Little Wars

Or: a brief appreciation of carousels

Quote: “The earliest carousel is known from a Byzantine Empire bas-relief dating to around 500 A.D., which depicts riders in baskets suspended from a central pole. The word carousel originates from the Italian garosello and Spanish carosella (“little war”), used by crusaders to describe a combat preparation exercise and game played by Turkish and Arabian horsemen in the 1100s. In a sense this early device could be considered a cavalry training mechanism; it prepared and strengthened the riders for actual combat as they wielded their swords at the mock enemies. European Crusaders discovered this contraption and brought the idea back to own their lands, primarily the ruling lords and kings. There the carousel was kept secret within the castle walls, to be used for training by horsemen; no carousel was allowed out in the public.”

11.11. filed under: design. history. play.

Another useful book on carousels: Painted Ponies, by William Manns et al (ISBN 0939549018).

There’s a nice working carousel at the Bear Mountain State park along the Hudson River north of New York City.

posted on 11.11 at 08:39 PMChris Kearin

Thanks Chris. I actually grew up just down the road from Bear Mountain, went there all the time, but never saw the carousel.

posted on 11.12 at 08:30 AMjmorrison

Fantastic post!

posted on 11.12 at 09:20 AMachilles3

Fab post, as always!

I recently read about this exhibit (but turn the sound down or off on your computer, the calliope soundtrack on their web site is pretty startling):

Interesting notes about the preponderance of immigrant Jewish carvers in the carousel trade.

posted on 11.13 at 08:23 AMLori Witzel

These are gorgeous.

posted on 11.14 at 01:45 PMHarry

I love old carousel horses… just love them.  I grew up in Washington DC and was very fond of the merry-go-round on the Mall.  Great entry as always; keep up the good work!

posted on 11.23 at 01:56 PM.

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