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A Grand Carousel’s Second Act

November 30, 2015

One of the oldest, rarest and most famous hand-carved Dentzel carousels in the country lives in Memphis, TN. The “Grand Carousel” first began operating in 1909 and delighted children and families for almost 100 years. It last operated in a small amusement park in the heart of Memphis that closed in 2005.

The Dentzel Carousel Company was founded in the 1800s by German-born carver Michael Dentzel. He sent his son, Gustav, across the ocean to Philadelphia in 1850 with a full-size carousel in the belly of a steamer. Gustav established himself as a master craftsman, specializing in life-like, brightly painted, hand-carved animals. He and his sons ran the company and their “menagerie” was in great demand.

Gustav needed two full years to carve the entire Grand Carousel. It features 32 “jumper” horses, 16 “standers,” and two chariots. The rounding boards and sides include jesters and angels and flowered mirrors. The ride was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. There are only a small handful of original Dentzel carousels across the world still in operation.

This national treasure was dismantled several years ago and carefully stowed in trailers hidden away inside an unused coliseum. The Children’s Museum of Memphis (CMOM) has made it their mission to give this special ride a second life. They sent it to Carvings and Carousels, a special restoration company in Ohio, where over the next two years, it will carefully be returned to its original grandeur.

Moving the delicate, dismantled pieces across country and back requires very special, white-glove handling. FedEx Custom Critical has donated shipping services on both ends of the move – first to Carousels and Carvings in Marion, Ohio for a custom repair, and then back to Memphis in 2017 when the work is complete.

Dick Hackett, CEO of CMOM, grew up riding this same carousel. Hackett said that, when finished, it will be housed in a special pavilion at the museum. It will once again joyfully spin smiling children waving to their parents and create generations of happy memories.

“They’ll remember where they were, what they were wearing and who they were with,” Hackett said.

  • Close-up detail of Memphis Carousel's signature horse before restoration

  • Close-up detail of Memphis Carousel’s signature horse after paint strip

  • Reference color print for Memphis Carousel restoration

  • Chipping paint down to the base of Memphis Carousel signature horse for restoration

  • Chipping paint down to the base of Memphis Carousel signature horse for restoration

  • Restoration of the Memphis Carousel frame at Carousels and Carvings in Marion, OH

  • Memphis Carousel horses after paint strip

  • Previous patch work on Memphis Carousel horse exposed for restoration

  • Carousel and Carvings owner Todd Goings



Comments

    Sherri Cureton says:

    What an awesome story! So much history is lost to today’s “new and improved”. New and improved will never beat original. Thank you for the story.

    Landon Howse says:

    I’m so glad memphis is keeping something that has so much history and not relocating it. It’s nice that FedEx is offering their services to help keep this great pice of art here. Thanks for the wonderful story.

    Shah Zada says:

    Amazing story! My wife told me about this and glad to see FedEx is playing a role in making it possible!

    carolinie calicchio says:

    What a great way to hold on to the pass and thanks to our company for knowing the wealth that future generations to come may enjoy.

    Shirley Davis says:

    Great article. I wondered what happened to that beautiful ride. Every trip to the fairgrounds / Libertyland I had to ride the Merry-go-round. As an adult I rode it with my 2 sons and loved watching the horses and sleighs go buy. I still miss it and the roller coaster.

    D Waller says:

    I grew up in MEM and rode this Carousel many times. I am so thankful FedEx is offering it’s services. I agree with what Landon said. MEM should keep this treasure safe and secure for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

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