By: Ian K. Seppala
Hirsch, Rose Ann. Western New York Amusement Parks (Images of America). 2011 Arcadia Publishing 9781439639283.
Rose Hirsch is an expert of Western New York Amusement and is a carrousel restoration specialist. Her book is a collection of wonderful photographs supplemented by well researched chapter's to help us remember the amusement parks of today and of yesteryear. This book appeals to an audience of all ages and even those who have never been to any of these parks.
The book is broken into seven chapters. The chapters are loosely organized on a timeline. The first two chapters discuss early parks, and are split by region. Chapter three is on Crystal Beach. Rose did an excellent job of giving enough information without overwhelming the casual reader. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at Crystal Beach, Find a copy of Rose's book Crystal Memories: 101 Years of Fun at Crystal Beach Park. Chapter four highlights the era of neighborhood Kiddieland parks. These include Paige's and Dealing's whose history are both preserved at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. The museum still operates three rides from Paige's Whistle Pig in their Kiddieland Testing Park.
The last three chapters focus on parks that were still operational when the book was published in 2011. Chapter five is on the original and reborn Olcott Beach Park. She does an excellent job of detailing the difficulties of reopening the park. The use of photographs from both eras permits the reader a visual as well as mental contrast between old and new. Chapter six is on Fantasy Island. It details the struggles of the park since its inception, and foreshadows its recent closing. Arguably what this chapter does better it explain the importance of the park on its community and the many transformations it occurred to serve that public. The use of the author's own photos (more on this later), captures the important effects this park has had on Western New York. Chapter seven is of Darien Lake Amusement Park. As my childhood park, I was particularly delighted with this chapter. Rose is able to explain how a simple campground in the middle of nowhere became one of the most cutting-edge parks in the United States.
This book uses a variety of resources to bring together a class selection of photographs. Sources vary from private collections (like Dan Wilke's), historical organizations (The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum), to the parks themselves (Darien Lake and Martin's Fantasy Island). However I believe Rose's personal collection is the most important addition to this book. She is able to find a wonderful balance of historical documentation and human emotion. Chapter five shows this blend perfectly. She uses photographs like the formal groundbreaking of Fantasy Island, along with the photo of her riding the Silver Comet with on her wedding day (with the wedding party tagging along for the ride). The usage of a variety of sources is one of the reasons it is so approachable.
I recommend this book to everyone. If you're interested in Western New York history, amusement or have visited one of these parks. Even though I only have visited two of the mentioned parks, I still found myself pouring over each photograph. The author provides fun little tidbits of information for history lovers. I never knew that The Viper roller coaster (at Darien Lake) was the first to have five corkscrew rotations. Most importantly, this book recalls better times. It allows everyone of us to find those special times we had on an amusement ride with a love one. During these times, we all need to remember those good times and that they will be back again soon.
By: Ian K. Seppala
Lost Amusement Parks of New York City: Beyond Coney Island. Barbara Gottlock, Wesley Gottlock. The History Press, Charleston, South Carolina. 2013.
Lost Amusement Parks of New York City: Beyond Coney Island provides an interesting insight into New York City amusement. The scope of the book is closed amusement parks in the New York City area, excluding Coney Island. They chose to exclude Coney Island because it has been well covered by other publications. I enjoy their commitment to bringing to light the history of parks that have been forgotten by most of the public. Each chapter of the book is based on a specific borough: Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The chapters are then broken into each beach or park they describe. This simple geographic based organization is very helpful.
Several important themes are prevalent within the book. The first is fire. According to the Gottlock's of the nine amusement parks mentioned, only two did not have devastating fires while open. This was particularly devastating when most of the rides and buildings were built out of wood. Another was public transport. Public transport ( especially when cheap) was a major factor in getting visitors to the parks. When public transport became less relied upon, like after the popularization of cars, the parks struggled for attendance. The Gottlock's also focused on how the Great Depression and both world wars effected the parks. One of best abilities of this book was to provide a thoughtful and important context to each park. By providing this context and using prevailing themes, it allows readers to draw important conclusions about amusement parks in New York City form late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century.
The Gottlock's did a wonderful job describing the overall timeline of each park. I was especially interesting in the process of creating each park. Famous rides and attractions were mentioned, including where they came from. The book also contained photographs of specifics important attractions in the parks. My favorite inclusion was the information and photographs of PTC #15.
Even though this book was informative and historically rich in information, I did perceive some flaws. The sources for the book are provided in the acknowledgement and introduction sections, but there is no source list or bibliography at the end. This makes it more difficult for historians or researchers to corroborate the specific stories or numbers presented. This will make it more difficult for me to use this as a source. Another concern may just be an audience issue. I am not from New York City and therefore had a difficulty relating locations based on street names. Organizing the book by geography did help alleviate this. While the targeted audience of the book may be those with that knowledge, a map of each location would have been beneficial for me. These however are small issues and I still recommend this book.
Overall, Lost Amusement Parks of New York City: Beyond Coney Island by Barbara and Wesley Gottlock provides great prospective into the amusement parks of historic New York City. I highly recommend this book to historians looking to get an overview in amusement practices of the twentieth century. I also recommend this to anyone who experienced these parks. This book can be a wonderful trip down memory lane for those who rode the rides, at the food, and experienced all these parks had to offer. The collection of colored photographs, marketing info, and postcards are a great sight.
What lost amusement parks would you want to see more information on? Do you have any memories of parks like these? How did you like this review? Comment below! This book is currently available digitally and in print through Barnes & Noble and Amazon through the links below.
By: Ian K. Seppala
The history of carousels is a long one. The globally recognized ride has ties to Arabian horsemen, French nobility, and steam power. This article will focus on the early history of carousels. Learn what takes a medieval training apparatus and turns it into the beloved amusement ride we have today.
The rides originate in the Middle East during the 12th century. Arabian horsemen would play a game involving a perfumed ball. This game was used as a training device, possibly to improve dexterity and increase hand-eye coordination while riding a horse. When Italians witnessed this game they gave it the name Carosella, which means "Little War". The Spanish would name it Garosello. Both nations would incorporate these games into training. The exercise eventually spread throughout Europe, including France.
King Charles VIII was the first French king to elevate these games to a regal affair. The greatest example of this would be Le Grande Carrousel, of 1662. Developed by King Louis XIV, Le Grande Carrousel included other games, food, and many forms of entertainment. Tobin Fraley's explanation of what the riders did to prepare shows how this game turned into the carousels we know today.
To train for this game, participants rode legless wooden "horses" placed on beams that circled a central pole. Riders tried to lance a ring hanging outside the perimeter of the circle, while a servant or horse supplied the rotation power. This primitive device seems to be the predecessor of the modern carousel and its game of "catching the brass ring".
This training would develop into the modern carousel over time. These carousels became popular for affluent families in Europe during the 18th and early 19th century. They were operated by hand or horse. These machines were either attached under the horse to beams in the center (similar to a steam riding gallery), or the horses would be attached from above. The horses would swing outwards, giving the nickname of the latter machines "Flying Horses".
The introduction of steam power is one of the biggest steps towards the development of modern carousels. England was the epicenter of such steam-powered devices. Engineers such as Fredrick Savage took designs from agricultural equipment to create a reliable and durable ride. The creation of steam powered machines allowed for faster rides that could turn a profit.
Carousels have continued to evolve since their first development. What began as a game of horsemanship has turned into an amusement ride for all ages. Next week we will talk about another aspect of carousels that changed over time, materials. Look forward to a discussion about Golden Age wood carvers and how the process of carving horses evolved with history.
Fraley, Tobin, Carol Bialkowski. Carousels: The Myth, the Magic, and the Memories.ISBN10:0962469327.
Anderson, Sherrell S. Carousel Horses: A Photographic Celebration. ISBN10:0762408472.
 There is some discrepancy in this. Tobin Fraley in his book Carousels: The Myth, the Magic, and the Memories states that these games began in 500 A.D. However, most scholars believe the 12th century is more accurate.
 Fraley, Tobin. Carousels: The Myth, the Magic, and the Memories. Pg. 7.
Review By: Ian K. Seppala
Palkovic, Mark. Wurlitzer of Cincinnati The Name That Means Music to Millions. The History Press 2015.
Mark Palkovic's Wurlitzer of Cincinnati is a wonderful foray into the Wurlitzer family and company. The author makes an excellent use of a wide array of sources. The combination of articles, books, archives, and videos gives a well-rounded perspective of the family and the company. His approachable writing style makes this book a must read for historians and musical aficionados alike.
Palkovic uses the first seven chapters to describe the Wurlitzer family in great detail. The detail provided on the childhood of Rudolph Wurlitzer (the founder of the company, not his son) was particularly insightful. He also provides information about Rudolph's wife Leonie and her family which is typically neglected. The main source for the family and early history is a document by Lloyd Graham that was commissioned on the centennial of the company by the company. These first seven chapters brilliantly interweave the introduction of important family members with the founding and early years of the company.
