John Miller (entrepreneur)

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Not to be confused with John A. Millar.

John A. Miller (born August John Mueller in 1872, Homewood, Illinois - died June 24, 1941, Houston, Texas) was an American roller coaster designer and builder, inventor, and businessman. Having patented over 100 [1] key roller coaster components, he is considered to be the "father of the modern high-speed roller coaster."[2] During his lifetime, he designed (singularly or with a partner) nearly 140 coasters[3] and remained a mentor and key business partner to other coaster designers, including Harry C. Baker and John C. Allen.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Miller was born in Homewood Illinois and worked as a coaster builder at a very early age.[2] At the age of 19, he started working with La Marcus Thompson and went on to serve as Thompson's chief engineer.[2] By 1911, he was working as a consultant to the Philadelphia Toboggan Company[4] He also worked with noted designers Frederick Ingersoll and Fred and Josiah Pearce.[5]

Miller in 1910 designed a device that prevented cars from rolling backward down the lift hill in the event of pull chain breakage. It attached to the track and clicked onto the rungs of the chain. Known as the safety chain dog, or safety ratchet, it evolved into the device on the underside of cars that makes that distinctive clinkety-clank sound of wooden coasters.

A roller coaster wheel assembly. The underfriction wheels are on the bottom. The three sets of wheels clamp onto the track.

Miller's most important contribution to coaster technology, though, was the underfriction wheel. In 1919,[6] he patented the "Miller Under Friction Wheel," also called the "upstop wheel," which consisted of a wheel that ran under the track to keep the coaster cars from flying off. This allowed the designers to use very steep drops, sharp horizontal and vertical curves and high speeds.[1] These are found on nearly every roller coaster in operation.[5]

Miller & Baker[edit]

Besides patenting ingenious inventions for coasters—including several types of brakes and car bar locks—Miller built his share of unusual "scream machines." In 1920 Miller went into business with Harry C. Baker as "Miller & Baker, Inc." and over the next three years, they built popular coasters all over North America. Characteristics of their roller coasters are camelback hills (multiple straight or slightly angled drops that went all the way to the ground) and large, flat turns.[1]

Miller & Baker built other types of amusement rides and structures as well. In addition to coasters, the firm constructed mill cutes, and domed roof buildings for carousels and dance pavilions.[7]

The John Miller Company[edit]

After 1923, Miller continued to design and build coasters for his own company, "The John Miller Company." The Dip-Lo-Docus (c. 1923), billed as "The Jazz Ride," featured revolving three-seater cars, whereas the Flying Turns (1929) consisted of cars with swiveling rubber wheels tearing through a half-cylindrical chute like a toboggan. The legendary Cyclone (1928-1958) at Puritas Springs near Cleveland, Ohio was honored with a place on the Smithsonian Institution's list of Great Lost Roller Coasters. It was hidden so much by foliage that only the boarding platform was visible to riders before they began to race through the ravine. This 1928 ride was considered one of the golden-age classics of the period.[1]

Later life[edit]

Although many of his most famous coasters were built during the 1920s, Miller never stopped building coasters. He continued to travel to supervise site installations and consult on roller coaster design until his death. He died on June 24, 1941, while working on a coaster project in Houston, Texas, at the age of 69.[5] He is interred in the Homewood Memorial Gardens in Homewood, IL.[8]

Coasters[edit]

During his lifetime, Miller designed or contributed to the design of nearly 140 roller coasters, including the following[3]

