Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk at night

1911 Looff Carousel: Fun Facts

  • There are 73 horses (and two chariots) on the Boardwalk carousel; the 71 “jumpers” move up and down; the other two are stationary “standers,” considered more valuable.
  • Typical of a “golden age” carousel, the chariots ensured that ladies of the early 1900s could observe modesty and safety by not having to sit astride or sidesaddle on a horse.
  • Each horse has an individual number, stamped on a brass circle on its left cheek.
  • According to family members, when European carver Charles I.D. Looff immigrated into the U.S. he was asked his middle name, “...for ID.” Not having a middle name, he simply chose “I.D.” Originally a furniture carver, Looff was to become one of the world’s foremost carousel makers and produced Coney Island’s first merry-go-round.
  • Looff was known for carving some of his horses with their mouths closed, an uncommon characteristic; the Boardwalk ride has six of these unusual and attractive horses.
  • The carousel is notable in that it has always operated in the same spot. It is known as a “pure” carousel, meaning that all of the horses were produced by the original company.
  • Like many early 1900 carousels carved by immigrant artists, several of the horses have a patriotic American theme; look for details such as flags and eagles.
  • The Boardwalk’s 1894 Ruth & Sohn band organ is original, delivered in 1911. It received a new facade in 2009.
  • The horses all have real horsehair tails.

The Carousel’s “rings”:

  • Over 40,000 rings are replaced each year, mostly taken home as souvenirs; for every 6.5 people who ride the carousel, one takes a ring. But filching rings is nothing new -- a photo taken in 1911 when the ride first opened clearly shows a sign stating, “Please Do Not Take Rings.”
  • The ring machine holds approximately 5,000 of the 1.5” diameter rings at one time.
  • Originally, rings were fed manually into the metal arm by a park worker (who also added one brass ring per ride, redeemable for a free ride). The process was mechanized around 1950.
  • The rings used now are all steel; brass ones are only added for special occasions.
  • In the 1970s the rings were discontinued briefly -- ridership plummeted about 75%.
  • There are less than 20 working carousel ring machines left in the U.S.

General Carousel Facts:

  • American “carousels” are also sometimes called merry-go-rounds, flying horses, and whirligigs; British names include roundabouts, gallopers, and tilts.
  • Carousels run clockwise in the United Kingdom, the opposite of all American ones and most worldwide; a British outer horse’s left side faces out, and therefore is the more elaborate, or “romance,” view.
  • As many as 3,000 carousels were produced in the U.S. during the “golden age” of American wooden carousels (early 1800s to early 1930s); today there are less than 175 operating.