The second half focuses on the company and its many products. Palkovic provides a great overview of the wide array of products that they offered. Known for its Mighty Wurlitzer theatre organ and jukeboxes, Palkovic also shines a light on its lesser known products. I did not know of the Wurlitzer's line of electric guitars, produced in the 1960's. The product line at one point also included objects outside of the music industry including refrigerators. His use of marketing photographs in this section provides the reader with greater insight.
In my position as the Education Director at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum this book will be a valuable resource. It confirms reports from oral histories collected by the museum with documented sources. It also brings to light sources that I did not know existed. I am excited to be able to use this and other resources to provide a greater context around our wonderful musical collection.
Palkovic uses a variety of sources to support his book. This includes the archives at The Regional History Center of Northern Illinois University and the Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Other types include articles, websites, videos, photographs, marketing booklets and books. Some of the books including Ron Bopp's The American Carousel Organ: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, and Tonawanda and North Tonawanda by Arcadia Publishing are well-known sources also used by the museum. With the strength of the sources used, there is only one blight, and it is a personal one. He does not use any of the resources of the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum archive. I do not know why this is the case, but the book is impressive and well researched nonetheless.
Based on the scope, Mark Palkovic has created a wonderful read, rich in historical integrity. He provides an excellent insight into the Wurlitzer family. The photographs of company products enhance the later chapters. The book is the perfect blend of accessibility and historical information. I recommend this book to historians, Wurlitzer fans, or anyone interested in the history of the American music industry.
From Cincy to the Home of the Carrousel: A Brief History of the Beginnings of The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company to the Acquisition of the North Tonawanda Division.
By: Ian K. Seppala
The Wurlitzer Company was the premier amusement musical company in the 20th century. Everyone has heard beautiful sounds coming from a Wurlitzer player piano, automatic player piano, band organ, Mighty Wurlitzer theatre organ, jukebox, or electric piano. The company eventually had manufacturing plants in Illinois, Mississippi, Utah, and New York. The history of the plant in North Tonawanda, New York is collected and on display at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. This article is meant to explain the history of the Wurlitzer company Pre-North Tonawanda and how an immigrant from Schoeneck (now in Germany) created one of the great American musical powerhouse companies of the 20th century.
Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer was born in Schoeneck in 1831. Even though his first name was Franz, he would go by Rudolph for the rest of his life. He emigrated to the United States and settled in Cincinnati Ohio. There was a large Germanic population there, where he probably had a connection. He originally took any regular jobs available, including working as a bank teller.
Rudolph Wurlitzer began his foray into the music industry in 1856 as an importer. With the help of his family back in his homeland, he would import band instruments to the United States for sale. These handcrafted instruments could be sold for a good profit in the States.
Rudolph Wurlitzer had three sons: Howard, Rudolph, and Farny. Each son joined him at the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company and took turns being the president. They also all took turns as the chairman of the board consecutively. Family involvement in the company's hierarchy ended in 1966.
The Rudolph Company expanded their offerings by contracting with American musical instrument companies. One of these companies was DeKleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company. The company was based in North Tonawanda, New York and operated by Eugene DeKleist. DeKleist was a popular figure in the region and was even elected mayor in the early 1900's.
According to oral history collected by the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, DeKleist began to neglect his company to focus on political endeavors. In 1908 eldest son Howard Wurlitzer came to North Tonawanda to speak to DeKleist. Oral histories dictate that they gave DeKleist an ultimatum, either fulfill the contracts made with the Wurlitzer Company, or sell his own. In January 1909 the Rudolph Wurlitzer (Mfg.)Company was established after their purchase of the DeKleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company.
The Wurlitzer Company (N.T. Division) would produce some of the companies most famous products, such as band organs and jukeboxes. At its height, the N.T. division employed over 2,000 people. The collection of buildings that makes up the Wurlitzer company N.T. Division Campus still stands today. Its history can be found at the nearby Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum.
Sources for this article today are from The Archives at The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. Listed below are other recommended readings or sources on the Wurlitzer Company:
Wurlitzer Company Records at the Regional History Center, Northern Illinois University.
The American Carousel Organ: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. By: Ron Bopp
Wurlitzer of Cincinnati: The Name That Means Music To Millions. By: Mark Palkovic
 The Wurlitzer Company went through many name changes including: The Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., The Rudolph Wurlitzer MFG. Co. and then finally The Wurlitzer Company. For continuity, the company will be referred to its final name (The Wurlitzer Company) . The exception is where name change is noted.