The Origins of 15 Delightful Carnival Rides

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ThinkStock

By Amanda Green

1. Ferris Wheel

The Ferris wheel made its debut at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. At least that’s what George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. always said. One year earlier, William Somers designed and built three wooden wheels—each measuring 50 feet in diameter—in New York and New Jersey. Both men owed a debt to the similar, yet awkwardly named, wooden “pleasure wheels” invented in 17th century Bulgaria.

2. Bumper Cars

Electric cars may seem like a modern advancement, but we’ve been driving them—and more importantly, crashing them—for a century. There's some dispute over who invented the road-raging carnival favorite, but one thing all scholars can agree on: how difficult early versions were to steer.

3. Carousel

Carousels with wooden horses were first used to give horseback riding lessons to Turkish and Arabian cavalry members. When crusaders returned to Europe, they brought the device back with them. The spinning attraction became especially popular in France, where 17th century riders tried to pierce a target while moving at high speed. The power source? Actual horses!

4. The Rollercoaster

Although the first patent went to LaMarcus Thompson in 1885, he wasn’t the first person to make a rollercoaster. Modern rollercoasters descended from “Russian Mountains,” winter sled rides that were popular in 17th century St. Petersburg. (Situated on icy hills, the sleds topped out at 200 feet!). Meanwhile, in the states, a Pennsylvanian mining company constructed a “gravity railroad” in 1827 to move coal. But on slow workdays, they charged thrill-seekers to take it for a spin.

5. Tunnel of Love

Unmarried couples of the late 19th century needed a place to canoodle in public. Love — or, at least hormones — found a way with the boom of so-called carnival "dark rides." As couples wound through the tunnel of love by water or tracks, they were treated to alternating moments of romance (to set the mood) and fright (to encourage an arm over the shoulder).

6. The Mechanical Bull

Until the 1970s, mechanical bulls were strictly used to train cowboys and rodeo competitors. Early practice bulls were basically large barrels suspended from four ropes (people could jostle the barrel by tugging on the ropes or using a pulley mechanism.) The mechanical version, however, was popularized by a Texas businessman who wanted to make his bars more popular.

7. The Whip

Patented in 1914, the first whip was made for Coney Island. The attraction—which tamely slings riders around an oval—is rare nowadays, but you can find original models scattered around some old-school parks.

8. The Wipeout

The giant, revolving ride that moves around, up, and down in a wave-like fashion was originally a German attraction known as the Trabant. American innovators brought a bigger and better version stateside, dubbed it The Wipeout, and the rest is history ... as long as you're 48" tall.

9. Tilt-a-Whirl

The ride that launched a thousand stomachaches sprang from the mind of woodworker and waterslide maker Herbert W. Sellner in 1926. It made its debut at the Minnesota State Fair one year later. The story goes that Sellner experimented with the ride’s design by placing a chair on his kitchen table, making his son sit in it, and then rocking the table. The ride is now manufactured in Texas.

10. The Scrambler

The Twist. The Gee Whizzer. The Grasscutter. That which we call a Scrambler has many names, because naming it The Ride That Looks Like It's Going To Collide Into Other Cars, AHHHHHH! is too cumbersome. This frightening/fun ride was first produced in the UK in 1959. Since then, each decade has given it a new name and pattern of motion, but the thrill's the same.

11. Log Flume

The modern log flume has been around since the early 20th century, albeit in more sedate versions. Old mill rides used tracks to guide boats through dark tunnels and over a few bunny hills. But as rollercoasters became wilder, those old mill rides had one direction to go: wetter. The splash-intensive modern versions first began surfacing in the early 1960s.

12. Wave Swinger

It’s easy to imagine someone looking at a carousel and thinking it may be tame. What if we took out the horses, replaced them with swings, and raised the whole thing a few hundred feet? Now we’re talking! Although swing rides were popularized in the 1970s, they’ve been around for decades. Postcards of California’s Idora Park show a wave swinger as early as 1908!

13. Shoot the Chute

People have been getting soaked on these flat-bottom boats since 1884. J.P. Newburg invented one that ran along a greased wooden track down the side of a hill in Rock Island, Illinois. It splash-landed in the Rock River and was tugged back to shore by an attendant. It’s been an amusement park staple—and a great way to cool off on summer days—ever since.

14. Helter Skelter

First seen at the UK's Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1906, the ride is a high tower with a curling slide nestled against it. Customers climb stairs inside the tower before riding down to the bottom.

15. Loop-O-Plane

Invented in 1933, the Loop-O-Plane ride consists of two “plane” compartments on either side of a tower that act as counterweights as they loop around one another. It was originally a flight simulator – the Cuban government even ordered some to train their pilots – but it didn’t really take off until civilians jumped in for a quick, fun ride. 

17 Delicious Facts About Peeps

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Getty Images

You know whether you prefer chicks to bunnies, fresh to stale, or plain to chocolate-covered. But there’s a lot you may not know about Peeps, everyone’s favorite (non-chocolate) Easter candy.

