Children and adults alike love the fleeting sensation of riding a merry-go-round or also known as carousels. If you don’t know what a carousel is, it’s either you lived in a cave or from outer space. Even psychotic kids know carousels.
But that’s beside the point. Carousels are a mainstay in every fairs and theme parks but very few know the origins of the beloved ride. If I say that the earliest forms of carousels were used for military trainings, you’ll think I’m kidding. But I am not. It really was used to train warriors.
Back When There Were Actual Knights
The 12th century was the era of intellectual scholars and religious crusades. Chivalrous knights were highly regarded as heroes of the Christian faith. When crusaders decided to travel to the Middle East, they saw a lot of Asian cultures and were fascinated by some. One of these is the game or training method of Arabian horsemen wherein they toss scented clays from one to another. Horsemen untouched by the scent of the clays were regarded as superior riders.
The European knights apparently loved this game and made their own version of it. They hanged small rings from poles and tried to spear the rings with the goal of ripping them off. Eventually commoners joined the game and the first carousel was set up at the Place du Carrousel in Paris. This carousel was donated by Louis XIV in 1662. By the early 18th century, carousels were produced by individual parties and toured throughout the region.
The carousel we see today was first manufactured in 1861 by Thomas Bradshaw. This steam-powered merry-go-round had fixed animals and central pole on a rotating disk. It was fast becoming a fixture at carnivals and fairs.
The merry-go-round has been a subject of quite many art forms such as films, theatre plays, novels, and even clothes. Have you seen Katy Perry’s The Carousel Dress? She wore it in June 2009 at the MTV European Music Awards. The odd dress is just one the singer’s peculiar and sometimes outrageous costumes as you can see here: http://www.katyperryzone.com/costume/. Click here for more info on the Roar singer’s quirkiness.
Even though its origins weren’t really so merry, carousels turned out to be a childhood ride that can create very merry rounds of memories.