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CAROUSELS CIRCLE THE WORLD
Many companies carved both large park carousels and small portable carousels in both Europe and
The English round-a-bouts all rotate in a clockwise direction whereas American, European and Mexican carousels turn counter-clockwise. The fancy or romance side faces outward. Horses were carved as jumpers, prancers or standers.
Various carousel animals from the Hegarty Collection
TRADITION OF THE CAROUSEL
The origins of our colorful carousels began a few hundred years ago. A revolving platform with suspended, crudely-carved horse seats was used in
These platforms were pulled in a circle by animals or servants. The simple rides soon became great attractions at fairs and festivals throughout
Primitive carousels were built by carpenters, wheelwrights, and blacksmiths in
as well as near Coney Island and upstate
THE TRADITION OF THE CAROUSEL.
Philadelphia Toboggan Company Scenery Panel c. 1906
Twin Pines Carousel, Pine Grove, PA
American - Philadelphia Style Original paint on wood
CAROUSEL ANIMAL CONSTRUCTION
American carousel animals were carved primarily from yellow poplar and basswood. Several pieces of wood were laminated together, leaving the center of the animal hollow both for weight and to have the smooth grain exposed for carving. The head and legs were carved separately, then doweled and glued to the body. The best carver, or head man, carved the head, mane, and fancy trappings.
The early carousel animals were all hand-carved. Later, carving machines duplicated patterns and expanded production though fancy details were done by talented carvers. Eventually, horses were produced with wooden bodies but had metal heads, legs and tails. These were referred to as half and halfs. Carousels with metal horses were also introduced. Most recently, newly-carved as well as fiberglass animals molded from the original antique carousel animals are being created.
Charles Carmel (Jewels added by M.D. Borelli)
Jumping horse c. 1910
American - Coney Island Style Stripped Wood
The small wooden carousel animals led hard lives. They traveled constantly from fair to fair and often needed fast repairs. A tin patch, a few nails, a replacement ear or tail kept the animals on their bustling summer schedules. More time and care was generally taken with restoration of the large carousel animals located in parks and pavilions.
Freidrich Heyn, Jumping Horse c. 1920 German
Park paint / metal repairs
THE COUNTY FAIR STYLE
The sturdy little carousel animals appearing at the county fairs and gatherings in the summer were designed for traveling. Their legs were in simple, parallel positions for easy moving and stacking. They needed to be quickly loaded and unloaded from train cars and trucks.
Several companies carved these County Fair Style animals, some for only a few years. One of the largest and most successful companies had a few different names and a variety of styles. In
Armitage-Herschell Jumping Horse c. 1890
American - County Fair Style - Painted wood (restored)
Carousels in Placer County
T.H. McKenna has just returned to Lincoln from Abilene, Kan., where he went to purchase a merry go round, in which business he will shortly engage…Upon the arrival of the merry go round from the East it will be given its initial run in Lincoln, after which the firm will visit various other points in this State, Oregon and Idaho.
-Placer Herald, March 31, 1906
From an article on May 12, 1906 we learn that the "steam merry-go-round" was installed in Auburn on a vacant lot next to W.R. Arthur's residence and was expected to remain for a week. The following article is priceless:
Miss Effa Lardner last Saturday evening received the handsome gold watch given away by the merry-go-round proprietors, the watch being awarded to the young lady receiving the highest number of votes during their stay in Auburn.
The animals in this photo of a merry-go-round located in
Towle in the early 20thc are typical of the County Fair Style
Placer County Archives
Gustav Dentzel began producing elegant, realistic carousel animals in his G.A. Dentzel Steam and Horsepower Caroussell Builder shop in l867. His father, Michael, had been a carousel builder in
Additional companies began carving the realistic, non-jeweled carousel figures in the
Gustav Dentzel Prancing Horse c. 1885
American - Philadelphia Style
Park paint on stripped wood
Charles I.D. Looff installed the first carousel at Coney Island in l876, the year
Other carving companies soon joined Looff in producing large and exciting park carousels. Stein and Goldstein, Marcus Illions and Charles Carmel produced
dazzling horses with a few menagerie animals. Many of
Jumping horse c 1912 American (Coney Island Style)
Painted wood (restored)
Though most people think of the colorful, animated horses aboard carousels, there are a variety of menagerie animals that can also be enjoyed! Several carving companies such as Dentzel, Muller, PTC, Looff, Carmel, and Herschell-Spillman created both elegant and fanciful menagerie figures.
The variety of American menagerie animals include: cats, rabbits, dogs, bears, ostriches, goats, donkeys, deer, giraffes, zebra, frogs, a couple of rare bison, and of course the fierce lion and tiger. The animals were arranged in pairs except for a single lion and tiger. They were placed on opposing sides of the carousel
American - County Fair Style - Park paint on wood
To see the Auburn Journal's coverage of this exhibit, click here.