Fair.

Do any of you have vintage photos from local fairs or carnivals taken by your parents or grandparents? If you happen to have them scanned and loaded in the computer, please feel free to share them in the comments. And for those of you who just can’t get enough of these great pictures, there are plenty more over at The Library of Congress website. Just search for “fair” or “carnival” and enjoy.

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Minh Hoang, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
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The 5 Most Valuable Pokemon Cards
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Minh Hoang, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

As a teenager, Pokemon creator Satoshi Tajiri was so fond of collecting insects that classmates called him “Mr. Bug.” While it might not have been an affectionate label, Tajiri had the last laugh: His Pokemon video game, originally released for the Nintendo Game Boy in 1996, has become an enduring multimedia success, selling billions in games, merchandise, and phone apps.

The goal of collecting and pitting monsters against one another has been particularly appealing for trading card collectors, who have created an entire secondary market for the low-tech version of the game. First editions, misprints, and other characteristics all affect value. If you’re curious, take a look at the five most valuable Pokemon cards according to Heritage Auctions and other sources.

1. PIKACHU ILLUSTRATOR

A Pikachu Illustrator card
stephychu025, eBay

One of the earliest cards to come out of the Pokemon franchise was this promotional card of Pikachu that was given out to winners of an illustration contest in 1998. An estimated 20 to 39 copies were issued. In late 2016, Heritage Auctions sold one for a whopping $54,970. In 2017, an eBay seller was asking $100,000 for a card graded by professional authenticators to be in virtually perfect condition.

2. CHARIZARD

A first edition Charizard Pokemon card
bakemat_0, eBay

This dragon-esque creature was first seen in 1999. Nearly 20 years later, a perfect “10” graded card sold for $11,999.  

3. MASTER’S KEY PRIZE CARD

A Pokemon Master's Key card
ebirdman, eBay

Given out during a 2010 card championship in Japan, only 34 copies of the Master's Key Prize Card are thought to exist. The scarcity helps the cards fetch four figures when they're spotted on the open market.

4. PRE-RELEASE RAICHU

A Pokemon Raichu card
sken1851, eBay

Collectors love cards that were never intended for public distribution, and this Raichu card fits the bill. Although unconfirmed, Pokemon lore has it that product distributor Wizards of the Coast made just 10 of these Raichu cards for their employees and stamped “pre release” on the front. While it’s rarely offered for sale, collectors believe it can fetch up to $10,000.

5. POKEMON SNAP CARDS

A Pokemon Snap card
base_set_sales, eBay

In a bit of product synergy, Nintendo’s 1999 N64 game, Pokemon Snap, ran a promotion in which players could take a “candid” shot of Pokemon in the game and send it in to a Japanese magazine. Winners would have the image placed on a card. Due to their rarity, the Snaps have reportedly sold for over $8000.

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Radio Flyer
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Tiny Star Wars Fans Can Now Cruise Around in Their Very Own Landspeeders
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Radio Flyer

Some kids collect Hot Wheels, while others own model lightsabers and dream of driving Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder through a galaxy far, far away. Soon, Mashable reports, these pint-sized Jedis-in-training can pilot their very own replicas of the fictional anti-gravity craft: an officially licensed, kid-sized Star Wars Landspeeder, coming in September from American toy company Radio Flyer.

The Landspeeder has an interactive dashboard with light-up buttons, and it plays sounds from the original Star Wars film. The two-seater doesn’t hover, exactly, but it can zoom across desert sands (or suburban sidewalks) at forward speeds of up to 5 mph, and go in reverse at 2 mph.

The vehicle's rechargeable battery allows for around five hours of drive time—just enough for tiny Star Wars fans to reenact their way through both the original 1977 movie and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. (Sorry, grown-up sci-fi nerds: The toy ride supports only up to 130 pounds, so you’ll have to settle for pretending your car is the Death Star.)

Radio Flyer’s Landspeeder will be sold at Toys “R” Us stores. It costs $500, and is available for pre-order online now.

Watch it in action below:

[h/t Mashable]

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