5 Things You Didn't Know About Carousels : History Podcast For Kids

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's I Can't Believe That Happened. Last week we wrapped up the history of dogs segment and if you haven't listened please go to Itunes and take a listen especially about the WWI pit bull hero Sgt. Stubby who saved his unit. I am sure I will do another segment on dogs. Please leave comments if you have a topic you would like me to cover. This month I have been really starting to feel like Summer is here and when I think about Summer I think carnivals and circuses. So until I start to get fussy we are going to be learning all about the histories of circuses and carnivals. Make sure you let your more wild friends know that the next episode will be.....lion tamers! 

So what are we looking at this episode? Carousels. The 5 surprising things you did not know about the prettiest ride at the carnival. You might think of the carousel as the calm ride for super little kids but the start of the carousel might surprise you.

1. We are going to have to head way far back to the Turkish warriors of the 11th and 12th century. There was a war game that was sometimes played on horseback done in a circle. Two of my sources differed on this one has the riders trying to knock off the other player's hats the other was a clay ball filled with perfume that was thrown between players and whoever dropped it reeked. The crusaders brought this game back to Europe where it became a display of horsemanship and the French called it carrousel.

2. In 1662 at the palace Louvre 600 aristocrats in five teams costumed as Turks, Persians, American Indians, and ancient Romans competed in fake combat with heavily decorated horses. This is thought to be the origination of the decorated carousel horse today (Encyclopedia of the Exquisite, Jessica Jenkins)

3. The carousel we know began in European garden in the 1700's They were small platforms with fantastical creatures that were limited to the size and weight that a strong servant could crank. Poor person I can only imagine how exhausted they must have been after a party! Here is a hand-cranked carousel (though not in the same style) that is still in existence. 

4. With the rise of the industrial revolution, there was the development of the steam-powered carousel which gave way to electricity.

5. So what does immigration have to do with carousels? The quick answer was that in the early 1900's there was a mass immigration of skilled artisans who came to America "The Land of Opportunity" and found work carving the carousels. There are many stories the can be found since many of the men are still fondly remembered for their artistry as their sculptures still bring joy to this day. One of my favorites was Gustav Dentzel who came to America as a teenager in 1860. He was nicknamed "Hobby Horse Bill" and had watched his father carve carousel horses in Germany. When he retired his son took over the business.