LaMarcus Adna Thompson

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La Marcus Adna Thompson was born March 8, 1848 in Jersey. He built mechanical toys as a boy. By age 17, he built a large barn for his father. He moved to Indiana in 1875, where he invented the seamless stocking. In 1885, he received a U.S. patent for a gravity switchback railway. The year before, he opened a 600-foot roller coaster at Coney Island in New York City. This was so popular that he recouped his $1600 investment in only three weeks at a nickel a ride! Within four years, he built about 50 more rides in the U.S. and Europe. [1]

Thompson is known as the father of the American roller coaster today, although there were various other designs in use in Europe before his. Within three years of the Coney Island ride, competition spurred him to the idea of the scenic railroad. In 1887 he opened a ride on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. It rolled through elaborate artificial scenery with dark areas and lights that were triggered by the approaching cars. [2]

Thompson gained over 30 patents relating to coasters between 1884 and 1887. After his retirement, he patented an automatic car-coupler, which he sold to George Pullman, railroad car manufacturer. [3] He died at Long Island on his birthday in 1919.


  1. Pescovitz, D. (1999). Biography: La Marcus Thompson. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  2. Sandy, A. (n.d.). Early Years in America | Roller Coaster History. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  3. Today in Science History. (December 22nd). Retrieved March 30, 2015.