1964-65 New York World's Fair Carousel
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Then and Now


A very unique view of Carousel Park. State and Federal Area to the right.  T
ransportation Area straight ahead and the New York City Skyline on the horizon to the left.
Photos from the collection of
Bill Cotter.

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(Above photo from the collection of nycsubway.org)

Photo from the collection of Bill Cotter.

Click on the image for a larger version.


Click on this picture for a quick clip video of the carousel in operation!


(Rear cover picture from Carousel Park album from the collection of Richard Post)

The story of how the carousel made it to the World’s Fair
Excerpt from
"Carousel Park" album with music from the band organ (provided by Rich Post)- Above photo from the album.


Early in 1964, a young lawyer was struck by a memory-evoking article in The New York Times.  “Feltman’s carousel,” it read, “one of Coney Island’s most romantic landmarks has been dismantled to make way for a ride that will give a sort of astronauts’ view of the city.”

 The article went on to picture the “faded, hand-carved horses now on their backs in a warehouse waiting to be sold,” and their place on the corner of Surf Avenue and West Eighth Street, “a plastic, bagel-shaped device that will revolve slowly up and down a pole 300 feet high.”  Why the substitution?  “Economics,” replied the owner, “the carousel took up too much space and didn’t make enough money.”

 But the young lawyer had grown up in New York.  And when he was a kid, summer Sundays just didn’t roll around fast enough.  Sundays—when the adults, laboring under beach umbrellas and terrycloth towels, toted you out to Coney.   When you swam in the salty, debris-laden surf, and—tucking up the waist of your hand-me-down trunks—strutted down the splintery boardwalk for a hot-dog at Nathan’s and ride on the merry-go-round.

 And not just any merry-go-round—but Feltman’s.  Not that you knew that Feltman’s was “historic,” or “a piece of Americana.”  You didn’t realize its lavender-eyed mounts had been fashioned in 1903 by Marcus Charles Illions.   That Illions, a master carver noted for the fidelity of his spirited steeds, got his early training at Walter Savage’s London wood-carving plant, and signed this job by carving his own features into the saddle of the king horse while looking at himself in a mirror.  Nor was it important to you that Charles Feltman, the original owner, has been credited with inventing the hot dog and for years ran carousel and restaurant under one roof.

You only knew that on no other merry-go-round were you so much the master of your mount—so completely a meld of medieval prince and Lone Ranger.  No other pack of prancers had manes so flowing, horse-hair tails that waved so proudly in the wind.  No other brass ring could you spear so successfully—after successive Sundays of practice—to the admiring, if anxious applause of the adults who watched from beyond the revolving platform.

 Barely six days passed before the young lawyer and a friend had completed purchase of the carousel—had become sole owners of 76 wooden horses, two chariots, one giraffe (originally carved by Charles Feltman for his son) and a tired super-structure, creaky in the joints from age.

 For several months they sought ways to restore the historic relic to use, finally getting in touch with Robert Moses, the man in charge of New York’s World’s Fair. Yes, he did remember the Feltman carousel.  Once he, too, had been a kid at Coney with a nickel in his jeans.  Yes, he was genuinely enthusiastic about placing the carousel at the World’s Fair grounds. Possibly it could be kept there for the proposed future park, preserved for as long as possible for the children of New York.

 So the young lawyers joined forces with a patent attorney and a Greenwich Village restaurateur, forming the American Cavalcade Corporation to bring the Feltman’s Carousel to the World’s Fair.  Room was allocated at the Lake Amusement Area on a landscaped lawn now named Carousel Park.  There it stands regal and aloof, yet at home beside an authentic outdoor “boardwalk” restaurant serving seaside treats like hot dogs, clams and corn-on-the-cob.

There were technical problems to solve, though, before the carousel’s opening on July 1.  Feltman’s was not built during the modern era.  It was constructed at the turn of the century, when Feltman’s restaurant was the social mecca of Coney, when horse-racing attracted millionaires to the shores of Brooklyn and champagne was a dime, on tap.   At that time the platform was powered by a harnessed and belled white horse, the area illuminated with 4,000 gas lamps.  After a day at the track, off-duty jockeys would laughingly race Illions’ handsome steeds.  At times the saddles seated the shapely rumps ot the Ziegfield girls, or the staider President William Howard Taft and W. K. Vanderbilt.  The horses strained under diamond-studded riders, while the military band-organ peeled out roll after roll of popular songs, show-tunes and folk selection—in a continual, exhilarating cacophony of nostalgia-breeding sound.

