A Favorite - The Smithsonian Carousel

Smithsonian Carousel on the National Mall, by Ken Rahaim, 2009.

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of a momentous occasion for children visiting the National Mall; on April 12, 1967, the Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley opened a carousel in front of the Arts and Industries Building.  

Some people were concerned at the time that the carousel, along with popcorn wagons, outdoor puppet and musical performances, would lead to the Smithsonian becoming an "ivy-covered Disneyland" ("Some Fresh Air for the Nation's Attic," New York Times, April 9, 1967), but as we can see today, that did not happen.

The first carousel was built in 1922 by the Allan Herschell Company and was accompanied by a 153 Wurlitzer Band Organ.  It is hard to imagine now, but at the time, rides were 25 cents (currently the cost is $3.50).

Due to wear and tear that carousel was replaced in 1981 with a carousel from Baltimore's Gwynn Oak Amusement Park.  This carousel is 10 feet larger in diameter and has 60 horses, as opposed to the former which had 33.  The carousel was built in 1947 also by Allan Herschell Company.  The seemingly benign carousel however, has a rich history, best told in Amy Nathan's book, Round and Round Together: Taking a Merry-Go-Round Ride into the Civil Rights Movement.  Gwynn Oak Amusement Park was a segregated park and became integrated after a nearly decade-long effort in 1963.

The carousel continues to bring laughter and joy to those who ride it today, many of whom may not know of its place in history, but enjoy it nonetheless.

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Smithsonian Carousel on the National Mall, by Casey McAdams, Smithsonian Institution.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the "Carousel on the Mall," S. Dillon Ripley cuts a cake shaped like a carousel for young visitors, April 12, 1977. The cake was made and decorated by Francine C. Berkowitz of the Foreign Currency Program. Accession 97-003 - Office of Public Affairs, Photographs, 1965-1984, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. 77-4393-9.

A close up of the horses from the Baltimore's Gwynn Oak Park carousel which replaced the old Smithsonian carousel on the Mall in April 1981. The horses were built by the Allan Herschell Company of New York in 1947. By Jeffery Ploskonka, 1981. Record Unit 371 - Office of Public Affairs, The Torch, 1955-1960, 1965-1988, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. 81-3243-10.

Young visitors ride the carousel outside Arts & Industries Building at the Smithsonian. By Laurie Minor-Penland, 1988. Record Unit 371 - Office of Public Affairs, The Torch, 1955-1960, 1965-1988, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. 88-11327-3.

S. Dillon Ripley, eighth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and unidentified children riding on the carousel in front of the Arts and Industries Building, 1977. Accession 97-003 - Office of Public Affairs, Photographs, 1965-1984, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. 77-4394-24A.

Smithsonian Carousel on the National Mall, by Ken Rahaim, 2009.

Smithsonian Carousel on the National Mall, by Ken Rahaim, 2009.

Smithsonian Carousel on the National Mall, by Ken Rahaim, 2009.

Smithsonian Carousel on the National Mall, by Ken Rahaim, 2009.

Smithsonian Carousel on the National Mall, by Ken Rahaim, 2009.

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