You can find antique carousels all across America. There are still about 130 in existence today.
For an exciting and authentic ride back in time two centuries, there’s nothing that compares to a great antique carousel ride. You can find antique carousels all across America. Some may more commonly refer to them as merry-go-rounds. There are still about 130 in existence, displaying their carefully handcarved horses, painted in stunning colors. Seventeen of these can be found in New England. At one time, there were thousands of carousels running in amusement parks. They were the highlight of every park and carnival! Carousels were first created in New England at the end of the 1800’s, and were mainly built by trolley companies to entice business for weekend amusement parks. Families would flock to the carousels each time they visited an amusement park. The Depression of the 1930’s finished many of them off due to neglect and fire. But those that remain are precious pieces of history to be cherished!
Coney Island, Country Fair and Philadelphia are the three styles used to class the carousels and they fall into three distinct periods: the early menagerie style, from 1904-1907; the all-horse "high eye" style, from 1908-1916; and the more naturalistic, later style, from 1917-1933. Working carousels can be found in Bristol and New Haven, Connecticut and in Shelburne, Vermont and in East Providence, Rhode Island.
The Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) hired carvers on the West Coast for their carousels. They had many different master carvers, so PTC styles vary quite a bit. Still, the horses are easily identifiable. Several of the handcarved horses can be distinguished as the work of specific woodcarvers and are sought after by museums worldwide.
The next time you happen upon a working carousel, stop and soak up the band-organ music. Take in the bold colors, the unique carved features of the antique horses. Appreciate the restoration work that has taken place. It’s a ride back in time you’ll never forget.