From the 14th Century, or "Dark Ages" of our History, Knights, and Princes practiced and improved their talent and accuracy with the spear and lance. They did this by having servants, vassals and surfs push them on round turntables, as they sat on barrels that were attached to spear rings and other objects with accuracy. Later, these turntables were moved by mules or horses for speed.
As time went on the barrels became rough looking horses and these turntables were no longer needed for battle training. Because they were the only mechanical apparatuses of the time they became an amusement for the people of Europe and appeared in circuses and carnivals.
In the early 18th century carousel carvers came to the United States to seek their fortunes and created the more detailed carousel animals we see today. Some were flamboyant with gold and silver decoration. Jewels and bright colors were added to catch the lights. Steam engines and later electricity made these the only mechanical rides of the time.
Although the "Dark Ages", were gone the mystery and excitement of these early merry-go-rounds was held in the carvings of snakes and spiders and dim incandescent lighting. Candlelight was used in many of the portable "Country Fair", carousels. Catching the brass ring for a free ride is a reminder of those early knights trying to spear theirs with their lances raised high.
This 1800s political cartoon is an example of how popular these early carousels were in the society of the time.
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