A carousel (American English: from French carrousel and Italian carosello), roundabout (British English), or merry-go-round, is a type of 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 gears to simulate galloping, to the accompaniment of looped circus music. This leads to one of the alternative American names, the galloper. Other popular names are jumper, horseabout, and flying horses.
Carousels are commonly populated with horses, each horse weighing roughly 100 lbs (45 kg), but may include a variety of mounts, for example pigs, zebras, tigers, or mythological creatures such as dragons or unicorns. Sometimes, chair-like or bench-like seats are used, and occasionally mounts can be shaped like aeroplanes or cars.
The "roundabouts" or "merry-go-rounds" installed in playgrounds are usually somewhat different devices: simple, child-powered rotating platforms with bars or handles to which children can cling while riding.
The modern carousel emerged from early jousting traditions in Europe and the Middle East. Knights would gallop in a circle while tossing balls from one to another; an activity that required great skill and horsemanship. This game was introduced to Europe at the time of the Crusades from earlier Byzantine and Arab traditions. The word carousel originated 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). This early device was essentially a cavalry training mechanism; it prepared and strengthened the riders for actual combat as they wielded their swords at the mock enemies.
By the 17th century, the balls had been dispensed with, and instead the riders had to spear small rings that were hanging from poles overhead and rip them off. Cavalry spectacles that replaced medieval jousting, such as the ring-tilt, were popular in Italy and France. The game began to be played by commoners, and carousels soon sprung up at fairgrounds across Europe. At the Place du Carrousel in Paris, an early make believe carousel was set up with wooden horses for the children.
By the early 18th century carousels were being built and operated at various fairs and gatherings in central Europe and England. 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. Makers included Heyn in Germany and Bayol in France. These early carousels had no platforms; the animals would hang from chains and fly out from the centrifugal force of the spinning mechanism. They were often powered by animals walking in a circle or people pulling a rope or cranking.
By 1803 John Joseph Merlin had a carousel in his Mechanical Museum in London, where gentry and nobility liked to gather on winter evenings. The horses "floated free over a pole". It was connected to a "big musical instrument that played a fully orchestrated concerto" and from the first note the carousel would start turning while each individual horse would make a galloping movement with a visitor riding on its back. Merlin did not patent his inventions and engineers were allowed to come to create their own models of his creations.
Viewed from above, in the United Kingdom, merry-go-rounds usually turn clockwise (from the outside, animals face to the left), while in North America and Mainland Europe, carousels typically go counterclockwise (animals face to the right).
By the mid-19th century the platform carousel was developed; the animals and chariots were fixed to a circular floor that would suspend from a centre pole and rotate around. These carousels were called dobbies and were operated manually by the operator or by ponies.
In mid-19th century England, the carousel became a popular fixture at fairs. The first steam-powered mechanical roundabout, invented by Thomas Bradshaw, appeared at the Aylsham Fair in about 1861. It was described by a Halifax Courier journalist as "a roundabout of huge proportions, driven by a steam engine which whirled around with such impetuousity, that the wonder is the daring riders are not shot off like cannon- ball, and driven half into the middle of next month."
Soon afterwards, English engineer Frederick Savage began to branch out of agricultural machinery production into the construction of fairground machines, swiftly becoming the chief innovator in the field. Savage's fairground machinery was exported all over the world. By 1870, he was manufacturing carousels with Velocipedes (an early type of bicycle) and he soon began experimenting with other possibilities, including a roundabout with boats that would pitch and roll on cranks with a circular motion, a ride he called 'Sea-on-Land'.
Savage applied a similar innovation to the more traditional mount of the horse; he installed gears and offset cranks on the platform carousels, thus giving the animals their well-known up-and-down motion as they travelled around the center pole – the galloping horse. 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. He called this ride the 'Platform Gallopers' . He also developed the 'platform-slide' which allowed the mounts to swing out concentrically as the carousel built up speed. 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.
These mechanical innovations came at a crucial time, when increased prosperity meant that more people had time for leisure and spare money to spend on entertainment. It was in this historical context that the modern fairground ride was born, with Savage supplying this new market demand. In his 1902 Catalogue for Roundabouts he claimed to have "... patented and placed upon the market all the principal novelties that have delighted the many thousands of pleasure seekers at home and abroad."
In the United States, the carousel industry was developed by immigrants, notably Gustav Dentzel of Germany and Charles W.F. Dare from England, from the late 19th century. 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; 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. The golden age of the carousel in America was the early 20th century, with large machines and elaborate animals, chariots, and decorations being built.
A 1909 horse by Marcus Illions in the Coney Island style
On some playgrounds, small manually powered carousels exist.
