July 25 is National Carousel Day. Carousels are also known as merry-go-rounds, gallopers, jumpers, roundabouts, horseabouts and “flying horses.” The first known picture of a carousel is from 500 CE. It depicts baskets, carrying riders, suspended from a central pole. Carousels became popular in the 18th century when they started spreading in central Europe and England. In the United States, Franz Wiesenoffer created the first carousel in the 1840s. But we celebrate this date as Carousel Day because the first carousel patent was granted on July 25, 1871. Carousels were very popular in the United States between the start of the 20th century and the Great Depression, when, with the collapse of the economy, many were destroyed. Today few of the four thousand classic carousels remain in the United States. Organizations such as National Carousel Association exist to help-preserve them.
I loved merry-go-rounds as a child. One of my earliest memories is of going up and down on a carousel house while my Dad held on to a pole and grabbed for the gold ring as he passed it. As far as I know, he never won a free ride, but that didn’t keep him from trying!
Carousels have been a part of popular imagination for a long time. A magical merry-go-round figures prominently in Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord, where when whole, it can spin time itself. There is the lovely scene in Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins, where she and the children have a race on carousel horses that bound loose from their moorings and gallop across country. The play and film Carousel takes place around a traveling carnival and has quite memorable songs. Aaron Shepard gives a list of non-fiction books about carrousels on his Web site. Carousels are also a popular figure in music boxes, and snow globes, and children’s toys.
Quotes about carousels
Life is a carousel. It goes up and down. All U gotta do is just stay on.–Pharrell Williams
And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round In the circle game.
My head’s a carousel of pictures and The spinning never stops.–Conor Oberst
After all, spinning is its own reward. There wouldn’t be carousels if it weren’t so.–Adam Gopnik
I ride earth’s burning carousel. Day in, day out.–Sylvia Plath
I’d like to have the kind of house someday where a carousel horse wouldn’t be out of place in the living room.–Jay McInerney
From space, the earth might look to a fanciful eye like a huge carousel, with planes instead of horses spinning round its circumference, up and down, up and down.–David Lodge
I’ve been riding the carousel in Central Park since I was five years old. If I’m very depressed or if something’s bothering me today, my husband, Larry, and I go back to the park. We get on the carousel horse and we start riding, and I start singing at the top of my lungs. It is pure and absolute joy and happiness.–Eda LeShan
Each generation must get on the same old merry-go-round, only disguised in a fresh coat of paint.–Katherine Anne Porter
It is not enough to reach for the brass ring. You must also enjoy the merry go round.–Julie Andrews
Disneyland really began when my two daughters were very young. Saturday was always Daddy’s Day and I would take them to the merry-go-round, and sit on a bench eating peanuts while they rode. And sitting there alone, I felt there should be something built, some kind of family park where parents and children could have fun together.–Walt Disney
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