A Trip to the Moon!

A Trip to the Moon!

"A Trip to the Moon" - A recreation of the Luna Airship from Fred Thompson's famous ride in Coney Island

The Trip to the Moon - Fred Thompson 

Picture yourself as part of a crowd, entering into a large dark room. In the center of this room you see a large winged ship made out of wood and metal. 

An illustration I made in imagining what the airship might have looked like with Moon Travelers inside

You are among a group of people who are waiting to experience something that promises to be, literally, out of this world.

A voice on a loudspeaker says, “All aboard for a Trip to the Moon” And as soon as you are comfortable in your deck chair, the wings begin to flap up and down, and the ship lifts... You are now floating through the clouds. Up over Coney Island and the Atlantic Ocean...

Artists rendering of the original Coney Airship designed by Fred Thompson

Artists rendering of the original Coney Airship designed by Fred Thompson

 

On a Trip to the Moon!

Although this sounds like a theme park ride that one could find at a place like Disney World-

This ride was designed at the turn of the century, by Fred Thompson. And it became the centerpiece for his greatest creation: Luna Park!

When most people think of the “Trip to the Moon” they understandably think of the wonderful film directed by Georges Melies in 1902, with the iconic image of the bullet shaped rocket ship lodged in the eye of the Man in the Moon.

 

But many people don’t know about the “Trip to the Moon” that was designed by Fred Thompson for the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo, New York

Original brochure for the "Trip to the Moon" at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901

Original brochure for the "Trip to the Moon" at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901

It was a ride that really was a first of its kind. Fred Thompson wanted to create the experience of taking his “passengers” up in the air, out over the earth, to fly through space and land on the moon! 

He created an airship that he called “Luna”. It looked like a wooden sailing vessel, but had large, red wings that would flap up and down like a bird.

"The Trip to the Moon" in Luna Park, ca. 1903

The passengers were sitting safely in their deck chairs, when suddenly the wind would pick up, and smoke flowed across the deck. The deck hands turned on their searchlights and would announce that Luna was about to take off!

As the earth fell away from view, the passengers could see the earth beneath them. And as they climbed higher and higher, through the clouds they saw the moon in the distance. 

 

Soon, the ship would land on the moon! The passengers would walk off the gangplank and find themselves greeted by little Moon people called Selenites. A moonscape was built to look like what the moon must have looked like back in 1904. There was even a gift shop to buy souvenirs when the crowd exited from the ride! 

 

Thompson patent drawings.jpg

I haven't been able to find ANY photographs or images of the actual ride. These pictures seen here are the only ones I can find. Plus these patent drawings submitted by Fred Thompson for his “scenic apparatus”. 

This ride was perfect for what was happening at the turn of the century. 

Everyone was talking about flying. Inventors across the world were trying to be the first to fly in the air like a bird!  It was almost as if people knew that it was going to happen- for real. Popular songs also reflected this fascination with flying.

Some "Airship" songs from the early 1900's