Sitting along the riverbank in Leavenworth, Kansas, is a small museum that will let you peep backwards at childhoods spent at county fairs and carnivals. Step inside, and you’ll find a charming display of old carousels waiting to be ridden.
The museum is named after Charles Wallace (C.W.) Parker, who built some of the very first “Carry-Us-Alls” in North America, was brilliant at his craft, and quite a marketer too. Once he got the hang of putting together beautiful and whimsical mechanical merry-go-rounds, he figured out how to manufacture them on a much larger scale.
Hiring teams of master carvers to create and paint his animals, Parker put together a fantastic combination of visual and audio art, then put his creations on a motorized wheel that still delights children and adults alike to this day.
Enter the museum that’s named after him, and you’ll spot various operational carousels—you can even take a ride on one that’s over 100 years old! There’s one from 1913, one built by Parker’s son, and even a carousel built sometime between the 1850s and 1860s. You’ll also be able to view Parker’s cylinder piano, a hand-cranked musical instrument that can play 10 different tunes.
Know Before You Go
It's open Saturday, 1 pm – 5 pm, and Sunday, 1 pm – 5 pm. The museum is small, adorable, and can be visited in an hour's time.
There is no admission charge, but donations are graciously received. The staff are mostly septuagenarians and octogenarians, and they know all about these wonderful devices. They are friendly, and have a wealth of knowledge.