The summer is nearly here and the six carousels in Broome County are spinning again to the delight of children and adults alike.
As the story goes, when George F. Johnson was a child, he didn’t have enough money to ride a carousel. As the prosperous co-founder of the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company, he commissioned the Allan Herschell Company to build carousels for the area around his factories. He directed that the carousels be free of charge so that every child could ride them without respect to how much money they had in their pocket.
Mostly in the 1920s, six carousels were built and dispersed around the Greater Binghamton area. Those carousels are still in operation from Memorial Day to Labor Day every year, and they’re still free.
There’s even a “Ride the Carousel Circuit” button that is awarded to anyone who rides all six carousels and collects a card from an attendant at each carousel.
According to John Davison, program director of WHWK-98.1 FM in Binghamton, there are only about 150 wood-carved carousels still in operation in North America.
Multiple pictures taken of the Greater Binghamton carousels can be found at the website of the National Carousel Association.
What follows is a sampling from multiple sites of pictures and information about the six carousels in Greater Binghamton, the Carousel Capital of the World.
Information supplied by the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin.
Ross Park Carousel Horse
The six carousels in Broome County feature a total of over 200 horses, one pig, one dog, and a zebra. This horse is from the first carousel installed in Broome County by the Allan Herschell Company.
Ross Park Carousel
The Ross Park Carousel stands right outside the front gates of the Ross Park Zoo on Morgan Road in Binghamton. The original 51-key Wurlitzer military band organ still plays as the carousel rotates.
The Allan Herschell Company
The Alan Herscell Company of North Tonawanda, NY built the six carousels donated by George F. Johnson to Broome County. The company is no longer in business, but a Carrousel (sic) Museum is now housed in the old factory location.
C. Fred Johnson Park Carousel
The C. Fred Johnson Park Carousel was installed in 1925. It is the largest of the Broome County carousels with 71 jumping horses and one zebra.
Highland Park Carousel Sign
The sign that greets patrons at the Highland Park Carousel sports the Carousel Capitol logo, the date that the carousel was installed, and a rack for brochures.
Highland Park Carousel
The Highland Park Carousel was originally installed at En-Joie Park in Endicott in 1925, but it was moved to its present location in Highland Park, Endwell, in 1965.
Inside the Highland Park Carousel
The Highland Park Carousel is one of the three smallest carousels in Broome County. The 36 figures n the carousel include two menagerie animals, a dog and a pig. All the animals on the carousel are jumpers, meaning that they are not attached to the floor of the carousel, they move up and down on poles.
Recreation Park Carousel
The Recreation Park Carousel in Binghamton was installed in 1925, the same year that the Highland Park Carousel was installed in En-Joie Park. The Recreation Park Carousel is the same size as the Ross Park Carousel, with 60 horses and two chariots.
West Endicott Park Carousel
The West Endicott Park Carousel is one of the two smallest carousels in Broome County with 36 animals, including a dog and a pig. The park is across the street from one of the former Endicott-Johnson factories.
The George F. Johnson Park Carousel
The carousel at George F. Johnson Park is the other small carousel along with the one at West Endicott Park. It has 36 horses and two chariots. Glass was installed in the windows in 1999.
George F. Johnson Park Carousel Horses
Most of the horses on the GFJ Park Carousel and the other carousels in Broome County are jumpers, meaning that none of their feet are attached to the floor of the carousel. Jumpers move up and down on poles.
George F. Johnson Park Carousel chariot
Chariots are featured in all of the carousels in Broome County. In the golden age of carousels, chariots were primarily for women and children who would prefer not to ride the jumping horses and other animals.