Awesome Carousel Facts!
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Awesome Merry-Go-Round Facts You Probably Didn't Know!

Merry-go-rounds first appeared in the Byzantine era when very rich men started collecting animals into what would now be referred to as zoos, but at the time were simply privately-held menageries. Because they knew so little about the rare animals they kept, the animals had a short life span. The merry-go-round was developed as a way for these men to continue their interest even after the animals had died.

Children — being not as smart as adults — liked to ride the carcasses of the animals as if they were alive. The disk underneath was introduced to give the illusion of movement, and the constant motion prevent flies from landing on the animals, which made them last longer. Some were suspended by ropes and other impaled with moving sticks to make the illusion even more convincing.

To this day, some vegetarians find even modern “non-meat” merry-go-rounds distasteful.

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It wasn’t until the horse plague of 1871 that horses became the most common animal used on a merry-go-round. When the disease struck, it killed so many horses that it was more than the hot dog and sausage factories could effectively use. It was also at this point that loud music was added to the attraction to distract the riders form the terrible odor. P.T. Barnum himself was the person who suggested that an “organ” be used to distract people from the decaying organs around them.

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The French word for merry-go-round is carousel. In French, it means “circle of death.” The French carousel is essentially the same as the American one, except for the rich sauces and more open-minded attitude about sexuality.

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After a series of “behandings” in the 1920s, it is now illegal to wave from a merry-go-round in parts of North Carolina.

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During the 1890s, European butchers used merry-go-rounds to display what they had for sale. What better sales technique than to let children ride their dinner before they eat it? In 1905, it was made illegal to display meat this way after health experts declared that children clinging to the bloody carcasses of dead cows and pigs was unsanitary and that the slickness of the blood made it unsafe.

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In 1845 a child died while riding a merry-go-round when it turned out the hippo carcass he was sitting on was not dead, but had merely fallen asleep on the wooden circle — and the child smelled like a head of iceberg lettuce.

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Roller coasters were developed as an offshoot of merry-go-rounds when a particularly clever carnival worker wondered what it would be like to ride a side of bacon down a hill. When dead animals proved unwieldy, they were replaced by the wheeled carts we use today. Still, in the language of the circus people, these carts are still referred to as “porkers.”

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Copyright 2010 David Wahl