A carousel (from French carrousel, from Italian carosello), or merry-go-round, is an amusement ride consisting of a rotating circular platform with seats for riders. The "seats" are traditionally in the form of rows of wooden horses or other animals mounted on posts, many of which are moved up and down by gearwork to simulate galloping, to the accompaniment of looped circus music. This leads to one of the alternative names, the galloper. Other popular names are jumper, roundabout, horseabout and flying horses.
Carousels are commonly populated with horses, each horse weighing roughly 100 lbs (45 kg), but may include diverse varieties of mounts, like pigs, zebras, tigers, or mythological creatures such as dragons or unicorns. Sometimes, chairlike or benchlike seats are used as well, and occasionally mounts can be shaped like airplanes or cars.
Any rotating platform may also be called a carousel. In a playground, a roundabout or merry-go-round is usually a simple, child-powered rotating platform with bars or handles to which children can cling while riding. At an airport, rotating conveyors in the baggage claim area are often called carousels. Various photographic slide projectors, notably those made by Kodak until 2004, used rotating trays or magazines called carousels to hold the slides and were often known as "carousel projectors".
The earliest known depiction of a carousel is in a Byzantine bas-relief dating to around 500 A.D., which depicts riders in baskets suspended from a central pole. The word carousel originates from the Italian garosello and Spanish carosella ("little battle"), used by crusaders to describe a combat preparation exercise and game played by Turkish and Arabian horsemen in the 12th century. In a sense this early device could be considered a cavalry training mechanism; it prepared and strengthened the riders for actual combat as they wielded their swords at the mock enemies. European Crusaders discovered this device and brought the idea back to their own lands. A carousel was also a training device for the ring-tilt, consisting of wooden horses suspended from arms branching from a central pole. Riders aimed to spear rings situated around the circumference as the carousel was moved by a man, horse, or mule.
Carousel was also the term for large "horse ballet" or Musical Ride spectacles mounted as part of the court festivities for special occasions such as royal weddings or state visits from the mid-16th century onwards, which gradually replaced serious jousting, although non-combat competitions such as the ring-tilt lasted until the 18th century. They were developed in Italy, especially by the Medici Grand Dukes in Florence, and the first French example was in Paris in 1605. These usually took place in squares or large courtyards, and consisted of elaborately costumed riders and horses (usually from the cavalry) performing choreographed routines such as forming shapes together, riding in lines criss-cross against each other. They often took place at night, with riders carrying torches, and were accompanied by music. From the 17th century large decorated floats with allegorical figures were often included. The Place du Carrousel in Paris was so named from 1662, when it was used for such a display by Louis XIV.
In 1620 the English traveller Peter Munday described a carousel ride he saw in modern Bulgaria, then part of the Ottoman Empire. By the early 18th century carousels were being built and operated at various fairs and gatherings in central Europe and England. For example, by 1745 AD, wagon-maker Michael Dentzel had converted his wagon-making business in what is now southern Germany to a carousel-making enterprise. Animals and mechanisms would be crafted during the winter months and the family and workers would go touring in their wagon train through the region, operating their large menagerie carousel at various venues. Other makers such as Heyn in Germany and Bayol in France were also beginning to make carousels at this time. In its own unique style, England was also rapidly developing a carousel-making tradition.
Early carousels had no platforms: the animals would hang on poles or chains and fly out from the centrifugal force of the spinning mechanism; these are called "flying horses" carousels. They were often powered by animals walking in a circle or people pulling a rope or cranking. By the mid-19th century the platform carousel was developed where the animals and chariots would travel around in a circle sitting on a suspended circular floor which was hanging from the centre pole. The first known recorded steam-powered carousel was created by Thomas Hurst and shown at Bolton (Lancashire, England) New Year Fair in 1861. Eventually, with the technological advances of the industrial revolution, bevel gears and offset cranks were installed on these platform carousels, thus giving the animals their well-known up-and-down motion as they travelled around the centre pole. The platform served as a position guide for the bottom of the pole and as a place for people to walk or other stationary animals or chariots to be placed. Fairground organs (band organs) were often present (if not built in) when these machines operated. Eventually electric motors were installed and electric lights added, giving the carousel its classic look.
