Carousel History

The History of the Cass County Dentzel CarouselThe Logansport Cass County Dentzel Carousel is a one-hundred-plus-year-old hand-carved masterpiece. Patriarch, Gustav A. Dentzel, carved the carousel. The mesmerizing power and fairy tale appearance of the carousel would be nonexistent today if it were not for Gustav A. Dentzel. Dentzel’s carvings were considered “la creme de la creme.” (Carolee Weber. Pharos-Tribune July 16, 2000.) The Cass County Dentzel Carousel is one of three complete, stationary Dentzel carousel’s in the country.Cass County Carousel Riverside Park Logansport, Indiana
The carousel is used for the enjoyment and pleasure of people of all ages. It all
started back in Gustav Dentzel’s hometown of Kreuznach, Germany. His father,
Michael Dentzel, had been successfully carving carousels since 1839. His father
thought that the carousel carving and traveling business were very tiring and hard
work. (Weber, Carolee. Pharos-Tribune July 16, 2000.)Gustav had immigrated to Philadelphia in 1860 at the age of twenty. Once in
Philadelphia, Gustav opened a cabinet making shop. He was located on Germantown Avenue, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After a seven year period of cabinet making, Gustav was bored and thought he would try his hand at carousel carvings. He had carved carousels for his father in Germany. (Weber, Carolee. Pharos-Tribune July 16,
2000.)Gustav constructed a small carousel to see how the public would react. Dentzel
toured the countryside with a small portable carousel he had made. During his travels he discovered that people were eager to ride his galloping wooden horses. (History of the Dentzel Carousel Company.)The enthusiasm in 1867 for the carousel was overwhelming, and America’s pioneer carousel maker was in business. For Gustav Dentzel, America proved to be the ultimate land of opportunity. (Weber, Carolee. Pharos-Tribune July 16, 2000.)

Having already supplied rotation by man and then by horsepower, he achieved
another first by using steam power. In 1867, he initiated America’s love affair with the carousel when he carved the country’s first merry-go-round. The animals are carved from laminated bass and linden wood. Gustav did not know at the time that he was laying the groundwork for one of today’s most desired and rare collectibles. Gustav A. Dentzel passed away in 1909. (Weber, Carolee. Pharos-Tribune July 16, 2000.)

Around the turn of the century, The Fort Wayne Consolidated Railway Company
opened Robison Park. For the first quarter-century, the merry-go-round was known as the Allen County Carousel, the pride and joy of Robison Park. During the summer months, the streetcars brought thousands of people to Robison Park every day. As popularity of the automobile grew, many streetcar companies found themselves in dire straits. In 1919, the Fort Wayne Consolidated Railway Company was forced to close the park. (Blackwater Productions. 1995)

When Robison Park closed in 1919, Fort Wayne resident, Frank Franz,
purchased the carousel, shipped it to Logansport, and placed it in Spencer Park.
(Battin, Richard. The News Sentinel July 16, 1996.) Frank Franz ran the carousel for nine years. When he brought the carousel to Logansport, there were thirty-eight
Dentzel animals and two very large chariots. (Jones, Tom. Personal Interview) The carousel has a menagerie of wooden beasts that includes horses, reindeer, goats,
giraffes, a lion, and a tiger. The main supporting center post is an old ship mast.
(Kitchell, Dave. Pharos-Tribune June 5, 1988.)

In 1928, Frank Franz sold the carousel to Robert Dewey Schmidt for one-
thousand dollars. Dewey was elected sheriff of Cass County. He found it very hard to run the carousel and be sheriff, so he sold the carousel in 1936. Robert Lawrence
Jones purchased the carousel for nine-hundred dollars. He and his nine children ran
the carousel for twelve years. During that time the Jones children were in charge of
keeping the animals freshly painted and ready for daily riders. (Tom Jones. 2003)

In 1948, Robert Lawrence Jones sold the carousel to his nephew, Harold
Thomas. Still sitting at Spencer Park, the carousel only received a couple of riders a
day. Thomas realized that Riverside Park was a busy park. In 1949, one year after
Thomas purchased the carousel, he moved it to Riverside Park. Moving the carousel was not an easy task. It had to be dismantled and numbered so that the carousel would be reassembled correctly. Once assembled at Riverside Park, the carousel proved to be popular once again. (Blackwater productions. 1995) In 1963, Harold Thomas sold the carousel to Lawrence Kandler. He ran the carousel until his death in 1969. The carousel then sat idle with an uncertain future. (Blackwater Productions. 1995)

