On the Airship Luna, visiting the Queer City of the Moon, and the wonderful Palace of the Man in the Moon.
An artist’s rendering of Frederic Thompson’s amusement ride created for the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 which is no doubt more impressive than was the earthbound reality. Thompson’s ride pre-dates Georges Méliès’ Le Voyage dans la Lune by a year, and while both lunar excursions owe something to HG Wells, whose The First Men in the Moon was published in 1901, the Wikipedia description of Thompson’s ride sounds very similar to the Méliès film:
The first version of the ride involved a simulated trip for thirty passengers from the fairgrounds to the Moon aboard the airship-ornithopter Luna, with visions displayed of Niagara Falls, the North American continent and the Earth’s disc. The passengers then left the craft to walk around a cavernous papier-mâché lunar surface peopled by costumed characters playing Selenites, and there visiting the palace of the Man in the Moon with its dancing “moon maidens”, before finally leaving the attraction through a Mooncalf’s mouth.
Thompson’s attraction was later relocated to Coney Island where it gave its name to the Luna Park created there, a name subsequently passed on to all the other Luna Parks worldwide. The illustration is from One Hundred Views of the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo and Niagara Falls (1901) which includes some views of the other attractions and exhibits. This exposition was on a smaller scale than some of those that came before and after, and includes a couple of features that appear plagiarised from earlier shows, notably “Roltair’s House Upside Down” which might have been inspired by the Upside-Down Manor at the Exposition Universelle in Paris the year before. I appear to have exhausted the Paris exposition as a subject but the fascination with these events persists, especially when they turn up oddities such as these. Browse the rest of the book here or download it here.