Sometime in the 1100's, Arabian and Turkish riders played a raucous game on horseback. They took it very seriously...so seriously that on-looking Italian and Spanish crusaders described the contest as a "Little War", or "Garosello" or "Carosello", respectively. The Crusaders brought the game back to Europe where it became an extravagant display of horsemanship and finery that the French called "Carrousel".

    A major event of the "Carrousel" was the ring-spearing tournament in which a man would ride his horse full tilt, lance in hand, toward a small ring hanging by brightly colored ribbons from a tree limb or pole. The object? To spear the brass ring!

    About 300 years ago, A Frenchman got the idea to build a device to train young noblemen in the art of ring-spearing. His device consisted of crudely carved horses and chariots suspended by chains from wooden spokes radiating from a centerpole. This was probably the first carousel as we know it.

    By the late 1700's, there were numerous machines built solely for amusement that were scattered throughout Europe. The devices were small and light, their size and weight limited by what could be cranked by man or pulled by horse. These limitations were removed with the invention of the steam engine. The power of steam made possible the elaborate carousels of today.

    Gustav Dentzel pioneered the modern carousel in America. Of German descent, Dentzel opened his carving shop in Philadelphia in 1867. Many talented men followed his lead, including Marcus Illions, Charles Looff, Charles Carmel, and the carvers of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and the Spillman Engineering Company. Their creations became the centerpiece of hundreds of amusement parks and trolley company resorts across the United States and Canada.

    Few of the old carousels of Europe could match the product of these American craftsman. Ingenious men, their carousels became bigger and more elaborately housed. Animals and chariots were more beautifully carved and styled. There were war horses, parade horses, Indian ponies, and horses straight out of a child's dream. Animals of the jungle chased those of the plains and the farms and forests. Dogs, cats, teddy bears and mythical beasts graced the American carousel.

    The golden age of the American carousel paralleled that of the trolly companies, 1880-1930. The great depression of the 1930's saw the demise of the wooden horses, and the trolleys soon likewise disappeared from The American scene.

    Fantasy Island proudly presents to you a Classic Turn-of-the-Century Carousel. We hand picked the animals for this carousel to be representative of the various styles of the master carvers of a bygone age!