1. It used to take 27 hours to make a Peep.

A candy Peep being made
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That was in 1953, when Sam Born acquired the Rodda Candy Company and its line of marshmallow chicks. Back then, each chick was handmade with a pastry tube. Just Born quickly set about automating the process, so that it now takes just six minutes to make a Peep.

2. An average of 5.5 million Peeps are made every day.

Peeps candies being made
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All of them at the Just Born factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In one year, the company makes enough peeps to circle the earth—twice!

3. Yellow chicks are the original Peep, and still the favorite.

Boxes of yellow chick Peeps
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Yellow bunnies are the second most popular color/shape combination. Pink is the second best-selling color.

4. The recipe has stayed pretty much the same.

Cooking up a batch of Peeps
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The recipe begins with a boiling batch of granulated sugar, liquid sugar, and corn syrup, to which gelatin and vanilla extract are later added. 

5. The equipment has also (mostly) stayed the same.

Peeps candies being made
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Since Just Born turned Peeps-making into an automated process, the chicks have been carefully formed by a top-secret machine known as The Depositor. Created by Sam Born’s son, Bob, The Depositor could manufacture six rows of five Peeps apiece in a fraction of the time it took workers to form them by hand. And that same machine that Bob built has been keeping the Peeps flowing ever since. Until rather recently …

In 2014, the company announced that it was planning to renovate its manufacturing plant, including The Depositor. “It’s a little sad,” vice president of sales and marketing Matthew Pye told Candy Industry Magazine at the time. “Bob Born made it from scratch in 1954 and it allowed us to distribute and grow the brand nationally." 

6. The updated equipment means new Peeps innovations could be coming.

Making Peeps at the Just Born factory
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“The investment in our marshmallow making process will allow for more efficiency, more consistency, improved quality, and additional innovation capabilities,” co-CEO Ross Born told Candy Industry magazine about the new depositor, which will be able to produce a wider variety of Peeps in all sizes. “The [old] Peeps line did one thing and one thing very well—cranking out chicks day in and day out. Five clusters, just in different colors,” Born said.

7. Peeps used to have wings.

They were clipped in 1955, two years after the first marshmallow chicks hatched, to give the candy a sleeker, more “modern” look.

8. The eyes are the final touch.

A close up of a yellow chick Peep
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The final flourish for all of these squishy balls of sweetness is adding the eyes, which are made of carnauba—a non-toxic edible wax (that is also found in some shoe polishes and car waxes, plus many other candies).

9. Peeps may be destructible, but their eyes are not.

Making Peeps at the Just Born factory
Getty Images

In 1999, a pair of scientists at Emory University—dubbed “Peeps Investigators”—decided to test the theory that Peeps are an indestructible food. In addition to a microwave, the pair tested the candy’s vulnerability to tap water, boiling water, acetone, and sulfuric acid (they survived them all). When they upped the ante with some Phenol, the only things that didn’t disappear were the eyes. 

10. They really are everyone's favorite non-chocolate Easter candy.

For more than 20 years now, no other non-chocolate Easter candy has been able to compete with the power of Peeps. With more than 1.5 billion of them consumed each spring, Peeps have topped the list of most popular Easter treats for more than two decades.

11. There are sugar-free Peeps.

Counterintuitive, we know. But in 2007, the first line of sugar-free Peeps hit store shelves.

12. There are also chocolate-covered Peeps.

Chocolate-covered Peeps hit the market in 2010. Today there’s a full line of them for every occasion.

13. Peeps come in a variety of flavors.

Color and shape (i.e. yellow chick) are no longer the only ways to categorize a Peep. They now come in an array of flavors, including fruit punch, sour watermelon, lemon sherbet, blueberry, and pancakes and syrup.

14. Peeps lip balm is a thing.

Yep.

15. On New Year's Eve, a giant Peep is dropped in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.


PEEPS®

The drop is done with a traditional chick that flashes different colors at midnight.

16. Believe it or not, Peeps are not Just Born's best-selling brand.

That honor belongs to Mike and Ike. (Sorry, Peepsters.)

17. They're a boon to a creativity.

Blue chick Peeps
Getty Images

All over the country, Peeps have become the preferred media for a number of highly anticipated annual art contests. (You can check out some of the coolest creations from Westminster, Maryland's PEEPshow here.)

Updated for 2019.

From Cocaine to Chloroform: 28 Old-Timey Medical Cures

YouTube
YouTube

Is your asthma acting up? Try eating only boiled carrots for a fortnight. Or smoke a cigarette. Have you got a toothache? Electrotherapy might help (and could also take care of that pesky impotence problem). When it comes to our understanding of medicine and illnesses, we’ve come a long way in the past few centuries. Still, it’s always fascinating to take a look back into the past and remember a time when cocaine was a common way to treat everything from hay fever to hemorrhoids.

In this week's all-new edition of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is highlighting all sorts of bizarre, old-timey medical cures. You can watch the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here.

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