Hershey Park: Bigger and Better. The Dentzel Carrousel
Hershey’s first merry-go-round was so successful that Milton Hershey soon decided that the Park needed a larger, more impressive carrousel. In 1912 Milton Hershey bought a new $10,000 carrousel for the park. This time he acquired one of the best carrousels that money could buy from William Dentzel of Philadelphia.
Dentzel, who was known as “the Carrousel King,” came from a long line of carrousel manufacturers. The Dentzel family had been in the business since 1837 when members of the family manufactured their first carrousel in Germany. Dentzel’s father, Gustav Dentzel, came to America around the time of the Civil War and manufactured carrousels in Philadelphia until his death in 1909. William Dentzel succeeded his father as head of the company. In 1912 the Dentzel Company was one of the largest manufacturers “Of better, first class carrousels in America.” The company, located in Philadelphia, PA, specialized in manufacturing large carrousels for use in amusement parks.
This time plans called for the carrousel to be located in a more central location in the Park. A new pavilion was built for the Dentzel carrousel directly across from the dance pavilion (in the same location as the future Hershey Park Ballroom) on the opposite side of Spring Creek near Park Boulevard. The new carrousel was much larger, with a 12.5 feet wide platform. The outside row of animals was stationery and featured a menagerie of animals including a lion, tiger, a deer, giraffe as well as 12 horses of different designs, making a total of sixteen animals. The two inside rows were jumpers and included two each of ostriches, rabbits, goats, bears, pigs, cats, chickens and deer. The were also two large carved chariots with upholstered seats for people who did not wish to ride an animal. The carrousel was a spectacular ride at night lit with more than four hundred lights.
To make the ride even more exciting, Dentzel supplied a ring board and a ring catcher. Riders on the outside row of animals could reach up during the ride and try and grab a ring, hoping to get the brass one that would give him or her a free ride. The ring machine remained very popular for many years. Dick Seiverling in his oral history interview had fond memories of trying to catch the ring:
I think perhaps the area of the Hershey Park I remember most of all is the carousel, the merry-go-round, and how the people, fanatics, would try to get the gold ring out of the horse’s mouth. And some were that adept at it, they could get two rings at one round, you know, as it went around. And, of course, the person that got the gold ring would get a prize or a free ride. The carousel was then located at the bridge next to the creek, and I remember how we would stand there at the creek at the bridge and watch the big carp [and mallard ducks] and feed them [bread and] popcorn. Of course, we didn’t feed them a lot of popcorn in those days, because that cost money. I should say we saw other people feed the carp [and ducks] popcorn, because we weren’t about to spend any of our hard-earned allowance.