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   Frederick Fried Coney Island collection 1847-2001

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Frederick Fried Coney Island Collection; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information

Abstract

The collection consists of materials used by Frederick Fried in his research and writing about folk art and material culture, especially related to Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York. A significant portion of the collection consists of the personal archive of William F. Mangels, which was purchased by Fried in 1955. Mangels was a designer and manufacturer of amusement rides and founder of the American Museum of Public Recreation at Coney Island. Subjects include amusement parks, amusement rides, architecture, bathing pavilions, beaches, beauty contests, carousels, carousel animals, Brooklyn, coin-operated machines, Coney Island, exhibitions, games of chance and skill, hotels, mechanical rides, mechanization, parades, pleasure railways, recreation, roller coasters, sideshows, transportation, and other subjects related to American material culture and popular amusement.

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#1582
Bib ID:8857048 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Fried, Frederick collector
Title:Frederick Fried Coney Island collection 1847-2001
Physical description:32.62 linear ft. (15 document boxes, 7 flat boxes, 36 oversized folders 7 tubes)
Language(s): Material is in English
Access: This collection is located on-site. This collection has no restrictions.  More information »

Arrangement

Arrangement

This collection is organized into three series

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Description

Scope and Content

The Frederick Fried Coney Island Collection consists of material created and collected by Frederick Fried in the course of documenting and writing about the history of the amusements industry and the public culture of Coney Island (Brooklyn, New York). It includes, photographic materials, drawings, blueprints, newspaper and magazine clippings, research notes, published and unpublished writings, brochures, printed advertisements, correspondence, trade literature, sheet music, and ephemera.

Of particular interest for researchers will be the materials that Fried collected from William F. Mangels (1867-1958) in 1955. Mangels was a German immigrant entrepreneur, designer, and inventor who was a major figure in the development of the American amusement park. Located at Coney Island, the W.F. Mangels Company was a prominent manufacturer of carousels and other amusement rides, including the Whip and the Tickler. Also a historian of the amusements industry and collector, Mangels founded the American Museum of Public Recreation (1929-1955) at West Eighth Street and Neptune Avenue at Coney Island and authored the book The Outdoor Amusement Industry: From Earliest Times to the Present (1952).

Both Fried and Mangels organized their materials by subject or genre, and, therefore, there is some overlap in the method of arrangement. Researchers are advised to be mindful of this and may need to consult multiple subject categories and locations.

Series I: Photographs, 1894-2001 undated

The series consists of photographic material that was collected by Frederick Fried that depicts the rich public life and popular culture of Coney Island from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, illustrating amusement rides; buildings and structures; parades, contests, and performances; the boardwalk; transportation; and people, both visitors to and employees of Coney Island’s various attractions, amusements, and spectacles. Visual material is especially strong in chronicling the heyday of Coney Island’s three main amusement parks—Dreamland, Luna Park, and Steeplechase Park—from 1903 to 1911, but also includes earlier views as well as many crowd and beach photographs of the “Nickel Empire” era, circa 1920-1933. In addition, there are also six photographs of scale models of designs for amusements by William F. Mangels and other photographs of his installations at the American Museum of Public Recreation. Photographic material is mostly gelatin silver and albumen prints, both mounted and unmounted, some with a photographer's credit, some dated, and most identified. The series is divided into three subseries and arranged by subject.

Series II: Architectural and Design Drawings, 1847-1974 undated

This series consists primarily of architectural and design drawings produced by the W.F. Mangels Company for buildings, structures, amusement rides, and mechanical devices. The majority of the series contains material that relates to the firm’s client that were based in and around Coney Island (Brooklyn, New York), but there are also several items for projects elsewhere in the United States. This series is arranged first by size into three subseries—flat drawings, rolled drawings, and mapcase drawings—and is then arranged by the following subject categories: architectural drawings, carousels, amusements, roller coasters, mini-rails and pleasure railroads, flat rides, and ornamental details and other items. Because items are first arranged by size, researchers are advised to examine each of the three subseries to find all of the design documents in the collection that may pertain to a specific project. While perusing the container listing below, please note that digits that precede the item title and description (e.g. 170, Ferris wheel, foundation plan, undated) are identification numbers given to the drawings by the Ricco Maresca Gallery (New York, New York) for inventory purposes.

