The museum has 3 wonderful carousel horses on display that were made by the C.W. Parker Company of Leavenworth, Kansas in the early 20th century. These carved wooden carousel horses were restored and repainted before becoming a part of the museum’s collection in 1996.
The origins of the “carousel” can be traced back to the 12th century when European Crusaders observed Turks and Arabs in the Middle East racing horses in a circle while tossing scented balls back and forth. The Crusaders brought the sport back to Europe and developed it into a training exercise for knights on horseback, riding in a circle and throwing spears through a stationary ring. By the 18th century, carousels, also known as merry-go-rounds, roundabouts, or flying horses, had been mechanized, powered by horses, and regularly traveled to country fairs and towns.
The first merry-go-rounds in the United States began to be manufactured on the East Coast in the 1860s. It was not until the 1890s that Charles W. Parker opened the first carousel manufacturing facility in the Midwest. He produced his first Jumping Horse Carry-Us-All in 1898 in Abilene, Kansas. His company flourished and was moved to Leavenworth, Kansas. His company became one of the major producers of amusement rides well into the 1930s. The Great Depression brought an end to its success.
The carousel horses on display are referred to as “jumpers” because all four of their feet are off the ground at the same time. Individual wood carvers added unique features to each of the horses they carved. Come look at the carousel horses yourself and see what elements stand out to you.