On the left: Horse from Jane’s Carousel, PTC #61.
On the right: Herschell-Spillman Jumper Carousel Horse from a Midwest Amusement Park Merry-Go-Round, circa 1920-1930, currently for sale on ebay.
What’s something that makes Jane’s Carousel so special? It’s hard to pick just one aspect, but one thing that might stand out to visitors who have been on other carousels at an amusement park or fair are the fine details in each and every horse that make the carousel such a jewel.
It takes a lot of maintenance to run an a wooden carousel. Wooden horses suffer from temperature and humidity changes –and of course from the daily wear and tear of being enjoyed by many people. So from time to time paint jobs need to be touched up. This was often done with cheap house paint by park maintenance men, who were not necessarily artists and often used gaudy colors to brighten up aging carousels. ‘Carousel people’ call this “park paint.” While the flashy colors and less refined application of the park paint obscure many of the beautiful carved details, they do have a folksy charm of their own. Notice how the darker and lighter areas on the face of the Herschell-Spillman horse in park paint above don’t relate to the contours of the face, and the shading looks amateurish compared to the similar color scheme on the Jane’s Carousel horse.
The “park paint” is the bane of many carousel collectors, as it takes a great deal of work to remove. But park paint is also a blessing, since the layers of house paint protected the original factory paint underneath, allowing restorers to find out what a carousel looked like in its heyday. In one case of a burnt amusement park, a carousel horse was saved thanks to the thick coat of park paint that had been applied over the years! How were the horses on Jane’s Carousel restored to such great detail? Stay tuned for more information!