National Merry-Go-Round Day!

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.

we found the playground. this is what we do.
Some flamingo fun in 2010 – testing out a newer version of the merry-go-round. 
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1970s merry-go-around in the Outer Banks, NC. 

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1970s merry-go-around in the Outer Banks, NC. 

 

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A homemade merry-go-round found in Waterville, VT. Photo taken 2013. The playground no longer remains. 

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1940s  merry-go-round found in Craftsbury, VT. Photo taken 2014. 

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1940s era playground equipment in Craftsbury, VT (2014). 

Seen any good merry-go-rounds lately? They were always my favorite. Enjoy!

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2 thoughts on “National Merry-Go-Round Day!

  1. Suzassippi says:

    I do not even recall the last time I saw one, but I grew up playing on merry-go-rounds on the school playground. When I was in high school, there was one at the park that I have never seen anywhere else, and we called it the “Red Hoopie.” Two seats were stationary and 2 went up and down as the merry-go-round moved around the center pole. It was quite cool to go there with your boyfriend and ride the Red Hoopie at night. 🙂 . I have however, taken a ride on all the examples you showcase! Nice photos, and thanks for documenting these iconic pieces of playground history. (I imagine see-saws are also a thing of the past due to safety issues?)

    • Kaitlin says:

      Hmm, I’m trying to picture the “red hoopie.” I don’t know that I’ve seen one before, but I’ll search my playground books. Sounds like fun!

      Seesaws – yes, I think you’re right. I can’t remember the last place I saw one functioning, and certainly not new… I’ll see what I can find.

      Have you seen some good playgrounds in Mississippi lately?

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