The carousel sat in a closed-up building from 1969 until 1972. In 1972, Frank
Callipo learned that the carousel was up for sale and could possibly be moved out of
the community. He sought the help of fellow Jaycees to keep the moving work of art in Logansport. (Saine, Deb. Kokomo-Tribune July 1, 1999.) The Jaycees raised
approximately twenty-one-thousand dollars during a radiothon. The carousel was
purchased for fifteen-thousand dollars, and the remainder of the money started the not- for-profit organization, Cass County Carousel, Inc. Eleven volunteer board members run the carousel.

With the efforts of the Board of Directors and the help of the National Historic
Landmarks Association, the Cass County Dentzel Carousel was declared a National
Historic Landmark in 1987. A National Park Service historian said, “The carousel is
one of the oldest and rarest examples of its type.” (Hittle, Arlene. Pharos-Tribune
August 9, 1995.) This is the only National Historic Landmark in Cass County. These
animals are a part of a menagerie that represents the third oldest carousel in America, a set of irreplaceable wooden masterpieces. (Masterpiece in Progress. April 25, 1993.)

In 1993, community support and donations of over seven-hundred-thousand
dollars enabled Cass County Carousel, Inc. to completely restore the carousel and
look into plans for a permanent home for the masterpiece. The carousel left its
Logansport home in February of 1993 to travel to The Carousel Works in Mansfield,
Ohio. The company stripped down, renovated, and painted the carousel back to its
original colors. The carousel returned home and was in operation by the 4th
of July. (Masterpiece in Progress. April 25, 1993.) There are also two, two seat
chariots that ride the carousel. The third single seat chariot was designed to match the existing chariots by an anonymous donor. The single seat chariot is handi-cap
accessible. (Jones, Tom. Personal Interview)

In 1995, with the help of the Historic Land Foundation, the McHale Community
Complex was built to enclose the carousel. There are seven operational, all glass,
overhead doors. A Stinson Electric Band Organ was built especially for the carousel in 1999. The band organ plays old rolled music while the drums drum, the bells ring, and the conductor moves his wand in perfect harmony.

The newest and youngest addition to the carousel is a medium black horse.
The 1905 hand-carved Dentzel horse was found in Baltimore, Maryland at an antique shop. The horse was purchased in 1999 for nine-thousand dollars and sent to The Carousel Works in Ohio to be restored. The 1905 carving completed the carousel. (Jones, Tom. Personal Interview) Today, the carousel consists of forty-three hand- carved Dentzel animals. Looking at the animals, they almost seem real. Gustav’s carvings were one of a kind with the veins clearly seen in each horses face. (Blackwater Productions. 1995)

The most exciting part of the carousel is catching the brass ring. Each ride, the
shiny ring chute is filled with approximately seventy silver rings and one brass ring.
Riders excitedly grab for the rings each time they pass the ring chute. The lucky rider that catches the brass ring receives a token for a free ride. That free ride token is good forever.

The year 2000 brought a new look to the carousel. The carousel board of
directors decided that the carousel needed a lead horse. The decision was made that
the white horse would undergo a few changes to set it off from the other animals. The beautiful white horse returned with gorgeous jewels around the breast strap that reads “Cass County Carousel.” Now that there is a lead horse, it should have a name. Tom Jones and Bridget Eberhardt, manager of the carousel, decided to have a contest for the local children to name the horse. The winner would receive a season pass for the carousel. The lead horse is the only animal on the carousel with a name. The horse is now known as “Princess Logan.”

The mission statement for the carousel is “to protect and preserve the Dentzel
Carousel for the benefit and enjoyment of the children of Cass County forever.”
Everyone that rides the carousel can capture the moment of magic as they reach for
the brass ring. When the overhead glass doors are open a person can still feel the
open-air effect that will send a memory back in time. Many memories are made each day as people ride this rare masterpiece. With the strong community support and the generous volunteers the carousel will remain the pride and joy of Cass County for many years to come.