Cpt Smith Rides Again


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Captain Smith has been restored to his original sparkle, according to the May, 2006 edition of "The Carousel News & Trader." This magazine chronicles the collection of carousel art, mostly the wooden carved horses and other animals.

A British roundabout centaur of Captain Smith is featured on the cover. A centaur is a half-man, half-horse mythical animal. Carvings of centaurs carrying the likeness of famous personages became popular on British machines of the late Edwardian period. Smith's face is recognizable. He carries a telescope reportedly copied from one in the possession of his family at the time. The Smith centaur was created by the C.J. Spooner Company, Burton-on-Trent.

For American readers, "roundabouts" are nothing but British merry-go-rounds. The only difference is the direction of rotation. American machines go anti-clockwise, while British go clockwise.

The Museum of Carousel Art and History in Sandusky, Ohio has a limited number of these magazines for sale. Phone (USA) 1-419-626-6111 Tuesday through Sunday 9 am to 5 pm Eastern time and ask for the gift shop.

-- David G. Brown
 
May 3, 2005
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>>For American readers, "roundabouts" are nothing but British merry-go-rounds. The only difference is the direction of rotation. American machines go anti-clockwise, while British go clockwise.<<

Are carousels and roundabouts the same thing ?
I have heard the "roundabouts" term as applied to American "Traffic Circles" ?

American "Traffic Circles" are anything but "merry", as in "merry-go-rounds", but otherwise the same as far as the comparison of the differences of direction of rotation is concerned !

Do the horses keep to the left on British machines ? :)
 

John Clifford

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Maybe I'm missing something.
How is seeing the head of Captain Smith atop the body of a horse some sort of honor for the memory of Captain Smith?
Yes, I have read the stories of Greek mythology and know about the Centaurs, who were mostly considered wild creatures; the big exception was the teacher Chiron (source "D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Mythology").

RE: comparing merry-go-rounds with roundabouts, or traffic circles:
I have seen few traffic circles, or roundabouts, in Southern California. The one that comes to mind, for me, is at the end of Lakewood Blvd. in Long Beach, near where my brother and sister-in-law used to live, and it can probably get quite busy at rush-hour.

American "Traffic Circles" are anything but "merry", as in "merry-go-rounds"
"Number 1 Understatement", with the worst example, in my opinion, going to the Etoile Charles DeGaulle (i hope I spelled that right) in Paris, site of the Arche Di Triumphe. I loved visiting Paris and seeing the sites, including the Arche, but the Etoile is not somewhere you want to be driving during busy traffic times.

Personally, I prefer the term "Carousel" to "merry-go-rounds", but that's just me, and I don't mind seeing other carousel fixtures, instead of horses, if it is done well (such as the Triton Carousel in Disney's california Adventures: sea creatures used, instead of horses, and I enjoy that ride, plus the King Arthur Carousel at Disneyland).

Perhaps, if ship models cannot be shaped for carousel pieces, then the idea of maritime-theme carousel fixtures should be scrapped.
 
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Why centaurs on a carousel..roundabout..merry-go-round? Ask C.J. Spooner, although you'll need the assistance of a spiritualist. Plopping the heads of famous people on horses bodies apparently seemed like a good idea at the time. There's no accounting for taste.

As to words, the secret is context. In New England, a "roundabout" is a circular traffic jam surrounded by ambulances and lawyers. Merry-go-round is the happy American term for the very august carousel. Unless you are the legendary builder of such machines, Gustav Denzel. Then it's "Carrousel."

Most American machines carried horses. It was common to include a couple of "menagerie" animals as well. Some machines were produced with nothing but African wildlife. In Detroit, the new baseball park has a carousel with...naturally...all tigers.

You can instantly spot a British roundabout carving. The "romance" side is the left side of the piece, while on machines from most of the rest of the world the romance side is the right.

Carousel carvers quickly realized that people looking at the machines could only see one side of the animals clearly. So, they only spent time carving expensive decorations on the outside...or "romance side" of the figures. The inside was finished to a minimal amount. Our Captain Smith looks out slightly to his left side so as to gaze on the crowd as he prances past.

--David G. Brown
 
May 1, 2004
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When was the 'Captain Smith' centaur made? Walter Lord said in his book that Captain Smith was a popular captain, so I presume his picture was in the papers long before the disaster and his face on an image would be recognizable.

Was the maker British? German? American?

And how was it verified to be an image of Captain E. J. Smith, not a generic figure of a sea captain?

What of the other figures on the carousel? Any J.J. Astors or Molly Browns? (Maggie the Mermaid. I wonder if Mrs. Brown would have laughed at that.) King Edward VII? Wearing a yachtman's cap, he would've looked like Captain Smith.

Where was the carousel running? I could guess at a seaside resort - Blackpool?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Captain Smith would have been all but unknown to the general public before the Titanic disaster, but less than a month later they were queuing to see his new waxwork figure at Madame Tussauds. The waxen Captain was placed on display between Scott of the Antarctic and General Booth of the Salvation Army.
 
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Apparently, the Captain Smith centaur was created in an outburst of patriotic enthusiasm during or just after the Boer War. The original roundabout had generals and other war luminaries depicted. Captain Smith got on the ride because he commanded a troopship during the war. The carving, it would seem, pre-dates his date with destiny in 1912.

