Iowa History Daily: On July 25, 1871, Wilhelm Schneider of Davenport received the first US Patent for a modern carousel. Today, July 25th is recognized as National Carousel Day, two other Iowa inventors also contributed to rotary-style fun over the state’s history, and iconic Iowa carousels still welcome riders in Story City and Mount Pleasant.
The idea for a carousel did not originate in the 1870s, instead conceptual designs date all the way back to the Byzantine Empire in 500 A.D. where a drawing depicts riders in baskets around a central pole. During the 12th century, Turkish horsemen played a game called ‘little battle,’ described by returning Crusaders in Europe as ‘garosella’ (Italian) or ‘carosella’ (Spanish).
Carousels as an amusement started to catch on in Europe during the 1700s, and an Ohio man named Franz Wiesenoffer built the first known American carousel during the 1840s. Applying steam-power to provide the circular and vertical movements, many inventors tinkered with designs during the 19th century.
Building on the work of others, Davenport businessman Wilhelm Schneider patented a ‘new and improved carousel’ featuring a two-story ‘carousel or rotary pavilion.’ The invention, hailed as the first modern carousel, featured hand painted horses.
Two other Iowans, Willis Peck (Des Moines) and John Ahrens (Grinnell) also patented carousel related inventions during the 20th century. Peck patented the first ‘rotary playground apparatus,’ which many know today as the merry-go-round, and Ahrens patented a single-operator merry-go-round called the ‘Miracle Whirl.’ #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar