The Vanity Fair Amusement Park

It lasted only five years but one of your ancestors may have been part of the show. The Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) will be hosting “Midway Memories,” a celebration of the golden age of Rhode Island amusement parks. The fundraiser will be held at Aldrich House on Benevolent Street.

Seen here is ‘Shooting the Chutes’ at the Vanity Fair Amusement Park which opened in Riverside in 1907. A fascinating piece in the Providence Journal by Daniel F. Harrington (ProJo 5.1.18) relates the totally bonkers story of roller coasters, lion tamers, and an array of occupied ‘infant incubators.’

. . . across the way, a room full of glass structures housed a dozen premature babies. Nurses tended to their every need.

The babes would soon get used to the shrieks that surrounded them, non-stop, day and night. You see, just outside their habitat, boats full of human beings fell from the sky and landed in a man-made lagoon surrounded by 100,000 electric lights.

It was opening day, May 25, 1907, at America’s original Magic Kingdom. All over New England, people dreamed of coming to the magnificent new amusement park called Vanity Fair in Riverside, Rhode Island.

Imagine rushing your premature baby to an amusement park. How that exhibit might be referenced at the RIHS fundraiser I have no idea . . . paging Martha Stewart.

Image credit: “Shooting the Chutes. Vanity Fair, Providence, R.I. “, PC6401, Rhode Island Postcard Collection, Providence Public Library, Providence, RI. More pictures of Vanity Fair at that page.

GA $50, RIHS Midway Memories, 6:30pm, Thursday, May 10, Aldrich House, 110 Benevolent Street, (directions)

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