Name Park Location Operational
Greyhound Lakewood Fairgrounds Atlanta, Georgia 1915 - 1974
Jack Rabbit Riverview Park Des Moines, Iowa 1915 - 1919
Aeroplane Riverview Park Des Moines, Iowa 1920 - 1978
Dip-Lo-Docus Riverview Park[citation needed] Des Moines, Iowa ca. 1923 - ?
Cyclone Puritas Springs Cleveland, Ohio 1928 - 1958
Greyhound Celoron Park Jamestown, NY 1924 - 1959
Flying Turns Euclid Beach Park Cleveland, OH 1929 - 1969
Ravine Flyer Waldameer Park Erie, PA 1922 - 1938
Thunderbolt Revere Beach Revere, MA 1921 - 1930
Thunderbolt Coney Island New York NY 1925 - 1982 [a]
The Beach Coaster Ocean View Pavilion Amusement Park Jacksonville, FL 1928 - 1949 [b]
Screechin' Eagle Americana Park/
LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park,
Middletown, OH 1927 - 2011 [c]
The Legend Arnold's Park Amusement Park Arnolds Park, IA 1927 -
Racer Kennywood Pittsburgh, PA 1927 -
Jack Rabbit Kennywood Pittsburgh, PA 1920 -
Thunderbolt[d] Kennywood Pittsburgh, PA 1924 -
Big Dipper Blackpool Pleasure Beach Blackpool, England 1923 -
Big Dipper Geauga Lake Aurora, OH 1926 - [e]
Coaster Thrill Ride Washington State Fair Puyallup, WA 1935 -
Jack Rabbit Seabreeze Amusement Park Rochester, NY 1920 -
(The White) Roller Coaster Lagoon Amusement Park Farmington, UT 1921 -
Zippin Pippin Bay Beach Amusement Park[f] Green Bay, WI 1912 -
The Wild One[g] Six Flags America[h] Largo, MD 1917 -
Jack Rabbit Clementon Park Clementon, NJ 1919 - 2007
Dips Buckroe Beach Park - 1920 - 1985
Screem Machine Splash Zone Water Park - 1919 - 1984
Big Beast Edgewater Park - 1927 - 1981
Speed Hound Don Hanson's Amusement Park - 1931 - 1980
Roller Coaster Riverview Park Des Moines, Iowa 1920 - 1978
Alps Willow Grove Park - 1905 - 1975
Comet Silver Beach Amusement Park - 1924 - 1975
Dips Riverside Park - 1924 - 1970
Thriller Riverside Park - 1924 - 1970
Derby Racer Euclid Beach Park Cleveland, OH 1913 - 1969
Flying Dragon Walled Lake Park - 1929 - 1968
Jack Rabbit Natatorium Park - 1920 - 1968
Big Dipper Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1920 - 1967
Fireball Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1923 - 1967
Flying Turns Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1935 - 1967
Humming Bird Riverview Beach Park - 1923 - 1967
Pippin Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1921 - 1967
Sea Serpent Pacific Ocean Park - 1925 - 1967
Dips Buckeye Lake - 1924 - 1966
Giant Winnipeg Beach - 1919 - 1966
Skyrocket Fairyland Park - 1923 - 1966
Aero Dips Euclid Beach Park Cleveland, OH 1909 - 1965
Jet Star Olympic Park - 1925 - 1965
Deep Dip Coaster Fair Park - 1924 - 1964
Gee Wiz Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1912 - 1963
Crystal Flyer Crystal Beach Park - 1926 - 1962
Big Dipper Jefferson Beach - 1927 - 1959
Comet Chain of Rocks Amusement Park - 1926 - 1958
Cyclone Lake Ariel Amusement Park - 1928 - 1955
Derby Racer Central Park - 1912 - 1951
Rocket Lakeworth Park - 1930 - 1951
Sky Rocket Steeplechase Island - 1921 - 1951
Velvet Racer Ghost Town on the River - 1936 - 1951
Giant Coaster Rocky Glen Park Moosic, PA 1920 - <1946
Cyclone DandiLion Park - 1929 - 1949
Deep Dipper Carlin's Park - 1919 - 1949
Racer Dip Bay Shore Park - 1920 - 1947
Skyrocket Meyer's Lake Park - 1924 - 1946
Triple Racing Coaster State Fair of Texas - 1936 - 1946
Skyrocket Palisades Amusement Park Fort Lee, NJ 1926 - 1944
Giant Coaster Central Park - 1921 - 1942
Jack Rabbit Keansburg Amusement Park - 1931 - 1941
Wildcat Enna Jettick Park - 1921 - 1941
Flying Turns Steeplechase Park - 1934 - 1939
Greyhound Hazle Park - 1923 - 1939
Thunderbolt Moxahala Amusement Park - 1928 - 1939
Whoopee Baby Scenic Neptune Beach - 1927 - 1939
Whoopee Coaster Neptune Beach - 1929 - 1939
Wildcat Merrimack Park - 1921 - 1938
Derby Racer Lakeside Amusement Park - 1911 - 1937
Jack Rabbit Capital Beach Park - 1918 - 1936
