Flying Horses: The Golden Age of American Carousel Art, 1870 - 1930 (Hardcover)
Very impressed by this book. Thought it would be a light-weight coffee-table-book look at carousels, and what you get is a museum-quality, four-color art book, with a surprisingly accessible and smart page-turning narrative. I learned that the history of the American carousel is really a quintessential American story about immigrant craftsmanship and entrepreneurialism. I also learned a little bit about what drove the emerging middle class in America to find new ways to spend their leisure time. Kudos to writer/editor Malia and photographer Page for making it all work between the covers. Here's an unintended consequence: Finished the book and now my six-year-old son grabbed it off my desk and insists that it's his new favorite. So we're "re-reading" it as a bedtime book. Amazing photos/art.
A top pick for anyone who still appreciates this charm of history, March 5, 2011
A simple ride and attraction, the makers of a carousels brought their own expression to their work. "Flying Horses: The Golden Age of American Carousel Art" is a look at the work of these individuals who for nearly fifty years took the simple carnival ride of the carousel and made it a treat for the eyes of horse and art lovers everywhere. Most of these horses were crafted by first generation immigrants and here, Peter J. Malia, shows with an assortment of full color photos the extent of the range of how these horses became an art form all their own. "Flying Horses" is a top pick for anyone who still appreciates this charm of history.
This is a fascinating book, well written and stunningly illustrated. Kudos to Mr. Malia on his careful research and documentation which culminated in a most entertaining read! Additional kudos to Mr. Page for capturing so well the beauty and detail of the carving of the carousel horses! This book easily captures one's attention; it is quite easy to spend hours reviewing it! A lovely addition to any home library or coffee table!
They Love Flying Horses, Don't They?, November 17, 2010
As with all exceptional works of art, Flying Horses can be read and enjoyed on several levels. It is a beautifully told chronological tale that examines the evolution of the artistry of carousels from the post-Civil War era right up to the Great Depression. In a decade-by-decade chapter sequence, author Peter J. Malia introduces each chapter with an engrossing narrative of key players and events. These are followed by luxurious spreads of beautifully rendered images of the wooden horses with details of the carver, style, dimensions and pertinent historic data. Absorbing vignettes weave together a running social history that guides the reader from spread to spread. Stunning photographs by Bryan Page are exquisitely printed with detailed studies that reveal the meticulous nature of master carvers on a quest toward perfection. The idea that children actually rode and played on these painted steeds is practically analogous to taking a magic carpet ride on a canvas by van Gogh or Picasso! A final chapter brings the past into sharp focus through the eyes of restorers and craftspeople working today to keep a vanishing art form alive. Whether it is perused for its social historic relevance or merely enjoyed for its brilliant imgages, Flying Horses is a wonderful addition to any library. This is a masterful study and beautiful keepsake that readers of all ages will cherish in their own collections and proudly give as a special gift.
A book that effectively documents the ups and downs of the carousel industry. The photos are great, showing the carving in a large context and then some extra ones were added to show the detail and features that makes these carvings works of art. My only critic is that so much information was packed that the book structure fells sometimes that you are reading trough a jumble. Still many of the carvings have not been published in other books (read Tobin Fraley, the master) and being a limited edition (signed and numbered) you are getting a work of art in itself.
Art and History: Carousel Horses, November 8, 2010
I found this book not only to be an interesting and enjoyable read, but also a beautiful piece of artwork. I didn't realize that carousel horses played such a big part in American history. I love riding on them, but I never really thought about how they originated. The early immigrants who brought this skill to America, horse carving, were actually paying homage to America with all the patriotic symbols carved into their horses. America was the land that they looked up to and were proud to be part of and they wanted to demonstrate that in their art. The photographs in this book are superb, and you can see how intricate the carvings really were. The book cover is absolutely stunning, and I couldn't help but buy a couple copies for friends as gifts who collect fine-art books. Nicely done.
New general history presents compelling story in words and over 250 color photos and illustrations as part of The New England Carousel Museum’s 20th anniversary
Everyone loves a party. Come this October, The New England Carousel Museum in Bristol, CT, which displays one of the most extensive collections of carousel horses and menagerie figures in the U.S., is planning a very special party in celebration of its 20th anniversary!
To help commemorate that special event in a big way, the Museum worked in partnership with The Connecticut Press to publish a new illustrated history of carousel carving entitled Flying Horses: The Golden Age of American Carousel Art, 1870 – 1930, by Peter J. Malia and Photographer Bryan Page.
In over 250 color and b&w photos and illustrations – many never before seen in print – this is the first comprehensive carousel history in more than a decade and the first ever written by an historian in close cooperation with one of America’s best studio photographers.