Although the carousel developed gradually in European countries such as Germany, France, England, and Italy, it did not reach its full-scale development until it went into its American phase. This began with several makers, primarily Gustav Dentzel, Michael Dentzel's son, of Germany, and Dare from England. Michael Dentzel sent all four of his sons over to America in the 1850s, one of them, Gustav, with a full and complete large carousel packed away on the steamship. In early 1860 Gustav set up his family's carousel in Philadelphia to test the American market. The saddles on these early wood carousel horses were made of fabric, silk with padding, and velvet with padding. These are very rare and it's doubtful that any still exist. If they do, the cost of such a horse with an original velvet saddle would be close to 20,000.00. He opened up a carousel and cabinet workshop in Germantown. This eventually became the headquarters for one of America's greatest carousel-making families. Shortly after this beginning other carousel makers from Europe began to arrive on American shores. Many fine woodcarvers and painters, classically trained in their European homeland, worked for these early American companies. The Dentzels, being of German origin, also employed other Germans such as the Muller brothers and also many Italians, such as Salvador Chernigliaro.
The first carousel to be seen in the United States was created in Hessville, Ohio, approximately 25 miles (40 km) from Toledo, Ohio on U.S. Route 20 during the 1840s by Franz Wiesenhoffer. The first carousel patent was granted on 25 July 1871, to Willhelm Schneider of Davenport, IA. Several centers and styles for the construction of carousels emerged in the United States: Coney Island style – characterized by elaborate, and sometimes faux-jeweled, saddles – with Charles I. D. Looff, Charles Carmel, Marcus Charles Illions, Soloman Stein and Harry Goldstein and Mangels; Philadelphia style – known for more realistically painted saddles – with Dentzel and the Philadelphia Toboggan Company; and Country Fair style – often with no saddles at all – with Allan Herschell and Edward Spillman of western New York, and Charles W. Parker of Kansas. Early on the Dentzels became known for their beautiful horses and lavish use of menagerie animals on their carousels. Their mechanisms were also considered among the very best for durability and reliability. Gustav's sons, William and Edward, operated the company until William's death in 1927 at which time the company was auctioned off. By this time many carousel companies had gone out of business or diversified into other rides because of the hardships of the Depression. Young Edward Dentzel, who was operating carousels in Southern California at the time decided to stay there and become a luxury housing contractor in Beverly Hills; he eventually became the Mayor of that city in the early 1950s.
Many carousel connoisseurs consider the golden age of the carousel to be early 20th century America. Very large machines were being built, elaborate animals, chariots, and decorations were superbly made by skilled old-world craftsmen taking advantage of their new freedoms in America. Large amounts of excellent and cheap carving wood were available such as Appalachian white pine, basswood, and yellow poplar. Whereas most European carousel figures are relatively static in posture, American figures are more representative of active beasts - tossed manes, expressive eyes and postures of movement are their hallmarks. The first carousel at Coney Island, America's first major amusement park, was built in 1876 by Charles I. D. Looff, a Danish woodcarver. Another style is a double-decker, in which there is a huge carousel stacked on top of another. An example is the Columbia Carousel.
In the early 20th century, there were approximately 4,000 carousels throughout the United States. By the 21st century, that number had been reduced to 150.
In the 1920s another noted woodcarver of horses for US carousels was Frank Carretta of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Each year he carved an estimated 200 horses.
William H. Dentzel of Port Townsend, Washington is the only descendant from a founding American carousel family of the United States still making wooden carousels. His carousels are similar to the oldest operating carousel in the United States in Watch Hill, R.I. (1893) built by the Dare company, a "flying horses" machine. The power sources for Dentzel’s contemporary carousels range from rope-pull to hand-crank to foot-pedal to AC 110 volt electric to DC solar power.
The carousel at the Willows park in Salem, Ma was manufactured in 1866 and relocated to its current site around 1900, so may have claim to the oldest operating carousel in the United States. It was originally driven by a donkey that was hidden in the cellar below the ride and was ultimately converted to electricity. It is rumored to be the oldest and fastest ride of its kind in operation. The oldest functional carousel in Europe is in Prague (Letná Park), built in 1892 or 1893.