The National Carousel Association maintains a list of Historic Carousel Award winners, primarily focused on carousels in Canada and America.
|Charles Looff Carroussel||1875||Coney Island, New York||Looff||First carousel and amusement ride at Coney Island. Installed at Mrs. Lucy Vanderveer's Bathing Pavilion in 1876.|||
|Flying Horses Carousel||1876||Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts||Charles Dare||The nation's oldest platform carousel 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 at 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.|||
|Flying Horse Carousel||1876||Watch Hill, Westerly, Rhode Island||Charles Dare||Built in 1876 and listed as a National Historic Landmark. It is one of two Charles Dare carousels in existence. It is considered the oldest of its type "in which the horses are suspended from a center frame," as opposed to being mounted on a wooden platform, which causes the horses to "fly" as the carousel gains speed.|||
|Melbourne Zoo Carousel||1878||Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia||Built in 1878 in England and imported to Australia in the 1880s by John Briggs, an ancestor of Dorrie Freeman. The Carousel traveled the show circuit until 1963 when it finally arrived at Melbourne Zoo. Restoration completed 2005.|||
|Le Galopant||1885||La Ronde, Montreal||The oldest galloping carousel in the world. Built in 1885 in Bressoux by Belgian craftsmen, it stayed there until 1964 when it moved to New York for their World's Fair. For Expo 67 it came to Montreal as part of the rides featured in La Ronde. In 2003, the Carousel underwent a meticulous restoration under the current park ownership, Six Flags. More than $1 million was spent to refurbish the ride, which reopened in a new specially landscaped garden in 2007.|||
|Darling Harbor Carousel||c.1890s||Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour, Sydney||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. First imported to Australia in 1894.|||
|The Flotilla||c.1894||High Park, CNE grounds, Munro Park||O. L. Hicks||Miniature boats (replicas of Columbus' ships) travelled in a circular trough. Chains pulled the boats.|||
|Stoomcarrousel||c.1895–1903||Efteling. Kaatsheuvel. Brabant. The Netherlands||Hendrik Janvier||This carousel was built between 1895 and 1903 by designer Hendrik Janvier (1868–1932). Janvier was the progenitor of the famous Dutch funfair family Janvier and is seen as the founder of the Stoormcarrousel tradition. He used tools from different manufacturers, because there did not yet exist a dedicated stoomcarrousel manufacturer yet. Upgrades and renovations were made in the years after 1903.
Today this old stoomcarrousel is located in the Efteling (Themepark). In 1955 the Efteling bought the ride for ƒ 15.475,-. (Gulden) from the Janvier family. It reopened in 1956. Originally, the price for a ticket to make a ride, was only 5 cents.
Before the purchase by the Efteling, the Stoomcarrousel was named is 'Stoomcaroussel' . (1 r & 2 s')
Contains: 22 Horses, 4 Coaching's, 2 Pigs & 2 clowns.
Music played by: 1 Gavioli organ
Engine: Fam. König, Swalmen,
|Steam Gallopers||1895||Carters Steam Fair (traveling)||Robert Tidman & Sons of Norwich||Run on steam to this day|||
|Crescent Park Looff Carousel||1895||Crescent Park, East Providence, Rhode Island||Looff||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.|||
|Forest Park Carousel||1903||Woodhaven section of the New York City borough of Queens||Muller Brothers||One of only two surviving Muller brothers carousels, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.|||
|Dentzel Menagerie Carousel||1905||Ontario Beach Park in Rochester, New York||Dentzel||Still in operation, the historic Dentzel Menagerie Carousel is one of only fourteen operating antique menagerie carousels in the United States.|||
|Lakeside Park Carousel||1905||Historic Lakeside Park in Port Dalhousie, Ontario, Canada||Looff/Kremer||Brought to St. Catharines in 1921. It continues to provide amusement for young and old alike, at just 5 cents a ride.|||
|Children's Creativity Museum Carousel||1906||Children's Creativity Museum in Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco||Looff||Sent to Seattle after the 1906 earthquake and returned to serve at Playland-at-the-Beach until that park's demise in 1972.|||
|Centreville Carousel||1907||Centreville Amusement Park, Toronto Islands, Toronto, Ontario, Canada||Dentzel Carousel Company||Acquired from Bushkill Park in Easton, Pennsylvania in 1966. Although it was sold to Carmel, Indiana in mid-2017, the deal was not approved by Carmel city council and the carousel currently remains in Toronto.|||
|Heritage Carousel||1908||Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, Massachusetts||Looff||Electrically powered. Originally built for a park in Meridian, Mississippi; acquired by Josiah K. Lilly III in 1968 and reassembled at Heritage Museums & Gardens in 1972.|||
|Riverfront Park Carousel||1909||Riverfront Park in Spokane, Washington||Looff||Originally installed at the Natatorium Park in Spokane.|||