Racing Derby Ghost Town on the River - 1910 - 1936
Gorge Ride Cascade Park - 1922 - 1935
Flying Turns Century of Progress - 1933 - 1934
Cyclone Chester Park - 1927 - 1935
Some Kick Venice Amusement Pier - 1923 - 1934
Big Dipper Roton Point - 1914 - 1933
Comet Pacific City - 1923 - 1933
Flash White City Chicago, IL 1928 - 1933
Greyhound Riverside Amusement Park Agawam, MA 1915 - 1933
Lightning Riverside Amusement Park Agawam, MA 1920 - 1933
Racing Coaster White City Chicago, IL 1910 - 1933
Devil Liberty Pier - 1925 - 1932
Jack Rabbit Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1914 - 1932
Derby Racer Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1910 - 1931
Big Dipper Krug Park - 1918 - 1930
Jack Rabbit Racer Queens Park - 1915 - 1930
Jack Rabbit Paxtang Park - 1923 - 1929
Pippin Luna Park Cleveland, OH 1923 - 1929
Roller Coaster Arnolds Park - 1922 - 1929
Big Dipper Idora Park Youngstown, OH 1922 - 1928
Giant Coaster Harlem Park - 1912 - 1928
Greyhound Island Beach Park - 1922 - 1928
Jack Rabbit Playland Park - 1928 - 1928
Skyrocket Idora Park Youngstown, OH 1927 - 1928
Thriller Exposition Park - 1926 - 1928
Big Dipper Gordon Gardens - 1922 - 1927
Jack Rabbit Rocky Springs Park - 1918 - 1927
Racer Kennywood Pittsburgh, PA 1910 - 1926
Cannon Ball Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1919 - 1925
Comet Palisades Amusement Park Fort Lee, NJ 1921 - 1925
Jack Rabbit Revere Beach Revere, MA 1916 - 1924
Zip Lick Pier - 1922 - 1924
Blue Streak Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1911 - 1923
Chase through the Clouds Silver Beach Amusement Park - 1905 - 1923
Speed-O-Plane Kennywood Pittsburgh, PA 1911 - 1923
Deep Dipper Frederick Road Park - 1920 - 1922
Giant Coaster Dips East End Park - 1913 - 1922
Leap the Dips Forest Park - 1907 - 1922
Great Mountain Ride Forest Park Highlands Amusement Park - 1912 - 1921
Roller Coaster Cascade Park - 1903 - 1921
Royal Gorge Scenic Railway Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1908 - 1920
Jack Rabbit Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1915 - 1919
Velvet Coaster Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1909 - 1919
Scenic Railway White City Chicago, IL 1905 - 1916
Figure Eight Seabreeze - 1903 - 1915
Royal Dip Coaster Playland Park - 1915 - 1915
Dip The Dips Clyffside Park - 1909-1913
Pikes Peak Scenic Railway Riverview Park Chicago, IL 1907 - 1911
Scenic Railway Kennywood Pittsburgh, PA 1904 - 1910
Scenic Railway Erie Beach Park - 1910 - 1930
Deep Dips Olympic Park - 1920 - ?
Derby Racer Electric Park - ? - ?
Dips Liberty Park - ? - ?
Figure 8 Hague Park - ? - ?
Giant Coaster Lakewood Park - 1923 - 1982
Greyhound Stanley Park - ? - ?
L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway Lake Erie Park & Casino - ? - ?
Mountain Dip Rocky Glen Park Moosic, PA 1924 - ?
Pippin Wildwood Park - ? - ?
Racer Dips Forest Park Highlands Amusement Park - 1920 - 1940
Roller Coaster Woodlawn Park - 1922 - ?
Scenic Railway Ghost Town on the River - 1905 - ?
Sidewinder Legend City - 1968 - 1983
Sky Rocket Coney Island Cincinnati, OH 1921 - 1944
Skyline Twister Rolling Green Park - 1928 - 1972
Velvet Coaster Woodside Park - 1925 - ?
Velvet Coaster Lakeside Amusement Park - 1908 - ?
  1. ^ torn down 2000
  2. ^ torn down/dismantled 1950
  3. ^ Torn down/Dismantled August 16, 2011. Parts of the track and the cars will be going to Texas, where it will become part of the National Roller Coaster Museum & Archives (NRCMA) in Arlington, Texas.
  4. ^ Originally named "Pippin," this coaster was redesigned in 1968 by Andy Vettel
  5. ^ SBNO
  6. ^ Originally located at East End Park then Libertyland, both in Memphis, TN
  7. ^ Originally named "The Giant Coaster," this coaster was redesigned in 1932 by Herbert Schmeck
  8. ^ Relocated from Paragon Park, Nantasket Beach, MA in 1986

