Thursday, April 12, 2012

Camouflage Amusement Ride

Camouflaged tank amusement ride (1920)

World War I ended in 1919. A year later, in the January 1920 issue of Popular Mechanics, there was a short illustrated article about a new amusement ride, with the headline "Rough-Riding Tank as Amusement Car" (p. 113). As shown by the illustration above, it consisted of—

a set of four counterfeit tanks, dressed in camouflage paint, that bump around the inside of a wooden bowl with about an acre of surface. The make-believes are light, with transverse seats like a street car, and run on wheels instead of crawling on a flat tread; but they stagger along over carefully designed bumps and rough spots with satisfying realism…As an electric motor in the base rotates the tower, centrifugal force carries the tanks nearer and nearer the edge of the bowl, adding further zest to the adventure.

Notice there's a close-up view of one of the tanks in the bottom left corner of the illustration.

Actually, there was an even earlier link between amusement rides and camouflage, as shown by the two photographs below. As early as 1896, there were American amusement rides that were widely known as "razzle dazzle" (you can see that printed on a sign on the striped merry-go-round amusement ride in the first photo). In the same year, artist and naturalist Abbott H. Thayer began to publish his theories about protective coloration in nature, and now and then he used the terms "dazzle" and "razzle dazzle" in reference to high difference or disruptive camouflage. I suspect he was alluding to these popular amusement rides.

Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs (c1896)