Coney Island Carvers

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The carousels of Coney Island have thrilled millions of visitors who rode their horses over its 150 years of history. Coney Island, which is still in operation, is located along the ocean-front of Brooklyn, New York, The horses carved for the Coney Island carousels established a distinctive style. The "Coney Island" style was copied by many carvers around the world.

Coney Island's amalgam of rides, freak shows, boardwalk, entertainment, restaurants, shops and food stands always included several carousels for the pleasure of its visitors.

Millions of visitors streamed to Coney Island on warm summer weekends. With newly earned money and time off the new Americans launched into leisure activities that included the amusements, boardwalk and beaches of Coney Island..

Among the new Americans coming to Coney Island were many skilled artisans who learned their craft from European masters. These immigrants were highly skilled carvers, however frequently they spoke many different languages. The carving houses would use diagrams of the horse to be carved and the Master Carver would point to the item a particular carver would be responsible for producing.

From its inception, Coney Island created an ambiance that embraced diversity and all that was strange, exotic and enchanted. This ambiance was captured in the carousel art of the beach front resort.

Many of the Coney Island style horses have tumbling gold-leaf manes. Many of the carvings were of menagerie animals, and the horses were painted with realistic coloring. The Coney Island horses were often decorated with unusual objects such as: rose garlands, cherubs, frogs and eagles. Often the carvers would incorporate fanciful themes, romantic ideals that would challenge the edge of reality

The "Fabulous Feltman." set the standard for excellence in the production of   Coney Island carousels.  Charles Feltman, the inventor of the "American hot dog" commissioned Looff's second carousel to be erected on the grounds of his restaurant in 1880. At the time, Feltman's "Ocean Pavilion" was the largest restaurant in Coney Island. Loof's factory opened in 1890 and was located on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

The original "Fabulous Feltman."carousel, was damaged in a fire around 1900. Feltman commissioned two carvers; Marcus Charles Illions and William F. Mangels - to rebuild the fire damaged machine. Many of the Looff animals were were salvaged and included in the reconstructed carousel. Illions was a carver for Looff when the carousel was first built, and probably carved many of the horses.


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Copyright 1998 Northstar Gallery
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