In the USSR in the 1970s and 1980s the carousel was not just a ride of amusement parks, but also an integral part of the urban culture. Many playgrounds, which existed in every yard, were equipped with a standard flower-shaped carousel, made of metallic bars with six wooden seats attached to them.
On some playgrounds, small manually powered carousels exist.
- The Nunley's Carousel that once operated at Nunley's Amusement Park, Baldwin, N.Y. was built in 1912 by the Stein and Goldstein Artistic Carousell Co. When the park closed in 1995, the carousel was purchased by Nassau County and placed in storage. It was fully restored and opened in 2009 at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, N.Y.
- The carousel at Phantasialand in Germany is one of the biggest in the world, made by Preston & Barbieri one historical amusement ride factory in Italy.
- The Small Fry Carousel in Boynton opened in 2001 to replace the classic carousel with the eagle shields. In 2013 the carousel was closed to be replaced with another Chance Rides carousel.
- The world's only two-row stationary carousel built from an original Dentzel blueprint left in existence, the Highland Park Dentzel Carousel and Shelter Building, is located in Highland Park in Meridian, Mississippi.
- In May 2005, William Henry Dentzel III, built the world's first solar-powered carousel. The carousel operates during Solfest at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, California.
- The Crescent Park Looff Carousel in Riverside, Rhode Island was built in 1895 and still operates in its original location. The 61 horses, one camel, and four chariots have been restored and the ride renovated. Charles I. D. Looff used this carousel as a showpiece for prospective customers. This is one of the few carousels that feature a ring-arm with steel rings and a brass ring. The original A. Ruth & Sohn organ still plays music for the patrons.
- There is only one carousel in the world that rides in a waving motion - "Over the Jumps: The Arkansas Carousel" in Little Rock, Arkansas. It is also the only remaining wooden track carousel built by the Herschell & Spillman Company, and one of only four track carousels still in existence.
- The carousel at Conneaut Lake Park in Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania is the last T.M. Harton Carousel that is still in operation and its Artizan band organ is one of two known of the same model in the world.
- The carousel at the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, MA was built in 1908 by Charles Looff and is electrically powered
- The carousel at Heritage State Park in Holyoke, MA was built in 1929 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters company and assembled at the now shuttered Mountain Park. The carousel was reassembled and preserved (in full operation) at Heritage State Park with the help of John Hickey and the Holyoke Water Power Company in 1993.
- The Flying Horses Carousel currently in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts is the nation’s oldest platform carousel and has been designated by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a national landmark. Constructed in 1876 by Charles Dare, it is one of only two Dare carousels still in existence. Originally operated as a Coney Island, NY amusement park, it was moved to Oak Bluffs in 1884, where it has lived in its red barn, delighting generations of Island residents and visitors ever since. The carousel was acquired by the Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust in 1986 to prevent it from being dismantled and sold piecemeal to collectors of antique carved horses.
- Binghamton, New York is considered the "Carousel Capital of the World" for the six original carousels in the Triple Cities area, donated by George F. Johnson, owner of the Endicott-Johnson Company early in the 20th century. These Carousels were donated with the express stipulation that they would never charge admission for anyone to ride them. Apparently when Mr. Johnson was a child he was frequently too poor to ride the local carousel and he vowed this would never happen to another child in the area. The carousel at the Ross park zoo in Binghamton, NY does charge admission, in a way, as it requires the child to drop one piece of litter found in the park into a trash barrel in order to ride. This is all written on a plaque at the entrance to the carousel.
- The oldest existing carousel made in 1779 to 1780 stands in Germany at the Wilhelmsbad Park in Hanau.
- The carousel in Riverfront Park in Spokane, Washington is an original Looff carousel built in 1909 and installed at the Natatorium Park in Spokane.
- The Richland Carrousel Park in Mansfield, Ohio is an indoor carousel in the downtown Historic Carrousel District that was completed in 1991. It is the first hand-carved indoor wooden carousel to be built and operated in the United States since the early 1930s.
- Sydney's Darling Harbour Carousel is a New South Wales Heritage listed attraction. It is an example of an old Edwardian Carousel which are very rare nowadays. It is operated by a classic steam engine which has been retained. The Carousel dates back to the 'Golden Age' of Carousels between the 1890s to the 1920s.
