GUSTAV DENTZEL (1844-1909)
"American Carousel Horse"
Hand Carved Wood 20045
Hand Carved Wood 20020
Gustav Dentzel (1844-1909)
Gustav Dentzel was born around 1844 in Kreuznach, Germany. He would become one of the earliest carousel makers, famous for his wood carvings. As a child, Gustav, traveled around southwest Germany during the summer from fair to fair with his father, Michael, and the rest of his family, setting up a small, portable carousel ride. During the off-season, they would make wagons, carousel animals and mechanisms out of wood. Gustav learned the art of woodworking from his father.
Michael sent Gustav, and his brothers, to the United States, in 1864, along with a carousel, which may have been the first carousel to come to the New World. By 1867 Gustav found his footings – he opened the Dentzel Factory (or the Dentzel Carousel Company) in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
The Dentzel Factory manufactured two or three carousels per year and sold them to the amusement parks across the United States. They carved carousel seats in the shape of different animals by hand. Seats were made of poplar or basswood and in the shapes of horses, bears, greyhounds, pigs, dears, frogs, giraffes, rabbits, cats, ostriches, mules, tigers and lions. Although the Factory worked for some 60 years their detailed style varied very little and remained consistent. The rest of the parts of the carousel, which were also made by Dentzel Factory, had oil paintings on them.
In 1874 he married his first wife Alma and they had five children: Augusta, William H. I., Margaret, Helen and Charles. 6 years later Alma died and a year later he remarried and had one more son.
Gustav Dentzel died in 1909 and his sons, William and Edward, continued his work. The Factory lasted until the death of William in 1928. Edward continued to work in California but gave up when the Great Depression started in 1929.
Edward's son, William H. Dentzel II, revamped the family business and started building children carousels in 1971 that had finishes made in traditional Dentzel style. He continued making them until he died in 1991. His son, William H. Dentzel III continues to make carousels with the help of his three children.
Biography adapted from the History of Carousels biography.