Yes, there was a carousel, and yes, I rode it, something I haven’t done in centuries. This was another treat at the Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, MA, on Cape Cod. Their American Art & Carousel Gallery contains a beautiful carousel. Though built in 1908, it includes figures made over a twenty year span, as early as the mid-1880s. Back then, the figures didn’t move up and down. When overhead gears were introduced, they were converted—and let me point out that they move faster than one expects. What they all have in common is the Looff factory. Charles I.D. Looff, the founder, built Coney Island’s first carousel.
Though the original carousel was broken up and sold, the Heritage Museums have most of it today, thanks to Hallett Tobin, who diligently hunted down the carousel animals. Sadly, he found the original mechanism had been left to the mercy of the elements. However, the slightly smaller antique replacement is splendidly crafted and works perfectly.
Looff Carousel has National Historic Landmark status, as well as being designated “the State Jewel of American Folk Art.” I’d definitely classify the carousel in Sandwich as the jewel of the Heritage Museum’s eclectic collection, and perhaps a jewel in general of American Folk Art. Certainly the figures are beautiful examples of the artisans' care and craftsmanship—down to the horses’ metal hooves and real horse hair tails.
Among bits of information I picked up about carousels: Most have one major figure, with fancier decorations than the others, called the “lead” horse. The operator used this horse to count the number of times the horse went round.