Flying Horses: The Golden Age of American Carousel Art, 1870-1930

Peter J. Malia, photos by Bryan Page. Connecticut Press (www.connecticutpress.com), $75 (196p) ISBN 978-0-9825468-2-6
Carved wooden carousel horses parade the pages of this collector's limited edition, published in cooperation with the New England Carousel Museum. This splendid book captures a bygone era, as museum director Louise L. DeMars notes in her foreword, "With less than 200 antique, wooden carousels still operating in the United States, they have become an endangered species." Beginning with British steam-driven steeds of the 19th century and Coney Island mechanic Eliphalet S. Scripture's 1850 patent for a "galloping roundabout," Malia describes the three major carousel horse-carving styles. The Philadelphia Style originated with cabinetmaker Gustav Dentzel, father of the modern American carousel. A perfectionist who launched America's first carousel company in 1867, Dentzel "showcased beautifully carved animals with handsome faces, real horse-hair tails and meticulous attention to detail, craftsmanship and old-world artistry." The Coney Island Style was born when Danish woodworker Charles Looff carved Coney Island's first carousel in 1875, while Brooklyn toy manufacturer Charles Dare created the Country Fair Style, favored by carnivals. Spurred by this trio's success, other startups launched in the 1880s, and the glorious Golden Age was underway. Malia offers authoritative, comprehensive coverage, while the 187 high-quality color photos of prancing ponies plus 46 b&w photographs and 18 illustrations make for an attractive package. Anyone unfamiliar with the art of carousel carvings will find this an informative and impressive introduction.
Reviewed on: 10/17/2011
Release date: 12/01/2010
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