The Story of LaMarcus Adna Thompson and his Roller Coaster Business

On this day, March 8 in the year 1848, one of the pioneers in the amusement park business was born in Ohio, USA. His name was LaMarcus Adna Thompson, the man who is considered “father” of the roller coaster.

LaMarcus Adna Thompson
LaMarcus Adna Thompson (Photo Credit:

LaMarcus was the eighth of ten children of farmers. As a teenager, he learned carpentry during his free time. He attended Michigan’s Hillsdale College and graduated with a short course in 1866. Early on, he had shown his inventiveness by producing an ox-carts, wagons and carriages. Later, he established Eagle Knitting Company, a hosiery business and was rather successful. However, his health began to fail. He sold the hosiery business and travelled to Arizona to recuperate.

In the early 1880s, LaMarcus decided to visit New York. On his way, he passed by Pennsylvania where he saw the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway. Inspired, he studied it, made some improvements, and got a patent for it. In Coney Island, near Brooklyn, New York City, he built his gravity-based “Switchback Railway”. It was opened in 1884 to a roaring success. Three years later, he collaborated with James A. Griffiths to create the “Scenic Railway” in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was built with several themes so that customers will enjoy riding the railway and at the same time admire the different scenery such as ancient temples and the Swiss Alps.

In 1895, LaMarcus founded the L.A. Thompson Railway Company. In the following years, he was able to build dozens more scenic railways in America, Europe and Australia.

LaMarcus died in 1919 at the age of 71. While he is no longer credited as the inventor of the roller coaster ride, his name had come to be associated with it probably because he was the chief promoter and the largest operator. He was awarded with 30 patents all related to roller coaster.


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