1912 Herschell-Spillman Carousel – Ocean City, Maryland - Atlas Obscura

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1912 Herschell-Spillman Carousel

One of the oldest active carousels in the country—but it might be missed by all but the keenest-eyed boardwalk strollers. 


Billed as the “Pride of the Boardwalk” in Ocean City, Maryland, the magnificent, hand-carved Herschell-Spillman carousel bought by Daniel Trimper in 1912 is a hard act to beat. It is truly a hidden treasure—if not for the cheery organ sounds, people might pass right by this beauteous amusement ride.

Located inside a large pavilion, the carousel is the crowning gem amid a number of historical rides including Allan Herschell airplanes, a miniature Ferris Wheel, kiddie carousel, and kiddie Whip designed by William F. Mangels, and kiddie bumper cars by Zamperla.

Herschell-Spillman built two carousels in 1912. The second one ended up in Coney Island in New York, but was destroyed in a fire, leaving the one at Trimper’s as a truly unique model.  It measures 50 feet in diameter and features 45 individual animals of at least 16 different species, joined by three chariots and a rocking chair.  One of the most popular beasts featured on the ride is a fearsome-looking green dragon. 

Two theories have been provided as to why the animals wear expressions of fury or fear. The word carousel comes from the Spanish carosella, or “little war,” and it has been suggested that the grisly countenances on their faces are a nod to war and military training exercises. Others suggest that the ride is haunted by Joanne Trimper, wife of the late Granville Trimper who ran the amusement park until his death in 2008. Several people have reported the smell of perfume in the vicinity of the carousel. According to the story, a staff member who was testing perfume with her grandmother at a local department store recognized the scent as “Crystal,” which was the perfume that Ms. Trimper had worn up until her death in 1991.

Know Before You Go

This ride received the National Carousel Association's Historic Carousel Award in 1996, and there is a plaque on the outside of the pavilion commemorating this honor.

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