Guitars at Guernsey's

Seaside Heights Carousel

New York - July, 2014 - Guernsey's is privileged to offer the remarkable Seaside Heights, New Jersey 1910 Dentzel Carousel. Universally considered as one of the finest carousels ever created, every effort is being made to find a new home for the Carousel in its entirety. Should, after months of attempts, no buyer is found, the carousel will be sold at auction animal by animal. Interested parties are urged to contact Guernsey's at the very soonest opportunity.

Press release

For 82 years, a magnificent 1910 Dentzel* Carousel has delighted parents and children alike at the Casino Beach Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. The carousel has survived the devastation of both Hurricane Sandy and subsequent fire one year later that ravaged much of New Jersey’s shoreline and the beloved boardwalk. (*The name Dentzel refers to the carver of the figures on this carousel. Gustav Dentzel and his sons William I and Edward Dentzel comprised one the most highly-esteemed craft studios ever to exist.)

With 58 hand-carved figures, two chariots, original decorative trappings, and a historic Wurlitzer organ at the heart of the carousel, this is one of the grandest carousels ever crafted and one of the few originals remaining in the United States.

If the carousel cannot find a buyer interested in preserving it intact, then the carousel will be auctioned figure by figure by Guernsey’s this fall. It is the desire of the owners, as well as Guernsey’s, for the carousel to be sold as a whole and remain intact, forever preserving this historic landmark for future generations. Once a joyful fixture in towns across the country, carousels numbered 5,000 in the early 1900s. Today approximately 150 originals remain—one of which is this Dentzel.

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During the "Golden Age" of carousels (from the mid 1890's through the 1920's), more than 5,000 of these beautiful whirling amusement attractions dotted the American landscape. From the New England coast to Southern California, hand-carved wooden horses and menagerie figures (in carousel language, a "menagerie” figure is any animal other than a horse), these elaborate devices ranged from smaller machines created expressly for young children to "average-sized” merry-gorounds sporting approximately forty figures on to the truly grand creations with fifty-five or more figures. A century ago, taking one's date to the carousel was as popular as going to the movies is today!

The vast majority of these thousands of carousels had been created by nine different carving "studios", most of which were in the Northeast. Two of these studios produced smaller figures primarily suited to traveling carousels used in country fairs and carnivals. The other seven shops were the true "master carvers", each capable of making large and majestic outer-row standing figures and the joyful inner-row jumping figures that rode up and down on their legendary brass poles. The most well recognized, most prolific of these master carving studios bore the name of the Dentzel family from Philadelphia.

With the onset of the Depression, funds simply didn't exist to support the very costly process of hand carving these masterpieces. Due to financial limitations, new carousels created from 1930 onward contained animals that tended to be molded of fiberglass or aluminum. The golden age of carousels was over. In time, amusement park owners started recognizing that the younger generations were looking for ever more daring rides while the slower moving carousel started losing favor. By the end of World War II, the old carousels started vanishing. With nobody to sell these cumbersome, elaborate devices to, the most expedient way park operators could get rid of the carousels was to burn it… to literally set them into ablaze.

Of the 5,000 original carousels that once brought joy from coast to coast, it is believed that only one hundred and fifty have survived. Many of these carousels now are permanently protected in cities and towns across the nation as they bring joy to increasing numbers of the young and old who recognize that an original, hand-crafted carousel is very much a part of our national heritage and is indeed a true treasure.

Physical History:

1. The Carousel was built in 1910, although some of the animals were carved as early as the 1890s.

2. There are four rows containing a total of 58 animals, 36 of which are jumpers. The 18 standers (those that do not jump up and down) tend to be the largest, most impressive figures placed in the outer row where they have the strongest visual impact. It has two large "chariot" seats plus a 1923 Wurlitzer band organ.

3. Most of the horses and menagerie figures were carved by master craftsmen William Dentzel of Philadelphia. Charles Looff of Coney Island carved a number of other figures as did Salvatore Conigliaro (a highly regarded carver who immigrated from Italy), Charles Carmel, and Marcus lllions. Dentzel, Looff, Carmel and Illions constitute four of the seven acknowledged master carvers. This carousel is almost certainly unique in that it in fact does include the work of such well recognized craftsmen.

4. The round enclosure was probably constructed by Linus Gilbert, a Princeton builder, though "Engineer Herbert (Porter?)" was also involved in setting up the carousel.

5. Eighteen paintings top the center casing; fifteen (or sixteen) of these paintings are original to the machine. Neoclassical castings, also original, surround the outer rim with floral patterns, lyres, and winged lion motifs.

6. It has operated in Seaside Heights, New Jersey since 1932

The Wurlitzer Organ:

The Wurlitzer Military Band Organ, built in 1923 (style 146A), operates with a pneumatic system using leather bellows; perforated music rolls generate the notes. Musical system's components include: snare and bass drums, cymbals, handmade wooden organ pipes, and a glockenspiel with 16 bell bars.

Following is a small sampling of the significant items to be sold: