Hale's Tours of the World

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Front view (1916)

Hale's Tours of the World were an attraction at amusement parks and similar venues in the early 20th Century. They were an early form of virtual reality simulating a railway journey.


George C. Hale was born on October 28, 1849. He was a well travelled and prolific inventor, engineer and Fire Chief of Kansas City, Missouri from 1882 until retiring in 1902. Interested in the use of film, Hale came across William Keefe who had conceived the idea of an imitation railway passenger car on a circular platform that would remain motionless as a panorama of images would revolve around the "passengers" to simulate the experience of a railway journey. "Realism" would be increased with staff providing a rocking motion, a wind machine and sound effects. Lacking the financial capital, Fell teamed with Judge Fred Gifford who introduced Fell to Hale who had possibly viewed the phantom rides on tours of Great Britain. The idea was patented in 1904; Hale and Gifford soon bought out Keefe's interest in the venture.[1]

First uses[edit]

The first appearance of Hale's Tours were at the 1904 St. Louis Exhibition. The idea was further refined under the name Pleasure Railway. The idea then appeared in New York and Chicago and spread throughout the United States and Canada with an estimated 500 Hale's Tours appearing between 1906 and 1911.[2] In 1906 Wade C. Gifford took Hale's Tours throughout the world in Mexico, the British Isles, Continental Europe and Hong Kong. A franchise was granted in the United Kingdom in December 1906 with venues being 165 Oxford Street London,[3] and in Nottingham, Manchester, Brighton, Leeds, Blackpool and Bristol.[4]


As with most novelties, Hale's Tours gradually came to a decline as audiences tired of the idea. A lack of films lead to infrequent changes in program and some people felt uncomfortable being in a rocking carriage at close quarters with strangers.[5]

Hales died on 14 July 1923.

In popular culture[edit]

A Hale's Tour appears in the 1948 film Letter from an Unknown Woman.


  1. ^ pp. 117-118 Fell, John L. Film Before Griffith University of California Press, 1983
  2. ^ pp. 293-294 Abel, Richard Encyclopedia of Early Cinema Taylor & Francis, 2005
  3. ^ p.10 Huntley, John Railways in the Cinema Ian Allan 1969
  4. ^ p.63 Beaumont, Matthew & Freeman, Michael J. The Railway and Modernity: Time, Space and the Machine Ensemble Peter Lang, 2007
  5. ^ p.129 Fell

External links[edit]

Hale's Tours: Ultrarealism in the Pre-1910 Motion Picture http://web.grinnell.edu/courses/spn/s02/SPN395-01/RAF/RAF06/RAF0603.pdf