Patents[edit]

Number Date Description
13,588 1913, July 1 reissue
979,875 1910, December 27
979,982 1910, December 27
979,983 1910, December 27 Braking Apparatus
979,984 1910, December 27 Chain Dog
1,037,957 1912, September 10
1,037,958 1912, September 10
1,038,174 1912, September 10
1,038,175 1912, September 10
1,062,838 1913, May 27
1,062,839 1913, May 27
1,076,779 1913, October 28
1,319,888 1919, October 28 Underfriction Wheel
1,373,754 1921, April 5
1,380,730 1921, June 7
1,380,731 1921, June 7
1,380,732 1921, June 7
1,409,750 1922, February 14
1,409,751 1922, February 14
1,415,187 1922, May 9
1,438,452 1922, December 12
1,448,763 1923, May 20
1,448,764 1923, May 20
1,476,995 1923, December 11
1,501,060 1924, July 15
1,501,061 1924, July 15 Track construction
1,536,122 1925, May 5 Track construction
1,536,448 1925, May 5 Coaster with tight turns
1,539,094 1925, May 26 Ferris Wheel
1,562,035 1925, November 17 Pleasure Railway Car
1,562,036 1925, November 17 Pleasure Railway Structure
1,591,722 1926, July 6 Amusement Structure
1,593,587 1926, July 27 Pleasure Railway Structure
1,605,369 1926, November 2 Truck for Pleasure Railway Cars
1,606,769 1926, November 16 Roof Structure
1,606,770 1926, November 16 Handle-bar Structure
1,607,771 1926, November 23 Water-chute Structure
1,613,118 1927, January 4 Pleasure Railway Structure
1,629,520 1927, May 24 Pleasure Railway Structure
1,645,202 1927, October 11 Roof Structure
1,656,218 1928, January 17 Pleasure Railway Car
1,825,468 1931, September 29 Pleasure Railway Structure

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Rutherford, Scott (2000) The American Roller Coaster, MBI Publishing Company, Wisconsin. ISBN #0760306893.
  2. ^ a b c Cartmell, Robert (1987). The Incredible Scream Machine: A History of the Roller Coaster. Fairview Park, OH: Amusement Park Books, Inc. pp. 117–136. ISBN 0879723416. 
  3. ^ a b Marden, Duane. "John A. Miller". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  4. ^ Urbanowicz, Steven J. (1987). The Roller Coaster Lover's Companion. New York: Citadell Press. ISBN 0806523093. 
  5. ^ a b c "John A. Miller". MIT Inventor of the Week Archive. Retrieved 2008-03-07. 
  6. ^ US patent 1319888, John Miller, "Pleasure railway structure", issued 1919-10-28 
  7. ^ Miller and Baker Inc. 1923 Catalogue (reprint). Natrona Heights, PA: Amusement Park Journal. 1923. 
  8. ^ Habben, David. "John A. Miller (1872-1941)". Retrieved 24 Aug 2013. 

External links[edit]