In 1942, Theodore “Ted” Sneed of St. Louis, Missouri, became interested in building a children’s carnival ride. In taking parts from scratch, he built his first carnival ride, which he set up on a St. Louis street.
Hampton Amusement Company
This first ride would be the first of many for the Hampton Amusement Company. Sneed founded this company shortly after building that prototype ride. The company was named for Hampton Avenue, the street where Sneed operated that ride.
In 1950, Hampton registered for their first National Association of Amusement Parks, Pools and Beaches (now called International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) trade show which was being held in the then-traditional location of Hotel Sherman, Chicago, Illinois. Hampton debuted a new ride, the Kiddie Flyer Hand Cars, which was then awarded the A.B. McSwigan Award, an award that recognized the most meritorious new device at the show.
At the 1953 trade show, Hampton debuted the Tubs-O-Fun. Hampton representative Robert Walden reported that 12 units were sold at the show, including the display sample. The first Tubs-o-Fun to be put into public operation was by Hoosier State Shows for Christmas 1953 bookings at stores.
In 1954, Sneed moved Hampton from St. Louis to Portage des Sioux, keeping the Hampton name. Through the years, the company went from having a few employees to over 100 employees, and quadrupled the number of rides they were manufacturing a year – from 25 to 100.
The company was renamed Hampton Amusement Corporation around 1971.
Sneed sold Hampton Amusement to E.J. Manufacturing Company, Inc., which was owned by Ervin Davis and Gerald “Jerry” Ohlms, in January 1978. E.J. operated the merged companies under the fictitious name Hampton Rides. Sneed passed away two years later in 1980.
Gerald Ohlms went on to become St. Charles County, Missouri presiding commissioner from 1986-1990. He had previously been the county’s auditor from 1970-1974.
Around 1989, Ohlms reached an agreement with Amusement Investment Corporation to take over operations of Hampton Rides. Initially, the new company was named New Hampton Rides, but within a year or two, “New” was dropped from the name.
In late 1991, financial issues began to impact Hampton Rides. It began with the widow of Ted Sneed, Leota, suing E.J. Manufacturing. The following year, Amusement Investment was sued several times, including one suit brought by Gerald Ohlms himself.
It is apparent that by the early 1990s, what was left of the highly popular kiddie ride manufacturer of the 1960s and 1970s, was very little. Hampton Rides closed in 1993.
The Hampton legacy lives on with many of their kiddie rides still operating today. Hersheypark has several, for example.
Thanks for reading this article about Hampton Amusement Company. I will periodically have similar articles about other ride manufacturers in the future.
I have a wide variety of interests, from sports to politics, music to Star Trek. I write about the history of amusement parks. Right now I am focused on Hersheypark.