Carousels and Brass Rings by Anita Mae Draper

We’re so happy to have Anita Mae Draper visit the Junction. She’s giving away a copy of Romantic Refinements (Austen in Austin Vol. 1) so leave a comment!

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Carousels have always been my favorite midway attraction, so when I decided to include the Texas State Fair into my latest story, Romantic Refinements, it was only natural that a carousel be added to the scene. Happily, I hit the research trail. My first stumble however, was when all the information pointed to Dallas holding the state fair and not Austin. My persistence paid off though and I found several sources to confirm the State Fair of Texas was held in Hyde Park in Austin from 1875 to 1884.

Caption: State Fairgrounds, Hyde Park. Racetrack, grandstands and spectators; undated; Courtesy of Austin History Center - Hubert Jones Glass Plate Collection
Caption: State Fairgrounds, Hyde Park. Racetrack, grandstands and spectators; undated; Courtesy of Austin History Center – Hubert Jones Glass Plate Collection


Since my story takes place in Austin in 1882, I was ready to go carousel hunting. As you can imagine finding images of a carousel that early was difficult, especially since part of my scene involved the brass ring that the carousel riders strive to collect. According to Wikipedia, ring devices were introduced about 1880, and while most of the rings were made out of iron, a couple on each ride consisted of brass. Some carousels had a clown designed on the side and you could toss your iron rings into its open mouth—no prize, but one way to make returning the rings exciting. Other carousels simply collected the rings in a container at the end of ride. However, if you managed to latch onto the brass ring, you were given a free ticket for the next ride.



Watching several YouTube videos showing riders going after the brass ring, I have to agree with them. Check out this video on Knoebel’s Carousel in Elysburg, PA to see the brass ring dispenser in action:


In the carousel scene in my Romantic Refinements story, there is a little girl who wants to catch that brass ring more than anything. The main problem with the ring dispenser, however, is that it’s the same distance for everyone and a bit out of her reach. But she tries ever so hard as can be seen in this photo which was my inspiration for this scene:

Catching the Brass Ring


But the brass ring dispenser is just out of her reach. So the little girl does what she sees bigger kids doing—and that’s when disaster strikes. I’m not going to tell you what happens, but I will tell you that the events in my story will affect how the little girl handles life and romance when she re-appears as an adult in Sense and Nonsense by Lisa Karon Richardson, the final novella in Austen in Austin Volume 2.

Sense and Nonsense

Perhaps I’ll take a moment to explain that Austen in Austin contains 8 novellas in 2 volumes, all based on heroines of Jane Austen’s novels. Although we changed the stories to reflect historical Austin in the late 19th century, and took away some relationships such as the familial relationship between Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, readers have still been able to identify their Austen counterparts. This is how we can have a little girl in my story grow and appear as an adult in Lisa’s story which takes place seventeen years later. This also gave us the chance for cameos to update characters as each novella progressed—like an ongoing epilogue where you see what happens after they are married.  I love revisiting characters after reading their story ends, don’t you?

Have you ever ridden on a carousel? Where? Did you pick a horse or some other animal? Did you catch the brass ring?

Leave a comment for a chance to win Austen in Austin Volume 1 – winner’s choice print or digital.


Thanks for visiting me here today. You can find me at the following online sites:

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Austen in Austin Volume 1 – Available for Order

Austen in Austin Volume 2 – Available for PRE-Order

AnitaMaeDraperAnita Mae Draper’s stories are written under the western skies where she lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. When she’s not writing, Anita enjoys photography, research, and travel, and is especially happy when she can combine the three in one trip. Anita’s current release is Romantic Refinements, a novella in Austen in Austin Volume 1, WhiteFire Publishing, January 2016.  Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at



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39 thoughts on “Carousels and Brass Rings by Anita Mae Draper”

  1. I too love carousels. I have ridden many, not always choosing a horse. I think the last time it was a frog. A neighboring town spent the past several years having volunteers carve carousel figures. Last year they were all finished and they opened their new carousel for riders. It is lovely. None of the carousels I have ridden, old or new, have ever had a ring dispenser. The video was the first time I had seen one and had the system explained.

    • Hi Patricia B, I love that new carousels are being created even today. I’ve never ridden on a carousel of animals other than horses. Probably because those are the special stationary ones and I’ve only ridden the common horses ones that come through the fairs and exhibitions. A frog sounds like fun.

