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Allan Herschell

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b. 1851, Scotland; d. 1927

Allan Herschell's contribution to the world of the carousel was significant. He formed more companies, built more carousels and was in business more years than any other builder. Three years after coming to America from his native Scotland (in 1870), Herschell became a partner in a factory that built steam engines and boilers in North Tonawanda, New York (near Buffalo). In 1883, despite protests from his partners, Herschell built his first "steam riding gallery" an early merry-go-round. It was a hit. He built another in 1894 and a third in 1895 that ran at the World Exposition in New Orleans.   By 1891 his partners were won over and became believers in the newfangled ride. They shipped steam merry-go-rounds at the rate of one per day, or 100 per year, depending on which historian you believe.

In 1903 Herschell and his brother-in-law, Edward Spillman, formed the Herschell-Spillman Company, which became the world's largest maker of carousels. Their small, portable machines were designed to travel with carnivals. Their large more elaborate ones became the magnet that drew customers to many parks mostly in the East and Midwest. They did, however, deliver some across the country, and two went as far a Tahiti, where their steam boilers were fired not with wood but with coconuts.

Fine examples of large Herschell-Spillman menagerie park carousels can be found at Balboa Park (San Diego, CA); San Francisco's Gold Gate Park; Tilden Park (Oakland, CA); Oaks Park (Portland, OR); Greenfield Village (Dearborn, MI);and Trimpers Rides (Ocean City, MD). Poor health forced Herschell to retire in 1911, but by 1915 he was back, forming the Allan Herschell Company. After his final retirement in 1923, that company remained in business. It bought out Spillman Engineering in 1945 and sold out, finally, to the Chance Manufacturing Company in 1970.

This article was found among Robert's papers.
There is no date nor name of publication.

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Updated 10/09/2013