July 25, 2012 - National Merry-Go-Round Day

Ride a nearby carousel to celebrate the ancient activity of whirling round-and-round! The earliest known depiction of a carousel dates back to a carving made around the year 500, within the Byzantine civilization. In that bas-relief, riders were pictured in baskets suspended from a central pole.

During the Middle Ages, cavalry (soldiers who fight on horseback) did some training on wooden horses suspended from arms that branch from a central pole. The training devise was called a carousel, which comes from the Spanish word for “little battle.”

This is what a flying carousel looks like today.
Notice: no horses!
In the early 1600s, a traveller described in writing a carousel pleasure ride he saw in the Ottoman Empire (in what is now Bulgaria), and by the early 1700s, these kinds of carousels were being built at fairs and gatherings in many places in central Europe and England.These early carousels had no platforms—the animals would hang on poles or chains and would fly out from the centrifugal force as the carousel turned. Also, early carousels were powered by people or animals pulling ropes and walking in circles, or by people turning a crank. Later, of course, steam engines and eventually electricity powered the rides.

More carousel fun...

  • Here, here, here, and here are some cool carousel creatures to print out and color. And here is an entire carousel to color.
  • Here is an online jigsaw of some carousel horses. (Notice that you can change how difficult the puzzle is by clicking “Change Cut” on the left side of the screen.) 

  • I love this “Stained-Glass” coloring book, drawn by Christy Shaffer.
  • Design your own carousel. What kinds of animals would you use? Would they go up and down? What colors would you use for the platform, poles, and canopy? Would there decorations and lights? Draw and label a picture of your design.

Also on this date:

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