of the new horses were never wired, and the panels lay invisible and forgotten like their earlier proto­types.

The new Feltman merry-go-round was inaugurated in 1903. It became a favorite with generations of New Yorkers and visiting celebrities. According to tradition, Diamond Jim Brady was so fond of the atmosphere at Feltman's that he maintained an apart­ment there with a secret passage to the carousel. The merry-go-round was the site of hundreds of private parties and a center of revelry during the annual Autumn Mardi Gras. Over the years the horses ac­cumulated a cargo of confetti, filtered into the narrow cleft surrounding the support rods. The hollow inte­riors trapped other artifacts as well, including Indian-head pennies and Mercury dimes dropped by excited little hands as they clutched the roped brass poles.



  The Mangels-Illions coalition produced a number of outstanding machines after Feltman's, and at least two remained in Coney Island. One was in Kister's Restaurant at Eleventh Street and Surf Avenue. Kis­ter's ride ran faster than any other carousel on Coney. It was a challenge to the aplomb of the most experienced operators who took quiet pride in stepping calmly on and off the whirling platforms, never losing a step.

The other Mangels machine was commissioned by George and Henry Stubbmann for their beer garden. The building housing the merry-go-round was promi­nently labeled, "Hotel Eleanor, Open All Year," a tribute to Henry's daughter and a practical conces­sion to the temperance law in force at the time which prohibited the serving of drinks except in hotels. The carousel itself was a proud addition to the Mangels-Illions stable. Its handsome Louis XIV chariots put the primitive snake-headed, winged dragons of the Feltman to shame. Some of the featured carvings were more lifelike and inventive than the Feltman horses, but the overall effect of the rim and central enclosure was less magical; the Stubbmann never gained the widespread acclaim and popularity of its predecessor.

By the time the Stubbmann Brothers' carousel was built, about 1908, Illions had a style quite different from the Feltman horses. The evolution of Illions' carving technique represented partly a refinement of design and partly an expedient to meet the accelerat­ing demand for his carvings. The slightly attenuated noses of the Feltman era assumed stronger proportions,

Page 4


and the eyes took on a wider, more intelligent quality. The manes became more flattened, closer to the neck, gracefully folded and faceted to show off their distinctive gold-leaf finish to best advantage. Trappings were less deeply and elaborately carved, but they took on intricate, distinctive patterns that became an Illions hallmark. Most characteristic, were parallel rows of straps sweeping at an angle over the shoulder and flank, each strap studded with jewels or carved into repetitive patterns of gilded buckles," bells, chain mail, rope, or fringe.


Around 1909 Illions became increasingly indepen­
dent of Mangels, forming his own company and of­fering rides bearing the proud insignia "M. C. Illions and Sons Carousell Works, Coney Island, N.Y." His son, Harry, was sixteen by then and already an accomplished carver. Within a few years Philip, two years younger, would take over much of the adminis­tration of the company as well as some of the more exacting carving. Twelve year old Rudolph would eventually become the machinist and mechanical de­signer, freeing the family from dependence on Man­gels for frames and running gear. Rose, ten, and Ber­nard, seven, grew into appropriate roles in the family enterprise, with Bernard emerging as a creative deco­rator and commercial artist. Whenever sons were lacking there was a coterie of nephews and cousins to fill the gaps.

In his first catalog, Illions declared, "We no longer cater our trade to the framemaker. Our product is the product of experience and can only be had coming direct to us." To celebrate his independence (and perhaps his initial leisure) he created a new line of horses with explosive, flying manes and powerful, straining bodies, decked out with latticework har­nesses and other virtuoso feats of carving. Illions found a local showcase for his liberated talents by refurbishing the Stubbmann Brothers' carousel with
a new outer row of these latest creations.


Illions carousels continued in an elite tradition of art for art's sake. Illions' careful dedication to family standards of craftsmanship, his abhorrence of carving machines, and his proud determination to carve every head himself made volume production impossible. His work was so prized locally that few of his pro­ductions ever escaped the Atlantic Seaboard. Most of


all, his masterpieces clustered in Coney During the twenties a string of Illions merry-go-rounds spun off along Surf Avenue like eddies from an oar. The first in line was on Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. On the southwest corner of Surf and Fifth Street the big  four-abreast of Theodore Chafatino filled the site vacated by EL Dorado. A little to the west, bordering Old Iron Pier Walk, was a Mangels-Illions machine operated by Mangels. A block west, opposite the Culver depot, was Stubbmann's. A graceful three-abreast occupied the lobby of the Prospect Hotel across the street in the next block. At the corner of Eleventh was Kister's, just across Surf Avenue from the fabulous Feltman. Luna Park housed a large three-abreast Illions. Finally, at the corner of Still-well Avenue and the Bowery a sparkling three-abreast nestled unafraid under the rumbling plunge of Bob's Coaster.

In later years still another Illions masterpiece found its home in Coney. This was one of a trio of three-abreast machines produced during the twenties, the other two installed in the Prospect Hotel (1927) and under Bob's Coaster (1926). The third machine was originally sent to Long Beach, Long Island in 1927. The proprietor was a rabbi who had estab­lished a bathhouse on the proceeds of a warehouseful of wine he had bought during Prohibition and made available for sacramental use. There was apparently less demand for his hospitality than for his liquid ministrations, however; he lost his merry-go-round at auction by order of the creditors, Prudence Bond Company. The carousel was returned to Surf Avenue, destined to be the final survivor of the Illions era in Coney Island.


Although Illions dominated the island with ten resident machines, he was not the only carver of Coney Island carousels. Other companies emerged from time to time, most of which bore the stamp of Illions' influence. A pioneer Brooklyn amusement manufacturer, Charles W. F. Dare, established the New York Carosal Manufacturing Company around 1890. This company supplied carvings for the open­ing of George C. Tilyou's Steeplechase Park in 1897, probably including the horses for the famous steeple­chase ride itself.

Another early Brooklyn manufacturer with at least one ride in Coney Island was the Bungarz Steam Wagon and Carrousele Works. Illions carved for Bungarz during his free-lance period prior to 1900.

Back to the previous Catalog page  ||  Next Catalog Page