The First Carousel
By William L. Passauer
Source information provided by Barbara Fahs Charles.
Monarch Park’s first carousel, abt. 1901 – 1915 was a track machine made by Herschell-Spillman Co. Postcard postmarked July 1908. Barbara Fahs Charles Collection.
Until 2012, there was little information concerning the first carousel installed at Monarch Park. It is believed that it arrived sometime after the park was purchased by Dan Geary in 1901 and removed upon the purchase of the second and last carousel in 1915. Now, thanks to the expertise of Barbara Fahs Charles, we believe we have identified the original carousel.
This detailed exhibit displays the central portion of the above postcard showing the Herschell-Spillman track machine. Barbara Fahs Charles Collection.
A close look at the postcard above reveals a track machine with elaborate center scenery. This can also be seen in a photo of Monarch Park’s first carousel. These match an illustration and description in Herschell-Spillman Company’s Catalog B for a track machine “where a customer desires a very fine center, and expects to remain located in one place.”
Monarch Park’s first carousel, abt. 1901 – 1915. Oil City Heritage Society
Monarch Park’s first carousel was similar to this image from Herschell-Spillman Co. Catalogue B, undated [early 1900s]. Barbara Fahs Charles Collection.
Images from the original Armitage & Herschell patent documentation of 1894 showing the carousel’s horse rocker system. U.S. Patent Office.
Track machines were carousels where the horses were fastened on the end of beams (set up like spokes of a wagon wheel) on a circular platform. The horses were connected with rocker forks that pivoted allowing the horses to rock back and forth as they traveled in a circle, giving the horses a galloping motion. This style carousel with rockers was considered to be the most thrilling ride, as jumper carousels with overhead crankshafts were not yet common.
The Herschell-Spillman Company made carousels in North Tonawanda, New York from the early 1900's to the late 1910s. The company manufactured portable machines that could be used by traveling carnival operators and more elaborate park sized machines.
We believe the Monarch carousel was a two-row Herschell-Spillman “Improved Two-Horse Gallery,” 40 feet in diameter, with 24 horses and 4 chariots mounted on 16 sweeps. And important to Monarch is that the park ownership bought enhancements consisting of an elaborate center and organ, as described in Catalog B:
“This center is constructed of seasoned poplar, is beautifully painted and hand-carved, as shown,
and is of the same general pattern as the front of the organ used with this center. We also place
mirrors in these centers in some of the panels, and, in fact, there is scarcely any limit to the
amount of decorating we can do on the panels in the shape of brass work, where the customer
desires a very expensive outfit."