logo

* Styles of Carving *
* Carousel vs. Merry-Go-Round *
* Other Information Sources *
Getting There

About the Carousel

History

Restoration

Getting Involved

About the Band Organ

About America's
Carousels


News

Photos



About Carousels in the U.S....

About 6,000 carousels were made in the United States between about 1890 and 1930. Only about 200 remain today; the rest have been abandoned, destroyed by fire or flood, or broken up and sold to collectors.

On some carousels, like Cafesjian's Carousel in St. Paul, Minnesota, all the figures are horses. Others, called menagerie machines, feature a variety of animals such as cats, goats, rabbits, ostriches, pigs, giraffes, and deer. If the figures go up and down as the carousel turns, they are called jumpers. If they are bolted to the floor, they are called standers. Some carousels with standers made the ride more interesting by inviting riders on the outside row to try to catch a brass ring.

Styles of carving... Carousel experts generally speak of three styles of carousel figures: Philadelphia style, Coney Island style and County Fair style.

Philadelphia style: The bodies of Philadelphia style animals tend to be large, strong and realistic. They were carved by men--mostly German immigrants--working for one of several companies in Philadelphia's Germantown section. The first of these companies was founded by carver Gustav Dentzel and operated later by his sons William and Edward. Daniel C. Muller was another influential carver and carousel builder. Nearby, the Philadelphia Toboggan Company employed some influential carvers of its own.

Coney Island style: The bodies of Coney Island animals tend to be more slender and stylized than their Philadelphia counterparts. Manes are more fanciful, expressions are more spirited and trappings are often studded with jewels. Among the famous creators of Coney Island style figures are Charles Looff, Marcus Illions and Charles Carmel (three Carmel horses can be found on Cafesjian's Carousel).

County Fair style: County Fair figures generally have very small and slender bodies because they were placed on carousels that were taken apart and moved every week or so, making the circuit of fairs and festivals. Among the best-known manufacturers of these portable carousels are the Herschell-Spillman Company of North Tonawanda, New York, and the C.W. Parker Company of Leavenworth, Kansas.

Back to top
"Carousel" vs. "Merry-Go-Round"... The two words can be used interchangeably, although "carousel" has come into favor as people have come to appreciate their beauty--maybe because it sounds fancier.

Very early carousels were created in both England and France, where they were called different things. The word "carousel" comes from the French, while merry-go-round seems to come from the English term "roundabout."

Other Sources of Information... The National Carousel Association exists to foster the preservation of historic carousels. They hold an annual convention as well as a technical conference for people who want to learn more about operating, restoring and preserving these machines. They also produce a magazine and offer other sorts of information.

Several books describe the history and art of carousels and carousel figures. Among them:

  • Dinger, Charlotte. Art of the Carousel. 224 pages. Carousel Art, Inc., Pox 150, Green Village, New Jersey 07935. 1983. ISBN 0-914507-00-1
  • Fraley, Tobin. The Carousel Animal. 128 pages. Chronicle Books, 275 Fifth Street, San Francisco, California 94103. 1987
  • Fried, Frederick. A Pictorial History of the Carousel. 232 pages. The Vestal Press Ltd., P.O. Box 97, Vestal, New York 13850. 1964. ISBN 0-911572-29-5
  • Hinds, Anne Dion. Grab the Brass Ring: The American Carousel. 148 pages. Crown Publishers, 201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. 1990. ISBN 0-517-57486-1
  • Manns, William, Shank, Peggy, and Stevens, Marianne. Painted Ponies: American Carousel Art. 256 pages. Zon International Publishing Company, P.O. Box 47, Millwood, New York 10546. 1986. ISBN 0-939549-01-8
  • Weedon, Geoff, and Ward, Richard. Fairground Art: The Art Forms of Travelling Fairs, Carousels and Carnival Midways. 312 pages. Abbeville Press, 505 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10022. 1981. ISBN 0-89659-309-6




This site is maintained by Our Fair Carousel, Inc.,
not-for-profit owner and operator of Cafesjian's Carousel,
1245 Midway Parkway, St. Paul, Minnesota 55103