Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, North Tonawanda, NY

Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, North Tonawanda, NY

Founded in 1915 in North Tonawanda, New York, was the top manufacturer of carrousels during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In its day the company was the most prolific designer and builder of carrousels in the country, making over 3000 hand carved wooden carrousels.  Prior to his company’s founding he was a partner in the Armitage Herschell Company ( 1873); Herschell-Spillman Company (1901) and his later competition The Spillman Engineering Company(1920-30) 

The Allan Herschell Company, the most prolific maker of carousels, specialized in producing portable machines which could be used by traveling carnival operators. The Company produced over 3,000 hand carved wooden carousels and out-produced all of its rivals.

The museum is very unique as a self-guided tour takes you through the different aspects of the carrousel manufacturing process including the woodmill shop (carving the wooden animals parts from large wooden blocks); the Master Carver’s shop (where the heads and the fine detail was honed into the wood); Paint and Storage (on the second floor for painting and storing finished horses and animals as well as working on upholstery); the Paint Room (five coats of white primer begins the process. Each horse and animal uniquely painted and then covered with five coats of varnish); the Machine Shop (metal parts were manufactured here, including equipment to build and cut the pieces and machine parts); The Roundhouse (for putting together the finished product and testing the carrousel. Each was tested then disassembled and shipped to the buyer of amusement park)

The Herschell family was also known for, besides its beautiful horses, unique animals on their carrousels including frogs, cats’ kangaroos and large armored horses.

The museum also houses the Lockman Collection of hand carved carrousel animals and the Wurlitzer Music Roll Shop, a collection of original machinery from the early 1900's Wurlitzer Company factory.

Allan Herschell Company is also known for many amusement rides you may be familiar with including the Hurricane, the Twister and the double Ferris wheel called the Sky Wheel. Most of these rides came about in the 1930’s when the company’s ownership was under a man named,  John Wendler and his family. Herschell also takes credit for the first “kiddieland”

Today in the United States and Canada 148 antique, hand-carved wooden carousels are still in existence and of these the four Hershell Company manufactured 71 of them right in North Tonawanda.

The Allan Herschell Carrousel Factory is on The National Register of Historic Site

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