Stein and Goldstein, the Artistic Carousel Manu­facturers, created a massive merry-go-round for the streetcar terminal in Coney Island as well as the present Central Park carousel in Manhattan. Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein had carved together for Illions prior to forming their own firm in Brooklyn in 1912. They took with them to their new enterprise actual Illions templates as well as a trained familiar­ity with Illions' style. The firm turned out spectacu­larly showy, elaborately ornamented merry-go-rounds, but their efforts to copy the vitality and spirit of Illions' carvings produced at best only crude caricatures of the master's style.

The B and B merry-go-round, facing south on Surf Avenue near Tenth Street, was built by Murphy and Nunnally with George Carmel as principal carver. This same team also built George McCullough's Prospect Park carousel in Brooklyn. The style and embellishments of many of Carmel's horses reflect precedents established by Illions. The B and B is now the only indigenous survivor of the great Coney Island carousels, a lonely relic of an illus­trious era.


The last major Illions merry-go-round was pro­duced in 1927. By then the custom-made, hand-carved, hand-decorated park merry-go-round was an anachronism. Individual craftsmanship had lost favor to faceless mass-production, and Illions had no en­thusiasm for anonymity.

A related problem of faceless masses brought to Coney the beginnings of its decline as the amusement capital of the world. After 1920, with the extension of the subway, any one of New York City's seven million people with a nickel to spend could make his way to the beach. On summer weekends as many as a million spent that nickel... and not much more. Competition for the small change of the metropolis became increasingly intense, and the beseeching of the bally and barker grew ever more strident. Coney Island became the mecca of the cheap thrill, and new rides and grind shows developed to meet the demand. This new nickel empire was no place for the lilting Strauss waltzes and liveried stewards of Feltman's merry-go-round. There wasn't room on Surf Avenue for a dozen carousels, outshining each other with sumptuous gold and jewels. No one seemed to care anymore if the horses were redecorated and glowing for each new season. No one seemed to notice when the gold rubbed away and the jewels


vanished under shrouds of crinkling paint. Survival depended on accosting rather than alluring. The carousels that endured the longest were those that bordered the beeline between the subway and the beach. The others dropped away. Some moved to other parks, some burned, and some were simply broken up and lost. Even now, scattered horses sometimes turn up chopped into bar stools or rotting away as lawn ornaments.


  One of the known survivors of Coney was the Prospect Hotel machine. This was taken by Harry Illions to his Celeron Amusement Park in Jamestown, New York, and later sold to the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona. Each September it bursts into action for a few weeks, only to hibernate the rest of the year, wrapped in canvas shrouds.

Another surviving expatriate is at Bertrand Island Amusement Park, Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. This was the Bob's Coaster machine so similar to the Prospect Hotel fugitive and the prodigal returned from Long Island. The rim of these machines is lavished with angels, including mirrored shields flanked by winged, semi-nude figures more enticing than angelic.

The Stubbmann carousel has survived in a number of metamorphoses. After its early refurbishing by Illions it was given an admixture of horses from Chafatino's merry-go-round when the latter was de­commissioned. James J. McCullough, Jr., who married Henry Stubbmann's daughter,     Helen,     bought    the
following the death of his father-in-law. To capture more of the beach traffic he moved the carousel to the Boardwalk and
West Sixteenth Street just below Steeplechase, where it became known as the Steeple­chase carousel.

Feltman's carousel aged and died gracefully but inexorably with the decline of the Feltman empire. Much as Feltman's aristocratic hot dog was replaced by the nickel production of Nathan's Famous, the elegant and original landmark carousel lost out to modern high-capacity, low-maintenance thrill-rides. Faced with prohibitive repair expenses and diminish­ing patronage, the proprietors of the futuristic Astroland, successors to the Feltman property, retired the ride in 1964. "The carousel took up too much space and didn't make enough money," said the manager as the space was cleared for the Astrotower, an ascend­ing, revolving, "flying bagel" that affords sixty


passengers a 250 foot bird's-eye view of the surround­ing shambles of what was once the most glittering gayway in the world.
  The demise of the Feltman carousel did not go unnoted. The New York Times commemorated the occasion on
January 18, 1964 with a nostalgic eulogy to the departed masterpiece. The article quoted Fred­erick Fried, the distinguished carousel historian, who called the Feltman "by far the greatest American carousel." The article helped arouse public sentiment for preservation. Greer Marechal, a public-spirited Manhattan attorney, determined to create a proper tribute to the Illions era for the ill-fated New York World's Fair. Officials endorsed the project, hop­ing to revive the isolated, outclassed and under-promoted midway area. With only a month to work before the crucial Fourth of July weekend, the im­promptu American Cavalcade Corporation bought both the warehoused Feltman and James McCullough’s Stubbmann machine. An all-Illions carousel was created by the marriage of the two rides, deleting the Looff horses that had formed the original nucleus of the Feltman. In order to fill the outside row with Feltman-style horses and at the same time to increase the proportion of jumping horses, many second row jumpers were moved to the outside, while most of the stately, premium-carved stationary horses were omitted. There was no time for complicated repairs, so some of the most favored figures from both ma­chines had to be passed over because of the broken legs or tattered ears brought about by years of bear­ing the heaviest traffic.
   Through some miracle a full complement of horses
was refurbished in time for a July third opening in the specially designed Carousel Plaza of the Lake Amusement area. After two years of punishing fair-time abuse, the hybrid carousel has continued to operate in Flushing Meadows Park among the scat­tered relics of two World's Fairs. Like the other arti­facts in the meadows, the carousel seems transient and unsettled, caught up in limbo between reprieve and oblivion. Housed in a tacky, unimaginative struc­ture, provided with a sterile, desolate frame, the gal­loping ghosts prance to the amplified inanities of sing­song children's records, their jewels again shrouded with paint, now smooth and colorful but nonetheless opaque. If any of the Feltman or Stubbmann horses is to recapture its rightful splendor, it will have to be one of those left behind in the warehouse in 1964. That lot remained frozen in an unsettled estate until 1970, when it was finally offered for sale to private collectors.

Page 5

Back to the previous Catalog page  ||  Next Catalog Page