Subseries II.1 Flat drawings, 1847-1927 undated

This subseries consists of architecture and design drawings by William F. Mangels and the W.F. Mangels Company, many for amusement rides at Luna Park and other Coney Island establishments. The subseries is arranged by subject category. Individual items of note include drawings for the Feltman Brothers carousel, plans for the workshop of carousel carver Marcus Charles Illions at Coney Island, and several sketches by Illions of a sleigh and decorative ornament. In addition, there are also four early nineteenth-century patent drawings for amusement devices, which were saved and studied by William F. Mangels and mounted to board.

Subseries II.2 Rolled drawings, 1910-1935 undated

This subseries consists of architecture and design drawings by William F. Mangels and the W.F. Mangels Company, many for amusement rides at Luna Park and other Coney Island establishments. The subseries is arranged by subject category. Individual items of note include design drawings for the Whip, the Tickler, the Red Devil pleasure railway, and the Switzerland and Sleigh rides—all at Coney Island. Also included are designs for a Columbia carousel, the racing coaster at Point Breeze Amusement Park (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), the Coal Mine pleasure railroad at Willow Grove Park (Willow Grove, Pennsylvania), plans for the swimming pool tank at Palisades Amusement Park (Fort Lee, New Jersey), a full color advertising poster for the Whip, and design drawings for a “kid’s coaster” by the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway Company.

Subseries II.3: Mapcase Drawings, 1911-1974 undated

This subseries consists of architecture and design drawings by William F. Mangels and the W.F. Mangels Company, many for amusement rides at Luna Park and other Coney Island establishments. The subseries is arranged by subject category. Individual items of note include designs, plans, and sections of several named carousels, including the Columbia, Culver, Feltman Brothers, Wilcox, and Willert carousels. Of special interest are plans and sections that illustrate William F. Mangels’s various design iterations for the Tickler, as well as his designs for a host of other mechanical rides and other amusements, such as the Cake Walk, Human Roulette, the Squeezer, the Tip Top Pleasure Wheel, and many more. This subseries also contains Mangels’s plans for the artificial wave-generating machine that he designed for Palisades Amusement Park (Fort Lee, New Jersey), and pleasure railroads for the Ryan Amusement Company (Brooklyn, New York), Palisades Amusement Park (Fort Lee, New Jersey), Point Breeze Amusement Park (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), and Willow Grove Park (Willow Grove, Pennsylvania). In addition, this subseries also contains design drawings for the “Loop the Loop” rollercoaster by J.R. Worcester for the Loop Roller Coaster Company and for a “kid’s coaster” by the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway.

Series III: Personal Papers and Ephemera, 1870-2000 undated

This series contains the personal papers, research files, and collected ephemera of Frederick Fried, all of which relates to his personal interest in the history of the amusements industry and Coney Island (Brooklyn, New York). Much of this material originally belonged to William F. Mangels and was subsequently purchased by Fried in 1955. Items include clippings, photographs, manuscripts, research files, correspondence, deeds of sale, business records, official reports, postcards, ticket stubs, and other ephemera. Researchers are advised that this series maintains its original order and related items may be founded in multiple boxes, folders, and volumes.

