Town of Jim Thorpe to be featured in new Smithsonian series

POCONO MOUNTAINS, Pa., June 11, 2015 –The Smithsonian Channel will debut a new series, “My Million Dollar Invention,” this week. The series explores inventions large and small that have changed lives and culture throughout history, and the men and women behind these million dollar ideas.

In the first episode of the series, “Shock and Awe,” La Marcus Thompson’s story is told. Thompson invented the roller coaster, an idea that was inspired by a visit to the town of Mauch Chunk, PA in the 1880s. The Switchback Gravity Railroad was a railroad system developed to transport coal in the town. However, when people realized the excitement of riding the rail, they began to jump on board. Soon the railroad began to charge guests for the excitement of riding under the force of gravity and the Switchback Gravity Railroad became a bigger tourist attraction than Niagara Falls. Thompson took this idea and built the first roller coaster in Coney Island, NY. Mauch Chunk eventually became known as Jim Thorpe, a town that still welcomes millions of tourists each year.

The Smithsonian Channel visited the Pocono Mountains town in 2014 to interview local historian, Vincent Hydro and gather photos and videos from John Drury of the Much Chunk Museum and Cultural Center. The interview and photos are featured in the story set to air.

“My Million Dollar Invention” will premier, Sunday, June 14 at 8:00 p.m. on the Smithsonian Channel. A preview of the series and local channel listings can be found at

About the Pocono Mountains
With 2,400 square miles encompassing Pennsylvania’s Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties, the Pocono Mountains region is home to rolling mountain terrain, breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls, thriving woodlands and 170 miles of winding rivers. Winters offer guests the opportunity to ski, snowboard, snow tube and even snowshoe their way through snowy wonderlands encompassing over 163 ski trails, while summers also cater to the active traveller allowing exploration of 261miles of hiking and biking trails, over 30 golf courses, whitewater rafting, boating, fishing and open access to nine state and two national parks.

Pocono Mountains visitor information is available online at or by phone at 800-POCONOS (800-762-6667). Follow @PoconoTourismPR on Twitter to stay current with up-to-date information. Established in 1934, the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau is a private, non-profit, membership organization. The Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing organization for the four counties of Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne in northeastern Pennsylvania.

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