Museum Carousel

The Carousel

Ongoing Exhibition
4th Floor Terrace
NOTICE: The NYSM Carousel is currently closed for maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience. The safe upkeep of this 100-year old treasure will ensure its continued operation for years to come.

This full-sized carousel, made between 1912 and 1916 by the Herschell-Spillman Company of North Tonawanda, New York, represents the heart and soul of amusement rides at the turn of the 20th Century. A familiar memento of American childhood, the State Museum is fortunate to have been able to play a role in the preservation—and continued enjoyment—of this example of American folk art and popular entertainment. 

About the Carousel

The carousel features forty animals, including 36 horses of three sizes and in various poses, and two deer and two donkeys. The substitution of other animals for horses was a mark of distinction among carousels, as was the Neptune's Chariot, a decoratively carved seat. A second chariot and a round tub are also on the carousel. The animals were placed on the carousel in three rows, with the largest and fanciest animals on the outside. The animals on the outside also featured inset jewels that would glitter when caught by the light. A total of fifty people could ride at one time.

History of the Carousel

The carousel was first used in Wellsville, New York and later at Cuba Lake's Olivecrest Amusement Park in Cuba, New York where it operated until the early 1970s. Purchased by the Museum in March of 1975 from Robert Hopkins of Cuba, New York, the merry-go-round remained in storage at the State Museum collections facility at Rotterdam until it was fully restored and installed in Museum’s new Terrace Gallery in 2011.

Horses, Deer and Donkeys!

The animals featured on the carousel actually pre-date the machinery and platform! Most of the horses appear to be from an Armitage Herschell Track machine from the 1890s. In addition, the two donkeys and two deer appear to be of another make, possibly even earlier C.W.F. Dare or American Carousel Company. Carousel manufacturers often reused the older animals. Herschell-Spillman, for example, didn't start making their first jumping mechanism carousel until around 1910.

Fun Facts: Did you know?! 

  • In the 1890's there were merry-go-rounds at North Beach, Long Island, Brooklyn, and at Central Park as well as at locations throughout upstate New York.
  • Today the Herschell-Spillman Carousel Factory in North Tonawanda, New York is on the National Resgister of Historic Places and serves as a carousel museum. 
  • Restored Herschell-Spillman carousels are now featured at such places as the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and at the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York.