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Past Times Newsletter - September 2001
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
and Fine Art ... and now Arts & Crafts
Welcome to Past Times!
IN THIS ISSUE:
o A Little Inspiration
o The American Carousel by Marianne Stevens of the Journal of
Antiques & Collectibles
A LITTLE INSPIRATION
If you restore balance in your own self right now, you will be
contributing immensely to the healing of the world. -Deepak
JOURNAL OF ANTIQUES & COLLECTIBLES
Carousels have been around for several centuries, but not in the
form that we now know them. They evolved from an ancient Arabian
game, where mounted riders would try to catch balls filled with
scented oil. Later, in 17th century Europe, horsemen riding at
full speed tried to spear golden rings with their lances. To
practice for this event, riders would mount crude wooden horses
that were attached by beams to a central pole which was rotated
by servants. Over time they have turned into a joyful ride to
any place that one can imagine. Around the turn of the last
century, immigrants from Europe flooded our shores, looking for
a better life, and they brought their skills with them.
Gustav Dentzel, whose family had been involved with carousels in
Germany, is considered the pioneer carousel builder in America.
He started as a cabinetmaker, but soon opened a shop in
Philadelphia, specializing in the manufacture of carousels. Most
of the immigrants had learned their skills making furniture or
doing church sculptures.
The "golden age" of carousels was from 1875 to 1925, when there
were ten firms, mainly based in Brooklyn and Philadelphia,
trying to outdo each other by making their carousels bigger and
better than the competition.
By the time World War I appeared on the scene, the market for
carousels had almost reached capacity. The death knell for the
industry was the depression of the 1920s. By 1925, most of the
carvers had to seek other employment, and the carousel industry
was almost gone. The last major carousel was put into operation
in 1932, but this was composed of "stock on hand" the carvers
had left years earlier. The men that remained got work mainly on
repairing or redoing old machines, and hoping for better days.
In the 1970s, perhaps prompted by America's Bicentennial, a
wonderful thing began to happen. Items hand made in America
began to gain a new appreciation. Hand carved carousels, cigar
store Indians, quilts and the like got new respect.
Unfortunately, by that time many carousels were gone, the
victims of neglect, abuse, and nature's wrath. Of the five or
six thousand made, there were very few left.
Antique carousels fall into three distinct categories. The
"Philadelphia style," which produced very beautiful, lifelike
figures painted in earth tones. The factories that produced them
were Dentzel, Daniel, Muller and Philadelphia Toboggan Company.
"The Coney Island style" was made in Brooklyn and was gaudy,
detailed, dramatic; straining at the bit to be free. The
"Country Fair" style, carved mainly in upstate New York were
simple, unadorned, portable figures, easy to transport, and move
on to the next town.
So we are fortunate that these immigrant carvers were so proud
of their new country that they wanted to do their best. New
England is fortunate to have so many beautiful antique machines.
The citizens of Hull and Fall River were faced with losing their
carousels, and formed organizations which raised the money to
prevent losing them. So, enjoy all the wonderful old carousels
that you can while they are still around. Two national
organizations have been formed to prevent the loss of any more
carousels. These are the American Carousel Society (401)
392-4289 and the National Carousel Association (812) 428-3675.
Visit The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles.
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offering antiques, fine art, arts & crafts, and collectibles.
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