July 25, 1871 marks the first patent for the carousel (also known as a merry-go-round). If there was ever a holiday meant for Preservation in Pink to celebrate, National Merry-Go-Round Day is the one. It’s probably been a while since you’ve seen a merry-go-round on a playground; most seem to have been eliminated for safety reasons. While I distinguish between merry-go-round and carousel, they are interchangeable in terms, according to the national holiday calendar. Here’s the explanation:
Along with the roller coaster, the merry-go-round is one of the oldest amusement rides. Also known as the carousel, the merry-go-round rotates on a circular platform around a pole. The platform holds seats for riders. A motor spins the platform around the large central pole. Between rows of seats, passengers ride wooden horses and other animals. Poles anchor the animals in place. Once in a while, the colorful animals move up and down. The movement simulates galloping. Meanwhile, calliope music plays, adding a light-hearted atmosphere.
Besides carousels, any rotating platform may also be called a merry-go-round. By comparison, children power the playground merry-go-round. They push off using the bars or handles. The riders cling to the same bars as the platform spins. Since the riders determine the speed, the harder they push, the faster they go. Not surprisingly, one of the thrills of riding the merry-go-round included becoming dizzy.
- The earliest known depiction of the merry-go-round is in 500 A.D. The Byzantine Empire’s ride depicts baskets carrying riders suspended from a central pole.
- In the 1840s, Franz Wiesenoffer created the first merry-go-round in the United States in Hessville, Ohio.
- July 25, 1871 – The first carousel patent.
In honor of the holiday, here are a few merry-go-rounds and carousels that I’ve come across over the years, from newest to oldest. As you can see, there aren’t too many. Slides and swings are much more common.
Seen any good merry-go-rounds lately? They were always my favorite. Enjoy!
Hancock, VT is a small town (population 323) located on Vermont Route 100 in Addison County, on the eastern edge of the Green Mountain National Forest. The two-room Hancock Village School was constructed in 1855 and operated as a school until 2009, when school consolidation measures caused the school to close. Since then the building has served as the town library and the town clerk’s office. The school is a contributing resource to the Hancock Village Historic District, which is listed in the Vermont State Register of Historic Places (VHSSS #0108-1-20). A playground remains on the former school grounds.
The jungle gym bears the stamp, “Quality Industries, Hillsdale, Mich., 200028.” Quality Industries began in 1974, and the named changed to Recreation Creations, Inc. (RCI) in 1996. The name changed to Recreation Creations, Inc. in 1996. Without more available information, it is difficult to date this date playground equipment. However, it is reminiscent of similar 1970s playground apparatus, such as the Game Time Muscle Man. The edges appear more rounded than the example linked, possibly indicating the Hancock playground is a later design. If you have a better idea of the manufacture date, let me know. The swings did not have any markings on them.
It’s a shame that the building and the grounds no longer serve as a school, but at least the playground remains; what a picturesque spot for a playground.