Before Worlds of Fun, there was Fairyland Park at 75th and Prospect, and before that, there was Fairmount Park at U.S. 24 Highway and Northern and Electric Park at 46th and The Paseo. They were all great amusement parks of their day.
In the early years of the 20th century, George C. Hale was more than just Kansas City's fire chief. He was also an amusement park enthusiast. Hale was the inventor and creator of an amusement park theater called “Hale's Tours and Scenes of the World.” The theater was a nickelodeon amusement ride (so to speak) that made its world debut at the old Electric Park back in 1905.
The ride was composed of a passenger railroad coach that seated 72 passengers. A seven- to ten-minute motion picture film showing scenes from around the world that were filmed from the front end of a moving train were projected onto a screen at the front end of Hale's train car. The car was stationary but was fitted with machines that left you with the illusion that you were actually attached to a moving train. The machines vibrated, rocked, and tilted the car to simulate the train's motion. Steam whistles, sound effects of train wheels rolling down the tracks and painted scenery rolling past the windows all added to the effects.
In fact, there was an advertisement in the local newspaper of the time that asked all good husbands to dress their wives up in their best Directoire and parade her around the streets of downtown Kansas City for the afternoon. It seems as though a special streetcar had been fitted with a phenomenal machine (camera) that would travel the streets filming all the pretty people with their broad smiles. The filming was to begin at 1:30 that afternoon at 13th and Grand Avenue.
The first run would be down Grand Avenue to Fifth Street, west on Fifth to Walnut Street. If by chance you happen to be strolling from the post office about that time, the face you turn toward the streetcar would get photographed to be exhibited in Hale's Tours in amusement places around the world. At 1:45 pm the streetcar would start back south on Walnut and at 2 p.m. would run north on Main Street to City Hall. At 2:30 p.m. it would run from Eighth and Wyandotte east to Oak Street.
Of course, the ad stipulated that this was going to be done only providing the weather was clear and sunny. Another opportunity would take place the following weekend on Saturday or Sunday. This time the Machine (camera) would be placed in an automobile (1905) and pictures taken on some of the more glorious city boulevards. There must have been flood waters in the West Bottoms at the time, because the advertisement also stipulated that when the flood waters receded pictures would be made of the manufacturing district of the West Bottoms and later some interior views of the banks and other large institutions would be made.
As well as smiling faces of Kansas City, the film will also show the city from an inbound Wabash passenger train, giving a glimpse of the Inner City Viaduct (today's Lewis and Clark Viaduct). The ad stated that the pictures would be made and exhibited by the International Publicity Company.
By 1906, Hale's Tours were at Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Mexico City, Havana, Melbourne, Paris, London, Berlin, Hong Kong, and more cities, becoming one of the top concessions at amusement parks around the world. By 1907, there were 500 Hale's Tours in the United States alone.
Reference: “Vintage Kansas City Stories” compiled from the files of The Kansas City Journal by L.A. Little.
To reach Ted Stillwell, send an email to Ted@blueandgrey or call him at 816-896-3592.