“The results are just stunning,” says Louise DeMars, executive director of The New England Carousel Museum. “Each of the figures in the book is photographed under very strict studio conditions, which allows for the highest quality, high-definition photography ever taken of our museum pieces, or any carousel horses for that matter. We made the decision early on to present our collection in this book as true works of art. Each piece occupies a two-page spread that contains a full view of the figure on one side with detailed close-ups of special features on each facing page. We wanted to do something unique that would become a valued resource for scholars and collectors alike, and I think we’ve accomplished that.”
Carousels Through History’s Eye
“Beyond the sheer beauty of these wonderful wood figures is the story they have to tell about their carvers that parallels the history of America itself,” says Peter J. Malia, a professional historian and writer who worked with the museum to author the new history. “Unlike previous studies, we approached the story chronologically, so readers can literally trace the rise of a fledgling art form from the primitive folk pieces of the early 19th century to some of the most intricate and beautifully sculpted pieces of art ever produced… and all this happened over a relatively short period of 60 years and against a varied backdrop as wild as Coney Island to pastoral country fairs. It was truly a phenomenon.”
According to Flying Horses, the reasons that gave rise to this golden age of carousel carving mirror the rise of America’s own ascendance onto the world stage. There was a revolution underway in industry, entertainment, transportation, the electrification of cities, and, most importantly, the waves of immigrants that included so many incredibly talented carvers coming to America in search of a new life in what really proved to be the Land of Opportunity. From England, then Germany, Eastern Europe, and finally Southern Europe, these artisans initially may have only spoken in their native languages but they allowed their chisels and imaginations to speak for them through the universal language of their art.
“Each of the major carvers has a compelling story to tell, and we wanted to relate as many of those stories as possible,” Malia says, who notes that Flying Horses is both a social history and a fine art book. “We’ve written Flying Horses so general readers can enjoy it as much as specialists,” he says.
What about the title? “It’s drawn directly from the first U.S. patent ever issued for a carousel dated July 1850,” Malia says, who admits that growing up not far from New York City, he rarely heard a carousel being called anything other than “flying horses.” So when it came to a title, it just seemed to be a natural.
Picture Perfect Approach
In addition to being an important new history of carousel carving, the “meat and potatoes” of Flying Horses are the remarkable carvings themselves. Renowned studio, corporate and architectural photographer Bryan Page includes more than 175 crystal-clear color images of works by all of the master carvers and carousel carving styles, drawn from the extensive collections of The New England Carousel Museum.
“From a purely artistic perspective, these photographs are so good you feel as if you can reach out and touch some of the horses,” DeMars says. “We are just delighted that we are able to make our collection available as part of this wonderful project. After 20 years, this book is going to help us share our world-class collection with the carousel world and beyond and prove something that we have been saying all along – The New England Carousel Museum is a hidden national treasure as one of the best and most comprehensive museums dedicated to the Golden Age of American Carousels.”
Flying Horses Now Available As Collector’s Edition
In recognition of The New England Carousel Museum’s anniversary, DeMars notes that book orders are now being accepted by the Museum for the limited, signed, and numbered Collector’s Edition of Flying Horses.
“We are offering this special book to the carousel community and limiting the press run as a special anniversary issue that will be signed and numbered by the author and photographer and sent out to all subscribers in mid-October on a first-come, first-served basis,” DeMars says. While DeMars says that the Museum will be hosting book signing events at the Museum as well as at the historic Stein & Goldstein carousel at Bushnell Park in Hartford in October, “We want everyone in the carousel community to have an opportunity to own this book for themselves before they are all gone.”
A Unique Partnership
“Working with The New England Carousel Museum has been a great experience, and we think Flying Horses reflects that close working relationship,” Photographer Bryan Page says. He notes that it was a challenge to photograph some of these carousel pieces under uniform conditions. “And many of the carvings have some really unique characteristics that most of us might overlook at first,” he says. “But because of our approach in focusing on those characteristics as accompanying close-up shots, we’re very happy with the final results, and we think the carousel community will be, too.”
Malia agrees. “In researching these carvers and their work, we had the pleasure of dealing with several carousel museums and carousel experts from around the country,” he says. “In every instance, people have gone out of their way to share information and provide images that have never been seen previously. That’s what helps make Flying Horses unique. It’s the result of a special partnership to preserve and promote a truly unique form of what we call ‘ridable’ art.”
Specializing in history, photography and fine art, Malia’s company, The Connecticut Press, is dedicated to working with non-profit museums in providing the editorial, publishing expertise and the funding that many museums lack to see that their collections are shared with a larger national audience in both print and/or on-line.
The restoration team is looking forward to Sunday, November 7th for the reception to celebrate the publication of Flying Horses at the Bushnell Park Carousel and wanted to compliment you both on a job well done.
The book is a wonderful representation of the art of the American Carousel. We are excited to read,learn and appreciate each and every page. Being able to educate and share history of the carousel with the pieces featured from the New England Carousel Museum collection and the Bushnell Carousel pieces makes it extra special for our team and the museum.
Thank you again for all the effort and patience that was put in to make this book as unique as each carousel.