- The Grand Carousel at Kennywood Park was built by William H. Dentzel in 1926 and is a National Historic Landmark. The music on this carousel is provided by a 1916 Wurlitzer Style #153 Military Band Organ and over 1500 lights decorate this ride. The carousel features 50 jumping and 14 stationary horses, a magnificent lion and tiger, and Dentzel's signature Jesters and Cherubs.
- Cafesjian's Carousel was a mainstay at the Minnesota State Fair from 1914 to 1988 when it was saved from the auction block by a non-profit group organized to save the landmark. The carousel is now located in Como Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
- The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda, NY has two working carousels: The largest is a 1916 model that is 40 feet (12.2 m) in diameter, with 36 hand-carved horses and over 580 lights. The second is a small aluminum carousel specifically designed for children. The museum is located in the building complex which housed the Allan Herschell Company and is the only museum in the world housed inside an authentic carousel factory.
- The two double-decker Columbia Carousels built by Chance Rides and located at Six Flags Great America and California's Great America are the two tallest carousels in the world.
- The Merry-Go-Round located at Tilden Park in Berkeley, California was built in 1911 by the Herschel-Spillman Company and is one of the few carousels from its day still in operation. In 1976 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- The King Arthur Carrousel has existed since 1932 and was moved to Disneyland in 1954. It is an assembly of two carousels. Walt Disney wanted it to have four courses of all jumpers. The remaining chariot woodwork was repurposed as the "Calliope" tenders of Casey Jr. Circus Train powered gravity coaster.
- Melbourne Zoo's Carousel was built in 1878 in England and imported to Australia in the 1880s by John Briggs an ancestor of Dorrie Freeman. The Carousel travelled the show circuit until 1963 before it finally arrived at Melbourne Zoo.
- Buttonwood Park's carousel was built in 2012 in the United States and is manafacturered by Chance Rides and is 28 foot with two rows and is the Americana version and has animals and horses together on all the rows. The outer row features animals from the world including America and so many other cities and states.
- Palm Beach International Equstrian Center's carousel was built and added in 2013 with three rows,a rocking chariot and horses excpet there is a missing rocking horse. This is the first carousel in Palm Beach County until the opening of the Wildlife Carousel at Palm Beach Zoo and the Carousels USA at Lion Country Safari's park Safari World
- The Forest Park Carousel, located in the Woodhaven section of the New York City borough of Queens, was built by Daniel C. Muller and one of only two surviving Muller brothers carousels. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
- The Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome located on the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California.
- The Merry-Go-Round at Bear Mountain State Park features hand-painted scenes of the Park and 42 hand-carved seats of native animals including black bear, wild turkey, deer, raccoon, skunk, Canada goose, fox, swan, bobcat, rabbit, and more.
- Port Dalhousie, Ontario, Canada, at historic Lakeside Park, is home to an antique carousel which was carved by Charles I. D. Looff in 1905 and brought to St. Catharines in 1921. It continues to provide amusement for young and old alike, at just 5 cents a ride.
- The Carousel at Harper Motors is an iconic landmark on the North Coast of California. Brought to the dealership in 1991, this 1947 Allan Herschell has all original half and half horses except for two metal ones. It is open daily free of charge to the public from 12-4 except on holidays and when inclimate weather doesn't allow for riders.
- The historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Looff Carousel, is one of the few carousels still in its original location for more than 100 years. It is a "pure carousel" meaning all of the horses were provided by the same company that built the carousel. It is also one of the few with the rare combination of a working ring dispenser and outside row jumping horses. The carousel features three band organs including a rare Ruth & Sohn 96-key organ with 342 pipes. The Looff carousel was designated a national historic landmark in 1987.
- In Mary Poppins, Mary, Bert, and the children ride a merry-go-round, then leave the carousel on their horses to go off on a fox hunt and a horse race.
- In the film Charade, near the end, there is a scene where appears a carousel in the background with the music of the main theme, a parisian waltz composed by Henry Mancini (Charade carousel) played with bells.
- In Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, the carnival's carousel can cause riders to become younger or older depending on the direction in which they ride.
- Carousel (1945) was a Broadway musical featuring hit songs such as "If I Loved You" and "You'll Never Walk Alone". The protagonist, Billy Bigelow, is a carousel barker.
