Carousel Information

To give residents a better understanding of the historical significance and value of the carousels, the following has been excerpted from Carousel Report: A Merry-Go-Round for every Kid, The Johnson Family and the Triple Cities, Susquehanna Urban Cultural Park, Binghamton, N.Y. 1988:

"Believing that families would aid in labor recruitment, ensure a more stable work force, and limit labor militancy", the Endicott-Johnson Corporation strongly encouraged family employment and the vision of the factory as one big family. A story is told about a father, who seeing that his son was not at his machine, asked around the factory to find out where he could be. The father finds out that the boy left early to rest at home, and goes home to get the son, telling him never to leave his machine until all the shoes are sewn.

Although the firms' recreational programs were born in the early 1900's, it was World War I that helped promote their expansion. William Inglis, George F. Johnson biographer, wrote that "..by furnishing baseball outfits and diamonds and many other amusements for off hours, thereby increasing efficiency, Johnson showed he recognized that more than noontime pep talks were needed to stimulate the workers under the stress of the war effort."

Beginning with the war and continuing well into the 1920's and 1930's, the firm enlarged its athletic and recreational facilities. It constructed softball and hardball fields, skating rinks, tennis courts, bowling alleys, swimming pools, parks, public grounds, dance pavilions, a horse racetrack, and an eighteen hole golf course.

Johnson was committed to any form of "healthy and safe" recreation. He believed that providing recreational facilities for his workers would prevent labor problems and increase worker productivity. In a letter of 1919 to John C. Calhoun, the former owner of Johnson's baseball team, George F. wrote about his investment in amusement and recreation,"...as to cost, it represents a pretty big investment, to date, and costs considerable to keep it up. But it is much better than the discontented, unhappy labor, with their frequent strikes: and if, with good steady wages and fair treatment, it makes it possible for us to have a steady, uniform production, we shall be very well satisfied with the arrangement."

The firm provided recreational facilities not merely for its workers, but for the community at large. Endicott-Johnson did this not only to maintain cordial relations between firm and community, but to allay any charges of self-interest.

Johnson's "happy family" notion about his communities and workers was a mix of ideology, personality, image, and policy. He had always believed in the character traits fostered through sports and recreation, as worker, avid ball fan, and lover of golf and boxing. George F. Johnson's commitment to recreation was always more than just good business, and led to his becoming the "..godfather of sports and recreation.." in Broome County, as the Binghamton Press referred to him in 1931, strengthening his influence in the community.

The six merry-go-rounds are not lost in this story. Indeed they are the icons of Johnson's 'family' attitude. William Inglis saw that"...wherever an Endicott-Johnson factory stands, surrounded by the homes of the workers, you will find not far away a playground for the workers' children." "There is a handsome merry-go-round in every one of the six playground George F. Johnson has given to the children, from Binghamton to West Endicott. Each of them marks a step in his process in getting even for the old days when he was lucky to ride a wooden camel once a year, and they all contribute to a happy life that helps a youngster to grow up into a strong and useful citizen. Mr. Johnson, in June, 1934, gave a merry-go-round to the children of North Side Endicott. In the park his, son, George W., presented to the neighborhood. On the day it began to spin, twelve hundred children, from four-year-olds to those of grammar school age, all freshly washed and brushed in their best clothes, marched past the tanneries and factories to George F.'s home in Park Street. Blowing horns, beating dish pans with long iron spoons, clashing saucepan lids for cymbals, banging frying pans with pokers and rattling bits of brick in old kettles, the twelve hundred swarmed over the lawn while three little girls handed George F. a basket of flowers. His wife, his son, and his nephew stood by. He was photographed with the flower girls and a small colored boy stood beside him."

"Let me tell you this, said George F. to the little army: 'if anything has been done for joy that has made you a bit happier, hand it on to somebody else, just as soon as you can. That's the way to keep square with the world. And now look. In that big park across the street there is a merry-go-round and ice cream. Help yourselves."

George F. Johnson kept square with his town. He was always handing what he got to somebody else. The Triple Cities area of Broome County is rare in that between 1920 and 1934 the Johnson family of Johnson City and the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Corporation built parks and added to older parks, six merry-go-rounds for the enjoyment of people of all ages. All of the merry-go-rounds were made in North Tonawanda, New York, by Allan Herschell, famous for his carved and jeweled horses. These merry-go-rounds are ridden free (admission one piece of litter) and still delight thousands of people each season. These merry-go-rounds represent our "godfather" and his notion of "family."

