In 1892 Parker bought a used Armitage/Herschell track machine and operated it until 1894 when he built his own track machine and started the C.W. Parker factory in Abilene.
By 1900 he had traveling carnivals in the Midwest and was expanding rapidly. He built all types of amusement devices, including the railroad cars to carry them. His carousels began to evolve. He went from the track machines to the jumping carousels, from steam to electric. The carving on the horses began to get more fanciful. Parker continued to grow. By 1905 Parker had four full-sized carnivals on tour throughout the country. He also sold equipment to other amusement operators.
In 1911 Parker began moving to a new factory he was building in Leavenworth. The new building was much larger. And the factory had 10 railroad sidings to hold all of the Parker carnival equipment and amusement devices that he sent around the world. The Parker "Carry-Us-Alls" (his play on words for “carousel”) continued to be the most important part of the amusement business. He built hundreds of small traveling carousels that were used by carnivals worldwide. He also built five large, extravagant "park" machines, designed to be permanently installed in large amusement parks. Only one of those five is still in existence: Jantzen Beach Mall, Portland, Oregon.
C.W. Parker’s carvings behind the cantle (the raised, curved part at the back of a horse's saddle) are some of the more interesting carvings found on carousel horses. His standard carvings were hound's heads, roses, tobacco leaves, bull horns, fish, shields, and ears of corn (from his Kansas heritage). He sometimes carved strange creatures with gnome-like features and large feet. He also went through a stage about 1906 where he carved dragons, fish, birds, and exotic women. But the ear of corn behind the saddle became his best known carving. His horses were the only horses known that had this carving.
Parker Carousel Museum Info
What: C.W. Parker Carousel Museum
Where: 320 S. Esplanade, Leavenworth, KS 66048
When: [Need hours]
February through December
Thursday-Saturday 11 AM – 5 PM
Sunday 1 PM - 5 PM