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Once in a lifetime celebration at Herschell Carrousel Factory

NORTH TONAWANDA – In 1915 the British ocean liner the Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine, tuition at Harvard University was $160 a year, a gallon of gas was 25 cents, women’s hemlines had scandalously crept up to midcalf length and Babe Ruth hit his first home run.

In October of that year in North Tonawanda, the lumber business was booming and Allan Herschell employed some of the finest woodcarvers at his newly opened Herschell Carrousel Factory at 180 Thompson St.

The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum will celebrate the founding of the building it now occupies at its 100th anniversary celebration from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 3 at the museum. Admission will be $1. Tokens for rides are just 50 cents.

“Many times people forget to take the time to stop and reflect on important occasions. This is a historic occasion that deserves to be commemorated,” said Museum Education Director Megan Hahin.

The Herschell Carrousel Factory reopened as a museum in July 1983 and hosts approximately 15,000 visitors per year. It is one of only two surviving manufacturing complexes associated with the production of carousels during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It boasts its own Herschell carousel, which will be 100 years old next year.

Two years ago, Kiddieland Testing Park was added to the museum with restored kiddie rides from the former Page’s Whistle Pig in Town of Niagara brought back to the museum. The rides include cars and fire engines, a horse and pony cart, floating boats and helicopters that lift into the sky. They are also a part of the factory’s rich history. In the 1950s, neighborhood children were invited into the factory to test these rides.

The Kiddieland Testing park will be open to children for the 100th anniversary event – weather permitting.

As part of the anniversary event, special games and activities for children – once popular 100 years ago, will be revived. The games will include dominoes, spinning tops, tiddlywinks and marbles. Children will delight in creating their own paper dolls and sewing shapes.

Children will be invited to create their own images with a thaumatrope – and if you don’t know what that is, you’ll have to join in the fun to find out.

The history of creating the beautiful carousel animals will be displayed at the 100th anniversary event.

Local woodcarvers, who have kept the tradition alive, will demonstrate the restoration process in museum’s wood carving gallery and restoration shop. The music roll shop will resonate with sound with rolls from the former Wurlitzer department created and perforated for the 1917-style military band organ.

A 100th year Anniversary Exhibit transports visitors through a history from the founding of the Herschell Carrousel Factory in 1915 to the history of the museum itself. Included are a special 1917-style carousel horse carved for trade shows by master carver Jake Wurl, as well as a database of the 1,200 employees who worked at the four carousel companies that once were in North Tonawanda – Armitage Herschell, Herschell Spillman, Spillman Engineering and Allan Herschell.

Docents will be on hand throughout the museum to explain some of the historical items that have been collected and are on display.

Visitors will be invited to create their own history and contribute items to the Carrousel Museum Time Capsule.

“The time capsule allows us to highlight the gems of our museum. We will showcase each department in our museum through the use of artifacts, photographs of our volunteers and important documents,” said Hahin.

Also included in the time capsule will be ride tokens for the carousel, small carvings, a sample band of organ music and other artifacts.

Visitors can also make their own mark on history by filling out a questionnaire about themselves to add to the time capsule.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com