Roller coasters have been a summer staple for many people for many years.
In fact, roller coasters began as a winter amusement in Russia more than 400 years ago where people slid down giant ice slides. Then, during warmer weather, the Russians began using wheeled carts on the slides.
Later, the French dabbled with coasters, but Americans made the next major developments. As the coal mining industry in the Pennsylvania mountains waned in the late 1800s, entrepreneurs invited people to ride the gravity-powered train cars of The Scenic Railway down the mountains. And, in 1884, LaMarcus Adna Thompson designed and opened the first profitable roller coaster at Coney Island in New York.
Developers came up with more ways to power the coasters and thrill riders, and during the 1920s there were thousands of wooden roller coasters. But, The Depression and WWII caused roller coasters to take a financial dive. That began to change in 1959 when Disneyland opened the first steel coaster.
Although wood coasters are still popular, steel ones have allowed designers to continue pushing the limits of physics, designing bigger and faster coasters.
For more about the history of roller coasters, see:
Are roller coasters part of your summer fun? Which ones are your favorites? What kids’ books feature roller coasters?