Subseries III.1: Coney Island History Papers, 1870-2000 undated

This series contains the personal papers, research files, photographs, and collected ephemera of Frederick Fried, all of which relates to his personal interest in the history of the amusements industry and Coney Island (Brooklyn, New York). Much of this material originally belonged to William F. Mangels and was subsequently purchased by Fried in 1955. Items of especial interest include the typed manuscript and research files compiled by William F. Mangels for his book, The Outdoor Amusement Industry from Earliest Times to the Present (1952); a manuscript of “A New Era for Coney Island” by William F. Mangels; and newspaper clippings, research files, and notes by Mangels for an unpublished history of Coney Island. This series also includes business records for the W.F. Mangels Company, including catalogs and stock certificates. Other material consists of William F. Mangels’ personal seasonal passes to Palisades Amusement Park (Fort Lee, New Jersey) and other amusement parks, and, in addition, a guest book from the American Museum of Public Recreation for the years 1939-1940 with celebrity autographs from Greta Garbo, Reginald Marsh, Orson Welles, and other luminaries. This series also contains a small, discrete collection of photographs of pleasure railroads and other rides manufactured by the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway Company, as well as photographic portraits of individuals from Coney Island’s amusements industry, such as members of the Thompson and Tilyou families, Samuel W. Gumpertz, and others. This series also contains correspondence, receipts, and other materials that detail the closing of Coney Island landmarks and Frederick Fried’s subsequent acquisition of artifacts and ephemera. Examples include receipts from the Tilyou Realty Company, a letter of authorization from Fred C. Trump, and a copy of the terms of sale of Feltman’s of Coney Island, Incorporated. Lastly, researchers may also wish to consult Frederick Fried’s “Coney Island Archive” collection report, which offers a comprehensive, descriptive inventory of each item in Frederick Fried’s original collection of artifacts, photographs, and ephemera, as well as information about the provenance of select material—a remarkable resource.

Subseries III.2: Oversized Volumes, 1880-1976 undated

This subseries contains items collected by Frederick Fried related to his personal interest in the history of the amusements industry and Coney Island (Brooklyn, New York). Much of this material originally belonged to William F. Mangels and was subsequently purchased by Fried in 1955. Among the items in this subseries are several volumes associated with the W.F. Mangels Company, including a minute book (1908-1959) with certificates of incorporation, company bylaws, and minutes for meetings of the board of directors. Of special note to researchers interested in carousel manufacture and design will be the company’s ledger book, which contains a detailed record of the firm’s client and sales for the period 1908-1915. In addition, five volumes of scrapbooks compiled by Mangels collect articles, clippings, and other ephemera that richly detail the biographies of Coney Island personalities, the history of the amusements industry in Brooklyn, and the programming and collection of the American Museum of Public Recreation. Lastly, this series also contains a scrapbook of material collected by Frederick Fried about Steeplechase Park.

Subseries III.3: Sheet Music and Miscellaneous Ephemera, 1896-1935 undated

This subseries contains items collected by Frederick Fried related to his personal interest in the history of the amusements industry and Coney Island (Brooklyn, New York). This subseries contains sheet music and sheet music covers for songs whose titles or lyrics refer to Coney Island subjects, such as amusement rides, amusement parks, the boardwalk, and promenading. The subseries also includes other miscellaneous ephemera collected by Frederick Fried, such as two illustrated magazine covers that depict scenes from Coney Island, advertisements for Thomas Edison’s “Electricity Is Life,” and artwork by an unknown artist that depicts two kneeling couples.

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Using the Collection

RBML

Access Restrictions

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Frederick Fried Coney Island Collection; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material

Frederick and Mary Hill Fried Folk Art Archives, 1895-1991 , Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed 2011-2012 Thai Jones, GSAS 2013; Matthew Spooner, GSAS 2013; Matthew Kuhnert, GSAAP 2012.

Finding aid written 05/--/2012 Matthew Kuhnert, GSAAP 2012

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion September 21, 2012 Finding aid written in English.
    2012-09-21 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
Advertisements.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Architectural drawings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Blueprints.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Books.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Business records.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Clippings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Design drawings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Engineering drawings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Pamphlets.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Patent drawings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Periodicals.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Photographs.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Printed ephemera.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sheet music.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