      So glad I added the video, then. Some day I’ll try for the brass ring myself. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. I absolutely love riding on carousels. When I lived in California I rode the one at Disneyland every time I went, which was often. I always rode a horse. I also rode one when I lived in Missouri. It was a covered carousel so it had it’s own room so to speak. I love it. I used to work as a surgical tech and a doctor I worked with in California collects carousel horses. I believe he has one of the original ones from the carousel in Atlantic City. He usually buys them at auction. I never got to see the collection but I guess he has them all over his house from what we were told.

    Cindy W.

    • Oh Cindy, his house must be beautiful!

      I took video of my son riding the covered carousel at Heritage Park in Calgary. We didn’t know what was under the cover as we walked toward it, but the familiar carousel music sounded and that was all it took.

      I’m glad you stopped by. 🙂

  3. I’ve been on a carousel, but it has been so long ago, that I really don’t remember what I rode on. I have never heard of tossing the rings onto one. That would have made it a lot more fun.

    • Exactly, Janine. Latching onto rings and then trying to get them into a target brought return visitors. They never added the rings to the kiddie carousels…only the bigger ones for all ages.

      Thanks for visiting. 🙂

  4. When I was young and went to a fair there was a beautiful carousel which I rode on. What an experience. That was the only time that I had a chance to enjoy this special fun. Your blog and site is fascinating. I enjoyed your photos of growing up in Ont. I lived In Que. & Ont. most of my life.

    • Hey Pearl, so very nice to meet you. I loved my years in Ontario and visit whenever I can. I don’t remember riding a large carousel until I moved to the prairies.

      However, the city of North Bay just set up a new carousel as a part of their Heritage Railway and Tourist Company tourist attraction.
      The volunteers had a 1908 Herschell-Spillman carousel mechanism rebuilt in Marion, Ohio. Chuck Kaparich of Missoula, Montana carved 28 of the horses, while the North Bay Wood Carvers carved the other 9. It only took three months to adopt out all of the horses and they were off and running. I didn’t have a chance to visit it last year, but I will as soon as I can.

      Thanks for the kind words about my website and for visiting me here. 🙂

    • Thank you, Anne. Yes, they are rare unless you know where to look. Although they used to be mainly in amusement parks, nowadays more are set up at heritage and museum sites.

      I hope you’ll get to ride one soon. It really is a surreal experience. 🙂

  5. Always loved the carousel. We have an amusement park that’s been around forever and it has a wonderfully old carousel. I always wanted the animals that moved up and down and the horses were the tallest so usually my pick. And the music…

    • Yes, catslady… the music is a magical draw. I’m glad the world has saved the carousel music strictly for the carousel and not given it to some other ‘thing’ that makes your stomach turn when you hear it. That would be … heartless.

      I agree about the animals moving up and down. Although I always think I’d like to sit in the booth/sleigh/whatever is stationary, I always opt for the rising and falling ones that give the impression of loping along. 🙂

  6. Carousels are wonderful, although I never rode on one. They would be memorable for the little ones. Better than anything they have now.

    • Ellie, you’re right. You don’t need to ride a carousel to know how special they are. I’ve always received as much pleasure watching my kids ride them as I have myself. However, I will say that one of my sons would rather fly in the airplane that swings around above everyone than ride a horse that stays on the ground. And my other son always preferred the kiddie cars, motorcycles and boats that went around and around. But the principal is the same because it fuels your imagination and takes you away from the every day and into the land of somewhere else.

      Thanks for sharing, Ellie. 🙂

    • LOL Kim, that’s a good reason. I have to admit I’ve never thought of that and I swear I will never wonder about the people who chose those over the others again. What a good point you’ve made. Thank you for mentioning it. 🙂

  7. welcome,,and what a interesting posts,,i have always love the carousels and so have my children,they always run to get on their favorite which is always a beautiful horse

  8. Carousels are so very nostalgic, aren’t they? They hold a special place in my heart. I remember riding one as a youngster and my mother standing beside me to make sure I didn’t fall off as my father took pictures from the sidelines. Then when my kids were young, I was the one holding on to them while my husband took pictures. Now as a grandmother…same thing. The one we all rode is still operating at Balboa Park in San Diego–and it has the iron and brass rings and the clown! Thank you for bringing up a lovely remembrance for me Anita! Your Austen in Austin story sounds wonderful!

    • Kathryn, thank you for sharing a beautiful generational tradition with the carousel. Wonderful memories to display in your photo albums and talk about during family get togethers. Very nice.

