modigliani - Carousel Museum

Carousel Museum

The New England Carousel Museum, housed in a former brick hosiery factory in Bristol, CT is about 5 miles off I84 between Waterbury and Hartford.  As I was enroute to Worcester, MA I spotted the small sign on Rt 84 and decided to take a break from driving.  I had remembered reading about this museum, somewhere, some time, and was intrigued.  The sign on Rt 84 is small as are the subsequent signs pointing the way.  Of course, I was always in the wrong lane for turnings or didn't see the small signs until I was through the intersections so needed to do some backtracking and turning around to get on course.  But it was worth the detour.

The museum displays hundreds of antique carousel animals, mainly horses, but includes lions and tigers, elephants, pigs, and porpoises. 
The museum's restoration department both repairs existing and creates new carousel animals.  There are miniature replica carousels and an original band organ that the staff demonstrates - loudly!  The Wurlitzer band organ music, normally run from rolls like those used in player pianos, was designed to muffle the annoying and distracting clanking sounds from the carousel mechanism.

Carousels traditionally have 3 concentric circles of animals; the outer circle having the more ornate animals and the inner circle the most plainly decorated animals.  There are 3 stances for carousel animals:  Standers have 3 legs on the ground and one hoof up; these do not go up and down on the ride.  Prancers have 2 back hoofs down and 2 front legs up; they do not go up and down.  Jumpers have all 4 legs off the ground and they go up and down on the carousel.

Prior to carving, the master carvers sketch the animals on large pieces of paper that are tacked to the wall or, in the absence of paper, sketch directly on plaster walls.  The master carver crafts the animal's head, which expresses its personality, while his assistants carve the body and legs.

Animal hide glue and dowels connect 70 to 100 pieces of wood (poplar or bass) to make the animals.  The heads and legs are solid but the bodies are hollow.  Originally horses tails were made from horse hair to give the animal a realistic look.  Over time the horse hair would fall out or become tangled so the original tails were usually replaced with wooden ones.  Original antlers are used on deer as wooden antlers proved too fragile.

The museum boasts a Lincoln Head Penny Horse, carved in 1909 to commemorate the first issue of the Lincoln head penny on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.  This is probably the only remaining Lincoln Head Penny horse out of the original 3 that were carved.

The second floor of the museum is filled with antique fire-fighting equipment and accessories and there is soon to be a small Greek museum as well.

The Carousel Museum is accessible from Rts 91 or 84.  In nearby Bushnell Park there's a working carousel c. 1914, open from May through October.

Click here for the Carousel Museum web site.


Recent pictures

carousel museum

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sketch used for carving
sketch used for carving
sketch used for carving
sketch used for carving
sketch used for carving
sketch used for carving
jumper horse c.1915
jumper horse c.1915
jumper horse c.1915
prancer horse c. 1885
prancer horse c. 1885
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lincoln head penny horse - 1909
lincoln head penny horse - 1909
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deer c. 1918 (real antlers)
deer c. 1918 (real antlers)
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tiger c. 1905
tiger c. 1905
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4/23/2014 4:31:20 AM