The first Rotor in the United States was imported from Germany by a group consisting of John Ringling-North, Harry Dube, and Arthur Concello. According to Billboard, this device was manufactured by Friese. The ride arrived late in 1950 and was installed in Palisades Park for operation in 1951. Because the ride name was unfamiliar (and thought to lack flash), a month-long contest was held to rename the device. The name "Magnet-Drome" was chosen, and the ride carried that name until reverting to "Rotor" in 1955, its last year of operation in the park. Morgan C. (Mickey) Hughes began his U. S. ride career managing this ride.
Although the riding capacity of the cylinder was only 20, the spectator capacity was claimed to be 700. An even larger Rotor installed in Battersea Park for the Festival of Britain in 1951 was claimed (again, in Billboard) to accommodate 1200 spectators. A photograph in a 1949 article in Der Spiegel (of the prototype at the Oktoberfest, presumably) shows six tiers of spectators.
In 1952, somewhat smaller Rotors, with a capacity of about 400 spectators, were imported from England into the United States by Max Myers, of Rotordromes, Ltd. These were manufactured by Orton, Sons & Spooner. Earlier announced plans for a portable ride to travel with the World of Mirth did not come to fruition. Although initial reports said that four rides were to be imported in 1952, only three appear to have been installed that year, at Riverview, Chicago; Nu-Pike, Long Beach; and Whitney's Playland, San Francisco. These Rotors were concessions owned by the company and operated on a percentage basis; each ride was installed on a three-year contract. Max Myers himself operated the machine at Riverview, and accompanied its trips to the State Fair of Texas in 1952 and 1953, and to the Mid South Fair in 1953.
Litigation between Friese and Hoffmeister over patent rights delayed further developments in the United States. Hoffmeister's sole ownership of the U. S. patent (2586333, issued in 1952) and importation of machines from England were in violation of an agreement the parties had made in 1949. Friese won his case in the West German courts, then brought action in U. S. courts to enforce his rights. The litigation was finally settled at the end of 1953, by a cash payment, with Hoffmeister retaining U. S. patent rights. To add to the confusion, Hoffmeister had already assigned his patent rights to the U. S. Rotor Manufacturing and Operating Company, which combined the capital of the businessmen who operated Nu-Pike in Long Beach with the ride expertise of the Velare Brothers.
Meanwhile, Max Myers obtained a U. S. patent in 1953 (2657054) for a minor variation, and announced that he would build Rotors under his rather than the Hoffmeister patent. Although particulars of lawsuits between Hoffmeister and Myers in Chicago have not been obtained, it is clear that Myers could not build a Rotor without infringing Hoffmeister's patent. In early 1954, the relationship of Myers with Rotordromes, Ltd. (and Anglo Rotor Corp., Ltd., a related company name used in the United States) was terminated.
Also in 1953, Hoffmeister installed a Rotor in Belmont Park, Montreal. According to Billboard, this machine was imported from Naples. This device was exhibited each fall (beginning that year) at the Canadian National Exhibition. Hoffmeister relocated to Canada, probably by the end of 1953.
With the legal issues resolved, Anglo Rotor imported two additional Rotor rides in 1954. One went to Rockaway's Playland, while another went to Olympic Park, New Jersey. That at Olympic Park was relocated to Kennywood in 1955. A second Rotor was installed in 1955, at Coney Island, Cincinnati; this was most likely relocated from San Francisco. In 1957, the Rotor from Rockaway was moved to Euclid Beach, where it operated until the closure of the park. Rides went to Paragon Park in 1959 (possibly from Kennywood) and to Cedar Point in 1961 (possibly from Long Beach).
The Velare Brothers built two portable rotors in 1954. These rides were introduced in August and November, then modified before the 1955 season. Although initially announced as two-trailer rides, the final configuration required three trailers to transport. A riding capacity of 30 was claimed, even though the rotating cylinders in these Rotors had similar dimensions to those in the earlier rides. In addition to their use as spectacular rides at fairs, the portable Rotors spent portions of their summer seasons in amusement parks. In 1955, for example, one was located at Lakeside Park, Denver, until August, and one at Pontchartrain Beach, New Orleans, from mid-May to the end of July.
In 1958, one of the portable Rotors was again modified, then joined Royal American Shows for most of the season. Portable Velare Rotors had long runs at the Oregon Centennial Exposition in 1959, the Seattle World's Fair in 1962, Kennywood Park in the mid 1960s, and Long Beach. It is possible that more than two portable Rotors were eventually built by the Velare Brothers.
One portable Rotor was installed at Pacific Ocean Park in 1958, where it was renamed Whirlpool. At some point it was replaced with a different rotor that had a spiral viewing gallery built according to a 1955 Hoffmeister patent (2703910). This ride remained at the park until its closure. It was not removed at the auction of the park's rides and was destroyed in a 1970 fire.
The trail in the 1960s becomes somewhat murky. An English-built Rotor was installed at Sportland Pier, Wildwood, in the early 1960s. It was renamed Hell Hole and remained on the pier for many years after closure of the pier's rides in the 1980s.
I do not know the total number of English-made Rotors in the United States, or when their importation ceased. Rotor-Dromes, Ltd. was dissolved in 1968.
The Hoffmeister patent was licensed to Chance, which produced ten one-trailer portable Rotors in 1967 and numerous more beginning in 1969, at the expiration of the patent.
Last revised 2-July-2015