Carousels: Art & Science in Motion

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On Thursday we enjoyed a field trip to the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art. Approximately 7 homeschooling families gathered to tour an exhibit from the International Museum of Carousel Art.

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In the late 1800s carousels were the centerpiece of thousands of amusement parks in Europe and America. We learned that 10,000 carousels were built between 1876 and 1929.

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In the first years of their creation, carousel horse tails were made with real horse hair. Because of frequent abuse from carousel riders, tails were later carved of wood instead.

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During the Great Depression, most carousels were abandoned or dismantled as few people had money for leisure activities. Only 125 of the original 10,000 carousels survived intact. Many carousels were destroyed or carelessly discarded. In recent years, some people have sought to locate and restore those old carousels. Carousel animals are often recovered in a broken state with rot, rodent, fire, or water damage.

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Carousel horses were originally carved of wood. They were assembled with wooden pegs (dowels) and hide glue (made from real horse hide) as opposed to nails or screws. This photograph shows a carousel horse in the process of being repaired and restored.

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This colorful, spirited horse has been restored to its former glory.

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We learned of the gear systems used to raise and lower the animals and turn the carousels. Here Button had an opportunity to turn the mechanism.

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Vivid art from carousel bases was also displayed.

When the economy recovered from the Great Depression, carousels were again produced, but they lacked the artistic flair that characterized their former era. Modern-day carousels are made of fiberglass and aluminum, bearing only moderate resemblance to their hand-carved forbears. As a result of this delightful exhibit, though, I know our family will look much more closely as we ride the carousel at the fair this year.

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2 thoughts on “Carousels: Art & Science in Motion

  1. Jeanni says:

    Carousels are so pretty! When we were in Europe many of the carousels that we saw had real horse tails and were double decker. It must have been neat to find out the history of carousels.

  2. Kristine/SHS says:

    Great post, what a fabulous field trip!

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