History & Fun Facts

Fun Facts

  • All the animals on our carousel are original, as are the hand-painted murals, the band organ and the brass ring game. All the animals are decorated with fanciful designs. Only our pair of frogs wears clothes.  They are wearing tuxedos (one red, one yellow), starched white shirt fronts and bow ties.
  • Our rides are five minutes long, with a top speed on the outside ring of 13.5 miles per hour. We time the rides the old-fashioned way: with an egg timer.
  • There are only 12 known remaining operating brass ring games on carousels in North America, where once there were thousands.
  • The cats’ tails were originally attached pointing down. They are now pointing up (less likely to break off).
  • Our Carousel is still powered by the original General Electric motor, installed in 1910 when the Carousel was built.
  • The Carousel does not touch the ground. It is suspended by a mechanism attached to the top of the central pole.
  • The origins of carousels date back at least 900 years. They are descended from war games devised by Turkish and Arabian horsemen in the 12th century. These games were carried to France by Crusaders in the 13th century and then to England and on to North America in the late 1800s.
  • Between 1900 and 1925 more than 4,000 carousels were created in the United States, fewer than 200 of which survive today.
  • The carousel is housed in a dodecagon – a 12-sided building.
  • Our organ is called a band organ because it has drums and cymbals in addition to the organ. We still have 120 of the original music rolls that all play different tunes on our organ.
  • Carousels go counter-clockwise and merry-go-rounds travel clockwise.

Historical Timeline

A brief chronology of the Balboa Park Carousel:


Carousel is built by Herschell-Spillman Co. in North Tonawanda, New York


Oliver Davis erects the carousel and building in Luna Park, Los Angeles


Carousel and building moved to Coronado’s Tent City by new owner, H.D. Simpson


Carousel and building move to Balboa Park where the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center now stands


Glenn Wilcken takes ownership


Virginia Long buys the carousel from her brother, Glenn Wilcken


Carousel and building moved to current location in Balboa Park


The Steen & Folsom families take ownership


Friends of Balboa Park takes ownership