      I looked at many videos before choosing the one I featured for this post. I was hoping to find a Balboa Park one that showed grabbing the ring and then throwing it into the clown’s mouth while hearing the carousel music, but if it’s out there I didn’t see it. It certainly is one of the last great ones with that feature, though.

      Thank you so much for sharing your memories.

  9. I have been on a carousel many, many, many, years ago and it was probably at a fair or something like that, I can’t remember but I love them. Also love the cover of you book, its awesome.

    • Thank you, Quilt Lady. The book cover design is the artistry of Roseanna White of WhiteFire Publishing. She believed in this project and picked an actual Austin image to portray our stories.

      I hope you get a chance to read my story. I’ve tried to put the reader in the scene as it might have been in 1882. Since carousels have been around that long, I want to be a person to ensures they’re not forgotten.

      I’m glad you stopped in for a visit. 🙂

    • Excellent, Melanie! The phrase about catching the brass ring is so well-known in today’s world and yet few people actually understand what it means. My original post had included the meaning, but when I realized I’d doubled the space I was given, it was one of the paragraphs to go. However, I have a series of carousel posts coming up and will be covering it then. The world really should know what they’re talking about.

      Let me know via email, my website or facebook page, if you’d like to share your brass ring experience.

      Thanks for sharing, Melanie. I always enjoy your visits. 🙂

  10. I loved riding on carousels and always chose a black horse.
    I am always looking for new authors to read and your book sounds like the kind I enjoy.

    • Hello Joye, if you like black horses, you must’ve loved the read, Black Beauty.

      Oh, I do hope you read and like not only my story, Romantic Refinements, but all the other novellas in the Austen in Austin collection. The giveaway includes the first 4 novellas. 🙂

  11. The last time I was on a carousel with a ring dispenser was in the ’50s. There was one brass ring and many plain metal ones. A brass ring meant a free ride (I guess we all know that). When we waited for the carousel to stop I would look at all the animal (yes they weren’t all horses). I remember once riding on a BIG brown and white goat. That was a long, long, long time ago and such fun!

    Thank you for such an interesting post and bringing back so many good memories.

    • Whitney, too funny about the brown and white goat…you see, we raised brown and white Boer goats for several years here on the farm. I always wanted to include them in a story but never thought about putting them on a carousel. Hmm…

      I’m so glad you shared your memories with us today. Thank you. 🙂

  12. Another top notch post from you, Anita. I admire your details. Love that photo. I can’t remember ever seeing a brass ring, but I’ve gone around a carousel plenty of times. And not that long ago.

    Thanks for promoting Austen in Austin, and thank you P and P gals!
    Anita was my go to gal for western details–a whole new setting for me at the time.

    • Well, hello Deb. I really enjoyed working on this project with you and I may have helped you with the western details, but you sure provided a lot of details about our common fictional setting, the Jeannette C. Austen Academy for Young Ladies aka Austen Abbey, and fashion. I think we grow into better writers when we share ourselves with our peers as well as readers, so thank you for that.

      Deb, I figured you were a carousel veteran and had probably visited the older amusement parks in New York, but I can’t help wondering if your answer was said tongue-in-cheek as in how someone would say they’ve been around the block a few times. 😀

  13. Riding the carousel was always a fun thing for me because I always loved horses and would pick a white one if available. Mostly they were at carnivals or fairs…places where they weren’t permanet. Your book sounds like one I would enjoy reading.

    • Jackie, I love that you added, “if available”. I never picked any specific horse as it was a split decision on what was available at the time. If it was close to me, I grabbed it. Also, I thrive on variety when I step outside my routine, so I think I would choose a different horse just to try it out, you know?

      If you like horses and carousels…and wounded warrior heroes…and Jane Austen’s stories…I think you just might like my story. I hope you have a chance to read it. Thanks for the visit. I enjoyed it. 🙂

  14. I love carousels, but I don’t think I’ve ever been on one where there’s actually a rind you can catch. Definitely picked a horse every time! 😀

  15. I’d like to thank the Fillies for hosting me on P&P. I’ve been a fan of this blog for years and never thought I’d have the honor of being the one to respond to questions instead of the other way around. A very special day/weekend to mark in my journal.

    • Thanks for the info, Niki. Will look it up next time I head down that way. I’m really excited that your novella, Fully Persuaded, will be out soon in Austen in Austin Volume 2. I can’t wait to read it. 🙂

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