Sandusky Museum Captures Hearts, Spirits, and the Brass Ring

With fall weather finally starting to arrive, thoughts of summer may be fading away, along with the green in the trees around us. If going to an amusement park was something you got to do in the warmer months, perhaps you caught a ride on a carousel.

But, did you ever think about how the horses spinning round and round came to be? There’s a rich history of the popular carnival ride dating back to the 12th century, and the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky helps keep that important part of Americana alive.

For example, did you know there are three different styles of carousel horses? Bonnie Behm, the Gift Shop Manager & Volunteer Coordinator for the Museum, has examples of each.

Coney Island style: Originated in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, NY, in the early 20th century. Characterized by ornate decorations and elaborate designs, often with jeweled saddles.

Philadelphia style: Developed by carvers of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, these horses appear to be very realistic and their saddles more natural.

County Fair style: These horses are traditionally smaller, simpler, and easy to transport from one fair to another.

Another fun fact: The outward-facing side of a carousel horse is called the Romance side, and is more ornately decorated, as it’s the side of the horse that is most often seen.

Before popping up as an amusement ride for adults and children at fairs and theme parks, merry-go-rounds were used as a military training exercise, originally to train knights how to use their swords while riding on horses. In fact, one of the obstacles was for these knights-in-training to capture a brass ring on the tip of their sword… something that is still synonymous with carousels today.

In addition to hand-carved horses designed & painted by the museum’s artist-in-residence, Kate Adam, there are also a few spirits said to be roaming the halls of this local landmark, housed in the former building of the Sandusky Post Office. So, on your next visit to the Merry-Go-Round Museum, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to encounter one of the original residents of the building, in addition to stunningly-decorated horses and artifacts from carousels past.

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