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The Deadly Coney Island Roller Coaster Inspired By Teddy Roosevelt That Killed 7 People

Andrew Martin

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In the early part of the 20th century, a thrill ride designed to emulate the exciting life of a US President instead became a death machine

Out of the men who have served as President of the United States over the past 250 or so years, none have had quite the rough and ready reputation of Teddy Roosevelt. After overcoming a sickly childhood he burst into adulthood as an active outdoorsman and lover of life. He was an inspiration to many, including bleeding into elements of popular culture. One such instance was an early 20th century Coney Island roller coaster, which aimed to give riders a thrilling experience akin to the life of the 26th President, but sadly ended up causing the death for seven people.

After attending Harvard and serving in a variety of high-profile political positions, including the President of the Board of Commissioners that oversaw the New York City Police Department, Governor of New York and U.S. Vice President, Teddy Roosevelt was voted into the nation’s highest office as the 26th President, and served from 1901–1909. He was a popular figure across the country, not just from his political experience, but for his vigor. He loved everything about the outdoors and came to widespread prominence in serving in the Spanish-American War in 1898, leading his group of calvary that was dubbed the “Rough Riders.” His evolution into a pop culture icon no doubt served him well during his career.

In the early 1900s, Coney Island in New York (Roosevelt’s home State) reigned as the preeminent amusement park in the United States. Tourists flocked to the Brooklyn shore to stroll along the boardwalk, gawk at sideshows, and go on the latest thrill rides. In particular, the Flip Flap Railway, which was first ever looping roller coaster, became infamous for knocking people unconscious with its fast and dizzying loops.

In 1907, Coney Island unveiled their Rough Riders roller coaster. Named after Roosevelt’s First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, the ride paid homage to this very popular unit. To add to the authenticity, the operators donned military uniforms, and the ride featured scenes of the war in the hopes of providing a unique and immersive experience. Unlike its gravity-propelled counterparts, Rough…

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Andrew Martin

Dabbler in history, investing & writing. Master’s degree in baseball history. Passionate about history, diversity, culture, sports, investing and crypto.