 But this new site was out-of-doors, and the Feltman not used to exposure.  The original organ had been sold by the time the young attorney first knocked on the warehouse door.  So the Corporation purchased an operative carousel from Coney Island—the Stubman—also decorated by Illions, but rebuilt in 1923 and in perfect mechanical condition.  In 1953 it had been completely fitted with a park-type, all-weather, revolving roof.  The wedding took place: the Stubman frame and the Feltman horses.  And finally two military band organs were installed, both of German make.  The Valdkirch, manufactured by Gabebruder Organ Fabrik, is reportedly the largest such organ extant—450 reeds with complete woodwind and brass choir.  Working on a compressed air and perforated paper roll principle, much like a player piano, the two organs together can supply a full week of music, without repetition.

The Man Responsible for bringing the carousel to the World’s Fair

The person described above is Mr. John Rogers. On October 7, 2005, we sadly lost Mr. Rogers after a battle with multiple myeloma. His legacy remains in many aspects of his life, family and carreer, and so does the carousel.
I truly enjoyed my correspondence with Mr. Rogers about the carousel.  Mr. Rogers was very busy with his most recent project “The American Flagship” so our time was limited.  We were hoping to expand on our conversations in the future and add his first hand accounts of the “wealth of additional information on the struggle to get the carousel up and running in the Fair, the diverse and occasionally colorful array of persons and companies, etc.”
Our correspondence below is outlined in the form of Q&A

This Q&A has been edited for content from correspondence in 2003.

How were you involved with the carousels at Coney Island?  (I am) the person described on the back of the Carousel Park record jacket, and who originally saved Feltman's and then bought Stubmans to supply the needed machinery (especially the crown bearing, which had cracked on Feltman's), and subsequently brought in Greer Marechal.*

You recently reviewed some of your archive films of the carousel. Did it show construction of the carousel? How was your visit back in time?  My visit last night to yesteryear cleared up at least one thing in my fuzzy memory: The Stubbman carousel (spelled "CAROUSELL" on its sign) was indeed on the Boardwalk. (Rides look to have been 15 cents [although it was hard to read the sign]; and, unlike carousels in the subsequent liability-conscious, insurance-sensitive age, the brass ring machine was in full operation.) I had fitted one of the Feltman horses onto it (prior to refinishing the horse) for a test run, and was trying it out in the film.

Other Coney Island scenes show the unused  commercial laundry plant on Neptune Avenue that we used to refurbish the Feltman horses, and scenes of the work in progress. We hired a local Coney Island artist for the refurbishing job. (His other specialty was those wooden cutout figures that one found all over the amusement park sites. I'll try to find his name.)

And yes, my film contains extended and rather corny footage of the construction site for Carousel Park prior to arrival of the carousel. It shows the boardwalk portion and concessions under construction, with "Pizza Place", to be operated by Vinnie Mastro, on the right-hand side as you face the boardwalk. The spot for the carousel is simply laid out with a round wooden frame.

Also shown in later shots is the resident clown interacting with the kids. We also had a pet miniature African elephant that carried a Carousel Park sign around the Fairgrounds. Its name was "Champagne", as I recall.

How did Carousel Park come about?  The original site I negotiated for the carousel was a very large parcel in the Industrial Sector, near the main gate (near IBM), that became available at the last minute when plans for an amusement park-type exhibit by H.L.Hunt was cancelled. It was too late for the Fair to install a new industrial exhibit, and our carousel could be erected and landscaped quickly and in time for the opening day. I had a preliminary understanding with S&H Green Stamps (Sperry & Hutchinson) to host the carousel park as a turn-of-the-century park, with costumed personnel of the period, broad lawns and walks, etc., and based on the S&H Green Stamp theme: "The Old Fashioned Way to Save". When S&H got bogged down in the details and couldn't make the deadline, their participation was dropped. The Fair opened without the carousel, but the Fair kindly agreed to let me still open a carousel exhibit in the Amusement Section after the opening. Thus started the saga, and an ever-growing cast of characters, that ultimately led -- through many twists and turns (including the necessity to purchase the Stubbman Carousel) -- to the creation of Carousel Park.

Can you tell us about the Quote Records recording?  Here's a research task: In making its recording of the band organ, Quote Records taped much more music than they ultimately utilized. It was great stuff, and it would be well worth tracking down. Somebody may have those reels. Perhaps some of the individuals credited on the back of the album, if they can be located, will recall who the producer-owner was.

Tell us about the horses?  The horses on the (album cover on the) upper left, and in the background on the upper right (i.e. with longer faces, and Botticelli-like manes) are from Feltman's Carousel.  The (other) horses on the record cover are Stubbman ponies from inside rings -- no comparision to the mind-blowing Botticelli-like horses of Feltman's (and probably the outside Illions' horses on Stubbmans).

With respect to lost horses from Worlds Fair carousel, these must have been disposed of prior to or during installation at the Fair. No one informed me at the time, else I'd have a set of them right now. What a shame! (How do you like the prices I paid? $12,500 for the entire collection of Feltmans horses, animals, and chariots, plus band organ; and $25,000 for the entire operating Stubbmans carousel!!!)

How often were you at the fair?  I visited the Fair quite often. In fact, the reason I originally bought Feltman's carousel was so as to get an exhibitor's pass and unlimited access. (It would have been a lot cheaper to buy a daily pass for every day of the Fair -- but a lot less exciting than the adventures that followed.)

Was the venture profitable?  Profitable at the Fair? Hardly. Although it generated a major tax-deductible loss for the wealthy backer of Carousel Park; I broke even on my cash layout.

Why was the carousel repainted after 1964 season with a different color scheme?  Amazing! But I have no recollection of the roof being repainted after the first season, but clearly that was the case. It looks as though the umbrellas were always those colors, and the roof of the carousel was painted to match.

You were interviewed for the film “Peace Through Understanding”. Have you seen the BBQ Productions documentary?  Yes, the screening was terrific... It was amazing to see such a jam-packed crowd of rabid World's Fair fans, exchanging recollections, etc. And Curtis and Terry were most generous in their treatment of the carousel,
using it as a recurring theme throughout the production.

What do you think about the carousel today?  I like having the carousel in the park, but am afraid it is not in particularly good condition. Ideally the horses should be kept in prime condition, the band organ(s) operating (rather than taped music) -- can't remember whether both organs ended up in the park (I originally had two). What the carousel needs is an angel, or an endowment.

How did you gain interest in participating in the World’s Fair?  …My love for World's Fairs… stems from my visits to the 1939-40 Fair when I was six years old. The Trilon and Perrisphere are vivid memories, along with a half dozen others (such as Frank Buck and his elephants, GM, and the Singer Midget Village).

*Note: Mr. Greer Marechal was a patent lawyer who was a primary backer for bringing the Carousels from Coney Island.

NEW-Open for Business!



After the Fair- A carousel 'For Sale'

A listing from the "World's Fair Merchandise Sale Catalog"- This catalog was printed in 1965 by George E. Porcell Enterprises, Inc., New York.  There are many listings for items of all types ranging from cloth dolls from Pakistan to trailer size storage rooms!  Under the 'Special Items' category on page 7, the carousel is listed:

Click here to see the full page from the catalog

New York is lucky that the carousel did not sell to any party outside the state or the country. Although the carousel has survived many years of neglect by the city, we can always be hopeful that one day it will be returned to its original glory.

A photograph from late 1965 showing a closed down and empty Carousel Park



From the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Public Ceremonies
June 3, 1967




From February 1987
The Carousel News and Trader
Vol. 3, No. 2

A great piece on the status of the carousel in 1987-

Reprinted with permission
Click on the image to read the magazine


 The Carousel as it appears today at Flushing Meadows Corona Park


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Carousel Ceiling 1.JPG (40883 bytes)
(Upper - Rear cover picture from Carousel Park album from the collection of Richard Post; middle and bottom of carousel today- M. Silverstein 2001)

The carousel has been updated to allow it to be shuttered in the off season.  A structure was added all around below the roof eave to receive the shutters.  This is why there are now columns present as pictured above but not on the original photos.

Click here to see the shuttered carousel as it appeared in January 2002,


At the end of June 2004, I visited the carousel.  I had the pleasure of briefly speaking with the proprietor named John. He told me that he and his wife have just signed a six year contract with New York City to operate the carousel. He also expressed a bit of frustration at the condition of the carousel. Be rest assured it is totally functioning in a safe manner. It is in need of mechanical updating and a major paint job. He allowed me to snap a few photos between rides:

Overall view
Click Picture for a larger view

Roof detail showing many layers of peeling paint
Compare this photo with the one above from 2001

Interior view also showing signs of peeling paint
Click picture for larger view

There are more new photos showing the organ on this page
The Organ

John hopes that the paint can be returned to a similar scheme as it appeared in 1965.
If you would like to visit the carousel or call for information please check out this page
Current Operation

Lets hope the city responds to preserve this important piece of history.
Maybe if we send a note to the people who supposedly care about the park:

September 2007

The carousel's interior has a new coat of paint!  Little has been done to the exterior, and as you can see in the photos, many light bulbs have not been replaced but no more peeling paint.

Compare this photo with the one above
Click picture for larger view

Much nicer!
Click picture for larger view

Exterior touched up.  Too bad as they were painting they didn't add color to the roof.

Click picture for larger view


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