Cpt Smith Rides Again

David G. Brown

David G. Brown

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
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

>>The brass ring is yet another part of our culture stolen by fear of lawsuits.<<

Now why am I not surprised? Given the hunting habits of Attila the Tort Lawyer, I would have removed such a rig ages ago.

Aly Jones

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