The magazine article is basd loosely on a book, "Roundabout Relics" ISBN 0952311240, Jumper Books, 99 McCarthy Way, Wokingham, RG40 4UB, England. [email protected] $45 (USD)

-- David G. Brown
 

john barker

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I am the author of ROUNDABOUT RELICS i also own the centaur of Capt.E.J.Smith,This was carved by Anderson of Bristol who were ship figure head carvers, when ship carved work went in decline they started making carousel horses in about 1895, only four of these centaurs were made by Anderson and they were for a showman named Thomas Pruett.As far as i know this is the only surviving one,the other three on the ride were King Edward V11, Cecil Rhoads & one unidentified.
one of your comments on this page asked weather it was Edward V11, it is not the English royal familly would carry the admirals sleve brade not a Captains, another comment was that Smith was not famous until the Titanic disaster, that is also not true he was the highest paid Captain of his era and when the centaur was carved in 1900 it was to recognize Smiths efforts in transporting the troops to South Africa for the Boer War on the Majestic.
Smith was given the transport clasp for this by Edward V11 personally in 1903.
On this centaur when the layers of old paint were removed it revealed E.J.S carved into the telescope. This item is a one off and very rare, there is no question about its provenance it is all detailed in the book backed up with original photos of this figure on the carousel ride while in use in 1907. My i suggest you buy the book and study the pages and photos before you question its authentisity.
 

Ernie Luck

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John, Very interesting, however, not entirely correct. ...

>>Smith was given the transport clasp for this by Edward V11 personally in 1903<<

Having some knowledge of Medals and having researched the Transport medal; it was this medal that Capt. Smith was awarded for transporting troops in the Boer War and he picked it up from the Admiralty in London.

I should think the logistics of getting all the Captains and Officers entitled to this award together at any one time would have been an impossibility.

Sorry for splitting hairs.
 
May 13, 2006
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>>The only difference is the direction of rotation. American machines go anti-clockwise, while British go clockwise.<<

That's odd. Same with ties! In the UK the stripes go one way and in USA they nearly always go the opposite.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Buoys are apparently the same as carousels and ties.

Both the U.S. and British sailors learn the mnemonic "Red Right Returning" as an aid to placing the correct color buoy on the correct side of the ship. Buoys, of course are red and green to indicate the appropriate sides of channels.

The difference is that in British waters the saying applies to returning to sea. Americans learn it as applying when returning home from sea. Quite obviously, things are just the reverse.

This has now been codified by the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities. With a few exceptions, the Eastern Hemisphere is IALA Region A -- red on right returning to sea. While the Western Hemisphere is IALA Region B -- red on the right returning home.

There's something to be said for consistency.

-- David G. Brown
 

Aly Jones

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John- The reason that America and England is opposite to each other cause Americans wanted to do things way different from the English. America and Americans are doing things back to front.

I also saw Captain Smith's horse caratsole. I saw it on Auntic roadshow.
 
May 27, 2007
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The reason that America and England is opposite to each other cause Americans wanted to do things way different from the English.
True, although we have a lot in common us Yanks like doing things our own way and have the 'we're right ad everybody else is wrong attitude sometimes.' I think every country is like that though.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Isn't the carousel thing to do with the American custom of 'catching the brass ring', which is an extra attraction we don't have on European Merry-go-rounds. Since the ring is a fixture mounted outboard of the spinning carousel, and most people are right-handed, the horses need to be going counter-clockwise.
 
May 27, 2007
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Isn't the carousel thing to do with the American custom of 'catching the brass ring', which is an extra attraction we don't have on European Merry-go-rounds.
Yes, Money and the pursuit of is what makes America run. The Brass Ring represents $$$ and hence happiness to us Yanks. We're very money mad. Especially now.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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My wife works at the Museum of Carousel Art & History in Sandusky, Ohio. This means I have been forced to learn more about merry-go-rounds than I ever wanted to know. From the record it appears the direction of carousels was initially happenstance. Later, clockwise in the U.S. and anti-clockwise in England became standards by common use. It appears the direction of rotation was standardized as early as steam-powered machines.

The brass ring was introduced on U.S. carousels as they grew in size. Up to three rows of animals the machines are quite attractive. Add a fourth row, however, and the outer animals are so far apart (nose to tail distance) that the machine has a gapped-tooth appearance. So, they decided to add additional carvings to fill in those gaps. The inner three rows remained "jumpers" -- animals that go up and down as the machine rotates.

The new fourth row was attached to the permanent down-rod supports and could not "jump." This type of horse is called a "stander" because it does just that -- stand still. While adding to the attractiveness of the machine, standers were not attractive to riders. The brass ring machine came along as an enticement for riders to enjoy the standers which are the only figures from which the rings can be grasped.

Not all of the rings in the machine were brass. Usually only one or two a day came out shiny gold. The majority were steel and worth nothing except the fun of grabbing one. Riders tossed the steel rings back, usually into the mouth of a clown face. Only brass rings were good for a free ride.

While "to go for the brass ring" has entered the U.S. lexicon, the machines are passing from history. The brass ring is yet another part of our culture stolen by fear of lawsuits. The few carousels that still have machines find them to be an expense. People who get the rings tend to keep them as souvenirs and not return them.

I have not seen the Captain Smith figure, but I have actually handled the General Gordon likeness from the same carousel. It was rather well done both in the quality of the carving and in the likeness of the general. I assume from the photos that the Smith figure is just as high quality in terms of workmanship and likeness.

-- David G. Brown
 

Aly Jones

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Nov 22, 2008
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The captain smith figure is alot smaller than the Generals figure.It stated why it was smaller but unfortunaly ,it went in one ear and came out the other ear!

Iv'e seen captain Smith's figure,it looks like captain Smith.Taned skin,white beard and in a captains uniform.

George. The Statement i made yearler,i did not mean it in the harsh way.I word things wrongly
 
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