July 25th is National Merry-Go-Round Day in honor of the first U.S. patent for the modern carousel, granted on July 25, 1871. Merry-go-rounds gained popularity in Europe in the 1700s and 1800s. European immigrants brought them to America in the 1800s. To purists, the names carousel and merry-go-round are not interchangeable. A carousel has horses; a merry-go-round has different types of animals and objects to ride.
Carousel and merry-go-round figures were first carved in the United States in 1867 by Gustav Dentzel. The National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., has a large collection of merry-go-round “animals,” including peacocks, roosters, sea monsters, storks, elephants and camels.
The most desirable and expensive animals today are pigs, camels, lions or dogs. Special horses like the “flag” horse or “armor” horse are larger and more expensive than other horses. Both old and new animals are collected. Price is determined by condition and quality of the carving. Some collectors want park paint and others collect only animals that have been restored. Do you have one? Check out our buy/sell guide for more information.