A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cats on Carousels

Jumping Dentzel carousel cat with fish in its mouth. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.

A leaping carousel cat, early 20th century,
carved at the Dentzel Carousel Company, Philadelphia.
Now in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.
Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor.
When you think of carousels, you probably think of brightly painted horses, but back in the heyday of hand-carved American carousels it wasn’t unusual to see lots of other colorful animals going ’round and ’round on these rides. The heyday I am speaking of was from 1880 to 1930, roughly. Carousels were a Really Big Thing then, and some 5,000 of the rides were built, with all sorts of wooden creatures on them. Besides horses of all types, there were rabbits, giraffes, pandas, ostriches, frogs and, most importantly for us, cats. (Lions and tigers were also common, but I am dealing only with domestic-type cats today.)

close-up of cat's head on Woodside Park carousel

One of four cats on the
Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel.
We cannot tell what
this cat has in its mouth.
A bird, perhaps?
Photo by Smallbones [CC0],
via Wikimedia Commons.
I have found several of these carousel cats, and as far as I know they were all made in Philadelphia at the G. A. Dentzel Steam and Horse Power Carousel Company. They were made or inspired by Sicilian master carver Salvatore Cernigliaro, who immigrated to the United States in 1902 and worked for Dentzel’s for some 25 years. Cernigliaro was especially known for his rabbits, dancing bears, and cats. The cats are leaping happily, tail up, and have a fish in the mouth. Some Dentzel cats carry a bird, frog, crab, or squid.

The carousel cat pictured at the top of this post is currently at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg, Virginia. We can’t say for sure whether it was carved by Cernigliaro himself, but it does follow his imaginative, fanciful style.

Jumping cats on carousel at Woodside Park

Cats on the Woodside Park Dentzel
Carousel, early 20th century.
Photo by Smallbones [CC0],
via Wikimedia Commons.
The next two cats are both from Philadelphia’s Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel, now in that city’s Please Touch Museum. Some of the animals on this carousel date from 1908, though the ride did not open until 1924. The carousel has been fully refurbished, so if you are in Philadelphia you can actually take a ride on it. Try to ride on one of the four cats, but if those are taken you’ll have many other animals to choose from: there are also 40 horses, two pigs, two goats, and four rabbits.

[She of Little Talent reminds me to tell you that information for this post came from the 1990 book Grab the Brass Ring: The American Carousel by Anne Dion Hinds, as well as the International Museum of Carousel Art.]

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