The hand-carved horses of Central Park

When the first carousel opened in brand-new Central Park in 1871, it was powered by a real horse and a blind mule, each walking in circles over and over again. Cost of a ticket: the princely sum of 10 cents.

Thankfully the carousel in place today runs on electricity. It’s been in the park since 1951, but it actually dates to 1908—when it enchanted kids at Coney Island before being retired in the 1940s.

It’s a magical piece of folk art. The 58 horses and two chariots were hand-carved and painted in the Williamsburg studio of Russian immigrants Sol Stein and Harry Goldstein.

“Their carousels were among the biggest ever built and featured large, angry, snarling horses,” reports the International Museum of Carousel Art.

“These horses appear to object to your presence and strain to be free of the carousel…free perhaps to run off to the nearest castle. Despite the forcefulness of these steeds, they are often festooned with flowers and other delicate decoration…the kind a lady might give to her knight before he went off to slay a dragon or do battle in her honor.”

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2 Responses to “The hand-carved horses of Central Park”

  1. DGK Says:

    Here’s a nice shot of the donkeys of Central Park, 1904 — also an illustration farther down. Some of them came to a sad end when they were poisoned by some jerk. I wouldn’t mind bringing back the donkeys and letting the carriage horses go into retirement.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks DGK. Here’s another donkey in the park photo. A ride cost half as much as a spin on the carousel:

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