Monday, May 1, 2017

The Museum and Factory

The Herschell Carrousel Museum is in the building that used to be the Herschell Carrousel Factory:

The museum was opened in 1983 by the Carousel Society of the Niagara Frontier. 

The carousel companies went through many transitions. The first company was a Tonawanda engine and machine company, started in 1872. The first carousel-type ride was a track with horses on it. This was powered by steam engines, and the horses rocked back and forth over bumps in the track. In 1901 the company became the Herschell-Spillman Company, which made carousels with poles and a crank shaft. Eventually Spillman broke away from the company and created Spillman Motor Co., which focused on making engines for cars. It was the Allan Herschell Company that moved to the building which now holds the museum in 1915. Allan died in 1927, and the Herschell company bought the Spillman factory also.

In 1970, the company was bought by Chance rides, which was based out of Kansas.
In 1998 the Allan Herschell company was bought back from Chance.

A Tour of the Museum

Some of the factory rooms have been changed for the museum, like the room that now holds the gift store, but many remain similar to how they were as factory rooms. The room where the horses were painted is now a display room for some of the carousel animals. In this room visitors can still see the paint caked on the wall and splattered on the floor.
This picture is of the display room in its' factory days. The horses are set up on tables to be painted.
The display room is set up in a timeline style, so visitors can see how the Herschell company changes over time.
Another timeline is displayed on the wall in a different room. This one shows major news and events about the company.
Chance Rides made many other attractions besides the carousels, most of which were aimed for children. These included: a roller coaster called the Little Dipper, Brownie tractors, an airplane ride called Flash Gordon, bumper cars, and a steam engine train. There are several examples of these rides on display at the museum.

On the left is pictured a bumper car, and on the right is the steam engine-powered train ride.

Another fascinating room at the museum is the workshop. On one side of this room are carving tools and parts of horses in the process of being carved. Here is a picture of what the workroom looked like during its' factory days:

All of the animal bodies were made in smaller pieces and then fit together in the end. The master carver made the heads of the animals, while the other workers made the smaller pieces like the legs and the body.

On the other side of the room is where the sheets of music were punched out for the organs. There are many rolls of paper stacked on shelves surrounding the hole punching machines.
The museum also has a round building that houses a beautiful carousel for visitors to ride on.

Band Organ Video

Link to a video of the Wurlitzer band organ playing music on YouTube:

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Carousel Music

A carousel would not be complete without music. The museum owns several beautiful band organs to provide the classic carousel music, all of which are built in Tonawanda, NY. The organ pictured on the left is a Wurlitzer Caliola, made in 1929. This one includes a piano keyboard that can be played along with the other music. The main purpose of the band organs was to attract people's attention and draw them towards the carousel.

The sheet music for a band organ is pictured above. It consists of a very long roll of waxy paper with dots and dashes cut into it. These holes are the notes of the piece of music. One roll of paper can include six to ten songs, with blank spaces in between to separate them. 
These rolls of music are created in the perforating shop. First, a worker takes a piece of regular sheet music and then transcribes it to a master roll by carefully cutting out each note. The factory also has large machines which can perforate each smaller roll, making the job quicker. 

There is also a player piano at the museum which works in a similar way to the organs. In the picture below, it is easy to see where the roll of waxy paper fits into the piano. 

The Animals and more

The horse designs became more detailed over the years. They started with very basic shapes and simple saddles and bridles in the beginning. These were quicker and easier to make. Eventually, they began to add details such as more realistic hair, and patterns on the saddles. The horses themselves are beautiful works of art.

The first horses were made entirely of wood, but the more recent ones are half wood, and half aluminum casts. The carvers were just factory workers, and they weren't allowed to sign their work. This makes it very difficult to find out exactly who made each horse. The animals have hollow bodies however, and on the inside of one ostrich there was a signature secretly inscribed by the carver.
 The carousel figures were not only limited to horses, they included many other animals also. On display at the museum is a pig, dog, rooster, and more. More exotic animals such as zebras and giraffes might also be found on a carousel.

Another interesting aspect of the animals is the contrast between the two sides. The side that is facing outwards from the carousel (which everyone will see) is much more detailed, with many small decorations. The opposite side (facing inward) is very simple. There are no decorations, with just an outline of a saddle. This saves time and materials in making the animals, and the difference is usually not noticeable by passersby. 

Here is a picture that is on display at the museum of a carousel full of many different species of animals.

The carousels have more than just animals to ride on, they also have chariots. The chariots are stationary on the carousel and do not move up and down like the animals. They are made in a wide variety of designs such as the dragon pictured left or the woman in colorful waves pictured below.

The last type of seat on the carousel would be the spinning Lover's Tub (pictured below). This is hand powered by the passenger, who can control the spinning of the seat by the pole in the middle. The decorations on the Lover's Tub are usually flowers and nature scenes.