|Albany Carousel and Museum||1909||Downtown Albany, Oregon||Dentzel||Dentzel Menagerie Carousel completely rebuilt in the downtown area of Albany, Oregon, completion date set for June 2017. The carousel is housed in a state of the art 22,000 square foot facility which includes a complete artist studio for the creation of additional animals. Construction used old growth timber that was completely re-manufactured from the previous building that housed the carving studio circa 1920.|||
|Balboa Park Carousel||1910||Balboa Park, San Diego, California||Herschell-Spillman||Initially shipped to Los Angeles and arrived in the San Diego area in 1915. In Balboa Park since 1922.|||
|Santa Cruz Looff Carousel||1911||Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California||Looff||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.|||
|Tilden Park Carousel||1911||Tilden Park in Berkeley, California||Herschell-Spillman||Built in 1911 by the Herschell-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.|||
|Pullen Park Carousel||1912||Pullen Park, Raleigh, North Carolina||Dentzel||52 wooden animals carved by Salvatore Cernigliaro. Added to National Register of Historic Places in 1976.|||
|Merry-Go-Round Steam Gallopers||1912||Hollycombe Steam Collection (traveling)||Tidman of Norwich||A working steam driven Merry-Go-Round with 3-abreast Steam Gallopers. It has 24 horses, six cockerels and two chariots (for those who don't relish the galloping motion). It is driven by a steam centre engine, also Tidman, and has revolving pillars, which are believed to be the only ones still operating. Musical accompaniment is driven by a slotted card Tidman organ engine.|||
|Nunley's Carousel||1912||Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City, New York||Stein and Goldstein Artistic Carousel Co.||Operated at Nunley's Amusement Park, Baldwin, N.Y. until that park's closure in 1995. Subsequently, 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.|||
|Cafesjian's Carousel||1914||Como Park, Saint Paul, Minnesota||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.|||
|Grand Ole Carousel||1915||Six Flags St. Louis, Eureka, Missouri||Philadelphia Toboggan Company #35||Built by Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1915 for Cleveland's Luna Park. Relocated to Puritas Springs, Cleveland, from 1930 to 1958 then Indian Lake Park, Russell's Point, Ohio, 1959 to 1971. Acquired by Six Flags St. Louis in 1972 where it opened in the park's England themed section (now Britannia) as "Carousel." It was renamed "Grand Ole Carousel" in 1984, then "Enchanted Carousel" in 1995. In 1998, its name reverted to "Grand Ole Carousel."|||
|Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome||1916||Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||Housed a carousel by Looff until it was sold in 1939. It was replaced by Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel No. 62, which was moved from the Ocean Park Pier. Since 1977, the carousel has been owned by the city. The building remains a rare example of structures that used to be on the amusement pier. It was restored from 1977 through 1981. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.|||
|Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum||1916||Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, North Tonawanda, NY||Herschell-Spillman||Features 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.|||
|Grand Carousel||1926||Kennywood Park, West Mifflin, Pennsylvania||Dentzel||A National Historic Landmark. The music on this carousel is provided by a 1916 Wurlitzer Style No. 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.|||
|Grand Carousel||1926||Kings Island, Cincinnati, Ohio||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||Built in 1926 for Cincinnati's Coney Island, PTC No. 79 stands 80 feet wide and features 48 horses and two chariots. The carousel is adorned with 37 oil paintings depicting scenes from all over the world, 20,000 sheets of 23-karat gold leaf, 1,000 sheets of sterling silver, over 700 lights and hundreds of mirror accents. Music is proved by a Wurlitzer Duplex Orchestral Organ (#157). The carousel operated for 45 years at Coney Island and was relocated to Kings Island in 1972.|||
|Antique Carousel||1928||Canada's Wonderland in Toronto, Ontario||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||Originally located in Palisades Park, New Jersey the carousel was also used at Happyland Park or Hastings Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Palace Playland, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, before it was purchased by Taft Broadcasting in the 1970s and put into storage. It opened in its current location in 1981.|||
|Holyoke Merry-Go-Round||1929||Heritage State Park in Holyoke, Massachusetts||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||Originally 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.|||
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
Richland Carrousel Park in 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, c. 1935
Kennywood's Merry-Go-Round built by William H. Dentzel in 1926 for the World's Fair
Forest Park Carousel all closed for the season, November 2009
Central Park Carousel at Central Park in New York City
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