The following is a short summary of each of the six carousels in the area:

Location: Ross Park, Park Avenue & Morgan Road, Binghamton Ross Park, Park Avenue & Morgan Road, Binghamton
Original Site: Yes
Features: 60 horses - 4 abreast, 2 chariots (one with monkeys), and a restored 51 key Wurlitzer 146-B Military Band Organ Wurlitzer 146-B Military Band Organ
Builder: Allan Herschell Allan Herschell
Date: 1920
Restored: Yes - horses and organ 1920

The first time we find mention of a merry-go-round at Ross Park is in 1897, when a flier notes "merry-go-rounds." The next mention in city council is in 1913, until in 1920, the city council is told "a large merry-go-round, the gift of Mr. George F. Johnson, has been operating, providing approximately 100,000 rides, free of charge." In 1920 the city built a permanent roof on the merry-go-round. Dean Gardner, of the city of Binghamton engineering department, thinks that this merry--go-round is older than its installation here. It is thought to have been brought from Joyland in Wichita, Kansas.

Location: George F. Johnson Recreation Park (Rec Park) Beethoven Street, Binghamton George F. Johnson Recreation Park (Rec. Park). Beethoven Street, Binghamton
Original Site: Yes
Features: 60 jumping horses - 4 abreast, 2 chariots; the original 2-roll frame Wurlitzer Military Band Organ with bells 60 jumping horses - 4 abreast, 2 chariots; band organ
Builder: Allan Herschell 
Date: 1925
Restored: Yes - Horses and original carousel house cupola. 1925

Other information:

Common Council, on May 25, 1925, records that "Mrs. Lloyd Sweet (George F. Johnson's daughter, Lillian) has given to the City of Binghamton an up-to-date merry-go-round for use in Recreation Park." Common Council on May 25, 1925 records that "Mrs. Lloyd Sweet (George F. Johnson's daughter, Lillian) has given to the City of Binghamton an up-to-date merry-go-round for

Location: West Endicott Park, Page Avenue, Endicott West Endicott Park, Page Avenue, Endicott
Original Site: Yes 
Features: 36 jumping animals - 3 abreast, 2 chariots; includes 1 dog, and 1 pig; lights on sweeps 36 jumping animals - 3 abreast, 2 chariots; includes 1 dog, and 1 pig; lights on sweeps
Builder: Allan Herschell
Date: 1927
Restored: Partially 1927

Other information:

This site speaks best about the relationship between the merry-go-rounds and the shoe factories which are still visible from the park. This site speaks best about the relationship between the merry-go-rounds and the shoe factories which are still visible from the park.

Location: C.F. Johnson Recreation Park, C.F.J. Boulevard to Lester Avenue, Johnson City C.F. Johnson Recreation Park, C.F.J. Boulevard to Lester Avenue, Johnson City
Original Site: Yes 
Features: Largest in the area with 72 jumping figures, all horses except one zebra - 4 abreast, no chariots and housed in a 16-sided pagoda styled pavilion which is two stories high with a cupola. 
Builder: Allan Herschell
Date: 1927
Restored: Yes - fully 1927

Other information:

Considered the most elaborate group of carvings in the area's carousel collection. In 1913 the three Johnson brothers bought a dozen acres (east of the Pioneer Factory (1890) that had been stripped of clay by brick makers. C. Fred Johnson, in charge of Endicott-Johnson building operations, created this park. The shoe factories are to the south, and the workers houses of the village cover the valley view to the north. In 1913 the three Johnson brothers bought a dozen acres (east of the Pioneer Factory (1890) that had been stripped of clay by brick makers. 

Location: George W. Johnson Park, Oak Hill Avenue, Endicott George W. Johnson Park, Oak Hill Avenue, Endicott
Original Site: Yes 
Features: 36 jumping horses - 3 abreast and 2 chariots. The pavilion that now covers the carousel was built in 1999 with the intent of preserving the characteristics of the original pavilion which contained scrolled-end rafters and chamfered edge posts. 
Builder: Allan Herschell 
Date: June 1934
Restored: Yes - historically in 1994 June 1934

Other information:

This site sits in the middle of one of the best groupings of Endicott-Johnson Shoe Corporation workers houses in the Triple Cities area. This area sits in the middle of one of the best groupings of Endicott-Johnson Shoe Corporation workers houses in the Triple Cities area.

Location: Highland Park, Hooper Road, Endwell Highland Park, Hooper Road, Endwell
Original Site: No. Originally, placed in En-Joie Park in Endicott in 126 by George F. Johnson 
Features: 36 jumping animals - 3 abreast, including 1 pig and 1 dog, and 2 chariots. 36 jumping animals - 3 abreast, including 1 pig and 1 dog, and 2 chariots.
Builder: Allan Herschell Allan Herschell
Date: 1926
Restored: Partially 1926

Other information:

En-Joie Park had been a money-making resort until the Endicott-Johnson Company bought it in 1916, and an old merry-go-round was in the park when George F. Johnson bought it. The 1926 merry-go-round replaced the older machine. When the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Corporation sold the park lands to the Union-Endicott school district, this merry-go-round was given to the Town of Union for Highland Park. The merry-go-round was moved in 1967. En-Joie Park had been a money-making resort until the Endicott-Johnson Company bought it in 1916, and an old merry-go-round was in the park when George F. Johnson

Also excerpted from The Carousel Report is the background on the Allan Herschell Company, maker of all six carousels.

