As we are traveling we often stop at small, little known museums and almost always they are worth more than their reasonably priced cost. This was definitely true of the New England Carousel Museum which is not only a museum, but a birthday party and wedding venue, with a bonus small fireman’s museum as well! I love carousel horses but didn’t know much about the history of them, so not only did I find it beautiful but I also learned a ton. Plus one free ride on their indoor working carousel comes with the $8 admission. Can’t get much of a better bargain than that.
I learned that carousels actually started as a ride for adults where people in baskets were pushed around poles. Carousels were also used for jousting practice by nights and later were an adult ride where patrons tried to catch a ring to get a prize. Now of course they are considered relatively tame childish entertainment, but if you look at the horses you can see the beginnings.
I also learned that there were three major styles in American Carousel art. And make no mistake these are intricate carvings done by several notable families. The styles are Coney Island, Philadelphia, and Country Fair and the museum has groupings of each, In addition there are European style carousels which have their own unique flair as well. When I was a kid I vaguely recognized I preferred one style of carousel and horse other another and when I saw them all together I really could see the differences. I would love to say I was able to group these pictures by type but to be honest I took pictures on what caught my eye and they are all jumbled together. Using the picture below though maybe you can figure out what group they belong in.
They also had several stations that showed how the work was done. I found this fascinating to see the animals in various stages of completion.
I also really liked the super old ones that were sprinkled in some side rooms. Many of the older ones were in VERY unusual shapes including a combo Theodore Roosevelt and a horse which was odd yet compelling.
In addition to the animals, the museum has other items including music machines that worked, banners, and other carnival machines. These weren’t the focus but they were sprinkled throughout and added some variety to the collection. When we asked one of the museum people to turn on one of the machines they happily did so and we got some great video.
Another group of animals were based on marine creatures and were absolutely beautiful These were all relatively new and I would love to see more carousels using these designs in the future.
Finally we made it to the carousel and since there was an active birthday party it was running. Lee and Kay wouldn’t ride but I couldn’t help taking a spin.
The Wedding venue area even had a section of miniature carousels. These were absolutely beautiful and works of art in their own right.
And finally in the very back on the top floor there was a small fire protection museum. Not sure how it ended up there, but since I am in the fire safety business I loved it. Even found a couple of valves made by my company many years ago. The fire bells were particularly beautiful and in amazing condition for their age.
Talk about getting your moneys worth. I highly recommend this museum and if you live in the area it seems like a fun place to have an event or birthday party. Next up the clock museum!
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