Subjects

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
A.G. Mangels Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
American Museum of Public Recreation (New York, N. Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Amusement park owners.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Amusement parks.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Amusement ride equipment industry.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Amusement rides.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Anaconda Copper Mining Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Architect.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Architecture.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Attractions (Spectacles)--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Attractions--Amusement rides.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Barnes Brothers Nursery Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Beach architecture.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Beaches--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Beauty contests.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Berni, Louis.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Bishop & Babcock Sales Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Booman, H.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Boyton, Paul.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Brewster, James W.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Brooklyn (New York).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Browning, Charles.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Builder.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Butte Electric Railway Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Carousel animals.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Carousel art.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Collector.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Coney Island (New York).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Coney Island Carnival Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Coney Island Chamber of Commerce.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Consultant.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Contractor.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Craftsman.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Crowds--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Custer, L. Luzerne.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Designer.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Draftsman.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Dreamland (New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Dundy, Elmer.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Earisher, Frederick.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Engineer.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Entrepreneur.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Exhibitions.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Feltman's Garden (New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Feltman's of Coney Island, Incorporated.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Frank Wilcox Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Fred Medard Manufacturing Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Fried, Frederick.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Fried, Rachel.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Gabriel, Carl.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Gumpertz, Samuel W.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Haase, Hugo.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Hagenhech, Carl.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Historian.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Hotels--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Humphrey, D.S.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Hurley, John J.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Idora Park (Oakland, Calif.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Illions, Marcus Charles.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Immerso, Michael.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Inventor.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Jeanson, III, Charles A.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
JoJo the Dog Boy.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Keating, William.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Kennedy, W.T.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Luna Park (New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Mangels, Junior, William F.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Mangels, William F.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Manufacturer.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Material culture--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Maxim, Hiram.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Mechanization.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Meinch, William C.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Merry-go-round art.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Naragansett Machine Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Nesensohn, Charles.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
O'Neill, Clarence J.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Onorato, Anthony.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Parades--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Peck, James O.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Peterson, William J.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Pinto Brothers.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Playland Park (Rye, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Popular culture--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
R.S. Uzzell Corporation.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Raub, Herman.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Recreation.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Reynold, H.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Roller coasters.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ruprecht, Joseph.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Rutter, E. E.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ryan Amusement Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ryan, Thomas J.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Schaal, Eric.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Schenck Brothers Palisade Park.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Schenck, Joseph.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Schenck, Nicholas.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Seashore--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Semmel, Patricia.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sideshows--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Steeplechase Park (New York, N. Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Stock, John J.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Strickler, William H.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Thompson, Frederick W.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Thompson, LaMarcus A.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Tilyou Realty Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Tilyou, Edward C.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Tilyou, George C.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
TopicalPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Transportation--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Trump, Fred C.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Underhill, Irving.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Van Kannel, Theophilius.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
W.F. Mangels Carousell Works.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
W.F. Mangels Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Wood-carver.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Zip the Pinhead.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Frederick P. Fried (1908-1994) was a recognized authority and avid collector of American folk art, specializing in American carousels and carousel art, circus art, mechanical amusements, shop figures, ship figureheads, and architectural ornament.

Fried was a frequent writer and lecturer and served as a consultant for several museums and institutions, including the Shelburne Museum (Shelburne, Vermont), the South Street Seaport Museum, the American Folk Art Museum (both in New York, New York), and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History (Washington, D.C.). Fried was an historian for the Musical Box Society International, and, along with his wife Mary Hill Fried (1913-1988), also a folk art specialist, helped to found the National Carousel Association in 1973.

Frederick Fried is primarily known for his research on American folk sculpture and the design and manufacture of carousels in the United States. His book A Pictorial History of the Carousel (1964) is one of the definitive works on the subject. Research on the New York City shipcarver Thomas V. Brooks (1828-1895) and his apprentice Samuel Anderson Robb (1851-1928) led to the publication of Artists in Wood: American Carvers of Cigar-Store Indians, Show Figures, and Circus Wagons (1970), which is considered to be Fried’s “greatest contribution to folk art scholarship.”

In addition, Fried was an active participant in the nascent historic preservation movement in New York City and an early member of the Anonymous Arts Recovery Society, an organization founded in 1962 and devoted to the preservation and salvage of architectural ornament. The group rescued over 1,500 artifacts from threatened buildings and sites all over greater New York, including material from Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park during its demolition, and donated them to the collection of the Brooklyn Museum. In 1966, the museum established the Frieda Schiff Warburg Memorial Sculpture Garden, which placed a curated selection of these architectural fragments on long-term exhibition. Frederick Fried authored the essay “Fragmentary Landmarks” for the installation’s inaugural catalog. Fried’s interest in the sculptors and manufacturers of architectural ornament led to his collaboration with the photographer Edmund V. Gillon, Jr., on the publication of New York Civic Sculpture, A Pictorial Guide (1976). Throughout the 1960s, Fried was also an early advocate for the creation of an historic preservation district along Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan and the establishment of a maritime museum at the site. He led the national effort to facilitate the transfer of the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse from the headquarters of the Seamen’s Church Institute to the newly founded South Street Seaport Museum in 1967.

