The 1885 patent (details pictured) for LaMarcus Thompson's "Roller Coasting Structure" certified the first coaster to be designed as a U.S. amusement ride.
The Coney Island, New York, attraction had opened in June 1884 and went by the name Switchback Railway. It cost only a nickel but was so wildly popular that it made Thompson a fortune. Its success inspired many imitators--and launched an industry that turns 125 in the U.S. in June 2009.
"That was more like a railroad on an incline, not an exciting roller coaster by today's standards," explained enthusiast Eric Gieszl, founder and editor of ultimaterollercoaster.com. "But it is what started it all."