Major Carousel Builders and Carvers (Page 1 of 3)
An Introduction by Brian Morgan 2001 (Updated 2015)
(Refer to the National Carousel Association's Census or articles in our quarterly publication, the Merry-Go-Roundup if you want to learn more about these carousels and carvers.)
THE CONEY ISLAND STYLE
This style is
characterized by flamboyant horses, bedecked with jewels and gold and
silver leaf. The carousels themselves often are resplendent with mirrors
to catch and reflect the light.
Looff was the earliest and most successful of the Coney Island carousel
builders.Looff started in Coney Island, New York, and then moved his factory
to Crescent Park in East Providence, Rhode Island, where his showpiece
carousel still operates. In 1910 Looff moved his family and factory to
Long Beach, California, where he remained until his death in 1918.
Many carousel carvers learned their skills carving for Looff. Looff had many style changes over the years and it is interesting to speculate on which of these carvers may have caused the changes. It is more likely that Looff kept a close eye on his competition and carved more and more elaborate horses to outdo the other carvers. This progression in styles can be seen by comparing his early style, as seen at Seaport Village in San Diego, California, the mixed era carousel at Crescent Park, and the spectacular and very popular late-style Looff carousel operating in downtown Spokane, Washington.
W. F. MANGELS
William Mangels was a carousel builder who never carved a carousel horse. He would generally commission carvers to create a complete set of horses which he would then install on one of his own frames. You may see carousels referred to as Mangels/Illions or similar references. Carvers who worked under such arrangements included Stein & Goldstein and Illions. Other similar entrepreneurs included Kremer (Carmel) and T. M. Harton (Muller).
M. C. ILLIONS
Marcus Illions is recognized as one of the two greatest artists of the carousel world. His masterpiece horses have very flamboyant heads and fairly well decorated bodies. Illions carved all the heads for his horses himself. Much is known about Illions from his sons and descendants.
Illions first carved carousel horses in England and then carved for Charles Looff in Brooklyn. He formed his own company in Brooklyn, New York, in 1909, carving initially for Mangels and then for himself. Although Illions' three most spectacular carousels (known as the "Supreme" models) have all been broken up, a number of his other carousels still remain. Examples of these are at Agawam Amusement Park in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the zoo at Columbus, Ohio.
Charles Carmel carved for Charles Looff before he went out on his own. Carmel was another of the many carvers with factories in Brooklyn, New York, who carved complete carousels for Mangels. Carmel carousel animals are highly decorated and noticeable Carmel traits include elaborate "fish scale" blankets, gorgeous armored horses, and the lolling tongue on many of his horses. Carmel's style is difficult to describe as he seems to have adopted traits from all the other carvers.
You can see famous Carmel carousels at Rye Playland, Rye, New York, and at Knoebels Grove, Elysburg, Pennsylvania.
MURPHY & BROTHERSTimothy and Bartholomew Murphy had a long association with carousels, generally as concessionaires or partners in carousel operations in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island,and Louisiana but also as builders of carousels using animals carved by other carvers. In his early years, Timothy was a carver, and then carving foreman for Looff, and also appears to have had an association with Carmel. By 1903, Timothy Murphy was listed under Manufacturers of Carousels in the New York City Directories.
A number of mixed carousels with Murphy associations have mounts with an affinity for looff and even Carmel carvings. These were previously either attributed to those companies or unknown. Currently many of these are now tentatively believed to have been carved by Timothy Murphy.
Carousels with these Murphy horses now operate at City Park, New Orleans, Lake Compounce Connecticut, and Lighthouse Point, Connecticut.
STEIN & GOLDSTEIN
Their Stein and Goldstein carousels are known by their initials, S&G. Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein operated in Brooklyn, New York, from about 1912.
Their horses are large and somewhat frightening with big heads and large teeth. Both carved for W. F. Mangels. Stein & Goldstein trademarks are large buckles and no forelocks. Although they decorated their horses with ribbons and flowers, the large size does tend to be frightening. They made relatively few carousels. Examples are at Central Park, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut. The Central Park carousel horses are noticeably larger than most.