A Brief History of the Rotor

This article is a history of a ride called Rotor, which many parks had between the 1950s and the 1990s. The last major manufacturer to sell the Rotor was Chance Rides.

The ride

The concept of the Rotor was that riders would stand along a wall, and the ride would spin. As the ride was spinning at maximum speed, the floor would drop out from underneath the riders. Because of the spinning, riders would be stuck to the wall.

As the ride would begin to slow down, the floor would come back up. The ride would then slow to a stop and guests were able to unload.

A complicated history

Oktoberfest 1949

The Rotor originated in Germany around 1949. The ride was invented by a German scientist, Ernst Hoffmeister, and was financially supported by businessman Carl Friese. They operated a Rotor in West Germany at Oktoberfest in 1949. 

Ernst W. Hoffmeister, inventor of the Rotor. Photo dated to circa 1951. 

Hoffmeister and Friese had an agreement that established Friese would have sole rights to sell the ride in the United States. 

Rotor at the Festival of Britain, 1951

In the early 1950s, Mark Myers purchased manufacturing rights to construct the Rotor in the United Kingdom from Hoffmeister. Myers of Rotor-Dromes, Ltd., of London, United Kingdom, debuted the Rotor in the Festival Pleasure Gardens, set up in Battersea Park, which was part of the Festival of Britain in 1951.

The Rotor was located near the Big Dipper roller coaster, which can be seen in an image below. The ride was presented by Mark Myers and was deemed, “the world’s greatest sensation.” In the image below, you can see Rotor-Dromes’ name above the name of the ride.

1951 Rotor
Image of Rotor at the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Rotor in America

While Rotor-Dromes was building their Rotor for the Festival of Britain, Carl Friese was working on selling his Rotor in America, per the 1949 agreement with Hoffmeister. In late 1950, Friese sold a Rotor to Palisades Park in New Jersey. Prior to the Rotor opening in the 1951 season, Palisades had a naming contest. The name chosen was Magnet-Drome. The name was reverted back to Rotor in 1955.  

At the same time, following the great success of the Rotor at the Festival of Britain, Rotor-Dromes was interested in selling their Rotors in the United States. It’s unclear if they knew Friese had the rights to sell the Rotor in the United States; however, Myers was developing his own Rotor to sell, having filed a patent for his variant of the Rotor in August 1951 (it was granted on October 27, 1953).

The Rotor that was sold to Riverview Park in Chicago was a Hoffmeister model. It opened on May 14, 1952, the first day of Riverview’s operating season. It was manufactured by Anglo Rotor Corporation, the American company of Rotor-Drome. 

Legal dispute

In 1952, Friese took Hoffmeister to court in West Germany. Friese contended that Hoffmeister was violating their 1949 agreement.

It is unclear exactly what triggered this, but with the Rotor opening at Palisades Park, and Hoffmeister being granted sole ownership of a patent for the Hoffmeister Rotor in the United States in February 1952, Friese had standing to sue. he was vindicated by West German courts as he won his case against Hoffmeister. Friese then had to enforce his rights in the United States. 

When Myers was granted his patent for his Rotor variant in 1953, his company quickly announced that any new Rotors would be built using his new patent. 

At some point in the later half of 1953, Hoffmeister and Friese settled, with Hoffmeister retaining his rights in the United States. At the same time, Hoffmeister sold the manufacturing rights of the Rotor to the US Rotor Manufacturing and Operating Company, a consortium between Nu-Pike Company and the Velare Brothers Company. 

Growth of the Rotor after Settlement

A handful of English Rotors were imported into the United States after the settlement, while the Velare Brothers began manufacturing Rotors in 1954. 

Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, installed a used Rotor in 1955. It was built by Anglo Rotor Company in 1954 and operated at Olympia Park. 

Chance Manufacturing purchased the rights to manufacture the ride from the Valare Brothers in the late 1950s or early 1960s, according to International Independent Showmens Museum. The Hoffmeister patent for the ride expired in 1968, which enabled Chance to manufacture many more Rotor rides beginning in 1969.

One such example is a Rotor which was installed by Chance in Hersheypark in 1970. Hersheypark’s ride operated until 1994. 

Few Rotors operate today. 

The Rotor can be seen on the bottom left of this picture of the Comet at Hersheypark from 1974. 

Other posts about the Rotor

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