This carousel located in the New Orleans Audubon Zoo Park has been offering a ride to young and old alike for generations.
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. It met with great success. At the same time 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.
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.
August 8th, 2012
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