May 11, 2011

A Trip to the Moon in 1901

Got a new bee in my bonnet for a new project, which required some research into setting. I debated between my current hometown and my original hometown. Eventually, the original -- Buffalo, NY -- murmurred louder.

Delving into Buffalo's history, was an interesting trip. So many gems in there I never knew about. One jewel I stumbled upon was the 1901 Pan Amerian Exposition, best known for the assassination of President McKinley in September 1901. Clicking on photos will enlarge most.

The exhibit which really caught my eye was "A Trip to the Moon". I suppose, that's not so surprising. I was so curious to learn more about it. Luckily for me, my brother is a historian and wrote a paper on the exposition, so was able to send me a few links to sate my curiosity. I snuffled around some more and found an account of what the attraction was really like. Photos taken from:

Frederick Thompson created the amusmement "A Trip to the Moon" in an eighty-foot-high building.

I found a description of what the ride was like at:

The theater was outfitted like a cigar-shaped ship with red canvas wings and seats like those on a steamer ship. The theater simulated flight by rocking and moving, and the stage was set up as if the passengers looked through a ship's rails. Clouds floated by, until the "ship" soared over a model of Buffalo, complete with the exposition, lights and Niagara Falls. The city fell away and the whole Earth came into view until it shrank into a dot.

I'm really curious as to what they thought Earth looked like from space in 1901. I wasn't able to find anything on that. Boo.

Once the Luna landed, the passengers walked off the spaceship and were greeted in a crater by "Selenites" to the City of the Moon, consisting of shops and mooncraft demonstration.

Hmmm. Wonder what mooncrafts would be. Green cheese mining?

The first electrical and mechanical space 'ride'. Some of the over 400,000 people to take the trip to the Moon at the Pan Am Exposition were President William McKinley and Thomas A. Edison.

A photo of the midway at the 1901 Pan American Exposition.
Photo provided by the Library of Congress.
Time travel. Isn't is fabulous?

Another photo of the midway.
Source: Library of Congress

When the Pan American Exposition closed, Thompson moved his show to Coney Island where it became the centerpiece of Luna Park.

An artist's rendering of the inside of A Trip to the Moon at Coney Island. Credit: There's also a more detailed description of the amusement at the link.

So, I haven't used this in my new WIP, but it does inspire me. I'll tuck it away for later. Run into anything in your research lately which wowed you? Take any research side trips?

Here's another fascinating side trip. Time travel. Movies taken of the Pan American Exposition by Thomas Edison's company. Yes, actual movies. You can travel back to 1901.