Wednesday, March 11, 2009

C.W.F. Dare - Carousels, Carriages & Toys

Here's an artistic and aesthetically pleasing letterhead from one of the best craftsmen in his trade at the time this letter was written (1874)--C.W.F. Dare, of Brooklyn.

Dare seems to have been in business from the 1860s to 1890s, starting out making hobby horses. He later expanded his line to include children's carriages, toys, and carousel horses, for which he may best be remembered.

He pioneered a style of horse known as County Fair. While less sophisticated stylistically than what his competitors were crafting, Dare's creations were built for endurance and mobility, featuring the rare flying horse style where the horse swings outward as the carousel builds up speed. Their construction also allowed for greater portability in the world of one-night carnival stands. This simplistic carving style gained many followers in the trade.

The company added other animals to the carousel (camels, deer, donkeys and elephants) and also made the carousel platforms upon which the animals were placed.

One of Dare's carousels, made in the 1880s, is the oldest carousel still in operation today in the United States. The Flying Horses can be found on Martha's Vineyard.

Research on C.W.F. Dare led me to The Splendid Peasant, Ltd., whose owners, Martin and Kitty Jacobs, deal in beautiful antique American Folk Art. They have kindly given me permission to use their photo of a C.W.F. Dare Carousel horse, circa early 1900s (sold from their gallery). Anyone interested in American folk art antiques will enjoy browsing the pages, gallery, and archives of this Web site.

For more information about Charles W.F. Dare and his and other carousels, a must read is Painted Ponies, by William Manns, Peggy Shank, and Marianne Stevens.


  1. i would be very interested in any research you might have on another of dare's flying horse carousels -- that in watch hill, rhode island. it is also touted as the oldest of his "flying horse carousels" still in operation. i am working on a summer guide for our community and would love a definitive ruling on this before we publish! anything you can send would be very appreciated! thanks, nan

  2. Today I seem to be sweeping the Internet to post comments about Charles W.F. Dare. His company was located in Brooklyn, N.Y. and his home was located in Selden, Long Island, NY at the northeast corer of Dare Road (named after him) and Middle Country Road - where Walgreen's is now (2010). He and some of his children are buried in an old cemetery in nearby Port Jefferson, NY. I have visited his grave there. Several of his descendants (last name Hough) still live within a mile of where his house was located. Sadly, although his lovely carousel horses bring joy to thousands of people every year, he is all but forgotten here in the town where he resided for so many years.

  3. Glad you swept through here. Thanks for sharing the additional information.

  4. I think the previous commentator made a mistake. I believe it is Charles's father, also Charles William F. Dare, who is buried in Selden,, Long Island with some of his 13 children. I don't know where the son Charles, carriage and carousel maker, is buried, but he only had one daughter, Fanny. He may be buried in the family plot too. But the descendants nearby are most likely the children of his many siblings.

    If the person would check the dates on the stones, he/she could better document this information. Also, according to census records (Non-Population Schedules), his children's carriage-making company was in lower Manhattan at 47 Cortlandt St. adjacent to the now-fallen WTC. His father, the elder Mr. Dare, was a shoemaker nearby at Maiden Lane.
    He did make his carousel in Brooklyn though, not far from carousel-maker Looff.

  5. Hi, I'm the "previous commentator". There is a CWF Dare of Selden buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Port Jefferson, Long Island, age 82 at the time of his death on April 8, 1988. There is also a Charles Dare of Port Jefferson buried there, age 2 years and 3 months at the time of his death on December 8, 1864 and it appears to indicate that he was the son of Joseph Dare. This information comes from - choose the "51-100" option and then go to page 75. According to a posting by Linda Lindley on on April 14, 2000 (Subject: "Charles W.F. Dare - Long Island, New York"), Joseph R. Dare was born in 1841 and is one of Charles WF Dare's sons, so that likely makes the Charles Dare who is buried there the grandson of the CWF Dare who is buried there. Also according to Linda Lindley, Charles WF Dare had a son, Charles WF Dare, Jr. born in 1835. This Charles WF Dare Jr. is not listed on the website as being buried in Port Jefferson and I do not recall seeing a grave for him there. Are you sure this one is the carousel maker? I ask because my friend, who is related, showed me a letter from Mrs. Lucille Beck, another Dare descendent, that included an excerpt from Frederick Fried's book about carousels and according to my notes (either in the letter or the book excerpt) it says that the carousel maker was born on January 19, 1806 in Lancashire, England and that he arrived in America at age 18. That would imply that the CWF Dare who is buried in Port Jefferson was the carousel maker (because that CWF Dare was 82 when he died on April 8, 1888 - meaning he was born around 1806).

  6. Oops - one more thing from me, aka "previous commentator". According to my notes (either in the letter or book excerpt), the carousel company was located at "234 Kent Street, Brooklyn, in or near Greenpoint, Brooklyn".

  7. Charles W F Dare (the carousel maker) was born in London in 1808 and moved to New York in the 1830's.