One of the best know merry-go-round makers was the Allan Herschell Company, Inc. at North Tonawanda, New York. Allan Herschell was born in Arbreath, Scotland in 1851 and was trained to be a molder. He came to America with his parents in 1870 and went to work at the Buffalo Scale Company. After an unlucky job in Canada and a short career while in Boston, Allan Herschell joined James Armitage in the creation of the North Tonawanda Engine and Machine Company formed in 1873.

The new firm was not destined for a fine start. The shop burned down in 1876, was rebuilt, and burned again the very same year. The partners built again with a new name for their business, Armitage Herschell Company. The firm made steam engines and boilers as well as mill and farming machinery.

It was really a fluke that turned the Armitage Herschell Company into making what they are now most famous for: merry-go-rounds. In 1882 Allan Herschell had to make a trip to a New York City specialist to help cure an attack of ague. Herschell had stopped off in Hornell, New York, and there saw a carousel that he felt would have worked better if it were steam powered. Returning home he began to work on what he called a "steam riding gallery." Herschell completed his first carousel in 1883. His second carousel was completed the next year and was installed at Niagara Falls, New York. His third machine was finished in 1885, and after he took it to Buffalo for a while, Herschell sold a half interest to another man. They both took the carousel to New Orleans for a twelve week run. Herschell had trouble with it breaking down and when he corresponded with his less than enthusiastic partners, James Armitage and Herschell's brother, George, about his troubles, the North Tonawanda partners sent a reply, "Throw same in canal and return to North Tonawanda, plenty of work at foundry."

By 1887 a much more perfect carousel had been developed and in 1890 sixty Armitage Herschell merry-go-rounds were delighting the public. The next year saw sales of one hundred carousels.

Herschell went abroad and stopped in India in 1894. He operated one of his carousels for six months in Bombay and sent back orders for more to the North Tonawanda factory. One of the carousels went to a maharajah and another for a sultan to amuse his harem.

So much money was made by Allan Herschell and his partners that a local tradition said that the banks would not take their money. The partnership began to invest heavily in real estate, but the 1899 land boom went bust and the company had to go into receivership.

There was a struggle for control and Allan Herschell and his brother-in-law, Edward Spillman, formed a new firm called the Herschell-Spillman Company. They bought out the failing Armitage Herschell concern, and with the joining of the two facilities, the new firm became the largest manufacturer of carousels in America.

A 1913 catalogue shows that a small carousel could be bought for less than $2,000.00. The most popular model was the two-abreast type that could be had with steam, gasoline, or electric power. Rocker forks below the horses were a new invention used to give the horses a galloping motion.

Herschell was still bothered by sieges of ague so he retired in 1911, but he could not keep away from carousels, because by 1915 he had formed a new company named after himself.

In 1920 the Herschell-Spillman Company reorganized into the Spillman Engineering Company. This firm created some huge carousels that were fifty feet in diameter and four-abreast. Their 1923 catalogue listed lion, tiger, ostrich, stork, giraffe, charging horse, armored horse, deer, goat, zebra, rooster, frog, dog, cat, as well as trotting and galloping horses. The firm also made other amusement devices.

After the death of Allan Herschell in 1927, the Allan Herschell Company acquired the Spillman Engineering Company, which continued in business until 1955.

What about the horses on the Herschell carousels? Charlotte Dinger states that the early Armitage Herschell horses were "charming with a sweet simplicity; legs were in a parallel position and rear legs were joined to the body by a mortise-type notch." This notch became a trademark of the company. Because Allen Herschell concentrated on portable traveling carousels, his sculptures tended to be rather compact.

The carved figures of the Herschell-Spillman Company were very similar to the earlier firms' creations except that the new animals had less static and more flowing manes. Another feature of Herschell-Spillman horses were their pointed rumps; also jewels were added and intricate relief carvings appeared more often.

Around 1914, when the firm started carving permanently located large park carousels, the list of menagerie animals grew. These examples all had a "playful storybook" quality and could be ordered with carved or glass eyes. The chariots were often decorated with beveled mirrors and large faceted colored glass jewels.

The later Allan Herschell firm concentrated its efforts on horses. The child-like art forms of the Herschell-Spillman carousels was replaced by "aggressive" jumpers with disproportionately small legs drawn up close to the body. The heads were oversized, eyes were set high, and noses became quite long.

The end of the carver's art seems to have happened about 1930 when the easily breakable wooden legs and tails were molded of aluminum and attached to the wooden bodies for extra strength and durability. Molds of complete figures were eventually made, and the aluminum carousel animal was born.