A native of New York City, Frederick Fried was raised in Brooklyn, where his father owned a clock business on Ocean Parkway near the workshop and studio of Charles Carmel, a noted carousel carver. Fried earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in sculpture. He married Mary McKenzie Hill, the Baltimorean artist and illustrator, in 1949, and the couple had two children. Fried served in the United States Air Force during the Second World War, and, after his military service, worked as an art director for several fashion agencies and the Bonwit Teller department store. After 1962, Fried devoted his professional life to research on American folk art and sculpture.

Over the course of many decades, Frederick Fried assembled an extensive folk art collection that he housed in a barn on his rural estate near Lincoln, Vermont. According to his obituary in The Carousel News and Trade, his most treasured objects were those items that he was able to salvage from the historic amusement parks at Coney Island. Regretfully, many of these larger, three-dimensional artifacts were destroyed when an arsonist set fire to the barn in 1993, but a complete and detailed inventory of the collection survives. In 1987, Fried published a short history, “Greetings from Coney Island,” based on his research and illustrated with material from his archival collection. Fried was working on a book-length history of Coney Island when he died in 1994, one year after the tragic fire ravaged his Vermont estate.

William Frederick Mangels (1867-1958) was a German immigrant, entrepreneur, and inventor, best known for his designs for mechanical amusements and carousels, and an important authority on the history of the amusements industry. During the course of his professional career, he was active in local and national organizations devoted to the amusements industry, such as the American Recreational Equipment Association, the New England Association of Amusement Parks, and the National Association of Amusement Parks, Pools, and Beaches, for which he served as historian. A prominent and successful businessman, Mangels served on the board of directors of many local Brooklyn concerns, such as the Bank of Coney Island, the Brooklyn Trust Company, the Coney Island Board of Trade, the Coney Island Carnival Company, Incorporated, the Coney Island Hotel Corporation, and the West Tenth Street Realty Group.

Records indicate that William F. Mangels was born in Cuxhaven, Germany, near Hamburg, in 1867. According to later interviews, Mangels worked as an apprentice in his father’s machine shop where he helped manufacture parts for carousels. He immigrated to New York City in 1884 and become a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1890. In 1894, Mangels married Emma Kammerer, a New Yorker, and together they would have three children: William, Jr., Frederick, and Marguerite Mangels. His two sons, as well as one grandson, would continue the family amusement business after Mangels’ death in 1958.

By 1886, William F. Mangels had established a bicycle and machine shop on West Fifth Street in Coney Island, which also provided repair services to the amusement rides and parks then in operation. It was also here that Mangels developed his first inventions, including his first patented amusement ride, a “roundabout” or “Razzle-Dazzle” improved mechanical swing in 1891. Patents for a “bicycle railway” soon followed in 1896 and 1898. Coney Island was then the center of the American amusements industry, and Mangels joined a growing enclave of entrepreneurs and inventors, many of them fellow German and Eastern European immigrants, who designed, manufactured, and repaired carousels, rides, and mechanical amusements.

Although he had enjoyed modest success thus far, the year 1907 proved to be especially momentous for Mangels. The summer season also marked the debut of his most popular amusement ride to date, the Tickler, which consisted of round cars in which riders were jostled as they slid down an inclined plane. When the inventor showed a drawing of the attraction to Frederick W. Thompson, the owner of Luna Park, the latter is reported to have exclaimed, “Mangels, you will need barrels to take your money away in!” Demand for the manufacture of the new mechanical device was indeed robust and allowed Mangels to raise enough capital to finance the construction of a new factory on West Eighth Street in Coney Island where the rides would be produced. A reporter for The Billboard, the amusement industry organ, listed the cost of the plant to be $32,000 and described it as “the most thoroughly-equipped factory for the manufacture of mechanical amusement devices in the country,” containing drafting rooms, machine shops, a metal foundry, a wood-carving plant, and facilities for carpentry and painted finishes.