- In the dramatic climax scene of Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) the hero and the villain struggle on a carousel.
- David Carradine's 1983 film Americana revolves around a Vietnam veteran's obsession with the restoration of an abandoned carousel.
- In the Australian children's picture book The Carousel by Ursula Dubosarsky, illustrated by Walter di Qual, after an exhilarating ride on a carousel, a child has a semi-mystical vision of the carousel horses breaking free from the wheel and galloping across the world.
- The 1930s novelty song, The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down, is the theme song for the Looney Tunes series of cartoons by Warner Bros.
- The classic children's television programme The Magic Roundabout uses a carousel as its central motif.
In Europe, merry-go-rounds (as they are most often referred to in those countries) usually turn clockwise (see photograph at top), while in North America, carousels typically go counterclockwise (anticlockwise) - looked on from above. One mounts a real horse by lifting one's right leg over the animal's back as it stands with its head towards one's left (the horse's left side is called its "near" side). Likewise for a carousel that turns anti-clockwise: one stands on the near side of the horse to mount (towards the center of the carousel, not on its outer edge). One possible reason for carousels in the USA turning anti-clockwise may be so that the rider can use their right hand to catch a brass ring. In Asia, they often go clockwise.
Modern carousel in Brussels
James Noyce & Sons' traditional "gallopers" at Nottingham Goose Fair in 1983
A 1920s C.W. Parker merry-go-round in Tucson, Arizona
The Richland Carrousel Park in downtown Mansfield, Ohio is the first hand-carved indoor wooden carousel to be built and operated in the United States since the early 1930s.
William F. Mangels Kiddie Galloping Horse Carrousel circa 1935
Kennywood's Merry-Go-Round built by William H. Dentzel in 1926 for the World's Fair
Forest Park Carousel, November 2009
Central Park Carousel at Central Park in New York City
- Allan Herschell Carousel Factory
- Carousel of Progress — a novel theater that revolves a seated audience around central stages
- C. W. Parker Carousel
- Chair-O-Planes, aka a swing carousel
- Charles I. D. Looff
- Crescent Park Looff Carousel
- Philadelphia Toboggan Company
- International Museum of Carousel Art. "A Brief History of the Carousel". Retrieved 2008-07-24.
- Merriam-Webster online dictionary
- Kane, Joseph, Anzovin, Steven, & Podell, Janet. Famous First Facts. H.W. Wilson Company, 2006, p. 1.
- Antiques Roadshow, Spokane, Washington, broadcast 4 August 2007.
- "Carves 200 Merry-Go-Round Horses a Year." Popular Science Monthly, November 1929, p. 66.
- "Historic Nunley's Carousel at Museum Row". cradleofaviation.org. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- Meridian.MS.org, Dentzel Carousel.
- "California Carousel". Roadside Architecture.com. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- "Gallery 2: Cloud Room". Dentzel.com. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- Jacques, Charles Jr. (1982). Kennywood...Roller Coaster Capital of the World. Vestal, New York: The Vestal Press Ltd. pp. 174–177. ISBN 0-911572-24-4.
- "The Museum's Exhibits". Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- Moschke, Will (2011). "35 Years at the Great America Parks". RollerCoaster! Magazine 32 (4): 6. ISSN 0896-7261.
- "National Register of Historic Places in Contra Costa County". Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- "Census of Classic Wood Carousels". National Carousel Association. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- Kathleen LaFrank (January 2004). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Forest Park Carousel". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2011-01-16. See also: "Accompanying 35 photos".
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- Seifert, Jeffrey (November 2011), "Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk's Looff Carousel celebrates 100 years", Amusement Today 15 (8.2): 1–7
- http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780670074624/carousel retrieved 3 July 2012
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to carousel.|
- The National Carousel Association
- The C. W. Parker Carousel Museum
- International Museum of Carousel Art
- Video of a hand-cranked carousel in Szentendre, Hungary
- Historic Carousels at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair
- The oldest carousel in the world
- How It's Made: Season 7: Episode 3: Matches, Carousel Horses, Fine Porcelain, Automobile Fuel Tanks. 10 February 2008. "How It's Made" at the Internet Movie Database