Although a wheeled roller coaster called the Switchback is said to exist as early as the 1600s in Russia, Paris is often said to be the birthplace of the modern roller coaster for its two attempts, Les Montagnes Russes a Belleville and Promenades Aeriennes (The Incredible Scream Machine: A History of the Roller Coaster, 1987, p 20).
The Russian Mountains (Les Montagnes Russes) in 1804 was “apparently…both frightening and quite dangerous” (The Incredible Scream Machine: A History of the Roller Coaster, 1987, p 21). Without safety devices built in, passengers were forced to grab “the sides to stay in the cars”, wheels would fall off the carts, and “cars often did not stop at the base of the hill” (The Incredible Scream Machine: A History of the Roller Coaster, 1987, p 21).
Apparently injury of passengers, rather than decreasing popularity, actually increased attendance; “the passion of Parisians for this dangerous pastime..(was) a mark of honor in displaying their courage and self-control” (The Incredible Scream Machine: A History of the Roller Coaster, 1987, p 21). Eventually, the number of stairs required to ride the coaster was seen as a drawback that helped usher its decline.
In 1817, Aerial Walks (Promenades Aeriennes) opened in the Beaujon Gardens in Paris, with two separate but continuous tracks that would run down the curving ramps to the bottom to then be pushed back up the slope by attendants (The Incredible Scream Machine: A History of the Roller Coaster, 1987, p 21). Estimated to travel at speeds of 40 miles per hour, cars were locked to the tracks, and a primitive cable system was added in 1826. Competitors quickly followed, for a total of eight rollercoasters in Paris including: Les Montagnes françaises (The French Mountains), le Delta, les Montagnes de Belleville (The Mountains of Belleville), les Montagnes américaines (the American Mountains), Les Montages lilliputiennes, (The miniature mountains), Les Montagnes susses (The Swiss mountains) and Les Montagnes égyptiennes (The Egyptian mountains).
The scenes painted feature upper class, fashionable ladies and gentlemen riding the roller coasters. Coasters like the Aerial Walk had places to stop and have a coffee (https://www.histoire-image.org/etudes/promenades-aeriennes), emphasizing them as a site of entertainment. With a burgeoning middle class, roller coasters and amusement parks would begin to be open for a wider audience, and take over throughout Europe and America.