The History of the Carousel Horse

The smell of butter, funnel cake, cotton candy, & chocolate hit your nose. The sounds of laughter, bells ringing, and that familiar voice saying; "Steeep-Rite-Up, who wants to take a shot at winnin' a prize?" That's right, you're at the carnival. All of your favorites are there: the Ferris wheel, the tilt-a-whirl, the wave swinger, and of course, the carousel. As a child, did you ever wonder why they chose the horse to become the main attraction on the carousel? Let's find out, shall we?

Our journey begins in the 6th century, where in ancient Byzantium (Currently known as Istanbul) a ride was created with baskets fixed to poles that were attached to a rotating center. People would sit in the baskets while spinning around the center pole. This attraction is what sparked the idea that went on to create the modern Carousel as we know it.

Our next stop takes us to the 12th century after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire caused Europe to split into many kingdoms. These kingdoms would go to war over land and wealth, these wars carried on for some time and eventually became commonplace in people's minds. As we look at this time in life, we see the Arabian & Turkish warriors creating a game using the same method used in Byzantium, only without the baskets.They would sit on the poles as if riding a horse while throwing perfume filled clay balls at one another. This was how they improved their hand-eye coordination, because if they failed to catch the ball, it would break, and they would smell of perfume until they were able to wash. Now when Italy & Spain caught on to this method of training, they themselves adopted the practice and gave it a name. The Spanish called it garosello, and the Italians called carosella, meaning "little war".

Along with the new name, came with it some changes and additions. Fast forward to the 17th century, and we watch as the poles were replaced with legless wooden horses that moved in a circle powered by horse, mule, or man. One issue that arose by using animal or crank power to spin the device, was that sometimes, because of how the horsemen had to sit on the no leg wooden horse, the centrifugal force caused the rider to be thrown off of the horse, which gave birth to a name you just may be familliar with, "The Flying-Horses Carousel".

The next idea for more ways to train was the addition of little hanging rings that the horsemen would attempt to pierce with their lance in order to improve on their accuracy when jousting. Now, as time passed and the "Little War" training device began to add more pieces like chariots and shields, the people that would stand by and watch as the warriors would train began to see this as fun and entertaining. However, it wasn't until 1861, when a man named Thomas Bradshaw came along, put pen to paper, and created the first steam-powered Carousel, that this training device became what we know today. Then in 1863 Bradshaw went on to patent his design, and in that same year one local newspaper described it as "A roundabout of huge proportions, driven by a steam engine which whirled around with such impetuosity, that the wonder is the daring riders are not shot off like a cannon-ball, and driven half into the middle of next month." And with that ladies & gentlemen, I introduce you to the CAROUSEL.

When the carousel made its way to America, that's when the golden age of the carousel began. The American version became enormous by comparison. The wooden horses were elaborate with vibrant colors covered in flowers, saddles with straps, and a pole that went from the floor, through the horse, and to the ceiling, which for the first time allowed for the horses to move up and down while moving around in a circle. Over time, as we've come to see, carousels across the country have taken on a life and style of their own. From "Carousel Columbia"In California to the "Prince Charming Regal Carrousel" in Walt Disney World, Florida, each individual and each telling a story all on their own.

So whether you're at an amusement park, the zoo, the local carnival, or right here in our store, and you see the Carousel Horse, remember what they were created for, and how it sparked an idea in Thomas Bradshaw to create something that will forever have you feeling like a kid, "The Carousel Horse".


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