The C.W. Parker Carousel Museum is located in Leavenworth, KS, and is one of several museums sponsored by the Leavenworth Historical Museum Association. The Carousel Museum is a non-profit organization that operates through community donations and volunteer efforts. Best of all, it celebrates all that is beautiful and good with carousels. Visitors can ride a carousel that’s more than 100 years old.
Charles Wallace Parker (C.W. Parker) manufactured his first Carry-Us-All amusement ride in 1898. This invention was such a success that his quickly growing company in Abilene was moved to Leavenworth, KS. Today, his carousels are still lovingly enjoyed by young and old alike.
The Carousels in Our Museum
Our 1913 Parker Carry-Us-All #118 was purchased in 1997. Eight years later and after many dedicated hours of volunteer labor, it operated for the first time in April 2005. This could not have been accomplished without our wonderful volunteers! All of the horses and rabbits were in poor condition. So all were stripped of their old paint, and completely disassembled. All of the nails, screws, bolts, strips of tin, and automotive body putty were removed. Any parts that were too badly damaged to repair were replaced and recarved in the Parker style. Then the figures were all reassembled using wood dowels and glue instead of nails. Shims and wood epoxy were used to fill cracks and holes. Each figure was sanded for hours until “as slick as a baby's bottom." Then came primer, Japan oil paint, a sealer, and a final coat of catalyzed lacquer. Thousands of volunteer hours were spent.
The C.W. Parker Carousel Museum acquired a second carousel in August 2001. It took a year to restore. The Liberty has 20 aluminum horses and two benches in brightly painted colors, giving it the ability to hold 24 people. This 1950s machine was built by Paul Parker, son of C.W. Parker. It is uniquely built in that it has its own wheels, making it portable. See this carousel in the The Jahn Room of the museum.
This Primitive Carousel, circa 1850-1860, is owned by the National Carousel Association and is on permanent loan to the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum. It is the oldest operating wooden carousel in the United States. It last operated in a city park in Baltimore in 1920. It was purchased by the National Carousel Association from a Sands Point Preserve Museum in Long Island, NY, in 1998. We do not know who built this carousel. Each horse is made from eight pieces of wood. There is no carving detail on the horses; all details are painted on. The eyes are made of rivets, the ears are leather, and the manes and tails are real horsehair. All metal parts on the horses and mechanisms are hand forged. Two men turned the carousel using hand cranks. It turns on a single ball bearing located at the base of the center pole. Museum personnel will demonstrate the machine, but no rides because it is too old and fragile.
History of C.W. Parker
Charles Wallace Parker was born in Griggsville, IL, in 1864. His family moved to Abilene, KS, when Parker was 5 years old. He grew up in the wild town of Abilene, the heart of the American Wild West. At the age of 17 he became interested in the amusement business….