Nachos, Deviled Eggs, or a spoonful of sugar?
While some are celebrating the Mexican Army’s difficult victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza, others are preparing for the 144th Annual Kentucky Derby – still others are obsessed with a very different kind of race:
Would you rather watch the Derby? Or Mary Poppins magically bringing carousel horses to life for the race of a lifetime.
For those that choose Mary Poppins, here are a few fun facts to think about while you watch the wooden horses make a break for it:
- Some carousel advertisements in early nineteenth century America stated that the ride was highly recommended by physicians as an aid in circulating the blood.
- Reputedly, one of the C.W. Parker Company’s most notable former employees was Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander of D-Day in World War II and later U.S. President, who, as a young lad, was said to have sanded carousel horses at the Parker factory located near his home in Abilene, Kansas.
- The St. Bernard is one of the carousel’s most rare menagerie figures (animals other than horses).
- Between 2,000 and 3,000 carousels were produced in the U.S. during its golden age of wooden carousels (early 1880’s to early 1930’s); today, there are less than 150 still left operating.
- The earliest known use of the term merry-go-round is found in a poem written by Englishman George Alexander Stevens in 1729.
- Contrary to popular belief, golden age carousel figures were not carved out of a single piece of wood; instead, several body panels were connected using wooden blocks, the whole of which was then worked over to create a basic (hollow) body; the head, legs, and tail were then attached, having been crafted by the manufacturer’s most talented carvers since the detail of these elements was essential in defining the figure’s personality.
- To relax before taking off on what became the first successful solo nonstop trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, American aviator Charles Lindbergh ventured down to Coney Island to ride the carousel.
- Carvers from the golden age would sometimes craft the mane of a horse figure so as to create a pocket where the hand could grasp it to help swing the rider into the saddle.
- The oldest operating platform carousel in the United States, named the Flying Horses, dates from 1876 and is located on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
- Carousels have been featured in such popular Broadway musicals as Carousel and such famous movies as Mary Poppins and The Sting.
- The town of Mansfield, Ohio, may be the only one in America to have initiated its downtown revitalization efforts with a brand new wooden carousel, completed and unveiled in 1991.
- All carousels manufactured by Peter Petz Productions of Germany are pre-dated by 100 years (thus 1998 becomes 1898) to give his period pieces an even greater nineteenth century feel.
- Figures on America’s golden age carousels were typically arranged by size according to their concentric row, with the largest situated on the outer edge progressing to the smallest in by the center pole.
- There are less than ten carousels with operating brass ring machines left in the U.S.
- At its annual conventions in the late 1920’s, IAAPA held carving contests entered by a number of America’s premier carousel manufacturers.
- Measuring 80 feet wide, weighing 35 tons, and containing 269 hand-crafted animals, the carousel at The House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin, USA, is the world’s largest.
- In the early 1940’s, Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered that Britain’s carousels be reopened, despite widespread material shortages, in an effort to boost morale during World War II.
- The original entrance sign to the shop of one of America’s earliest carousel pioneers, Gustav Dentzel, is on display at the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio, USA, and dates from around 1867.
- Patriotic trappings such as flags and eagles were often incorporated into figures crafted by the many immigrant carvers who helped create America’s golden age of wooden carousels.
- Many amusement parks and attractions around the world employ a carousel theme in one section of their facility with names like Carousel Kingdom or Square or Cove or Circle.
- The U.S. Postal Service has twice issued commemerative stamps honoring the carousel, in 1988 and in 1995.
- Located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Horsin’ Around is one of America’s few carousel figure carving schools.
- Golden age carvers in the United States occasionally inscribed their initials in a figure and, even more rarely, their full name.
- Along with roller coasters, carousels are the oldest amusement ride still in use.
- The only operating steam-powered carousel left in the U.S. is hard at work every Labor Day weekend at the annual Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, Minnesota.
- Germany’s Peter Petz Productions makes both hand-cranked and solar-powered carousels.
- Menagerie figures are enjoying a current resurgence in popularity, a trend no doubt benefiting from the labors of The Carousel Works in Mansfield, Ohio, USA, which makes a carousel whose figures consist entirely of endangered species.
- America’s earliest known carousel seems to have appeared in 1799 in Salem, Massachusetts, and was advertised as a wooden horse circus ride.
- Carousel chariots from the golden age typically had two seats to accommodate ladies and small children, as the customs of that era precluded women from sitting astride the machine’s horses; chariots allowed them the thrill of a carousel ride without sacrificing their dignity.
- The smooth galloping motion so familiar to today’s riders actually had quite a few competitors in its early days: some figures rocked, either forwards and back or from side to side, while others used a grasshopper mechanism (attached to the platform at the rear of each figure) to spring forward.
- In the early 1900’s, Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, possessed quite a unique carousel: it tilted at a 10-degree angle. The aim, one would assume, was to create a more thrilling ride, yet no other versions of this machine are known to have been built.
- Some golden age carvers like John Zalar and Daniel C. Muller received formal instruction in fine arts and sculpture either before or during their carousel careers.
- Spurred by a surge of patriotism following the Boer War (1899-1902), centaurs appeared on several British-made carousels; these double-seater horses replaced their usual heads with lifelike, waist-up carvings of domestic political or military heroes.
- Some horses produced during the golden age were originally outfitted with a mane and/or tail made of real horsehair.
For those who pick today’s Kentucky Derby:
I’m going with one of the following two (stats are taken from THE COURIER):
Check out the race yourself, today at 6:46pm ET. Or else let me know if I picked correctly!
As far as food selections, we may try all three – it is supposed to be a triple kind of day, isn’t it?