The carousel at the heart of the museum was purchased in 1991 as a permanent addition to the collections. Built in North Tonawanda, New York, the machine came without any of the original animals. The frame was cleaned and refurbished, scenery panels were repainted, and museum staff and volunteers constructed a new platform.
Without any of the original pieces on the carousel, the museum has populated it with figures from the museum’s collections as well as on loan from private collectors. Historic “County Fair” or “Country Fair” style animals from a variety of carvers are used, plus several recent carvings.
Carousels built by the Herschell Company after the 1920s were comprised of figures using mass production methods. Original figures may be hand-carved wooden animals, or may have a hand-carved wooden body with a cast aluminum head, legs, and tail often referred to as a 50/50 or half and half.
In the 1950s, Herschell specialized in cast aluminum pieces or used fiberglass to create pieces for his carousels.
This lead horse is a good example of the Parker Company’s product.
The outstretched legs provide a sense of grace and speed, but had a practical purpose as well.
By stretching out the legs on the horses, it was possible to stack the horses more compactly making it simpler to move the carousel on a regular basis.