From Carousel to Collectible: A Journey from Pennsylvania to Alaska and Beyond


Carousels hold a unique fan base because they represent an age of timeless whimsy and delight. For most of us, some of our earliest memories of excitement and amazement come from the first time we set foot on the carousel at either a fair or amusement park. While we remember the fun being had it is easy to remember the lights, sounds, and intricately crafted colorful designs and embellishments. This art and sculpting work being so niche, fans and admirers alike are usually familiar with the famous Dentzel Carousel Company known for its superb craftsmanship among carousel makers. Once we received this beautiful unique piece for auction, Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals set out on a voyage into the fascinating realm of carousel art, learning about the intricate past, distinctive qualities, and enduring fascination of a stunning carousel horse.


What is a Dentzel-Muller Carousel?

The Dentzel-Muller Carousel is a unique and highly appreciated work of artistry, established by the collective efforts of two leading carousel builders: Gustav Dentzel and the Muller Brothers. It all started in 1871 when Col. John M. Hood purchased a spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Baltimore, which he planned to turn into an amusement center. This park, named Pen Mar, was an instant hit, drawing crowds of up to 20,000 people on weekends. Among the many attractions at Pen Mar was a carousel that was brought to the park by William Walsh Ubby and August Karst in 1907. Virginia Bruneske, who worked in the park for many years, operated the carousel for several summers. While the figures were not carved at the Dentzel factory, but rather at the Muller Brothers workshop in Philadelphia, each horse was exclusively designed with varied and realistic head positions, leg positions, and trappings. The Dentzel-Muller partnership brought together two gifted groups of artists and craftsmen, each contributing their own knowledge to create stunning works of art that continue to awe and inspire to this day. Their collaboration culminated in intricate, elegantly carved carousel figures that capture the imagination and bring joy to all those one ride them.



A Brief History of the Partnership

Daniel Muller, a formally trained artisan from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, was a rising star in the realm of carousel carving. He and his brother, Alfred, were considered like family by Gustav Dentzel, a master carousel architect in the late 19th century. Daniel's carvings were notorious for their realism, drama, and attention to detail, which brought in a unique character to Dentzel's carousels. However, around 1900, the Muller brothers decided to freelance their expertise to additional companies rather than solely working for Dentzel. In 1903, they developed their own D.C. Muller Brothers carousel manufacturing company, but they struggled to compete with the larger, more established companies. In 1918, Daniel rejoined the William Dentzel Co., which had been taken over by Gustav's son, and the partnership was reignited. The last carousel to leave the Dentzel shop was a wonderful all-horse carousel built by Dentzel and Muller. Unfortunately, the Great Depression put a halt to the "Golden Age" of American carousel manufacturing. However, the impact of the Dentzel-Muller partnership is still felt today, and their carousels remain a source of wonder and delight for generations to come.



The Collaborative Craftsmanship

The Dentzel-Muller partnership was truly a unique collaboration that brought together the talent of two incredible artisans. Daniel Muller, one half of the duo, had formal training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and brought his exceptional skills to the table.Interestingly, the Muller brothers were treated as family by Gustav Dentzel, and their close relationship allowed for even greater collaboration. However, around 1900, the Muller brothers chose to freelance their carving talents to companies other than Dentzel. This move eventually led them to form their own carousel manufacturing company in 1903. Despite their undeniable skill, the Muller brothers couldn't compete with the bigger, more established companies. As a result, their shop closed in 1914, and Daniel went on to carve for others. Eventually, in 1918, Daniel rejoined Gustav's son William Dentzel Co. for a brief period. The Dentzel shop would close its doors in 1928, with the last carousel being a fantastic, all-horse Dentzel/Muller carousel. This carousel went on to find a home in Rock Springs, WV, where it continues to amaze visitors today.



Where you may have seen Dentzel-Muller Carousels

The G.A. Dentzel Company was a carousel building company in Philadelphia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gustav Dentzel opened a cabinet making shop and then decided to go into the carousel business full-time in 1867. His son, William Dentzel, took over the business after Gustav's death in 1909 and continued making carousels until 1928. Today, it is estimated that there may be 150 Dentzel units in existence as of mid-2017. One notable example is the 1907 model sold to the city of Carmel, Indiana, which was restored in the 1970s and operates in its original location at the Monon Greenway. The selling price was approximately US $2.25 million. If you're in Pennsylvania, be sure to visit the Woodside Amusement Park Carousel, which has a lead horse made by the Dentzel’s. It's worth taking a close look at the maker's mark on the horse, which indicates the high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail. The Weona Park Carousel in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, also has Dentzel horses, including a striking zebra and tiger. Similarly, the Pullen Park Carousel in Raleigh, North Carolina, features a Dentzel tiger that has been in operation since 1911. Whether you're a collector, an art lover, or simply enjoy the nostalgia of childhood, a Dentzel-Muller carousel is sure to impress. The attention to detail and collaborative craftsmanship that went into these works of art continue to amaze spectators today.



The beautiful piece we had for auction and its rich Alaskan history

A large outside row antique carousel horse originally from the historic Pen Mar Park, Hanover, PA, circa 1905~. This carousel was originally fabricated by Dentzel in Germany has been rebuffed, with historical records actually indicating origins in Philadelphia by the important Muller Brother Carvers, fairly close to the Pen Mar Park.

The carousel would go on to be purchased by August and Dorothy Karst of Forest Park of Hanover, Pennsylvania sometime during the 1940s after the Pen Mar closed as a casualty of declined attendance in the 1930s and nail in the coffin of the onset of World War II.  

Spanning forward into the early 1950's the Karst's sold the carousel to Z.E. "Slim" Eagelston, who purchased it sight unseen for $1500, plus another $1500 for freight to Anchorage, AK, where Slim intended to build an amusement park. Slim's good intentions went unrealized due to a lack of electricity where the carousel was originally assembled, and in 1955 it was sold to Alfred V. Hagen, the former mayor of Palmer, before being auctioned in 1971 and again in 1980, after which it was carefully restored to its present form in an attempt to match the original paint scheme exactly. Detailed notes regarding restoration efforts are provided in the photos affixed to this lot. 

The horse features a prancing pose with the offsite forefoot aloft, and detailed eagle and other royal imagery on the romance side. Stirrups, reins, and tail have all been carefully restored or replaced. Includes a hardcover book, A Pictorial History of the Carousel by Frederick Fried, plus photographs, newspaper articles, and typed provenance notes from the previous owners. Additional information regarding the history of this carousel and story is listed in detail online, a fascinating read indeed. The horse measures approximately 71" x 24" x 60" tall. There is some minor losses to the back left hoof and the wood in that area remains soft, as well as some stress cracks running along the front breast, as photographed. 



We crated this beautiful horse up and sent it all the way to New Mexico!





To read more about this amazing piece, and see more photos, visit the link below.







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