Mangels eventually made a small fortune by selling limited territorial rights to clients for between $35,000 and $45,000 per device in addition to the cost of the ride itself.

Incorporated in 1908, the W.F. Mangels Company operated until 1959 and became a leading international manufacturer of carousels, mechanical devices, and amusement rides. At various times, the firm employed many of Coney Island’s most celebrated carvers to produce carousel horses, rounding boards, and embellishments, including Marcus Charles Illions, Samuel Stein, and Harry Goldstein. Mangels famously collaborated with Illions to produce the lavish, new Feltman carousel at Coney Island, which replaced an earlier ride that was damaged by fire in 1899.

In addition to carousels, the W.F. Mangels Company also designed and manufactured a diverse range of mechanical devices and rides for adults and children. In fact, Mangels claimed to have registered over seventy patents for inventions and amusement devices in his lifetime. The company designed and manufactured such noted rides as the Rocky Road to Dublin, in addition to various pleasure railroads, mechanical swings, and other amusements, both permanent and portable, for Coney Island-based establishments and amusement parks across the globe. For example, in 1912, Mangels was commissioned by the Joseph and Nicholas Schenck to design one of the earliest artificial wave-generating machines in the United States for Palisades Amusement Park (Fort Lee, New Jersey).

The veteran amusement-maker is perhaps most famous for inventing the Whip, which débuted at Coney Island’s Luna Park in 1914 and soon became one of the park’s most popular attractions. The ride was composed of cars that ran on a flat, elliptical course, and which were given an extra jolt by the centrifugal force of rounding a curved track at constant speed. Brisk sales of the Whip to other amusement parks, licensing agreements, and royalties from the sale of foreign manufacturing rights earned Mangels hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits. “We have sold the rights in Great Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Cuba, South Africa—every place where there are civilized people who like to play,” explained Mangels, “And remember we make the apparatus too. … It cost the showman over $14,000 before he set it up, but it paid for itself in six weeks.” Despite the Whip’s great success, however, Mangels himself never rode on one.

In 1934, while on a five-month journey with his family to Europe, Mangels visited the operator who had purchased the German rights to the Whip, a gentleman named Sieboldt who ran a children’s amusement park and zoo near Bremerhaven. In an interview many decades later, Mangels credited the success of Sieboldt’s concern with inspiring a specialization in the design and manufacture of “kiddie rides” and other miniature amusements for youth that reproduced adult attractions on a smaller scale, such as child-sized Whips, pleasure railroads, and carousels. Also in its later years, Mangels’ business also profited by producing replacement parts and mechanisms for the firm’s historic rides, which were then in operation at countless amusement parks all over the world.

A recognized authority on the amusements industry, an amateur historian, and collector, Mangels founded the American Museum of Public Recreation (1929-1955) and authored the book The Outdoor Amusement Industry: From Earliest Times to the Present (1952), two initiatives that defined the last decades of his life.

The museum was granted an education charter by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York in 1929. Mangels was director and treasurer of the institution, which was sponsored by the National Association of Amusement Parks. Little financial support was forthcoming from the Association, however, and Mangels housed and maintained the collection himself in a structure adjacent to his factory at West Eighth Street and Neptune Avenue. According to the promotional pamphlet authored in the museum’s inaugural year, it was hoped that the City of New York would eventually grant a plot of land for the erection of a permanent building.

The endeavor was unable to secure long-term financial stability, however, and the trustees of the museum closed the institution in 1955 and dispersed its collection. According to an obituary of William F. Mangels, the museum’s collection of musical instruments was sold to an as yet unidentified museum then located in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The other three-dimensional items were purchased by the Circus Hall of Fame [and Horn’s Cars of Yesterday (Fried, 104)], now the Ringling Circus Museum (Sarasota, Florida). It was also at this time that Frederick Fried arranged to acquire the bulk of William F. Mangels’ personal papers and design drawings, which were subsequently used as source material, in part, for several of Fried’s publications, such as A Pictorial History of the Carousel (1964) and others.

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